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. Is Cricut the best cutting machine for you? Would you prefer a Cricut alternative? Your choice will heavily depend on what type of crafts you want to do and what type features you will want in a machine.
Choosing the Best Electronic Craft Cutting Machine
I will highlight the unique features of each machine to help to make your decision easier and help you find the best electronic cutting machine including Cricut alternatives. Whether you are deciding Cricut vs. Silhouette or Cricut vs. Brother, read through the following information and decide which machine fits best with your crafting needs.
Cricut Alternative – Silhouette Machines
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 can 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, sizes, and, with different features:
1. Silhouette Cameo Machines
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 is the newest 12″ model and now there are larger machines that cut 15″ and 20″ wide. 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 former Cameo 3 had 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 former 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. If you plan to purchase additional machines or want to be able to import and save your cut files in other formats like EPS or SVG, you will want to check out a higher software upgrade than the Designer Edition Software. The Silhouette Studio Business Edition Software will give you even more editing and saving features.
Silhouette Cameo Plus 15″– The Silhouette Cameo Plus allows you to tackle larger projects with it’s 15″ wide cutting area and it can cut up to 60 feet long with the built-in roll feeder. This feature is great for producing larger 3D paper projects with a true 12″ width mat or larger vinyl decals using the 15″ wide rollers, especially for those who wish to open a small home business. This machine also has 5000 grams of cutting force, which is 1000 grams more than the comparable Cricut Maker (4000 grams), which helps cut through thicker materials. Like the Cameo 4, the Silhouette Cameo Plus also has a built-in roll feeder, a built-in crosscutter for trimming off materials, it accommodates 3mm of material clearance for thicker materials, it has automatic blade and tool detection with the built-in sensors. It also uses the Silhouette Studio software that is included with your machine or upgrade to Designer Edition software to unlock additional features. If you plan to purchase additional machines or want to be able to import and save your cut files in other formats like EPS or SVG, you will want to check out a higher software upgrade than the Designer Edition Software. The Silhouette Studio Business Edition Software will give you even more editing and saving features.
Silhouette Cameo Pro 24″– The Silhouette Cameo Pro 24″ inch wide cutter is the newest machine and it is the next level up in size. You can now cut as big as a professional, but with the ease of learning the user-friendly Silhouette software. The PRO opens the door to a new world of media, projects, and capabilities for beginners or as an addition to any experienced Silhouette crafter’s craft room. The roll feeders can accommodate rolls of material up to 24″ inches or you can adjust the rollers easily to accommodate other widths of material like 12″ or 15″, depending on the materials that you have on hand and it includes a roll feeder to help materials feed properly. It includes a loading sensor to help you load materials easily and without it getting bunched up or crooked.
This professional-sized machine accomodates a 24″ mat and it includes a platform to support the mat as you are performing cutting jobs. The roll feeder pieces and support platform, nestle together for easy, neat storage while not in use. Like the Cameo 4, the Silhouette Cameo Pro machine also has a built-in roll feeder, a built-in crosscutter for trimming off materials, it accommodates 3mm of material clearance for thicker materials, it has automatic blade and tool detection with the built-in sensors. It also uses the Silhouette Studio software that is included with your machine or upgrade to Designer Edition software to unlock additional features. If you plan to purchase additional machines or want to be able to import and save your cut files in other formats like EPS or SVG, you will want to check out a higher software upgrade than the Designer Edition Software. The Silhouette Studio Business Edition Software will give you even more editing and saving features. The Silhouette Cameo Pro would be a great option for those who are looking at starting a vinyl business.
2. Silhouette Portrait Machine
The Silhouette Portrait Machine 3 has many of the same features as the Cameo like Bluetooth capability and the autoblade, but it has a smaller, 8-inch wide capability, which makes it both compact and lightweight. You can get the Silhouette Portrait 3 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, you will want a larger machine. The newest Silhouette Portrait 3 machine boasts an 8-inch wide cutting area, cuts up to 60 feet long and automatically detects Silhouette tools for cutting, sketching and more. The clearance is smaller than the Silhouette Cameo, at just 2mm, so it will only cut thinner materials like cardstock or vinyl. It also has Bluetooth capabilities, has the ability to print and cut and uses the same Silhouette Studio Software and software upgrades. It also uses the Silhouette Studio software that is included with your machine or upgrade to Designer Edition software to unlock additional features. If you plan to purchase additional machines or want to be able to import and save your cut files in other formats like EPS or SVG, you will want to check out a higher software upgrade than the Designer Edition Software. The Silhouette Studio Business Edition Software will give you even more editing and saving features.
3. Silhouette Curio
The Silhouette Curio machine 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. A higher clearance (5 mm) underneath the roller bar allows you to load thicker materials into the machine. Etch on thicker metal or sketch on wood up to 5 mm thick, and with the 2 mm cutting blade or kraft blade, cut through materials that are up to 2 mm thick. The Curio machine unlocks stippling, etching, debossing, embossing and dual carriage features in the powerful Silhouette Studio design software. 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 Machines Comparisons and Reviews
Cricut’s latest and greatest machines are the Cricut Explore Machine lineup and the Cricut Maker Machines 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 11.75 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.
