• The Best Electronic Cutting Machines for Cricut and Silhouette in 2022

The Best Electronic Cutting Machines for Cricut and Silhouette in 2022

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After an outcry from the community, Cricut announced it would no longer continue to change its subscription service.
Electronic cutters engrave images from vinyl, cardstock, iron-on transfers—some can even cut leather and wood.They are a great tool for all craftsmen, whether you’re DIYing everything or just want to make some stickers.We’ve been recommending the Cricut Explore Air 2 since 2017 because it can do so much and is less expensive than most other knives.The machine software is easy to learn, the blades are accurate, and the Cricut image library is huge.
This machine offers the easiest software to learn, smooth cuts, a huge library of images and projects, and great community support.It’s expensive, but great for beginners.
Due to the user-friendly software, we found the Cricut machine to be more intuitive for beginners.The company offers a great selection of images and ready-made items like greeting cards, and offers better customer support than the competition, in case you get into trouble.While the Cricut Explore Air 2 isn’t the newest or fastest machine we’ve tested, it’s one of the quietest.Cricut also offers great bundles with discounts on accessories you’ll need to buy separately, such as extra blades and spare cutting pads.If you want to upgrade to a newer machine, the Explore Air 2 has one of the higher established resale values.
The Maker cuts faster than any machine we’ve tested, and cuts fabric and thicker materials effortlessly.It has updatable software, so it should last longer.
For beginners, Cricut Maker is as easy to learn as Cricut Explore Air 2.It’s also the fastest and quietest machine we’ve tested, and one of the only machines that can cut fabric without reinforcements like interfaces.Cricut’s design library contains thousands of images and projects, from small sewing patterns to paper crafts, and the machine’s software is updatable, so the Maker may last longer than competing models.Its price has dropped since we first tested it in 2017, but since it’s still more than $100 more expensive than the Explore Air 2 as of this writing, we recommend buying the Maker only if you’re sewing a lot of small projects , want to use heavy-duty materials, or need extra speed and quietness.
This machine offers the easiest software to learn, smooth cuts, a huge library of images and projects, and great community support.It’s expensive, but great for beginners.
The Maker cuts faster than any machine we’ve tested, and cuts fabric and thicker materials effortlessly.It has updatable software, so it should last longer.
As a Wirecutter Senior Writer, I mostly cover bedding and textiles, but I have been making over the years and have owned and used several models of Silhouette and Cricut machines.When I was an elementary librarian, I used them to make bulletin board cutouts, signs, holiday decorations, book displays, bookmarks, and vinyl decals to decorate my whiteboards.At home, I create card bunting, car decals, cards, party favors and decorations, t-shirts, apparel and home decor projects.I’ve been reviewing cutters for seven years; the last four are from Wirecutter, and previously from blogger GeekMom.
For this guide, I interviewed Melissa Viscount, who runs the Silhouette School blog; Lia Griffith, a designer who uses Cricuts to create numerous projects on her site; and Ruth Suehle (I met through GeekMom), a A crafter and serious cosplayer, she uses her cutter for a variety of projects, including costumes and party decorations.Many outstanding craftsmen and teachers who use cutting machines prefer the Cricut or Silhouette, so we also reached out to Stahls’, a company that sells specialty equipment for garment upholstery businesses, for some unbiased information on how these machines work.Jenna Sackett, educational content specialist for the Stahls TV website, explains the difference between commercial and personal cutters.All of our experts provide us with a list of features and criteria to look for when testing and recommending machines.
Electronic cutters are powerful tools for hobbyists, teachers, makers, or anyone who just wants to cut occasional shapes (though if you only use it once it’s an expensive indulgence, etc.) one time).You can use these machines to create projects like stickers, vinyl decals, custom cards and party decorations.They cut designs out of a variety of materials using software that lets you create, upload, or buy pre-made designs to cut.Often, if you use a pen instead of a blade, they can also draw.A quick look at the hashtags on Instagram shows the variety of projects people make with these machines.
Remember, these machines have a learning curve, especially with the software.Melissa Viscount of the Silhouette School blog told us that she hears many beginners being intimidated by their machines and the intricate projects they see online, and never using them out of the box.Ruth Suehle told us the same thing: “I’m holding off on buying for now. I have a friend who bought one and it’s sitting on his shelf.” If you’re comfortable with online tutorials and manuals, or if you have one that can teach you Friends, this will help.It also helps to start with simple projects like simple vinyl decals to learn the basics.
