Best Cutting Machine for Crafting – Cricut or Silhouette Cameo?

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Cricut and Silhouette are the two most popular personal cutting machine among crafters and DIYers. Although they both have multiple models to choose from their Cricut Explore and Silhouette Cameo are the most popular ones in the market. Both cutting machines boast unique features and are very different on their own. In this article, I’ve compared the two models among other things about the machines to help you decide the best one for your crafting needs.

Product Overview

Silhouette Cameo

The Silhouette Cameo is one newest addition to their die cut machine lines. Likewise, it can cut most paper, vinyl and other fabric and can cut lined media up to 10 feet long without using a cutting mat. In brief, it has dual carriages which means you can print and cut without swapping out blade or pen. Moreover, the Bluetooth connectivity makes it easier for users to operate remotely. Particularly, some convenient features include the PixScan technology which enables users to take pictures on their phone and send them to the Silhouette Cameo to cut. In short, users can also print out the design from their printer and have the machine cut them out. Probably, the key selling point of the company is its Autoblade, which you can purchase separately. Furthermore, this blade will automatically adjust its length and depth based on the material being cut out.

By the way, the Silhouette Cameo comes with a powerful desktop application called the Studio Designer. In the event, you are also a graphics designer you will have a lot of creative freedom with the software. However, for new users, there is a small learning curve as the application is relatively complicated.

Cricut Explore

This is another great die cutting machine loved by many crafters. It is easier to use and likewise, comparatively efficient than the Silhouette. By the way, Cricut explore can cut, draw and cut up to 12 inches by 24 inches. Plus, it comes with dual carriages for convenience. It is Bluetooth and iOS device compatible, enabling yours with wireless operation. Like the Silhouette, it has a print and cut features, which lets you print an image from the printer and have the machine cut it out for you.

Unlike Silhouette, it comes with a Smart Set Dial knob that lets you adjust the blade depth and pressure according to the material you are cutting. There’s also a custom option that enables the machine to change its depth and pressure to a specific setting.

Cricut Explore also comes with a desktop application called Design Space Software which is comparatively easier and uses friendly than the Studio Designer of Silhouette. On the downside, the Design Space Software is an online application, so you need to have a steady internet connection to use the machine. Moreover, the software is not as advanced and comprehensive like the Studio Designer of Silhouette and you will not be able to create advanced designs from scratch.

Which Machine is Better at Cutting Material?

Although both machines have their differences, which it comes to cutting power, the Cricut Explore is a much stronger machine. Silhouette Cameo is not considered a heavy duty machine like the Cricut Explore. Besides, there are other heavy duty Cricut models such as the Cricut Maker. From an online user, I found that he had a hard time loading vinyl rolls into the Silhouette Cameo. He faced numerous problems such as the end of the vinyl roll is always curled down which would jam the cutter. Even after loading it, he continuously had to struggle to keep it straight. But the biggest problem was the vinyl slips during cutting even after getting everything right. He had to waste a few rolls of vinyl before getting his design. However, the Cameo works great at cutting card stock.

Cricut explore on the other hand cuts vinyl precisely without leaving any wastage. Although with the Cricut, you can only cut materials up to 2 feet long and you have to use a cutting mat to cut vinyl, it does its job without a glitch.

Cricut Explore can easily cut foam, cork, soft leather, hard leather, chipboard, magnet sheet, aluminum. All the material used were procured from the store used for general crafting purposes. On the other hand, the Silhouette failed to cut any of the material with the needed thickness. That said, Silhouette can cut most of the material mentioned above, provided that they are thinner and specialized sheets manufactured by Silhouette itself.

Difference Between Silhouette Design Studio and Cricut Design Space Software

When it comes to the accompanying desktop software, the Silhouette Design Studio is far more powerful than the Cricut Design Space. Silhouette’s software gives more design freedom to the crafter who can, as a result, create their own design from scratch and cut them out. The Design Studio store also offers more intricate and professional looking images and clip arts to be used in the craft, whereas the clip art available in the Cricut store looks more basic. However, it is actually catching up to its competitors. That said, Cricut software is easier to use and Silhouette software has more learning curve than its competitors.