1. Cricut Maker Machines
The Cricut Maker 3 Machine-The Cricut Maker 3 has most of the same features of the original Cricut Maker machine. 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 Explore machines, which cut 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 sold separately. 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 most notable change between the original Cricut Maker vs. Cricut Maker 3 is the ability to cut Cricut-branded Smart Materials (Smart Vinyl, Smart Iron-On and Smart Cardstock Sticker Paper) without a mat. These Smart Materials can be fed directly into the Cricut machine’s rollers or you can use the Cricut Roll Feeder/material cutter, that is sold separately, to help feed the materials. In addition, the machine will cut 2x faster when cutting these Smart Materials. Keep in mind that you will have to buy the Cricut-branded Smart materials to make the cutting without a mat and 2x faster cutting speed to work. Also, note that the Cricut Maker 3 does NOT include a mat in the box, but you can purchase it separately, along with additional tools or Smart Materials.
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 or 3.
2. Cricut Explore Machines
Cricut Explore 3 Machine– The Cricut Explore 3 is the newest Explore machine to join the Cricut family. There have only been a few changes from the Cricut Explore Air 2 to the Explore 3 model. The most notable change is the ability to cut Cricut-branded Smart Materials (Smart Vinyl, Smart Iron-On and Smart Cardstock Sticker Paper) without a mat. These Smart Materials can be fed directly into the Cricut machine’s rollers or you can use the Cricut Roll Feeder/material cutter, that is sold seperately, to help feed the materials. In addition, the machine will cut 2x faster when cutting these Smart Materials. Keep in mind that you will have to buy Cricut-branded materials to make the cutting without a mat and 2x faster cutting speed to work. Other small changes include, getting rid of the dial on the machine for cut settings and a few button changes. With the Cricut Explore 3, you adjust those settings in the software now and there is room for a cup holder on one side of the machine for tool storage. Both the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Explore 3 share the same tools. Just like the Cricut Maker, another upgrade is that that the Cricut Explore 3 can do both print and cut on colored and white paper. The Cricut Explore Air 2 can only do print and cut on white paper, so this is a great upgrade. Like previous models, the Cricut Explore 3 works with 6 different tools for cutting and embellishing 100+ materials, including cardstock, vinyl, iron-on, glitter paper, cork, and bonded fabric (sold separately). Ideal for everything from everyday craft projects to big-time DIY adventures. If you are using a mat, the cut area is 11.75″ x 11.75″ and note that the mat is not included in the box, it is a separate purchase.
Cricut Explore Air 2 Wireless- Gone are the days where Cricuts only cut with cartridges. Users can enjoy cutting and drawing up to 2 times faster with the Explore Air 2 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. Cricut Explore Air 2 works with 6 different tools for cutting and embellishing 100+ materials, including cardstock, vinyl, iron-on, glitter paper, cork, and bonded fabric (sold separately), with a mat cutting area of 11.75″ x 11.75″. 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. If you are looking for machines like Cricut, but cheaper, this older model may be a great option.
3. Cricut Joy Machine
Cricut Joy Machine– The newer Cricut Joy Machine is a tiny compact machine meant for smaller projects. I love that it takes up less space in the craft room, just 8.4 x4.3 inches. This machine is the perfect size to create a quick card or to make a small vinyl decal or labels for your pantry. The cutting mat that is included is just 6.5 x 4.5 inches or you can cut without a mat if you are using the Cricut Joy Smart Materials, which feed directly into the machine. Cricut Joy can make continuous cuts up to 4 feet and repeated cuts up to 20 feet using Cricut smart materials. (Available in Vinyl, HTV Iron On, and Label Vinyl varieties.) No cutting mat needed. Just load and go. The Cricut Joy is compatible with the cutting and writing blades/tools and can cut up to 50 different types of materials. The Cricut Joy is great for those who don’t attempt larger projects. The price point is low, but if you want to make larger vinyl cuts, you will need to use the Cricut-branded Smart Materials.
Brother Cutting Machines – Alternative to Cricut
Brother has come out with a few cool machines over the years that rival the Cricut and Silhouette. Because of its scanning technology, it is unique in its 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 always get 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!
1. Brother ScanNCut SDX 85
The ScanNCut SDX 85 is the newest and most notable machine from Brother and it comes with some cool new upgraded features from previous Brother cutters. Brother offers the only series of home and hobby cutting machines with a built-in scanner. 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 and, like the Silhouette, 3mm in thickness. These machines are compatible with the the 12×12 mat or the 12×24 mat (sold separate), scanning mat (sold separate) or purchase the vinyl roll feeder separately to cut up to 6 feet long of vinyl without a mat.
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. The scanning feature is by far, the best feature of this machine. It is so easy to cut out printed decals or precision cut around detailed artwork by scanning and having the machine cut around your image. If you wish to cut fabric, check out the sold separately Brother ScanNCut Fabric Mat, Fabric Blade Holder and Fabric Blade. The ScanNCut SDX 85 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 easy-to-use 3.47″ touchscreen LCD display for manipulating files. Overall, this machine has some cool features. If you want more freedom to design, then maybe check out Silhouette or Cricut.
Electronic Cutting Machines Supplies
If you love this post about comparing electronic cutting machines, check out our posts
- Crafting Gift Ideas
- Vinyl for Electronic Cutting machines
- Where to find Supplies for your Cricut Explore Machine
- Where to find holographic vinyl
If you love holographic vinyl, then check out our post on where to find holographic vinyl.