Combining my years of experience using, testing, and reviewing these machines with the advice of experts I interviewed, I came up with the following standard list of cutting machines:
In my initial 2017 testing, I spent a good amount of time using Silhouette Studio and Cricut Design software on my HP Spectre and MacBook Pro running Windows 10, about 12 hours in total.Before I start editing, I use both programs to try and create basic designs, review their collections of projects and images, and ask the company directly for certain features.I looked at online tutorials and the Cricut and Silhouette help sections to learn some new techniques, and I noticed which software felt more intuitive, with clearly marked tools to help me get started.
I also calculated the time it took to set up the machines (all four machines took less than 10 minutes) and how easy it was to start making a project.I evaluated the machine’s cutting speed and noise level.I changed the blade, used the pen, and noticed how well the machine cut and how accurate they were at predicting the correct depth of cut for the blade.I made complete projects out of vinyl, cardstock and stickers to see from craftsmanship and quality all the way to the outcome of the finished craft.I’ve also tried cutting fabric, but some machines require extra tools and products to do this.We weighed this test lightly because we don’t think cutting fabric is the main reason most people buy a cutter.
For our 2019 and 2020 updates, I tried three other machines from Cricut, Silhouette, and Brother.It took me time to get used to Cricut and Silhouette’s software updates, and to learn Brother’s software, which was completely new to me.(This took about five hours of testing time.) I had three other machines do most of the remaining testing I used in 2017: timing how long it took to set; changing blades and pens; and cut items on sticker paper; and evaluate each brand’s library of images and items.These tests took another eight hours.
In our early 2021 update, I tested two new Silhouette machines and re-tested the Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Maker, taking new notes and making new comparisons about their performance.I also use software from both companies to test updates and evaluate changes to their image libraries.These tests took a total of 12 hours.
This machine offers the easiest software to learn, smooth cuts, a huge library of images and projects, and great community support.It’s expensive, but great for beginners.
Newer, shinier cutters have appeared since the Cricut Explore Air 2 was released in late 2016, but it’s still our beginner’s pick.Cricut’s user-friendly software is unmatched, the blade is cleaner than anything we’ve tested from Silhouette or Brother, and the library of images and projects is extensive (it’s easier to follow licensing rules than Silhouette).This machine also has the best kits of tools and materials for sale.We found customer service to be more responsive than Silhouette, and the owner reviews were a bit better.The Explore Air 2 also has a decent resale value if you decide to upgrade in the future.
Software will determine the beginner’s experience, and in our testing, Cricut was by far the most intuitive.Design Space has a very nice user interface, with a large screen workspace and well-labeled icons that are easier to navigate than Silhouette Studio and Brother’s CanvasWorkspace.You can quickly find an existing item or start a new one, and with just one click you can select an item to cut from the Cricut store—in our tests, Silhouette’s software took a few more steps to create the item.If you’re drawing rather than cutting, the software displays all Cricut pen colors so you can get a clear picture of your finished project – Silhouette’s software uses a generic palette that doesn’t match its own pen colors.Even if you have never touched this machine before, you can start cutting ready-made projects in minutes.
In early 2020, the web version of Cricut’s Design Space software was phased out in favor of a desktop version, so it can now be used offline just like Silhouette Studio.These machines connect to a computer via Bluetooth or USB, or use the Cricut Design Space app (iOS and Android) on a mobile device.
All 100,000+ images and items from Cricut are exclusive and feature a wide variety of officially licensed graphics from brands like Sanrio, Marvel, Star Wars and Disney.Brother also licenses Disney Princess and Mickey Mouse images, but that’s about it.Meanwhile, Silhouette’s library is larger than Cricut’s or Brother’s, but the vast majority of images are from independent designers.Each designer has their own licensing rules, and these images are not exclusive to Silhouette – you can buy many of them to use on any cutting machine you like.The Explore Air 2 comes with about 100 free images, and a subscription to Cricut Access for about $10 a month gives you access to almost everything in the company’s catalog (some fonts and images cost extra).You can also use images designed in-house for commercial purposes within the scope of the company’s Angel policy (similar to a Creative Commons license, but with some additional restrictions).
Even if you’ve never touched the Cricut Explore Air 2 before, you can start cutting ready-made projects in minutes.
