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Beginner Curio Etching Metal

etching metal etching sheets silhouette curio Mar 19, 2021

This tutorial is created in v4.2.471 of the Silhouette Studio software.

This is EllyMae from Silhouette Secrets+. I am a Terri Johnson Creates Licensed Silhouette Instructor and have been teaching the Curio at the All Things Silhouette Conference (check out the details for the upcoming May Virtual Conference HERE). Today I am here to share a few of my "secrets" to getting started etching with the Silhouette Curio machine.

Now, I'll be honest with you and say that the first day I opened my Curio box, it was not love at first etch. But, that quickly changed and now it is one of my favorite Silhouette machines.

Just to show you what I mean, I'll share my first etching. This was a design from the Silhouette Design store when they had the DC Comic license and I thought it would be great for a first project.

I had read all the information I could find available at that time on the Curio and nothing I found was complete. So I can completely understand when someone gets frustrated with a new machine and it not working as expected. I was an experienced Silhouette software user, followed all the instructions I had, and it still didn't work.

But, I wasn't going to let it win and thank goodness these Silhouette metal etching sheets are double sided. I flipped that sheet over and was able to get a successful etch on the other side.

So today, I'm going to share my "secrets" that I suggest to any new beginner starting with the Silhouette Curio.

The first thing I would suggest for any new Curio user that wants to get into etching is to get the Silhouette Metal Etching Sheets  and a Silhouette Etching & Stippling Tool.
Unless these items were in a specific bundle that you order, they are not included with the Basic Curio package.

As I mentioned earlier, the Silhouette Metal Etching Sheets are double sided and that makes them perfect for experimenting and learning.

Once we have the supplies together, now we can get started setting up the Curio.

Metal Etching on the Curio

Open the Silhouette software, plug the Curio in to the computer and turn it on.

If you have had another Silhouette machine plugged in and recognized by the Silhouette software, click on the Send tab in the top right corner.

Then click on the machine icon in the bottom right corner.

If you are seeing more machines in the list than you actually own, check out this post HERE on a few current "bugs" in the software.

Choose the Curio machine that shows as "Available".

Then click back on the Design tab in the Silhouette software.

On the Page Setup Panel (top right icon), change the Page Size to Automatic (Curio) and the Cutting Mat to Curio (Emboss) 8.5 x 6 in.

Now, you should notice that the virtual mat on the screen looks exactly like the physical  Silhouette Embossing mat.

Check the Show Cut Border on the Page Setup Panel to see the red cut border around the embossing mat on the screen. This will show you the borders of where the design can be placed on the screen and the Curio will work inside those borders. Anything outside that red cut border will not be completed.

As a beginner, I would recommend starting with small designs first to see how it will etch and what emboss fill you might like better. I started with a full metal sheet design and we all saw how that first time went - nothing like learning the hard way.

This is where those free designs that come with the Curio when it is plugged in and recognized, would come in handy. Or using the new Flexishapes that are available in v4.2.

I suggest starting with some basic shapes and simple designs to see how it all looks first. Then once you have the hang of things, you can venture out and test the waters.

Let's start with a star Flexishape.

Click on the Flexishapes icon on the left side Tool bar in Silhouette Studio.

Adjust the star by moving the slider in the middle of the star to change the number of points and move the red dot in or out to adjust the angle of the points. Once the star is how you like, right click on it and choose Convert to Path. The star will no longer be editable by the Flexishape points and the slider & red node disappear.
(For more information on Flexishapes check out this post HERE - this is a Designer Edition Plus & Business Editionupgrade feature with software versions v4.2+.)

I mentioned above, that I recommend starting with small designs. So next, scale the star down by using the corner bounding box. I made mine about 1.5" wide and I duplicated it 3 times to the right.

Now, let's open the Emboss Panel on the right side and start to fill these designs.

When etching with the Curio, you want to make sure that the Deboss option is the one selected. This will ensure that the design you see on the screen is what will be etched and not something flipped on the mat and backwards.

Now select one of the stars. Choose an Emboss Fill.

I have filled each of the stars with a different Emboss Fill and left it at the default spacing of 0.79 in.

Each design etched will be different and testing is the absolute only way to know what you like. Yes, what you like! Each Silhouette user will have a different preference to what they like to etch with. Personally, I like a tight spaced, cross-hatched fill. But, not everyone likes that.

Now, for a comparison, I've duplicated the stars under the top row and changed the spacing to 0.005 in.

At this point, it just looks like a bunch of blue, but if we zoom in on the stars, you will see the patterns.

It will be much easier to see on your computer screen after you have filled the design with the patterns.

Now a few things to note here:

  • When working with Emboss fills, you are increasing the data of the design file a lot. Each of those blue lines is data. Be patient with your computer, don't keep on clicking to make something happen, and be patient with yourself. Each user will vary in what they experience because we all have different computers with different specs on them. Ultimately, this will depend on the processor in the computer and what else is running at the same time. 