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I have an old cricut machine and love it since I do simple stuff and I’m able to use the sure cuts a lot software, but I’m wanting to a little more than cut paper? I just want to assure my self before purchasing but I’m your opinion which would be great for creating stickers. I love decorating my planner and its becoming an expensive hobbie.
I also have an older Cricut with the Sure Cuts A Lot software. If you are able to learn Sure Cuts a Lot, you might enjoy the designing freedom of a Silhouette. There was still a slight learning curve for me when learning the Silhouette software, but I was able to learn quickly by watching YouTube. I cut lots of vinyl with my Silhouette. My kids love me to monogram and personalize lots of things for them. I believe you can also upgrade Sure Cuts A Lot software as well, if you are a current owner, to use with another machine.
Great comparison!! Thanks so much for the info!
You are so welcome! Happy crafting. 🙂
Chelsea @ The Johnsons Plus Dog says
Great post, I love my Cameo! Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty – hope to see you again next week.
My favorite is my Bosskut Gazelle – it’s by far the best cutter I’ve worked with. Great article!
Thank you! I have never tried a Bosskut!
Just got my cricket explore and it is fantastic!
So glad you like it!
I have the very first Cricut machine, I am looking to upgrade. I am wanting to do heat transfer vinyl mostly which machine do you recommend?
I also have the very first Cricut. I would say the Silhouette Cameo 3 has the most flexible design software. You are able to trace images and that is a big plus. There is a learning curve, but after much YouTube watching and running through tutorials, I think it is well worth it!
Let me know if you have other questions!
I’ve always wanted a cricut, and just recently found out there are other options. I ended up buying the scan n cut (at a hefty price) and am wondering if it’s the right decision. Supplies don’t seem to be sold at hobby stores, which makes me wonder if supplies are more expensive than the cricut and other machines. Where can I get even more detailed comparisons before I unpack my new machine?
I gave pretty detailed articles here on all of those machines. I am a big fan of the Silhouette Cameo and the Cricut. There are supplies sold at stores as well as online. You can read about them to see if they will fit your needs. It really depends on what you are doing. For example Scan N Cuts are great for scrapbookers that want to scan and die cut items. If you are more of a designer and want to work with mediums like vinyl, then I would recommend the Cameo 3 or the Cricut Explore Air 2.
Holly Hayes says
Thank you for creating this review! I’m really wanting to make labels for our product line and and other designs for various projects. I just couldn’t decide which machine to purchase. It’s going to be a major investment for me. I will need to be able to recreate the one I already have. So all signs from your review point to the silhouette, but Im still skeptical, because I’ve heard it doesn’t always cut through all the way. I guess my realest question is, Is it truly customizable to whatever I want to create and cut and would I need to purchase certain software to do so?
I had an older Cameo and I just got the newest Cameo 3 for Christmas and I don’t have any issues with either machine not cutting through. If you have the machine at the right settings and are using a sharp blade, then you should have no issues. That said, some machines cut slightly different that other machines and you may need to make slight adjustments in your settings to get perfect cuts, but most machines work at the suggested settings for different mediums. The cameo comes with it’s own free software to get you started. There is an upgrade that helps you unlock additional features, but you shouldn’t need that upgrade to make labels.
I hope this helps!
Which machine would work best for designs to etch on glass & designs on thin metal? Also best prices on designs downloads
It is best to use vinyl as a stencil to etch glass. Here is the stuff you use to etch with!
I have never tried thin metal, but I’m sure there are some tutorials out there someplace!
I am looking at getting a Cameo 3. I have a few questions. Can you use it to cut letters for your boat? Will it stay on? We have to buy them and having them all on one strip would make it easier. Also, when doing the heat transfer, how long does that last on a shirt???? Thanks!
I have a Cameo 3 and love it! Yes, you can cut vinyl for your boat. If you purchase the correct vinyl it will stay. Be sure to clean the area well before application. I clean the area with rubbing alcohol or Windex to remove any dust/debris. The vinyl that I recommend for boats is either Oracal 751 or 951. Those vinyls are more durable and have a longer life than regular outdoor vinyl.
As for t-shirt vinyl. Be sure to use a good brand like Siser Easyweed and you have to give the proper amount of pressure and use a hard surface underneath. If you have access to a heat press, that works even better. Here is more information on heat transfer vinyl:
Cathe Post says
I think I am looking at the cameo 3. I have unique cutting needs though. Do you have any idea if it will score sticker paper without gumming up? Is freezer paper too slippery for it?
I love the clear printable sticker paper from Silhouette:
Just be sure you follow the directions for the cut settings and do a test cut.
Silhouette also offers foil sticker paper and white sticker paper!
I have never tried freezer paper, but I know many who have and it works well. You can iron it on to a garment and use it as a stencil for fabric painting.
I hope this helps!
I did read the above information, thank you for posting it. I do have a few questions if you do not mind?
I am looking to cut a machine that I can cut my own stencils for painting(brush or spray) sayings/phrases on to wood. I am guessing the material would be a heavier stock. I would like to be able to cut the largest surface area possible. Am I correct in saying that would be the Silhouette Cameo 3?