The basic software that comes with Silhouette is free and can work with most image formats, but if you want to use SVG files, you will have to upgrade the software for $49; for business edition, it is $99.

The Cricut Design Space software is simpler and easy to use compared to the Silhouette. If you are new to crafting and just need something to cut out your design, then the Cricut software will appeal to your more than the Silhouette one. If you are a design and want to create a design from scratch in the Cricut software, you can but with limitations. The Cricut software is primarily intended to work on imported designs created beforehand in other graphics software. On the downside, the Cricut software needs an internet connection and the projects are stored in the cloud. By default, the Cricut software supports SVG, PNG, DXF, GIF, BMP, and JPG.

Other Die Cut Machines Options

Silhouette

Even with its limitations, Silhouette machines are much popular among crafter for a few reasons. In the event, you are a designer and want to create and manipulate your own designs, the Silhouette is a great option, but its software has a small learning curve. But with the software, you can easily create, erase, add text, drawing line, and design easily. Its store offers turnkey projects at a low price and you can manipulate those images as well. In the event, you upgrade the software you will have a much more new feature that will expand your creative freedom.

Another unique feature of the Silhouette is tracing. You can trace and cut images which you upload to your computer. Then there is ‘print and cut’ feature that lets you print as well as cut out the edges for you. If you are a professional the Silhouette software will appeal to you more than the Cricut.

  • Silhouette Cameo

     

In the Cameo series, the Silhouette Cameo 3 is the latest in their die cut machine lineup. It cuts multiple types of mediums such as vinyl, cardstock, acetate, thin cardboard, etc. The cutting area is 12×12 but can cut longer medium when fed into the machine without the mat. For convenience, it comes with an SD slot that will cut images without booting your computer. A new feature in the Cameo 3 is its auto blade adjustment, wireless capability, and 100 exclusive designs which can be downloaded.

  • Silhouette Portrait

Silhouette Portrait comes more or less with the same features of the Cameo but has a smaller 8 inches wide feeder. It comes with 50 exclusive designs for the crafters.

  • Silhouette Curio

     

It is a versatile machine that comes with a lot of trimmings. The Curio is more like a hobby machine and should be used alongside a Cameo or Portrait. Its unique features include stippling, etching, debossing, embossing.

Cricut

Cricut is versatile die cut machine for home and is built like a tank. The machine can work with thicker materials and a variety of medium with ease. Compared to Silhouette, it does seem it be more precise and stronger. When you are working with a Cricut, you can be assured that you get what you fed. The machine does handle vinyl and larger rolls effectively with a mat.

Most importantly, the software of the Cricut machine is more user-friendly than its competitors. If you are using it for house projector for business and want a simple software to cut out your designs, the Cricut is the right option for you. On the other hand, if you want creative freedom, you will have to face some limitations with the Cricut Design Space software. That said, the software is cloud-based, which needs a constant internet connection. If you don’t have internet, the Cricut machine is as good as dead.

  • Cricut Explore

     

Cricut has a series of Explore machine lineups and the Cricut Maker machine. They are known for their quiet operation and producing turnkey project with ease. Moreover, Cricut has designed a simplified software to work with which accepts SVG files as standard. You can also purchase turnkey projects at minimal cost to finish your project. The software is simple, however, it does allow some manipulation, which should be enough in the event you are a simple crafter, otherwise you will be let down by its limited design features. Moreover, it has some compatibility issues with operating systems, so check your machines compatibility before purchasing.

 

The biggest advantage of the Cricut Explore is its ability to cut with great precision. It can work with a variety of medium such as vinyl, cardstock, paper, chipboard, and even thin wood. Cricut explore has a strong motor compared to Silhouette and can cut a variety of thicknesses. It is popular for its ability to cut thicker medium with ease. Plus it can draw and cut at the same time without swapping slots. Its Air models can support wireless Bluetooth connectivity which makes it easier for personal use.

  • Cricut Maker

     

The Cricut Maker is its flagship model and particularly comes with a comprehensive range of features. For the most part, it has all the features that Cricut has to offer but cuts with a lot of force. Cricut maker blades cuts with 4000 grams of pressure and likewise, cuts through balsa wood too. It is for instance, great at handling both delicate materials such as fabric and paper and tough materials such as mat-board and leather.

