SVG – it is all about the svgs!
First, lets drive straight to the point. While the Silhouette Studio Designer Edition of the Silhouette software has lots of extra features, the feature that was most alluring to me was the support for the SVG file type.
What does SVG mean? Well, I can tell you! Scalable Vector Graphics, or SVG files are fabulous and awesome in so many ways. Basically, instead of recording pixels of a picture, this format saves points and directions. The combination of a point and a directions is called a vector (sorry for the technical jargon, but I was a mathematics major!). So, this format saves a bunch of vectors instead of pixels.
And, why would we care about this? Because it makes the files SCALABLE. That means that you can make them any size you like and every detail will be the same. Unlike a jpg file, which has a set resolution, SVG files do not lose anything when you make them gigantic. Click the image if you want to read more about these awesome files.
SVG Files and Silhouette Studio
Moving on, we now know that SVG files are awesome, but why do we care about Silhouette Studio Designer Edition and its ability to use them?
Firstly, we care because there are millions of free and cheap SVG files out there for us to use. Free files are awesome.
Secondly, we care because it is easy to make and save our own files in the SVG format. I use Inkscape, a free software, to create and edit files. Inkscape is free and has tons of features. While it can save in DXF and other formats, it defaults to saving in SVG format because this seems to be the predominant file type for vector graphics.
Thirdly, we care because the basic edition of Silhouette Studio is horrible at importing files! Having tried to get away with the free version for years, I can truly say that it is terrible when trying to import DXF files. It can do it, but the results are never pretty.
Why I chose not to buy Designer Edition for several years.
Considering all its fun features, why would I still refuse to purchase it? I went without it for at least 3 years with my Silhouette Cameo. Obviously, I didn’t want to shell out the $50 for it. Feeling as though my technical savvy should allow me a way out, I stubbornly refused to buy Silhouette Studio Designer Edition.
Can you avoid buying DE and still make your own files? Yes.
Can you avoid buying DE and still get a lot out of your machine? Yes.
Can you avoid buying DE and still be efficient? No, not really.
Workarounds exist for almost anything you would want to do which requires DE. The main task that I needed to achieve was using SVG files that I found online with my Silhouette Cameo. For this purpose, I learned how to use Inkscape to edit SVG files and export them as DXF files, a file type that the basic edition of Silhouette Studio IS able to import. This method worked for me. I felt as though I had gotten around buying the Silhouette Studio Designer Edition and didn’t have any need for it. Why bother getting it when I could simply open the files I needed in Inkscape and then save them as DXF? Well, now I know why.
My Tipping Point
What finally tipped me over the edge was working and struggling with a file I needed to cut out. Opening this particular file in Inkscape, it looked very nice. There weren’t very many points. It was a nice clean file. Now, all I needed was to cut it out. Saving it as a DXF file is easy in Inkscape. There are a few different options, but nothing too bad. I saved it and opened it in Silhouette Studio. The software cringed, and spun, and stuttered.
Finally, it opened and had my shape with what appeared to be millions of points. Trying to work with it, I told the software to simplify the shape. It obligingly rearranged the points for me. Still millions of points in the file. I thought I would just ignore this and cut it out. Wrong. However the DXF format or the Silhouette software had mangled my file cause it to be a gigantic file size that kept getting lost when I tried sending it to cut.
Frustrated, I started looking for deals on DE. Finding a pretty good deal, I took the plunge and got a code to upgrade. I upgraded the software – it didn’t even need to download anything. Those sneaky people, I thought, they include everything in the original download but it is sitting there locked away! Well, I tried it out anyway.
Returning to the saga of my cut file, I pulled the original SVG file open easily in my shiny new Silhouette Studio Designer Edition software. It looked just as simple and beautiful as it had in Inkscape. Crossing my fingers, I sent it to the machine and it cut it out within seconds. Clean, simple, easy. Everything I had wanted. Why, I thought, had I wasted so much time with my workarounds?
Silhouette Designer Edition Features
Features abound in the Silhouette Studio Designer Edition. Take a look at this article on the Silhouette School Blog if you want a more in depth look at some of these features.
- Sketch Pen Options
- Rhinestone Features
- Eraser Tool Options
- Shear Tool
- Select By Color or Line Color
- Ruler and Grid Improvements
- Nesting objects (for optimizing your materials)
- Transfer Properties from one object to another
- Easily fill shapes with photos
- Import SVG files
These are the most notable changes you will see when you upgrade. One notable feature that is still missing from the software is the ability EXPORT SVG files. Having researched this a little, it seems that it was a feature in previous iterations of the Designer Edition software but has been removed. Presumably, they want people to keep their files in their own proprietary format. This is disappointing to me.
However, I am still glad that I purchased it. Once you have made an investment in the machine, it is worth the small percentage of that investment to also invest in the Designer Edition of the software. As of today, I am seeing it on Amazon for as low as $25 and I know there are other sales and deals on it from time to time as well.
Unexpected benefits of Design Edition
Unexpectedly, once I unlocked the Designer Edition, the whole software package seemed to run more quickly and smoothly. While I don’t know if this is intentional or just a byproduct of the way they designed the unlocking mechanism, it is a bonus. I truly feel like the Designer Edition is what should be included with the machine and since it isn’t, you should just chalk it up to part of the cost of the machine. Basically, I recommend pretending that it did come with the machine!
For me, the improvements to the program’s performance were most notable when editing the nodes of a path. Previously, when I tried to edit nodes in Silhouette Studio my machine churned and protested and it was incredibly, painfully slow. Now, it will comply with my desires. This alone has saved me a lot of time. In addition, the ability to import SVG files cleanly gives my files fewer nodes and the cut out swiftly.
Problems with DXF import
Additionally, I was never satisfied with using the DXF format for importing my files to Silhouette Studio. Inkscape is capable of outputting files in this format, and while it works, it doesn’t work well. Somehow, during the process of the conversion, seemingly millions of new points are added. Let me show you a comparison.
Above is a file I designed in Inkscape. You can download it here if you are interested. While the image on the left may have a few unnecessary nodes, it has a manageable number of nodes. On the right is what Silhouette Studio gave me when I imported the DXF version. The number of nodes is so high you can’t even see them distinctly. When sending these files to cut out on your machine, each node is communicated to your machine. Now, you should be able to see why the SVG version is so superior. It will take a fraction of the time to send it over and cut it out. In terms of time savings, the benefits were immediately obvious.
Why I stopped providing free DXF files
As you can see, the DXF files were simply not doing the job. They were unwieldy and a time sink. Finally, I decided to give up on them. Not wanting others to lose time or have trouble with one of these files, I have also removed them from this site. In the unlikely case that you should want the DXF version of one of my files, please download the SVG and Inkscape. You can then open the SVG file and convert it in Inkscape. However, your results will likely be similar to mine.
After all these considerations, I am very glad I finally got the Silhouette Studio Designer Edition. Probably, I should have gotten it sooner. If you use free SVG files from online or create your own, it is well worth the time savings you will reap. Your time is valuable and don’t forget it!