In our testing, the Explore Air 2′s blade setting was more accurate than the Silhouette Portrait 3 and Silhouette Cameo 4′s, and overall we thought the blade was better.It cuts very cleanly on card stock (Silhouette machine jammed the paper slightly) and cuts through vinyl easily.The Explore Air 2′s blade struggles with fabric and felt; the Cricut Maker handles fabric better.The cutting area of ​​the Cricut Explore Air 2 is the same size as the Cricut Maker and Silhouette Cameo 3.It fits 12 x 12″ and 12 x 24″ pads – these sizes allow you to create full-size iron-on decals for t-shirts, vinyl decals on walls (within reason), and 3D projects (such as snack boxes) And play masks for the kids.
The Explore Air 2 has the best bundle of any machine we’ve tested.Cutter kits are usually great value for money—they’re usually less than the cost of buying all the extra accessories or materials separately—but Silhouette’s extras are more limited, and Brother doesn’t offer kits.Cricut’s Explore Air 2 set, which you can find on the company’s website (they’re currently sold out, but we’re checking with Cricut to see if they’ll be back in stock) and on Amazon, including options like tools, extra cutting pads, decoupage cutters, extra blades, different kinds of blades, and starter craft materials including vinyl and cardstock.
We also prefer Cricut’s customer service to Silhouette’s.You can contact Cricut by phone during weekday business hours, and the company’s live chat service is available 24/7.Silhouette provides email or live chat service Monday through Friday, but only during business hours.
I have Silhouette and Cricut machines that I have bought myself for a few years, and when new models come out, it’s easy to resell them on eBay.They hold their value well and it’s always nice to have a little money for a new machine.As of this writing, the Cricut Explore Air 2 is usually on sale on eBay for around $150.
The Explore Air 2 isn’t the fastest cutter we’ve tested, but since it cuts more cleanly, we didn’t mind waiting patiently.Bluetooth also performed poorly, with a limited range of just a few feet, but we found that none of the cutters we tested implemented the technology very effectively.
If you want to design your own images for use with a cutter, we recommend using a separate graphics program such as Adobe Illustrator, although you will need practice or training to get the most out of such advanced software.Cricut’s software is not designed to create your own images unless you work with basic shapes like circles and squares.If you do manage to make something you like, you can only save it in the company’s proprietary format – you can’t create an SVG file and use (or sell) it with other machines.Use Illustrator instead, or even the paid commercial version of Silhouette Studio (~$100), which lets you save in SVG for use on any machine.
The Maker cuts faster than any machine we’ve tested, and cuts fabric and thicker materials effortlessly.It has updatable software, so it should last longer.
The Cricut Maker is an expensive machine, but it performs very well.It’s worth buying if speed is important to you, or if you’re cutting a lot of more complex materials.It’s one of the fastest machines we’ve tested, and it can cut more material—including fabric and balsa—than the Explore Air 2.It uses the same accessible Cricut Design software as the Explore Air 2 and can receive firmware updates, so we think it will outlast anything else we’ve tried.It’s also the quietest knife we’ve tested.
In our sticker test, the Maker was twice as fast as the Explore Air 2, completing it in less than 10 minutes, while the Cricut Explore Air 2 took 23 minutes.It was 13 seconds slower than the Silhouette Cameo 4 in our vinyl test, but the cut was more precise—it took a few tries to get the Cameo 4 to cut vinyl all the way without cutting the backing paper.Cricut Maker lets you choose from a variety of material settings in the software to accurately measure the correct depth of cut.The Silhouette Cameo 4 can do the same, but with less precision (the Explore Air 2 allows you to select materials only from the dial on the machine, so the options are more limited).
The Maker was the first cutting machine that could easily cut fabric, and the machine came with a special rotating blade; the Silhouette Cameo 4 can also cut fabric, but the blade is extra, and it’s not cheap – about $35 at the time of writing Dollar.The blade and cutting mat used for fabric cutting have perfect precision, better than what I can cut by hand, no need to add stabilizers such as the interface to the fabric.The Brother ScanNCut DX SDX125E is just as accurate, but the Cricut Store offers more project modes.However, the items available for these machines are small (we’re talking dolls, bags, and quilt blocks).Cricut also offers a blade we haven’t tested that cuts thin wood, including balsa.There are several bundles to choose from, and the machines have great resale value—as of this writing, used Makers are selling for $250-$300 on eBay.
The best way to keep your machine running smoothly is to turn it off when not in use, which will keep dust out of the cutting area.Use a clean, dry cloth to remove dust or paper from the blade and cutting area before starting work, but only after unplugging the machine.Cricut recommends using glass cleaner on the outside of the machine, but not anything containing acetone.Silhouette does not provide cleaning advice, but you should be able to follow the same advice with the Silhouette model.