Community Support

Both Cricut and Silhouette have a good community who continuously help each other with their knowledge and experience.

Cricut Community

  • Facebook: @OfficialCricut
  • Instagram: @officialcricut
  • Pinterest: @Cricut
  • YouTube: @OfficialCricut

Silhouette Community

  • Facebook: @silhouetteglobal
  • Instagram: @silhouette.inc
  • Pinterest: @silhouetteinc
  • YouTube: @SilhouetteAmericaInc

Why Buy Silhouette Cameo?

  1. Wireless connectivity
  2. Large cutting size
  3. AutoBlade
  4. Dual Carriage
  5. Max cutting clearance for thicker materials
  6. Cuts over 100 types of materials
  7. Crafters-friendly machine design
  8. Easier alignment of materials
  9. Roller locking
  10. Advanced software

Silhouette Cameo Tradeoffs

  1. Less cutting force
  2. Cannot cut thicker materials
  3. Not as precise as Cricut machines

Why Buy Cricut Explore?

  1. Fast and silent operation
  2. Wireless connectivity
  3. Precise cuts even on thicker materials
  4. Auto settings for the material being cut
  5. Cuts over 100 types of materials
  6. Features dual carriage
  7. Easy-to-use software

Cricut Explore Trade-offs

  1. Smaller cutting size
  2. Dependent on internet connection
  3. Less creative freedom in the software

Tools and Accessories from Silhouette and Cricut

Silhouette Blades and its cutting materials

  1. Self Adjusting Blade – Lightweight to medium weight material such as cardstock and vinyl
  2. Deep Cut Blade – Cuts thicker materials such as chipboard, felt, burlap, craft foam
  3. Premium Blade – Cuts cardstock, vellum, vinyl, stencil material
  4. Ratchet Blade – Cut through the paper, cardstock, vellum, vinyl etc.
  5. Fabric Blade – Cuts both paper and fabric

Cricut Blades and its cutting materials

  1. Fine Point Blade – Cuts lightweight to medium weight material such as cardstock, vinyl, faux leather
  2. Deep Point Blade – Cuts magnet sheets, chipboard, stamp, thick cardstock, felt, foam sheets, cardboard, and fabric
  3. Knife Blade – Cuts thick material such as balsa wood, mat board, and chipboard
  4. Rotary Blade – Cuts fabrics, tissue paper, and cork
  5. Bonded Fabric Blade – Used for bonded fabric and fabric with iron-on backer
  6. Scoring Wheel/Double – Crepe paper, light cardstock, acetate, poster board, and cardboard

Silhouette Accessories

These accessories don’t necessarily come as freebies with the machine, rather has to be bought separately which complements the machine.

Cricut Accessories

For the most part, Cricut provides a wide range of accessories, too many to mention here. Still, some of its interesting product include:

  • Iron-on Materials – Everyday iron-on materials, holographic sparkle, glitter, patterned, foil, etc.
  • Vinyl – Adhesive foil, transfer paper, specialty, premium, etc.
  • Paper – Kraft board, Poster board, corrugated cardboard, cardstock, shimmer, etc.
  • Fabric – Fusible, Quilt Kits, Quilt panels, Designer fabric, pre-cut fabric
  • Cutting materials – Chipboard, Felt, Fabric, Corrugated cardboard, etc.
  • Others – Faux leather, foil acetate, party foil, washi sheets, etc.

Silhouette Cut Settings

Vinyl Type Blade Speed Thickness
Oracal 631 2 8 9
Oracal 651 2 8 9
Ultra Glitter 2 8 9
Glitter Adhesive 2 8 9
Craftables Permanent 2 8 9
Iridescent Adhesive 2 8 9
Metallic Adhesive 2 8 9
Oramask 813 2 8 9
Dry Erase 3 8 9
Chalkboard 3 8 9
Foil HTV 2 8 4
Glow HTV 2 8 4
Smooth HTV 2 8 4
Reflective HTV 2 8 4
Glow Adhesive 2 7 10
Inkjet Adhesive 2 8 14
Inkjet HTV 2 8 14
Glitter HTV 3 4 18
Adhesive Cardstock 4 3 29
Etched Glass
3 5 11
Flock HTV
2 5 33

