Buying a craft cutting machine can be a big decision. There are several different types of cutters on the market and they all have very unique features. Most crafters opt to purchase a Silhouette or a Cricut machine, but there are more options out there. Your choice will heavily depend on what type of crafts you want to do and what type features you will want in a machine. I will highlight the unique features of each machine to help to make your decision easier.
Silhouette machines are great for the person that likes to design and manipulate their own projects. There is a small learning curve to the Design Studio software, but you can easily change projects to fit your needs by erasing something here and there, adding text or drawing new lines. The Silhouette design store offers turnkey images and projects at a low price, but as you get better, you can easily tweak these projects to fit your needs. You can also cut any font that is installed on your computer. You can work within the free version of the Design Studio software or you can purchase the Designer Edition software upgrade. The Designer Edition upgrade allows you to cut SVG(vector files) files, unlocks the rhinestone features, has better eraser, knife and shear tools and more. The best part is that you do not have to have an internet connection to use your software. If the internet goes down, you will still be able to use your machine.
Tracing is another unique feature of the Silhouette machines. You can trace and cut images that you upload to your computer. For example, if you have a logo that you want to make “cuttable”, you can use the trace feature to make it into a cuttable file. My husband owns a small business and I was able to trace his logo and create vinyl decals, shirts and more for his business. Another example is if you have an image like a cute panda jpg file that you want to cut out, you can upload it to your software, trace it, and use the “print and cut” feature to print the image. Then you cann have your machine cut around the outer edge of the panda. This is one of my favorite features of the Silhouette machine as you can create truly unique projects.
Silhouette has a whole line of machines in different price ranges and with different features:
The Silhouette Cameo is my favorite machine in Silhouette America’s lineup and the Cameos just keep getting better and better. The new and more powerful Cameo 4, which has a 12″ wide cutting area was just released and there are larger machines coming soon that cut 15″ and 20″ wide coming Spring of 2020. All Silhouette machines run off of Silhouette Studio software, which comes with it. The great thing about the software is that you aren’t required to work with an internet connection. You can work offline! You can also purchase the Designer Edition software upgrade if you wish to unlock more designer editing features.
Silhouette Cameo 4– The Silhouette Cameo 4 is the newest machine and it has some impressive new features. This Cameo is stronger and faster than ever. It has 5000 grams of cutting force, which is 1000 grams more than the comparable Cricut Maker (4000 grams), which helps cut through thicker materials. The Cameo 3 has the capability of just 210 grams of cutting force, so the Cameo 4 is quite an upgrade. As far as speed, the Cameo 4 cuts 3 times faster than the Cameo 3. It also comes with new tools that the Cameo 3 did not have such as the Kraft and Rotary tools to help with cutting things such as balsa wood, leather, chipboard and more. The exclusive Punch tool is a special tool that helps create weeding points for working with vinyl. These new tools have built-in sensors so your machine can detect which tool is inserted into the holder. How cool is that? The Cameo 4 still can cut up to 10 feet long of vinyl and 12 inches wide, but it now comes with a built-in vinyl roll feeder (new!) with a cross-cutter to cut off your vinyl roll when you are finished cutting. Like previous Cameo machines, the Cameo 4 has wireless capability, can print and cut and has the ability to “trace”, which is unique to Silhouette machines. The Cameo 4 has a larger clearance (3mm vs. 2mm) for thicker materials like balsa wood, leather, but will still cut things like cardstock, vellum, acetate and paper. It uses the Silhouette Studio software that is included with your machine or upgrade to Designer Edition software to unlock additional features.
