Anyone who has worked with a die cut machine has probably made a choice between Silhouette or Cricut. The two are at the top of the food chain for cutting machines. Amateurs and experts alike can find something to love about each brand.
Which one should you go with? It depends on what you’re looking for. Each machine has features and measurements that are tailored for different skill levels and needs of crafters. Ultimately, one of these two machines should be in your home if you’re serious about using a cutting machine.
Silhouette vs. Cricut: An Overview
Before getting into a deep analysis of the differences in Silhouette vs. Cricut, you should know the basics of each die cutting machine.
Silhouette Cameo 4
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The Cameo 3 stood at the top of the pack for several years, since it hit the market in 2016. It is still available from a few places and cuts through most materials you would choose for crafting, including standard fabrics and vinyl. Although the biggest size mat you can use for the Cameo is 12” X 24”, you can cut into anything as long as 10 feet without using a mat.
You can use dual cartridges with the Cameo 3, which allows you to print and cut anything without completely stopping the machine. You’ll love the fact that you don’t have to change the blades or the pen to adjust your settings. On top of everything else, you can use Bluetooth to begin your cutting without any wired connection.
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The Silhouette Cameo 4, and Silhouette Cameo 4 Plus are now on the market. The Cameo 4 has a cutting surface of up to 12 inches x 24 inches, and has a “Pink Edition.” The “Plus” model is a larger version allowing you to cut up to 14.6 inches x 15-inch materials.
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The cameo 4 comes with Silhouette’s PixScan technology. With this, you can use pictures taken directly with your smartphone or digital camera, send them to the machine, and start cutting.
The Cameo 4 comes with the same one-year, limited warranty, and is Bluetooth compatible.
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Thanks to the Studio Designer software included with all Silhouette cutters, you can make your own designs from scratch, or import existing patterns. The software is incredibly detailed and may take some getting used to if you haven’t worked with Silhouette before. You’ll find plenty of online tutorials and videos to help you out along the way.
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A direct competitor to the Cameo 4, Cricut brought the Explore Air cutter to the market in 2015. It has the same size of a cutting mat as the Silhouette model, and you will also find a dual-blade setup in this machine as well.
Along with Bluetooth compatibility, you can sync this device directly to an iPad for wireless cutting. The same Print and Cut feature found in the Cameo 3 is also used by the Explore Air.
One of the biggest advantages for the Explore Air is a dial located on the right of the device. With this knob, you can easily select how deeply you want to cut, and how much pressure you want to apply to the cut. If you’re using a special material, you can also lock in custom settings to one specific portion of the dial.
The Cricut Explore Air uses Design Space for its software. It’s very beginner-friendly and you’ll find it much more approachable than the complicated program with the Cameo 4. Design Space uses DRM, so you’ll need to have an active internet connection if you’re going to use it. While you can import files to the device, there’s no way to draft anything from a blank slate.
What Are the Differences in Silhouette vs. Cricut?
Now that you know the basics of each machine, you can get an idea of the specific ways the Silhoutte Cameo 4 and Cricut Explore Air differ from each other.
There’s no comparison here – the Cricut is much more powerful than the Silhouette Cameo 3. You wouldn’t mistake the Explore Air for a dedicated heavy-duty machine like the KNK Zing. Of course, it will give you less trouble than trying to cut tougher materials with the Cameo 3.
The Cameo 4 boasts increased cutting strength, however, if you plan to work with aluminum, hard leather, or cork, you won’t get anywhere using the Cameo 4.
You’ll find a German carbide blade as part of the Cricut, which means they will last longer than the stock blades on the Cameo 4. You can equip deeper-cutting blades for both machines, but the ones included for the Explore Air win easily.
This comes down to user-friendliness vs. features. Silhouette Design Studio is far more diverse and robust in its features. It also allows anyone the complete freedom to work on an image from a blank sheet.
If you prefer, you can purchase images from the Cricut store. These will look incredibly professional compared to basic clip art you would find online.
You can expect to spend more time learning the Silhouette software than you will with Cricut, but it might be worth it. The basic version of Design Studio is free, and you can use .jpg, .png, and .bmp files with it.
On the other hand, Design Space by Cricut can be picked up by almost anyone. If you don’t need to make anything from scratch and are focusing on simpler designs, you should consider going with Cricut. Keep in mind, though, that your options with Cricut are still limited. You also won’t be able to use it offline, so make sure you always have an active connection to the internet.
Cricut Design Space software is compatible with .gif and .dxf files, as well as everything that can be used with the professional version of Silhouette Design Studio.
Silhouette vs. Cricut: Which One to Choose?
Ultimately, you need to determine which of the two machines will suit you better. If you are a beginner in the world of die-cutters, you should consider the Cricut Explore Air. It’s very simple to set up, and you won’t feel overwhelmed with any unnecessary features.
Thanks to the deeper penetration, there is more potential material you can use with the Cricut. This complicates things because professionals are more likely to work with a device that can use other materials. Unfortunately, the Explore Air does not lend itself well to experts. The lack of any software that functions without an internet connection is also a problem.
Anyone who is looking to create with material that doesn’t need too deep of a blade should go for the Silhouette Cameo 4. You have much more versatility in the included software, even if you don’t go with the professional edition. If you plan to work with anything that proves difficult for the blades, you’ll need to consider the Cricut instead.
The other downside to the Cameo 4 is in the software. Although it offers an amazing amount of options, you’ll need to pay extra to unlock certain file extensions, including .svg.
Where Can I Purchase Each Device?
The best place to purchase either the Silhouette Cameo 4 or the Cricut Explore Air is online. You’ll find the most affordable prices on sites like Amazon, where they offer free shipping for Prime members. If you don’t have a Prime membership, be sure to calculate the amount of shipping into the cost.
You can also try your luck at brick-and-mortar stores. Crafting stores such as Michael’s might keep them in stock, and you can check their website to see if your local store has any in stock. If you find one of the devices online, you might have the option to deliver it right to a store, saving money on shipping costs.
If all else fails, there is also Staples, but they tend to mark up the price of everything by quite a bit. Check other local stores before you resort to them.
Final Thoughts on Silhouette vs. Cricut
As you make a decision in the battle of Silhouette vs. Cricut, consider how much you want to do with your die cutter. Are you planning to use this as a hobby, and make things just for yourself? Are you considering setting up an Etsy store and selling your wares to anyone? What about the idea of opening up an entire business?
All of these questions should factor into your choice of an Explore Air or a Cameo 4. Your ability to learn software, work with different materials, and understand the mechanics of cutting will sway your opinion.
Along with your own research, find out which of your crafting friends have worked with either machine before. Their trusted opinion should help you decide. There might be exceptions to those who have consistently given the same opinions about one brand or model, so carefully review everyone’s take.