Cricut Cut Settings

Vinyl Type Blade Speed Thickness
Oracal 631 3 High Medium
Oracal 651 3 High Medium
Ultra Glitter 3 High Medium
Glitter Adhesive 3 High Medium
Craftables Permanent 3 High Medium
Iridescent Adhesive 3 High Medium
Metallic Adhesive 3 High Medium
Oramask 813 3 High Medium
Inkjet Adhesive 3 High Medium
Inkjet HTV 3 High Medium
Glitter HTV 4 Medium High
Foil HTV 3 Medium Medium
Smooth HTV 3 Medium Medium
Glow Adhesive 3 Medium High
Glow HTV 3 Medium High
Flock HTV 3 Medium High
Etched Glass 3 Medium High

How to Use Silhouette Cameo 3?

01. Unpack Your Product:

With the package you should get the following things:

  1. Silhouette Cameo 3 machine
  2. Power cable
  3. USB cable
  4. Crosscut blade
  5. AutoBlade
  6. 12″ cutting mat
  7. Bluetooth removal tool

02.Install Silhouette Studio Software

Go to the website – https://www.silhouetteamerica.com/software and download the Silhouette Studio software as per your OS. After the software downloads, the on-screen prompts should be enough to install the software.

03. Connecting Silhouette Cameo 3 to the Studio Software

Just switch on the machine and connect it to the PC using the USB cable. You should see instructions on the LCD screen on the machine or on the PC itself. Simply follow the prompts and you should be able to connect the machine to the software pretty easily.

04. Activating Bluetooth

  1. First, activate Bluetooth on the machine from the settings menu on the machine. You should see a Bluetooth symbol on the upper left corner of the LCD screen on the Cameo.
  2. Turn on Bluetooth on your system
  3. Next, go to the Silhouette Studio software on the system and click on Silhouette and scroll down to ‘Add Bluetooth Machine’
  4. You should see your Cameo 3 listed and click ‘Connect’

That’s it, you should now be able to work wireless on your Cameo 3.

05. Using the Silhouette Studio Software

The Studio software from Silhouette can have a learning curve for beginners, but by default, it should be enough for your everyday crafts.

Open up the software and you will see a 12X12 inches canvas on which you will make your designs.

If you are unsure of the icons, simply hover over and you will know its functionality.

06. Designing using the Studio software

Although for professional results, you will need to create your own designs from professional design software such as Coreldraw or Adobe Illustrator. But, in the event you don’t have any design in hand, you can create some basic shapes and arts on the software itself.

  • You can draw and adjust simple shapes such as lines, circles, squares, polygons, arcs, etc.
  • Draw freehand art by clicking on the ‘Draw Freehand’ and ‘Draw Smooth Freehand’ tools.
  • Add text as well as adjust its font, size, spacing, position etc.

07. Getting on the Cut settings

We have already discussed on the most common cut setting earlier in a table. However to select the cut setting click ‘Cut Settings’ under the Silhouette tab from the drop-down menu.

  • From the cut setting menu, you can select the type of material you will cut, which should appear on the list. In case, you are using Silhouette products, selecting the material should be pretty straightforward. In the event you select the media, the software will automatically select the speed and thickness of the blade; however, you can customize the settings for other materials.
  • You could select the tools you want to use as well as the select specific tool for a specific image or design. Moreover, you can adjust the order of images that will be cut.
  • Once you are all set with the design click on the ‘Send to Silhouette’ button which will trigger the machine to cut your design.

08. Using Print and Cut setting

  1. First, make sure that the canvas size on the software is the same as the dimension of the paper.
  2. To make sure you should check the ‘Show Print Border’ in the Design Page Settings menu.
  3. Now use the Registration Marks menu to adjust the dimension and position.
  4. Add your design within the canvas area on the software and adjust as per your need.
  5. Now print the document to make sure that the design looks as you expected.
  6. Next, load it into the cutting mat making sure that the alignment is right. Next press ‘Load Cut Mat’ from the LCD screen on the machine.
  7. The machine should automatically deter the registration mark and cut your design.