Silhouette Cameo 3-This is the next oldest model and out of production, but there still some being sold. The Cameo 3 cuts a variety of mediums such as vinyl, cardstock, vellum, acetate, paper, thin cardboard and more. The cutting area is 12×12, but it will cut longer items by feeding it into the machine without the mat. You can also purchase a roll feeder that will attach to the Cameo 3 for cutting rolls of vinyl without a mat. You can use both older ratchet blades in the Silhouette Cameo 3 or there are autoblades available that you can set the depth and it automatically changes to your setting. Like all Cameo machines, you can print and cut, use the tracing feature and cut any font that is installed on your computer. The Cameo 3 uses the Silhouette Studio software that is included with your machine or you can upgrade to the Designer Edition software to unlock additional features.
The Silhouette Portrait Machine 2 has many of the same features as the Cameo like Bluetooth capability and the autoblade, but it has an 8-inch wide capability. You can get this machine at a lower pricepoint and it will take up less space in your craft area. However, if you think you will want to do larger 3D projects like boxes or gift bags or cut tall vinyl lettering, go for the Cameo. It’s worth it!
The Silhouette Curio is a cool little machine and I believe it is meant to be a machine that compliments either the Cameo or Portrait. It’s cutting area is 8.5 inches wide, but you can feed thicker materials into the machine with a wider clearance area. It also draws and embosses, debosses, etches and stiples. If this is your first Silhouette machine, I would recommend the Cameo, but if you want to try some specialty crafts, the Curio is for you.
Cricut’s latest and greatest machines are the Cricut Explore Machine lineup and the Cricut Maker Machine and they blow away the older Cricut Expression machines. They are best known for producing turnkey projects easily and for it’s quiet cutting. Cricut has created a simplified software and you can purchase files directly from them for a minimal cost or you can upload your own SVG files. You can also cut any font that is installed on your computer. It cuts up to 11.5 x 23.5 and it is fairly simple to replicate the projects from the files that you purchase. While the design software is fairly easy to learn, it does now allow lots of manipulation of your own projects. If you are the designer type you will be disappointed with the limited design features of the software. Also note that you have to have an internet connection to use the Explore. If you have spotty internet, using your machine will be an issue. There have also been some computer compatibility issues with some of the Cricut Machines. Check if your computer’s operating system will work with your machine as there have been a few issues with machines not working with some operating systems.
You can cut all sorts of medium such as vinyl, cardstock, paper, chipboard, leather, thin wood and much, much more. The Cricut Explore and the Cricut Maker both have very strong motors and will cut a variety of thicknesses. The ability to cut thicker mediums is one of the main unique features of these machines and it sets them apart from the Cameo and other machines. I am most impressed with it’s ability to cut wood and leather.
Another feature of the newest Cricut machines that sets them apart from other machines is that they can draw and cut at the same time. They have slots for both a blade and pen. This will be a huge time saver if you are making cards and such that require both of these features. The Silhouette also draws and cuts, but you have to stop and change from the blade to pen and vice versa.
Gone are the days where Cricuts only cut with cartridges. Users can enjoy cutting and drawing up to 2 times faster with the newest wireless Cricut machine. It is easy to select fast mode to speed up your cutting! The cutting speed is the biggest difference between the Explore Air Wireless 1 & 2. The Cricut Explore Air 2 Wireless machine has bluetooth capability that is built-in and the user can manipulate and cut images wirelessly from a PC, Ipad or MAC, just like the regular Cricut Explore Air Wireless. Be sure to check if your PC or Mac’s operating system is compatable. Certain operating systems do not work with the Cricut Explore machines.