I have not looked but is there a large cost to upgrade to use SVG files with the Cameo 3?
I am hoping this is more of the ‘duh’ question, but can I “print” from MS Word and have it cut on the Cameo 3 or do I need to use the Studio software?
Last question, not about any machines, do you know if Armour Glass Etching Cream will etching metal like the Yeti cups are made of?
Thank you for any information you can share.
Sorry it should have read “I am looking to get a cutting a machine…”
I did forget to ask, would you recommend the Silhouette or the Cricut for what I mentioned I am looking to do?
Thank you again.
Yes, the Silhouette Cameo would be the best machine, with the most design flexibility. To do phrases on wood, there is a specific vinyl that works well with stenciling.
It is called Oramask:
To cut SVG files, you need to upgrade to the designer edition of the software as it unlocks that capability:
For metal, air erasing works well. I have never tried it, but much of the supplies can be purchased at Harbor Freight. You will need to create your stencil for the air erasing and use an air erasing cabinet.
I hope this helps!
Thank you very much for the reply with all the information. I have watched so many videos with some saying the Silhouette and others saying Circut. Now I truly need to decide what to do. However, it is looking like the Silhouette is what I will go with. Now to figure out which ‘package’ to get:)
Thank you again.
Nice review, if I did not already mention that?
Does the silhouette cut leather, or only the cricut? I am wanting to make leather jewelry so which machine would be best?
I believe the deep cut blade will cut leather, but I’m not 100 percent positive. I would check on Youtube to see if it has been done before.
Sorry, I don’t know more!
I have the original cricut mini but you can’t upload there images and it is expensive buying the cartridges just for one or two images can you recommend a cutting machine that you can upload images without buying cartridges
I like the Silhouette because of the trace feature. You can trace images you find on the internet. It takes some practice, but once you learn how to do it, the sky is the limit! There is a great, free Youtube series that shows how to Trace called Tracing without tears.
Also, there are many places to find free files for the Silhouette. If you use the upgraded software, you can also find tons of free SVGs.
thank you for your advice will look into getting a silhouette
Prabha Tedrow says
Thanks very much for a great article. I want to ask you a question about the Silhouette machines. Can one draw a seam allowance before cutting a shape?
Yes, you can draw a seam allowance. There is a feature that will outline your shape and you can set the measurements. It is called Offset. There are a few Youtube videos that show how Offset works.
I hope this helps!
Heather Hoffman says
I’m totally new with all of the machines but I’m looking at the cameo 3 and the scan n cut. Which is better for decals, tshirt, wood.
I prefer the Silhouette for vinyl decals and heat transfer vinyl for shirts. I’m not sure there is a machine that cuts wood. I know there is a deep cut blade and it cuts extremely thin sheets of wood.
I hope this helps you decide!
marie anderson says
Would I be able to use the first cricut like the silhouette?? Like cut without using a may, and long sayings?
No, the Original Cricut does not accept rolls of vinyl, only what will fit on your mat. With the Silhouette Cameo, you can insert 12 inch wide vinyl on rolls.
I hope this helps!
Which machine would you recommend for someone who will mainly be cutting felt and fabric? I was going to purchase a Scan-n-cut 2 but I’m concerned about the cost for accessories. If I’m cutting felt, I’ll probably need more than an average number of adhesive mats.
The brand new Cricut Maker just launched and it is supposed to be the best machine for fabric. Felt will be really difficult because it is so fuzzy and fiberous. I’m not sure which machine would work for that.
Here is the all new Cricut Maker
I’ve never used a craft cutting machine before, but am extremely interested in purchasing one and learning how to use it. What machine would you recommend for a complete novice? This alls seems pretty intimidating and I don’t want to get ahead of myself!
I think the Cricut Explore 2 would be the easiest, but the Silhouette Cameo 3 will give you the most creative freedom. Both machines have a learning curve though. I use Youtube quite a bit for tutorials.
Hi I am looking at buying a machine that I would be able to cut things for cards and also for fabric which machine would be best for that? I have been reading things about all of the machines and my head is swimming in information about everything I am new to this if you could help that would be wonderful
The newest Cricut Maker machine does the best with cutting fabric. It has a rotary blade and you can purchase a fabric mat.
I hope this helps,
I am looking for a cutter which will also scan. Is the brother the only one?
Yes, the Brother is the only one that scans. The Silhoutte does have a special mat that cuts using a photo from your phone. It is called Picscan. The Silhouette also has a trace feature. You can open a JPG file in the software and trace something like a logo to make your own cut file.
I hope this helps!
thank you so much, I have ordered the scan’n’cut 🙂
The flexibility of the design software seems like a big deal. Is there any reason to imagine that Cricut may come out with software that would be more adaptable to a person wanting to create their own designs and use their own small business logos? I am hoping to create some of these things in leather and am torn between the preferred deep cutting ability of the Maker and the preferred flexibility of the Silhouette’s software.
Yes, I don’t know why Cricut does not include the “trace” feature of the silhouette! I will say that is one of my favorite features though. I was able to cut my husband’s business logo and make him t-shirts and signs using the trace feature.
If you have just one logo to cut, you can have it made into an SVG by a graphic designer. Then you can cut it with the Cricut.