    • Once you save & close the file with the Emboss fill, there is no going back. Always keep an original copy of the design before you fill it with the Emboss fill, so you can go back and start at the beginning. Choose File > Save As and rename the design before you fill the shape with an emboss fill.

    We are now ready to set this up to etch.

    Click on the Send tab in the top right corner. Select Metal Etching sheets as the Material. In the Action drop down, change it to Etch.

In the v4.2 software, the Platforms needed are now shown in the Material title once it has been selected.

If you are using an older version of the software, click on the 3 dots to open the Advanced Materials Panel. The recommended platforms will be in the bottom right corner.

The presets in the software are for materials that Silhouette manufactures. For other materials, measuring the thickness and testing will be the best way to determine what works to get a good etch.

Now, let's talk about the Curio platforms. The Curio can accommodate thicker materials by using the platforms. For thinner materials, such as cardstock, vinyl, and HTV - all the platforms need to be stacked on the base. If you are using a material thicker than 1 mm, then take out platforms to accommodate that thickness.

There are embossed numbers on the sides of the platforms and this is equivalent to mm. An embossed 2 mat = 2 mm. Add up the total of the embossed platforms plus the thickness of the material and the sum should be 6 in order for the machine tools to meet the material.
Note: other materials may vary and testing is the only way to know what works best

When we choose this Silhouette Metal Etching sheet as our material, it tells us we need a platform stack of 5.

Stack a 2+2+embossing mat on top of the Silhouette Curio base. The holes of the platforms line up with the pegs on the base.

There are 2 arrows in the top corner of the Silhouette Embossing mat. Place the top left corner of the Silhouette metal etching sheet where the 2 arrows would intersect. This lines up exactly with the red cut border that shows in the Silhouette software.

Now, something to note here is that the Silhouette Embossing mat works with the metal etching sheets like a vacuum, so once you place the sheet down on the embossing mat it is held tight. If you need to remove it to re-position it or after it is etched, take the mat off the base. Then flip the mat over and gently roll the mat away from the metal sheet. This will help release it and keep the embossing pad in tact on the mat.

I also want to mention that this is the only etching that I use the embossing mat for. When I am etching other materials, I most often use the cutting mat.
But these metal etching sheets work great with the Emboss mat.

Now, another great feature of the Curio is that the machine can be paused, the base unloaded, and then reloaded and it will return to the exact same place - IF the base is loaded properly.

To load the base properly, gently place the base in between the rollers on the Curio and carefully push the base in. On the base, there are notches. Push the base into the machine so that the notches of the base are past the front of the machine.

Make sure the notch on the base is past the front of the machine and then hit the load button on the right side.

The base will load and Tool 1 will be positioned at the top left of the cutting mat or in this case, where the 2 arrows in the top left of the Embossing mat meet. Or if you are using a cutting mat with the Curio, it will line up to the top left of the Silhouette Curio cutting mat each time, IF the base is loaded properly.

Load the Silhouette etching tool in the Tool 1 holder and make sure the lip of the tool is flush with the housing and there is no gap at all.

Now, once the base is loaded and the Load button has been pressed, the Silhouette software will show Ready.

Verify that all the settings are correct and nothing has changed.

The bold red lines means that the Etch lines are set to Etch.

Click on the Send button in the bottom of the Send tab.

You can see there is quite a bit of difference in these etching fills. This is exactly what I meant when I said that each design you are working with may be different.

 I much prefer the 2nd one on the bottom left in this case. It is the Concentric fill with a 0.005 in spacing and it sure makes the star pop more than the others.

Start with the small designs and once you feel comfortable, go larger.

*Good Things Who Create by Megan Hardy Designs

 I know most people do not like to hear this, but there will be mess ups and etches that are off. It is all part of the learning process. The best way to learn is to play, play, play. You will find out what settings work for you and what you like.

*Create Inspire Imagine Stacked Word List by Kolette Hall
*Life Is About Creating Yourself by Lori Whitlock

And before you know it, that Curio machine may never get a chance to be back in the box. I know mine has claimed a space on my desk and only gets packed to go to an event.

Now, I hope this has inspired you to get that Curio out and test, test, test!!!!

If you've made it this far and are not a Curio owner, I hope this has peaked your interest. If you decide to add a Curio to your Silhouette family, check out this Curio Unboxing video to get started.

I hope you have enjoyed this beginner Curio tutorial and I cannot wait to see your projects!
Feel free to post photos on the All Things Silhouette Conference Facebook group or Silhouette Secrets+ by EllyMae - you never know who you will inspire!!

I am a firm believer that the key to all projects starts with the Silhouette software!
Check out the "Let's Explore v4" series on my blog HERE for details on the v4 software.


**This post may contain affiliate links. What that means is that I may receive compensation if you purchase through the links I have provided. The price you pay for the product or service is not higher but I may get compensated for sharing.