09. Preparing Cameo 3 for Cutting

Start by placing the cutting mat that came with the package. Peel off the liner and place the mat on the machine. The material that you will be cutting goes over the mat. The mat should stick to the surface. Moreover, the Design software should instruct you how to use position the material on the mat for a smooth operation.

Next, prep the blades. The Cameo 3 mostly comes with two blades: the crosscut blade and AutoBlade. The AutoBlade is the machines magic wand; it adjusts the speed and thickness automatically according to the material you are cutting, which has to be selected from the software. The AutoBlade goes into the left tool holder of the dual carriage and will adjust automatically from there.  Moreover, the crosscut blade should be used after the design is cut. As a result, it will trim the design and allow to weed and transfer it.

10. Using Dual Carriage

The dual carriage allows you to draw and cut at the same time. You can also draw and score or score and cut at a time.

  • The left carriage holds the blade and the right carriage holds other tools except for the AutoBlade.
  • For cutting and drawing, you will need to add the blade to the left carriage and a pen tool to the right carriage.
  • Then adjust the setting from the Studio software, where the AutoBlade carriage is the Tool 1 and the Pen tool should be in Tool 2.

By now, you should be most familiar with the machine and I guess you can work your way as you keep creating more projects.

How to Use Cricut Explore Air 2?

01. Unpack your Product

With the package you should get the following things:

  • Cricut Explore Air 2 machine
  • Cutting Mat
  • Power cord
  • USB cord
  • Pen
  • Cardstock for sample projects

02. Connecting Cricut Design Space App

Power on the Explore Air 2 machine and press the open button on the lid of the machine. Next connect the machine to the computer using the USB cord; however, you should have a steady internet connection to download the app and use the machine. You should also be able to connect the machine to a mobile device by downloading the app on the phone or tablet. Subsequently, after logging into the app, you should be able to use the machine wirelessly.

03. Connect via Bluetooth

  • You can set-up the Cricut Design Space app by following this link: https://design.cricut.com/#/setup
  • Next, to activate Bluetooth on the machine find the Bluetooth feature under the ‘Settings.’ Next, use your phone or laptop to connect to the machine; you should be prompted with ‘CricutAIR’ and pair to start using. In the event, it prompts for a passcode use: 0000.
  • In case all fails, you can simply connect it via a USB cord and you should be good to go!

04. Using the Design Space App

The app is cloud-based, so you can make your craft cuts from your laptop or mobile devices as well. Because it needs a constant internet connection, you have to save designs and fonts beforehand to use it offline. Click on the ‘Save’ icon and select ‘Save As’ to save the project on your local device.

In online mode, you will have multiple projects pre-loaded for you. Moreover, you can create your own design from scratch using the ‘New Canvas’ feature.

To make your first cut, you can select the ‘Enjoy Card’ project which comes pre-loaded. You simply have to follow the steps to get your first cut. This project is meant to get your acquainted with the machine and its functionalities.

05. Using the Smart Set Dial

The Smart Set Dial mostly comes with pre-programmed settings for the material you want to cut. Namely, the machine will automatically select the right blade setting including the depth, speed, and force as per your setting. The machine is pre-configured for most of the common material such as Vinyl, cardstock, iron-on, paper, poster board etc. It also features half settings which will enable you to fine-tune the blade setting for different materials. Moreover, the ‘Custom’ setting will enable you to specifically set the blade setting for other types of material you want to cut.

06. Using the Fast Mode

The Fast Mode will cut twice as fast as its normal setting but it’s not available for all materials. You can use Fast Mode for Vinyl, Iron-on, Light card-stock, and card-stock.

Conclusion

They are two similar machines with very distinct usage. If you are using Silhouette brand papers and materials, you will find Silhouette Cameo 3 an efficient machine. But for most custom jobs, the Silhouette Cameo 3 can be a little frustrating; however, there are many who would disagree on this. But with the Cricut Air 2, you can be sure that the cut is precise and the German carbide blade can cut through the most adamant of materials. But then again, you don’t get as much creative freedom as with the Silhouette Studio software. Our verdict is that Cricut Air 2 is the winner of the both.

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