Do you want to learn how to use Silhouette Sketch Pens and how to use your Silhouette machine to sketch or draw? If so, this is the post for you! In this detailed beginner’s guide and video tutorial, I will walk you through all of the basics about sketching with your Silhouette machine. This post contains affiliate links, which help to support this site at no extra cost to you.
Most people who get a new Silhouette machine can’t wait to start cutting paper, vinyl, and all kinds of materials, which I totally get! It’s exciting stuff! But with all of the excitement around cutting, you may not even realize that your cutting machine is also a sketching and drawing machine! What a treat!
If you want to learn how to sketch with your machine or if you ended up here because you just saw some Silhouette Sketch Pens online and thought, “Wait – what do you even do with sketch pens??” — don’t worry. I got you.
Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we?
What is Silhouette Sketching?
Sketching with your Silhouette machine is simply the process of replacing the blade in your Silhouette machine with a pen, marker, pencil, or other writing implement and using the machine to draw, write, sketch, or mark on a thin, flat surface. That’s it!
In this post, I will be doing a deep dive on everything Silhouette sketching and Silhouette Sketch Pens. Just below you can watch a video walkthrough of the basics of sketching with your Silhouette machine and you will also find links to jump ahead to the different sections of this guide.
Silhouette Sketching & Sketch Pens 101
I made the video below to explain the basics of sketching with your Silhouette machine. In the video, I use both my Cameo 3 and Cameo 4 machines, but the basic principles discussed will apply to any Silhouette machine.
For more detailed info, just keep on scrolling.
Below are the topics I will be covering in this guide, click on the links to jump ahead to specific sections or topics.
- Choosing or Creating a Sketch Design
- Choosing a Pen or Marker for Sketching
- Silhouette Sketch and Cut
- Silhouette Sketch Project Ideas
Choosing or Creating a Sketch Design
You can sketch any standard cut file or SVG design with your Silhouette machine. However, the machine will just draw around the outside of the design in the same place that it would cut if you were cutting the design out of paper or vinyl. This can leave your sketched projects looking like empty outlines.
Luckily, there are plenty of fonts and files available that were specifically made to be drawn or sketched by cutting machines. These designs are made up of individual lines instead of open shapes like traditional cut files or SVGs. These types of fonts and files are called sketch designs, single line designs, or even Foil Quill designs.
Where to Find Sketch Designs and Fonts
In addition to creating your own sketch designs in the Silhouette Studio software, there are several places online to find ready made single line designs. Here are a couple of my faves.
The Silhouette Design Store is a great place to find lots of sketch fonts and designs. You can search by keyword and then filter to sketch only designs to find something that will work for your project.
I am also working on getting more sketch designs up in my cut file shop.
How to Fill in Fonts and Designs when Sketching
One common question about sketching with your Silhouette is how to fill in fonts (or other designs) when sketching. Maybe you have a design you love and want to sketch, but you want to avoid that hollow look I mentioned earlier. It’s actually pretty easy to fill in sketch designs in the Silhouette Studio software.
A few years ago I wrote a post on how to fill in fonts with the Curio, and the process I am going to outline below is similar, but the method below is what I prefer now.
The trick to easily filling in fonts and shapes is the Line Effects panel (previously called the Sketch Effects panel). You do need the Designer Edition software or higher in order to use this trick.
Filling in text or shapes for sketching just takes a few steps:
- Open the Line Effects panel. The icon looks like a little zig zag scribble.
- Make sure the shape you are filling is selected, and then choose one of the fill effects. I usually go with the concentric circles.
- If nothing changes right after selecting a fill effect it may be because the spacing is too small or too large to see the pattern.
- Next, adjust the spacing until the shape is nicely filled with your chosen pattern. When filling fonts or shapes for sketching, I usually have the spacing down around .010 inches. However, the perfect spacing will depend on your design, the fill effect you have chosen, and the width of the pen you are sketching with.
- Finally, you can add an edge effect. To get a crisp edge to your sketched design, I recommend the plain edge effect.
And that’s it! The Line Effects panel makes it so easy to fill in your sketch designs.