The Cricut Maker Machine has most of the same awesome features of the Cricut Explore Machines, but it cuts with a whole lot more force. With it’s new knife blade, it cuts with 4000 grams of pressure and can cut through leather, chip board, balsa wood and most other materials up to 2.44mm thick. And while the Cricut Air Explore 2, which cuts with 400 grams of force, can also cut thicker materials, such as balsa wood, aluminum, and chipboard, the Cricut Maker can cut them faster, better, and with more precision. Another major difference is how it cuts fabric. The Cricut Maker has a rotary blade attachment that is included. Quilters will love this feature as it allows cutting fabric without needing you to add bonding to the back of your fabric before cutting. To make this feature work, you will need to purchase the Cricut Fabric Mat. The new Cricut Maker can also do print and cut on colored paper vs. just plain white paper. The Explore Air 2 is only able to detect objects on white paper to cut around them. If you own old Cricut Cartridges from older Cricut machines, you will need an adapter to use the cartridges with this machine while the Cricut Explore 2 has a built-in slot to use cartridges. The cartridge adapter will be out in December of 2017 and will plug right into the USB port. There are a few other smaller differences like the addition of a USB port to charge your phone or ipad and some different storage compartments for tools. Overall, the Cricut Maker is a great machine and a step up from the Cricut Explore 2.
Brother has come out with a few cool machines that rival the Cricut and Silhouette. Because of it’s scanning technology, it is unique in it’s class. It can scan just about anything and easily create cut lines around your scan. This machine is great for people who hand sketch designs and want to die cut them or want to die-cut stamped images and it’s superior as far as detecting and cutting both inside the lines and outside the lines of a design. The Brother machines use steel blades with Japan Design Quality, this blade will ensure you to always getting the best cut and they offer a variety of mats for different materials such as delicate papers, fabric, thin metals and more. These machines are perfect for quilters and stampers!
The ScanNCut DX is the newest machine from Brother and it comes with some cool new upgraded features from previous Brother cutters. It comes with an autoblade and autocut features where the machine will detect the thickness of the material you are cutting and adjust itself on it’s own-no fiddling with settings if you choose. This cool machine will cut paper, fabric, vinyl, balsawood, leatherette and so much more and it cuts up to 11.7″ wide. You can choose the 12×12 mat or the 12×24 mat, scanning mat or purchase the vinyl roll feeder separately to cut up to 6 feet long of vinyl without a mat. One of the biggest improvements is the upgraded scanner, which makes picks up outlines easier than older machines, but note for clearer scanning it is best to use the scanning mat (separate purchase). The DX Scans at 600 dpi (previous model does 300 dpi) and cuts up to 3 mm thick. Stampers can scan in stamps and die cut them and quilters can scan patterns and cut fabric. It is also great for hand-drawn sketches. You will need the mats specifically for the DX as they are slightly different than the mats of older models. The ScanNCut DX is already wireless, which is a great feature that makes downloading designs and software updates easy. You can manipulate files with the free Canvasworkspace or send files wirelessly to the machine. I also love the 5″ pop up touchscreen for manipulating files on the DX model, which is better than previous models. Overall, this machine has some cool features. If you want more freedom to design, then maybe check out Silhouette or Cricut.
The ScanNCut 2 machine comes with a Built-in Scanner and it is very unique in that you can scan an image and cut it out without computer connectivity. You can literally do some projects without even plugging this machine into a computer. This makes cutting shapes very easy and you can even do some editing, right on the provided screen. The brother will cut paper, cardstock, vinyl and chipboard, however and you can use either a 12×12 mat or a 12 x 24 mat to cut your medium. It does not have the autoblade like newer models. You can use the free software to with either pre-loaded designs, designs that you scan or you can covert SVG files to work with this machine. While this machine has been the clear underdog of the cutting machines, if you love the scanning feature, this could be the machine for you. With the scanning feature, you can cut inside of your design lines, outside or both with the “region” feature. For clearer scanning, it is recommended to to invest in the scanning mat. This machine does not come wireless, but you can purchase a wireless upgrade card to make your machine wireless.
While the scanning and cutting feature is what makes this machine unique, there has been some trouble with older versions of this machine. The older machines only recognizes dark, crisp lines when scanning, so this will be necessary to access this feature. This feature is made better with the newer machines.
If you love this post about comparing electronic cutting machines, check out our posts about Vinyl for Electronic Cutting machines or Where to find Supplies for your Cricut Explore Machine.
If you love holographic vinyl, then check out our post on where to find holographic vinyl.