I hope this helps!
Canaro Jos says
Cricut and Silhouette have many different features. For a best cutting paper we can go to Cricut and for creative cutting jobs we can go with Silhouette Cameo 3. This is my idea only.
Gretchen Dixon says
I thoroughly read your article but I’m still a bit confused. I’ve never had a cutter and all I really want to do is cut my own words in my own fonts out of scrapbook paper; titles, descriptions, etc. for my scrapbook pages. Am I right that the Silouette and Cricut will both do this?
Thank you in advance.
Yes, either machine works great with scrapbooking paper. Happy cutting!
Louneil Tripp says
Hi. I just bought a used cricut expression and should have done more research before getting it. I’ve never used a cutting machine before, so this is a first. I read so many tutorials, etc. and it seems that you can create online using cricut craft room, but you can’t print/cut your creation. i’m beginning to think i made a huge mistake and that the machine is only useful for stand alone cutting using cartridges. if I wanted to create online and cut from my computer, what machine would you suggest? Thank you!
Yes, the older Cricuts don’t print and cut. You may want to resell that machine on Craigslist and buy one of the newer machines-either Silhouette or Cricut. They offer so many more features than the older machines and the motors are much stronger.
I hope this helps!
If I want to be able to cut out my Logo which machine will work for that? “Branding items” is the only reason I’m looking to buy a machine so I would really apprecaistw all the help I can get as I feel like I know nothing about this. Also, I’m not very artistic, so I’d never be able to draw and replicate the logo.
The Silhouette Cameo offers a tracing feature and you can trace your logo that way. There is a great,. free video series called “Tracing without Tears” on Youtube that gives instructions on how to trace with the Cameo. If that doesn’t work, you can pay to have your logo converted into an SVG file. There are inexpensive graphic designers that can do that on Etsy or you can find a friend that may be able to convert your file to SVG. Both the Cameo and newer Cricut machines cut SVG files.
I hope this helps!
Gloria Glo says
My older Cricut Expression stopped pulling the mat in so my husband (a failure analysis engineer) took it apart. The drive belt was frayed and was the problem. From what I have seen online, Cricut does not sell replacement belts…nor can I find anywhere online that sells them. I also have a Cricut Air and am wondering if this will be a problem later. Seriously, Cricut, you don’t sell replacement parts? I guess this is a way to make more money by making customers buy new more expensive machines. Do these other brands have this same issue not selling replacement parts?
Sorry I do not know. It would be nice if they all made replacement parts, but I’m sure most people just purchase a new machine. The older machines have weaker motors than the newer machines. You may be better off with a stronger machine.
Good luck to you!
1. In your commentary about the Silhouette machines, you said, “My husband owns a small business and I was able to trace his logo and create vinyl decals, shirts and more for his business.”
How did you get the logo on shirts?
2. Can you elaborate a bit about the type of projects you can do on each machine?
I love to do vinyl projects mostly. I have a few articles that I wrote on different types of vinyl-for shirts, walls or things like coffee tumblers. I will link them. Pinterest is also a great resource for cutting machine projects. I would love to make some signs with cute sayings to hang in my house. For shirts, you use heat transfer vinyl and the articles I wrote below explains more on how to use it.
As for other projects, both the Silhouette and Cricut sell amazing files that you can make with your machine as well. I like to make cute cards, gift boxes and cards with my machine.
That was a super quick response. I’m leaning toward the Silhouette Cameo 3 in Pink! Looking on Amazon, there seem to be packages you can get, but I tend to not like packages. Do you think it’s a good idea to just buy the machine and then start looking into the extras?
I quilt, sew, etc. Have you ever used the machine for anything relating to this type of stuff?
For fabric projects, the brand new Cricut Maker is a good choice. This newer machine has a special rotary blade and fabric mat that makes working with fabric much easier. As for logos, you won’t be able to trace with the Cricut software though. You could probably have a graphic designer make your logo into an SVG file so you can cut items with a Cricut.
As far as Silhouette bundles, I prefer the ones with extra mats and blades or just the plain machine. I prefer to purchase my vinyl separately to ensure I get Oracal or Siser brand vinyl. I am not a fan of Silhouette brand vinyl.
This bundle with the guides is also pretty good:
Love the site. I have been looking for information. Will sell my old cricut personal cutter (hardly used), because I had no personal design capability. Even for the simplest designs (basic shapes), it would not accurately cut in small dimensions. I work in 1:12 scale miniatures. I design using attributes of both GIMP and Photoshop and have a printer print all my color (CMYK) designs on 8.5 x 11 white cardstock. I do this because my cardstock wares must match my fabric designs, also done by a contract printer.
No one ever addresses the ability to make accurate very small scale cuts. I gather I would have to use a trace feature (many multiple patterns per page), or get some conversion of my files to something called SVG files (don’t know what those are). I was looking at the new Cricut but it seems I will still be limited on my cutting out my small intricate designs, again. On the other hand they have a scoring feature for the folding. I did not see scoring addressed with regard to the various machines.
I am hoping with your vast knowledge you may be able to assist me in determining which, if any, machine will meet all my needs.
I really want to be sure before investing that what I get is going to accomplish what I need.
You might need a laser cutter for those small designs or you can try a CB09 blade for the Cameo. The CB09 is supposed to be able to make really intricate cuts.