Choosing a Pen or Marker for Sketching
There are lots of different options when it comes to choosing the pen you will use for your sketch project. You can use anything from Silhouette brand sketch pens to Sharpies to chalk!
Let’s start out by talking about Silhouette’s own brand of pens designed for sketching.
Silhouette Sketch Pens
What are Silhouette Sketch Pens, anyway? Basically, they are the pens designed and sold by Silhouette to be used in their machines for sketching and drawing.
Silhouette Sketch Pens are short, stubby little bullet pens that fit nicely into Silhouette machines. They are rollerball style pens that come in 24 different colors including primary brights, neons, glitter, and metallic inks.
There are two models of Silhouette Sketch pens – the newer model with black bodies and the older model with white bodies.
The new black sketch pens are designed to better fit in the adapters for the new Cameo 4 and Portrait 3 machines, but they work with all models of Silhouette cutting machines including older Cameos, Portraits, and the Curio.
How to Use Silhouette Sketch Pens
The method for using Silhouette Sketch Pens will vary slightly depending on the Silhouette machine you are using. For the Silhouette Cameo 3 (and older Cameo models), the Portrait 2 (and older Portrait models), and the Silhouette Curio, you can just put a Silhouette Sketch pen directly into the tool holder.
Psst… If you are confused about the different types of Silhouette machines, this video explains and compares ALL of the different Silhouette machines currently available.
Because the Cameo 4 and Portrait 3 machines have automatic tool detection, you will need to use one of the tool adapters that comes with the machine to house your sketch pens. The blue adapter is designed to be used with the new black sketch pens or the older style of pen holder, which I will explain in just a minute.
You just clip the adapter around the sketch pen, and then lock it into the Portrait 3 tool slot or the first tool carriage in your Cameo 4. The little metal bar on the back of the adapter tells your machine that you have placed a sketch pen in the machine and helps it to lock snugly in place.
(I want to mention that the Silhouette web site says the older, white sketch pens don’t work with the Cameo 4 adapter, but I have used them without any problems. I’m not sure if I just got lucky, but if you have some of the white sketch pens, I think it’s worth a try to use them in the Cameo 4/Portrait 3 adapter.)
Using Other Pens with a Pen Holder
Luckily, your sketching projects are not limited to just Silhouette brand sketch pens. Thanks to pen holders, you can use lots of different pens and markers with your Silhouette machine.
What Kinds of Pens Can You Use to Sketch with Your Silhouette?
Really, the answer is any pen that can fit in your pen holder! Some of my favorite pens to use with my Silhouette are my old trusty Gelly Rolls and Ultra Fine Point Sharpies. I recommend trying out pens with fun inks that give you a look you can’t get with your printer.
One of my favorite Silhouette sketch projects was when I used a glue pen in my pen adapter to create heat embossed tags! They were so cute!
Choosing the Right Pen Holder
Silhouette sells two types of Pen Holders. They are essentially identical in how they work and the types of pens they can hold, but Type A is designed to work with the Cameo 3 (and earlier Cameo models), the Portrait 2 (and earlier Portrait models), and the Curio, while Type B is designed to work with the Cameo 4 and the Portrait 3.
Both Silhouette Pen Holders can accommodate pens from 0.25 to 04 inches in diameter.
Besides the Silhouette brand pen holders, there are other third party adapters available as well. The Chomas Creations Pen and Marker Holders are extremely durable and work with a wide variety of pens and markers. Just be sure to get the right one for your machine – this version is designed to use with the Cameo 3 and Portrait 2 and earlier machines while this version will work with the Cameo 4 and Portrait 3 machines.
How to Use a Silhouette Pen Holder
The Silhouette Pen Holder comes with a pen cap, the main body of the pen holder, and three collars to hold your pen in place.
First, decide what size collar fits your pen. Then with the collar on the pen, slide the pen into the holder until the tip of the pen hits the cap. Next, twist the pen holder body onto the collar to secure it in place. Finally, remove the pen cap, and insert the pen holder into your machine.
