Business Edition, Curio, Designer Edition, Designer Edition Plus, Let's Explore v4, Silhouette, Uncategorized

Let’s Explore v4 – Etching photos with the Curio

Etching photos with the Silhouette Curio

I love my Curio! So much that I now have 2 of them, just in case.
This little machine amazes me all the time!

Check out this post – Silhouette Inspiration – to see a few more Curio etched projects.

Today I am going to share my “secret” to etching photos with the Silhouette Curio.

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How is this possible? Just taking the photo by itself and trying to etch it doesn’t turn out well. Photos are made up of so many different aspects that you can’t just fill it with an emboss fill and call it good. It would just turn out like a big etched blob. It might work for a silhouette of a person, but not to capture the essence of the photo itself.

Well, it’s really not a “secret” at all. But, this is what I do.
I followed a technique that Kay Hall with Clever Someday composed and put into an eBook – Etching Photos on Acrylic with the Silhouette Curio.


This past week I had a lesson with a student and she asked me about etching photos.
This is what I told her, “While I can teach you all about etching acrylic on your Curio, I highly recommend you grab this eBook and read it. In fact, I recommend that you read it 2-3 times before you even try to follow it.”
And that is what I would recommend to all of you reading this. I can etch acrylic with the emboss fills pretty much in my sleep – in fact, there are nights that is all I “think” about when I’m sleeping. But, this etching photos technique uses the sketch fills and gives an amazing finished project. It is a technique that has many steps, but if you follow it exactly, you will end up with a stunning project.

Now, keep in mind each photo you etch is going to turn out differently. I know it’s not the answer my students want to hear when I say, “Each design is going to act differently.” This is true for fonts, designs, photos, tracing, etc.
Because they are all made up of different elements. There is rarely a 1 click button to have something magically turn into something amazing. It is a process and it takes some time to go through that process. Skipping steps rarely leads to a good result.

How do I do it?

Blog post written in v4.3.370
Affiliate links may be present in the following blog post and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I open the eBook every single time and follow it step-by-step. If I don’t, I know that I will miss a step and it won’t turn out.

So let’s take a look at the photo first. I opened the photo in Silhouette Studio and then scaled it down to fit on the Curio mat.

Original Photo copy

Like I said above, each photo is going to be different. In this photo, I don’t want the extra background to be etched, just the people in it. So I used the Magnet Trace feature to draw around the people and “extract” them out of the photo.

Magnet Trace copy

Magnet Trace is a Designer Edition upgrade feature in the Silhouette Software. As you can see in the photo above, the edges are not smooth around the photo. But, we can change that. I love the Magnet trace for extracting photo because even after I delete the background, it retains the memory of the photo. So I can use the Edit Points feature and adjust the edges around the part of the photo that I want to clean up.
If the tool has traced or placed an edit point too far in on the photo, I can move it out and it still “remembers” what the photo looked like. It is very forgiving and I highly encourage you to play around with it. It takes some practice but can come in quite handy.

Point Edit Magnet Trace copy

Each of the little gray dots is an Edit Point. I can delete or adjust the points until I have the desired edge around my photo.

After I have “extracted” my photo, I then cropped it down by drawing a square around the section of the photo I wanted & used the Modify – Crop feature to capture only the section I want etched. Then I enlarged that section of the photo to fill the acrylic blank area.

Crop copy

Now that my photo is ready, I open the Etching Photos onto Acrylic eBook and follow the directions. I do highly recommend that you read the book from start to finish 2-3 times before you even try to follow along in the software. While it may not make sense completely when you are reading it those first few times, it will make a whole lot more sense when you sit down and try to follow the technique in the software.

The more you do it, the more comfortable you will get.

Once you click on the Send button, a timer shows up in the bottom right corner of the Send tab. However, it is rarely accurate, especially with etching projects. Sometimes it’s less, but more often than not, it’s more time. This project said it would take 20 minutes & 59 seconds to etch and it actually took 32 minutes.

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The top of this is the etched photo and the bottom is etched into a Silhouette metal etching sheet using the Emboss fills.

I think the longest etching project I’ve done is around 3 hours. This is why I love that with the Business Edition upgrade to the software I can use multiple machines at a time. So I can set up a project to etch and still cut with my Cameo or start another project on my 2nd Curio.

Multiple machines copy

For more information on how to use multiple machines at the same time, check out this post – How to Use Multiple Silhouette machines.

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Don’t have a Curio? Here are a few places you will find them:
Silhouette America
Swing Design

Want to get started etching with the Silhouette Curio?

First grab some acrylic blanks from Craft Chameleon and then a Silhouette etching tool.

Then, if you are a beginner with the Curio here is what I recommend to start:

1. Let’s Explore the Silhouette Curio
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2. Beginner Curio Etching Metal
beginner curio Etching metal header copy

3. Want an online etching class? Check out the 1 hour Basic Acrylic Etching with the Silhouette Curio class on my Teachable site – HERE.

SilSecrets Curio Etching copy copy

I show you the steps I use to set up an acrylic etch from beginning to end.
Here is the course curriculum from the design file to the full etching video course.

Teachable course copy

and then once you feel comfortable with the etching process and your Curio

4. Grab the Etching Photos onto Acrylic with the Silhouette Curio by Kay Hall

5. Want personalized lessons? To be able to ask questions in real time to an instructor? Set up an in-person or online lesson.
More information HEREOnline Lessons & Classes.

6. Join us at the All Things Silhouette Conference in November to learn more about All Things Silhouette – from software to machines to hand-on project classes.


7. Check out the “Let’s Explore v4” series HERE for more in-depth software information including all about the Emboss Panel, which is the key to the Curio and etch fills for more projects. Etching on photos is the only thing I use the sketch fills for, otherwise the Emboss Panel is the main focus with the Curio.

I really feel that the software is the key to it all. You learn how to do things in the software that will translate over to all kinds of projects in the future.

I would love to see what you create!
Feel free to post on my Facebook group at Silhouette Secrets with EllyMae.

Save this for future reference by pinning the image below.

Photo Etching Curio


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**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.

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