The Silhouette really has the most design capability out of all of the machines.
Most machines cut small dashes for scoring. You should definitely pick up a scoring board! I have one and it works so well. You can have your cutter make the dashes and then use the scoring board.
I hope this helps you find what you need!
I’m just getting started in this and I have the Cricut personal machine, I would like to update, I’m really into making t-shirts, we like bling, what would you suggest?
Also what machine would you recommend for heat transfer?
I would chose either the Silhouette Cameo 3. There is a little bit more design freedom with the Cameo and you can utilize the “trace feature”.
I hope this helps!
Anne Coffey says
Great review! I bought a Brother Scan n Cut last August, after two trips back to the workshop they are now saying I purchased the wrong machine (mine is a CM110). Apparently, according to Brother I should have purchased a CM350, which is $400 more expensive. If I’d known this in the beginning I would have bought one. However, I only need a machine to cut around die cuts so I don’t need to buy the dies, I noticed one of your responses mentioned everything needed to be a definite black image in order for the machine to cut it and this what I also found.
I live in New Zealand and not everything is available here, but I would love to know what machine you could suggest .
Hope to hear from you soon Anne.
I read through your comments but didn’t really find any addressing cutting sheets of balsa wood. Any idea if there are cutters out there that do that? Thanks so much!
The Cricut Explore and the Cricut Maker will cut balsa wood with the deep cut blade. You will have to test it out, but you may have to put it on multi-cut, which means your machine will have to go over the same cuts a few times. Be aware that the machine’s rollers may make marks in that soft of a wood, so you can cut it in reverse and turn your item over after it has been cut so the roller makers are on the backside of your item.
I hope this helps!
Is any manufacturer currently on the market which can replace Shilouette’s PixScan technology?
Can I achieve anyhow the same with Cricut?
The Brother Cut n Scan would probably be the only thing close. I don’t know of any new advances. I’m not sure what you are trying to do, but you can use the Silhouette trace feature to trace around a jpg. file and then print and cut. I use the tracing feature a lot. There is a free Youtube series called Tracing Without Tears by Kay Hall that explains how the tracing works.
I hope this helps!
I am considering purchasing a cutting machine but having a hard time deciding which one would be best for my needs. I am a potter and would like to have something to cut out stencils to use on the pottery. I would like to be able to use logos (with permission of course) for projects and would need to be able to upload the logo to the machine.
The Silhouette is the only one that will trace the logos! Check out the Youtube series “Tracing Without Tears” to see how it works.
Interesting reading on the different machines. Thank you for that.
I was thinking the Cricut Maker was a good option for what I wanted to do, but as I read again, I didn’t hear certain things i needed to know. So, not having owned, seen, or used a cutting machine before, I am new to the whole arena. I need a machine that is a stronger cutting machine for different mediums, will cut on different colored paper (including dark colors), and is able to cut original designs that are hand drawn and uploaded to my computer. I would also like to be able to highlight the parts of the drawing to be cut as I may want one part to be one color and another part to be another color. (It may be that I have to draw all the parts separately..?)
I have asked and asked around my town if anyone does demonstrations to no avail. Would be nice to see one in action. Videos are nice, but are limited to seeing what they want to show. Do you know if any of the manufacturers do community demontrations?
Also, I know that most of the home cutting machines are limited to a 12x 12 size, but if I needed something bigger – that can’t be ‘pieced together’ – any suggestions on how I could get that done or where I might look?
The Cricut Maker is probably the strongest machine for different mediums like thicker materials. As far as hand-drawn designs, the Silhouette would be best for that. It has the trace feature that Cricut does not have. You can watch YouTube videos to see how the tracing feature works and the free YouTube series “Tracing Without Tears” is one of the best tutorials. It is a series of videos and takes a bit of time to watch them all, but it will truly show you how to use the tracing feature properly.
Kelly Emmons says
Hi Heidi, I have an upcoming wedding in July of 2019. The kids are doing a country theme,burp, old apple crates and cherry lugs. I need to create “Script” lettering I can iron on burlap “flags” strung together to make banners and cut out stencils from some kind of plastic to be able to stencil the COMPLETE Love is patient Loves is kind…………> bible verse. I have NEVER used a craft cutter which cutter would you suggest I get. My husband is being very supportive of getting what I need to do this. Thank you in advance.
I think you would be fine with either machine. The Silhouette Cameo is my favorite, but the Cricut is very user-friendly for beginners. The drawbacks with the Cricut are less creativity for specialty projects and you must have internet connectivity to use your machine. The Cricut will do great with all of the projects you mentioned and so will the Silhouette if that is the route you want to go.
It sounds like you will be doing HTV vinyl with the burlap flags and some adhesive vinyl. Be sure to read my article with tips and tricks with different types of vinyl.
Good luck with your wedding projects! They sound really fun. 🙂
Vicki Francis says
I currently have a Sizzix Eclipse and looking to upgrade but really need a machine that will cut 3mm neoprene (wetsuit material). Do you know if the Silhouette, Cricut or Scan N Cut will work with 3mm neoprene?
PS Love your page
I have never tried wetsuit material in any machine. It is hard telling how it would do as it is thicker than the typical fabric. I would try and find someone local to you to help you run a few test runs.