Silhouette Sketch and Cut
Sketching with your Silhouette is obviously pretty great, BUT when you pair sketching with cutting, it opens up even MORE crafting possibilities.
Sketching and cutting makes it easy to create custom labels, tags, cards and more. Plus, using a pen holder allows you to use all kinds of pens to get looks you can’t get with a regular printer. (Hello, opaque, metallic, and sparkly inks!)
Because different machines have different numbers and types of tool carriages, the process can be slightly different depending on the machine you are working with. But – don’t worry – it’s easy to do with any Silhouette machine!
How to Sketch and Cut with Different Silhouette Machines
Your sketch and cut method will depend on the machine you are using.
Because the Cameo 3 and Curio have two tool holders that can both hold pens and blades, they are able to sketch and cut without changing out your tool! This is a serious perk of these machines. If you are interested in doing lots of sketching and cutting projects, you may want to check out the Cameo 3 or Curio.
All other Silhouette cutting machines will require you to change your tool between sketching and cutting.
Earlier versions of the Cameo and all Portrait machines have only one tool slot, and the Cameo 4’s new second tool carriage has a more powerful motor, which doesn’t work with sketch pens or standard blades. Because of this, sketching and cutting with these machines requires changing out your tools. HOWEVER, this is really not a big deal at all. It’s still super easy to create awesome sketch and cut projects with any of these machines.
Find full written tutorials for sketching and cutting with your machine below:
- How to Sketch and Cut with the Silhouette Cameo 4 or a Silhouette Portrait Machine (This tutorial will also work for Cameo 2, 1, and any Portrait.)
- How to Sketch and Cut with the Silhouette Cameo 3
- How to Sketch and Cut with the Silhouette Curio
Silhouette Sketch Project Ideas
There are so many different ways to use your Silhouette machine’s sketching ability. Here are just a few project ideas to get you started!
- Doodle Gift Boxes – Maritza Lisa
- Sketched Thanksgiving Placemats and Table Runner – Silhouette 101
- Tiger Sketch Watercolor Art – Persia Lou
- Stamped + Sketched Card – Finding Time to Create
- Gold Foil Christmas Village – The Craft Patch (Technically, this is a Foil Quill project, but you could get the same look with a metallic gold pen.)
- Stitched Leatherette Planter – Silhouette 101
- Silhouette + Heat Embossing Watercolor – K Becca
- Silhouette Sketch and Paint Shirt – Domestic Diva Online
- Sketched Treat Bags – Maritza Lisa
- Sketch Pen Coloring Page – Silhouette 101
- Curio Assisted Painted Canvas Panel – Finding time to Create
- Sketch and Cut Iridescent Storage Labels – Persia Lou
- Silhouette Sketch Glue Pen Foiling – K Becca
- Stained Glass Sketched Coloring Bookmarks – Silhouette 101
- DIY Conversation Heart Balloon String – Aww Sam
- Leather Sketched and Embossed Bookmarks – Persia Lou
- Watercolor Sketch and Cut Scrapbook Page Elements – Ashley Horton for Scrapbook.com
- Paint by Number Watercolor Art – Dream a Little Bigger
- Sketched Treat Bags for a Football Party – Silhouette 101
- DIY Patterned Stationery – Maritza Lisa
- Patterned Advent Calendar – Persia Lou
- Silhouette Sketch + Watercolor – K Becca
- Sketch Pen JOY Banner – Silhouette 101
- Make Your Own Unicorn Coloring Stickers – – 100 Directions by Jen Goode [Jen is the queen of Cricut drawing projects (the equivalent of Silhouette sketch projects), and you can find lots of sketching inspiration on her site!)]
- Sketch and Stitch Projects – Paige Tayler Evans
- DIY Sketched Weaving Loom – Silhouette 101
- Sketch and Cut Tags – Persia Lou
- Sketched Secret Messages on Fruit Roll-Ups – Studio Xtine
So many amazing projects!
I hope this beginner’s guide to sketching with your Silhouette machine was helpful for you. What sketch projects are you dreaming up now? Tell me about them in the comments, and if you have any questions, I will do my best to respond.
Until next time, Happy Making!