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 upgrade the software the Designer Edition and this unlocks new features like the ability to cut both Studio and SVG (vector files). 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 Silhouette Cameo 3 is the newest machine. It 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. It also has an SD slot for cutting images without your computer. There is only a slight difference with the Silhouette Cameo 1 vs. the Silhouette Cameo 2. Silhouette made a few upgrades to the control panel and the overall look of the Cameo, but both machines cut essentially the same. The Silhouette Cameo 3 machine has the most new updates. My favorite added features are the blade that automatically changes and the wireless capability. Silhouette is still making adjustments to the wireless aspect of the Cameo 3, but it will be well worth it to get rid of those pesky cords! There are even some brand new limited edition colored machines.
The Silhouette Portrait Machine has many of the same features as the Cameo, 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, but the software is advanced 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. It also draws and embosses and stiples. New tools are still being released for the Curio machine, so stay tuned. If this is your first Silhouette machine, I would recommend the Cameo.
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.
Most know Sizzix for creating metal dies that get run through a hand-cranked machine, but then they got into the electronic cutting machine market with the Sizzix eclips2. This easy-to-use machine has simple software and you can cut all sorts of images that you can purchase for a nominal fee from their design store or you can upgrade your cutting software for a fee to be able to cut SVG files. You can also cut any font that is installed on your computer. This machine will cut paper, vellum, cardstock and more and is perfect for the papercrafter, however you are limited to what will fit on your 12×12 mat.
One of the unique features of this machine is that it will truly score your project for fold lines. This is great for boxes as most cutters only cut perforated lines for scoring. This machine does a true score line.
The Brother ScanNCut Cutting Machine with a Built-in Scanner is very unique in that you can scan an image and cut it out without computer connectivity. 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. Use the free software to use 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.
While the scanning and cutting feature is what makes this machine unique, there has been some trouble with this machine. It only recognizes dark, crisp lines when scanning, so this will be necessary to access this feature.
Another unique feature is that you can also use this machine similar to how you use a regular scanner. You can scan documents or photos and save them right to a USB drive.
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.
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