Can a machine, for example, Cricut Explore, cut car wrap vinyl? I don’t think it’s very special in terms of cutting, it’s just UV stable and has a high quality low tack adhesive that sticks to the vinyl but even after years will not stick to the product. The vinyl comes on a liner.
Also, can I use my own SVG files, for example done by Inkscape?
And what are the hardware running costs? How often you need to replace the knife, and how often the mat?
It would probably cut car wrap vinyl since it does well with all other types of adhesive vinyl. Yes, the Cameo does cut SVG files, you will need to upgrade to Silhouette Designer Edition of the software to be able to use SVGs. The upgrade has an MSRP of $49.95, but is often on sale. The mats and blades last a decent amount of time. I keep a different blade for every product I cut (one for paper, one for vinyl). It makes them last longer.
I hope this helps!
First, thank you so much for writing this article! It helps out so much! I’m a first time crafter.. (honestly I don’t have a creative bone in my body).. but for some reason I want to start so I’m goin to try to run with this! Lol.. I want to make my own custom shower curtain for the holidays. After reading this article and the comments and questions it looks like the cameo 3 would be best for me because of the trace feature and the ability to upload my own designs, which I absolutely love that idea. I’ve researched on how to make a diy shower curtain but my question is have you ever done anything like this? The heated vinyl you mentioned is that an extra machine that you can use side by side the cameo 3? I also can’t sew nor have ever used a machine so I guess making a fabric one is kinda outside my range unless I do the no-sew which requires some type of heated type. I guess another question is do I have to have the heated machine for the vinyl or would an iron work? I can get a clothes iron cheaper I imagine. Also it may have been mentioned but I can’t remember ( thank you short term memory) what is the biggest size I can cut? Can I cut a long sequence all at once? Does it need to be straight or can it cut in curved? (Like a smile or a Crescent moon shape?
Again thank you so much, sorry for the rambling and I look forward to your response! 🙂
You can definitely use an iron for heat transfer vinyl if you are cutting words. If you are cutting small fabric pieces, you will need to use interfacing attached to the fabric.
I give some tips on where to buy and how to use heat transfer vinyl here:
I am trying to decide which machine is best, if any, for cutting letters out of photo mats. I’ve read so much that I’m getting confused. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
If it is cardstock, either the Cricut Explore or Silhouette will work, but keep in mind, the mat area is only 12×12 inches or you can get the extended mat of 12×24. If you are looking to do heavy cardboard, you may need some other professional cutter.
I hope this helps!
Hi Heidi, love this article!
but I’m still a little confused on what machine is best for me, I’ve never used any of them and I’m looking to mainly make stencils for wood signs, but also would love to learn how to make other things, you mentioned something about logos and I would love to do some of those things for my husbands business!
What would you recommend me getting ?
Thank you so much!
You can definitely do sign stencils with both machines. If you want to be able to trace logos, the Silhouette can do that and you have the most creative freedom with the Silhouette. I can make shirts, vinyl decals for my husband’s business with the Silhouette software by tracing his logo and making a cut file. It is so handy!
I hope this helps!
I am new to cutting machines so it’s been difficult deciding which one to get. I want to be able to do the basics (vinyl, irons-ons for shirts, decals, some basic fabric cutting). Not sure if I should go with the Silhouette or the Cricut Maker. Reading your article and the comments/questions above, its clear that the Silhouette Design Software gives you more flexibility with your designs. I am by NO MEANS a designer, so I don’t need to do anything complicated or fancy. But with the Cricut design software, would I be able to type my own sayings, or make modifications to their stock designs. For example, moving things around or curving text, etc. How would I see if he software could do these things without having purchased the machine? TIA
Older Cricuts didn’t allow much modifying, but newer ones do! Yes, you can create your own sayings in the Cricut Design Space software and you can curve text as well. There are several tutorials on Youtube on how to curve your text. Also, you can modify designs as well!
I hope this helps!
I have never used a cutting machine. I love baking bread, cookies and cakes. My desire is making my own stencils (some of them with intricate pattern and phrases or quotes). I also would love to make posters, anchor charts, and other educational materials, I also would like to cut fabric with the machine.
I have a daughter who is an interior designer and I think that two of us would benefit from having a cutting machine. I am having a hard time deciding which one. Before this post I was leaning to get Brother Scan and Cut 350. Now I am having second thoughts. I would like the machine to be versatile, easy to use, and cheap maintenance.
All of these machines should be able to cut stencils. I really love the Silhouette for it’s versatility. It does so much! The fabric does have to be cut a certain way-with webbing attached for the Silhouette. The Cricut maker machine is the best for fabric. As for maintenance, you will just need mats and blades. I buy them on sale and in bulk so I always have backups in my stash!
I hope this helps!
Hi Heidi, love your article!
I am new to cutting machines and would like to cut stencils to use for decorate your own cookie projects. I would also like scan capabilities as there are many free dyi images online.
Which machine would you recommend please.
For scanning, you could choose between the scan n cut or the Silhouette Cameo. YouTube has some great videos on how the Scan n Cut does it’s scanning and cutting. For the Cameo, you would have to scan your image with your computer, upload it into the studio software and trace it. Tracing is one of the best and most unique features on a machine (only the Silhouette), as far as using your own images or images found online.
