Let's Explore v4, Silhouette, Silhouette Projects, Uncategorized

Let’s Explore – Silhouette Layered files

I often see posts or comments on files from the Silhouette Design Store that open up like this.

Blog post written in Silhouette Studio v4.3.372
Affiliate links may be present in the following blog post and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Why does it open with no color?
Why are all the pieces separated?
Why does it not look like the original example photo?

Trout Card by Jennifer Rush – Design #136886

So let’s take a look at this and hopefully you will understand a little bit better why the files open like this and how to work with them.

Why does it open with no color?

There are probably a couple of reasons this is.
One reason is adding color to a file increases the data size of the file. When I first started with Silhouette 7+ years ago, this is how most files opened. A lot of things have changed in that 7 years with computers, file sizes, and program capabilities.
Keep in mind that any digital file that is loaded somewhere takes up storage space.
Adding color into the file, or multiple colors, adds more code into that file and increases the data size.

Designers create files in different ways and with different programs. Over the years, this has also evolved in that designers are now creating files that will open in multiple programs for multiple machines. They are not just creating a file for Silhouette use only.
Which means that a file has to be universal for all programs.

Why are all the pieces separated?

The reason files were created has also changed over the years. When I first started most files were created for cardstock and paper piecing. Which means that you cut each piece out of a different color of cardstock and then glued them together.
This is what the Trout card example shows.

In the past couple of years, the trend has moved more towards cutting vinyl.
There is also the option to cut by Fill Color which means that you don’t necessarily have to move the colors around on the design mat to cut the file.
This was not an option when I started with my Silhouette years ago.

Something to keep in mind is that once a file is created, the designer doesn’t typically go “re-do” the file just because the trends have changed.
Knowing how to work with files in both ways will be beneficial to you in the future.

Why does it not look like the original example photo?

Typically, the image you see in the file preview is a photo of the completed design. For instance in this example, it is a photo of the completed card.

Tip: when in the Silhouette Library tab, move the mouse over top of the design icon and a little square bracket appears in the bottom left corner. Click on this and a image of the design with information will pop up. This can be a larger photo or clearer photo than what you can see from the Silhouette Design Store page.

How do I work with a file like this?

The great thing about the Silhouette software is that you have the freedom & tools to do so much in it.
You control how things work!

The first thing I do is bring a photo of the design. I am working on a PC, so I use the Snipping Tool. I keep this Snipping Tool pinned to my taskbar because I use it so much.
You can also use a screen shot of the design file as well.

I copy this “snip” and then paste it onto my design workspace. Then increase the size if needed. Note that you may see a yellow triangle appear in the top left corner of the design area. This just indicates that if you printed this image, it would most likely be low resolution and fuzzy. I don’t need image clarity to print as this is just for a visual of the project.

Now, we can start working with the file.
Click on the file and in this case it is all Grouped together. I need to right click on it and choose Ungroup, so then the pieces are all individual pieces and can be edited.

Notice once it is Ungrouped, there are individual selection boxes around each piece. Click off of the grouping and then back on each piece to select individually.

Select each piece and then use the Fill Color Panel and add color to it using the image as a guide.

Keep in mind that the colors do not have to be perfect unless you are doing a print and cut project, the colors do not matter. It will cut out of whatever color material you place on your cutting mat.

Now, if you want, you can move the pieces around to position the image to reflect how it will look when finished. In this case, I do not really need to do this since I will be cutting each piece out of a different color of cardstock and then placing them together.
But, here is a photo of what it would look like if I did. I am going to copy all of the pieces to show it off to the side.

Notice the smaller pieces are all still grouped together. In this case, that is because they will be cut out of cardstock and it is designed to keep them close together to save on materials. You could ungroup it and move them around on the fish to place them, but that is only necessary if you were to turn this file into a print and cut file.

What you will notice is that designs and files you work with will all be different. Whether it is differences in designers and how they are creating the files or in what the original purpose of the file was created for. The more familiar you can get with the Silhouette software, the easier it will be for you to figure out what each file needs in order to complete your particular project.

It is not that the file is created wrong or is a bad file. It is just created differently than others. Some files will require a little bit more work to get it how you want.
I will be 100% honest, there are some files I’ve opened and I just don’t feel like it at the time to work with it. Some days I have the patience to play with it and others I do not.

For instance, this was one of those “nope” days. I know the card will be cute once created, but I just didn’t have the patience to complete it.

Fisherman A7 Card by Snapdragon Snippets – Design #83517

Do you have to fill it with color to use it?

No, it is just an easier way to visualize what colors are cut out of what materials and keep track of what you have cut and haven’t cut.

Cutting the file

Next, on this file, I want to double check the size of the card it will cut.

One of the great things about the Silhouette software is that you can size a design to whatever size you need. If the file is in a file format that can be resized without losing image quality, such as a .studio or .svg file, then you should not encounter an issue.
If it is a jpeg or png file, those are graphics files and cannot be resized without losing image quality in most cases, since the pixel size is set and it’s a flattened graphic.

I used the Transform Panel – Rotate Tab to turn the card design horizontal and I can tell by the measurements on the edges of the card that it is 5.5″ x 8.5″, which means that folded my card will be 4.25″ x 5.5″.
This is a standard card size.

Make sure that if you increase the size of the card, that you also select the entire design and increase the size of it at the same time.

Now, I am ready to cut my file.
When I’m working with a file that has multiple pieces to cut out of several colors, I start with all my pieces on the left side and then as I finish cutting with them, I move them off the cutting mat to the right side. This way I can keep track of what I’ve cut and what still needs to be done.

I also use the Transparency (Reveal) option on the Page Setup Panel to reveal my cutting grid on my mat and then I cut down each color I need and place it in the same location as I have placed on my design mat as shown above.

This saves me time and the adhesive on my cutting mat, so it can make my mats last longer because I’m not removing a full sheet of cardstock/material each time I cut a piece out.
Find more tips on getting the most out of your cutting mats HERE.

After all the pieces are cut, use adhesive to piece the design together.

The more you do things in the software, the more you will pick up.
The best way to learn is to play, play, play.
Check out the full “Let’s Explore v4” series HERE for more information on tools and features in the software.

We’d love to see what you are creating with your Silhouette machine!
Feel free to post photos or questions on my Facebook group at 
Silhouette Secrets with EllyMae.

Save this for future reference by pinning the image below.


SS Logo snip it
**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.

2 thoughts on “Let’s Explore – Silhouette Layered files”

  1. This is a great explanation of not only the why the card looks the way it does when you open it, but also how to manipulate for ease of use. I always fill my designs with color as I create them to just better visualize the completed project. I didn’t know that you could snip and insert an image for reference. Thanks so much Elly Mae!


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