You should be able to cut stencils with any machine. I have seen people cut freezer paper for kitchen use or there are other stencil-type materials. You will just need to experiment!
I hope this helps!
Thanks for the great article. Can you please explain what cartridges are in these devices?
Only the older Cricuts require cartridges. You can purchase online cut files for newer machines.
After reading numerous of info and comparison floating around, I am still unable to decide which machine should I get. I can see myself designing my own graphic (probably in other program likes illustrator), cutting mostly paper and fabric, using pen tool to sketch on paper and fabric, and occasionally cutting vinyl.
In terms of machine quality, is buying a second hand cricut or cameo a good idea? I currently have a second hand knk zing and it stopped working slightly after a year (and of course the repair almost same as buying a newer machine T_T)
Silhouette is definitely more designer friendly! There are numerous tutorials on how to create your own designs or import design files on Youtube. I would definitely get a Cameo 4 and there will be great deals over the holiday season.
I hope this helps!
Hello, I have an older Cameo and over the weekend I learned that after a computer/window’s upgrade, my computer and cameo will not talk to each other anymore :(. So now looking to upgrade. I’ve had it for several years now and sad to let it go, but a little excited to maybe get to do more!!!
Awe, the end of a great machine. You will love the Cameo 4!
Christina Goding says
I just found this article while searching for Cricut alternatives.
I am an artsy kind of person but haven’t dabbled much in crafts. But I am looking to possibly get a little side business started with crafting and the Cricut Maker was the only thing I knew about. Now there are all of these other options and I don’t know what to do!
The main issue I have with the Cricut Maker is that it is very expensive and the reviews are either “I LOVE IT” or “I HATE IT” and there’s no in between. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a cutter unless it’s really good. People say you can’t upload more than 20 designs into the Circut system without paying $9.99 a month and even then it’s limited. So that is a downer.
I don’t know what kind of projects I would like to do, but I am leaning towards decals, balsa wood-type ornaments and plaques, engraving, and perhaps even embossing. I’d also like to potentially create wedding type items such as place cards and other types of cards, and perhaps at some point make T-shirts or such with custom logos. I really want to be able to do CUSTOM work for people, with names, dates, logos, etc.
What is the most versatile machine for those uses? I don’t mind a learning curve as I am tech savvy and willing to watch youtube videos and run through tutorials. I’m a fast learner and I feel I’d be able to pick up on these things quickly. With that said, I’ve never used Adobe Illustrator (not that I’m opposed to learning) and only have limited Photoshop experience.
If you see this and reply, thank you so much for your time!
You would be better off with a laser engraving machine (like a Glowforge) for wood and engraving. Electronic cutting machines are just not strong enough to do a lot of wood cutting. For t-shirts and doing logos, you will have an easier time using the “trace” feature of a Silhouette machine.
I hope this helps!
In your opinion, shall I buy a Cricut Maker or a Cameo 4?
I have Cricut explore air 2, brother scan n cut and need to upgrade – would buy both if I could afford it lol.
I won’t hold you to it but I am interested in your preference lol
Thanks and keep safe
I think the Silhouette is more versatile as far as the software and what you can do with it!
I’m new to this, I’ve been looking at the circut maker’s an silhouette . I’m confused on which one to get I have 5 kiddos an 3 are girls who always sees shirts they like or they want their name or initials on them my 2 older girls like decals on their bdrm walls but we can never find anything they like. They think it’s so easy to just make designs an I tell them we’d have to buy a machine. I like car decals an I have bought so many t shirts car decals mailbox decals pretty much everything. I’m a stay at home mom so I have alot of time on my hands I have a 4 yr old blind autistic son as well. So I stay home an my husband does professional painting (his own business) we pay out so much money on getting his company shirts made an our kids shirts done I’ve told him it would save us money to buy a machine an I do it. But I’m stuck on what to get. I’ve read your above post I’ve looked at every machine their is an I believe the silhouette would be best for me. What are your ideas I’m new to this but I’m a fast learner an love decorating an making things
A Silhouette would be best to trace your husband’s logo to make shirts. I create vinyl decals for my husband’s business using the “trace feature”. I upload his logo as a jpg and then trace it to create a cut file. You can then save the cut file and work with it to create shirts, decals and more! Cricuts have less of a learning curve, but you would have a harder time manipulating a custom file like a logo. You would have to make it into a cut file in some other program.
I hope this helps!
Thanx for the info… Is the Brother machines the only ones that scan to accept free hand drawing designs?
The Silhouette will trace images. You can use your computer scanner and make your drawing a jpg, then trace in the Silhouette Software to outline it or make it into a cut file. There is a learning curve, but it can be done!
I hope this helps!
Donna @ Modern on Monticello says
Thank you for sharing this. So far I only have a Cricut Joy and love it but know that I will need to expand to a bigger machine in the future. Pinned this to read again when the time comes. #HomeMattersParty
AnnMarie - Simply2Moms says
Thanks for sharing all this knowledge. I’ve been considering investing in a cutting machine and this post helps compare my options.
Julie Briones says
What a great and exhaustive post for choices of electronic cutting machines! So glad you shared this at Tuesday Turn About… I’ll be featuring you at tomorrow party! Pinned!