Silhouette estimates the life of the blade to be about six months, depending on what you’re cutting (Cricut has no estimated time limit for the blade), and cleaning the blade will help you get the most out of its lifespan.If the blade does not cut correctly, Silhouette has instructions for opening the blade housing to clean it out.Cricut also has instructions for lubricating it if the machine starts to rub, which should smooth things out again.(The company will even send you a pack of the grease it recommends.)
The cutting mats of all machines are supplied with plastic film to cover the adhesive side.Stick to these to extend the life of the cutting pad.You can also extend the life of the mat by using the spatula tool to scrape off any material left on the mat after the project (Cricut has one, as does Silhouette).You will have to replace the pad once the stickiness is gone.There are supposedly tricks to refresh the mat (video), but we never tried it.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 is the best Silhouette machine we’ve tested, but it’s still bigger, louder, and less precise than our recommended Cricut machine.The more complex Silhouette Studio software can also be frustrating for beginners, but if you want to create your own designs (or if you’re starting a small business), you might prefer Cameo 4′s flexibility and advanced options.Paid commercial versions of the software allow you to save your work in more file formats, including SVG, for resale.You can connect multiple machines together to create a line, something Cricuts doesn’t offer.In 2020, Silhouette also introduced Cameo Plus and Cameo Pro, offering larger cutting areas for larger projects.If you’re an advanced user, these are all options to consider, but if you’re an occasional hobbyist or completely new to these machines, we think Cricuts is more fun and less frustrating.
We reviewed the Cricut Joy in 2020, and while it’s a neat little machine for small items like stickers and cards, we don’t think it’s a great value.The cutting width is only 5½ inches, while the Silhouette Portrait 2 is 8 inches wide and costs about the same.We think the Portrait 2′s cut size is more versatile than the Joy’s—you can cut and draw some T-shirt transfers, logos, and larger garments—and its price is more manageable than the Cricut Explore Air 2.If you have a crafty tween or teen, however, Joy makes a fun gift for learning the basics.
The Brother ScanNCut DX SDX125E, which we also tested in 2020, disappointed beginners.It is more expensive than the Cricut Maker and is sold to sewers and quilters because it cuts the fabric and adds seam allowance, which the Maker can do too.But the machine’s interface and the company’s design software are clunkier and harder to learn than the Cricut and Silhouette machines we’ve tested.ScanNCut comes with nearly 700 built-in designs—more than the 100 free images Cricut offers for new machines—but the rest of Brother’s image library is limited, frustrating and inconvenient, relying on a Expensive physical card.Considering that both Cricut and Silhouette offer large digital libraries that you can buy and access online right away, this feels like a very outdated way to get clips.If you’re used to Brother machines and their software, or if you find it helpful to have a cutter/scanner combo (we didn’t), you might be happy to add ScanNCut to your craft tools.It’s also the only cutter we’ve tried that works with Linux.We don’t think it’s worth it for most people.
Silhouette replaced our previous runner-up, Portrait 2, with Portrait 3 in 2020, and it didn’t work out well.In testing, none of the automatic settings I tried successfully cut the test material, and the machine was so noisy I thought it was damaged in transit.In one test, the cutting pad was misplaced and ejected from the back of the machine, but the blade moved on and tried to cut into the machine itself.Reviews for Portrait 3 were mixed — some raved about it, others had the same problem — but reviewing the Portrait 2 reviews, I found similar complaints of noise and cluttered performance.We may have been lucky enough to test our test model for an older version of this machine in the past, and it performed very well (we also recommended the original portrait at one point).But the Portrait 3 is definitely not worth the money, especially since it only cuts smaller items (8″ x 12″ cutting area) and isn’t much cheaper than the full-size Explore Air 2.
We’ve tested and recommended Silhouette Portrait and Portrait 2 in previous editions of this guide, but both are now discontinued.
We also researched and cancelled the now discontinued Silhouette Cameo 3, Cricut Explore Air, Cricut Explore One, Sizzix Eclips2 and Pazzles Inspiration Vue machines.
Heidi, Choosing the Best Electronic Craft Cutting Machines – Comparing Silhouette, Cricut, and More, Everyday Savvy, 15 Jan 2017
Marie Segares, Cricut Basics: Which Cutter Should I Buy?, Underground Crafter, July 15, 2017
Jackie Reeve has been a Senior Staff Writer at Wirecutter since 2015, covering bedding, organization, and household items.Previously she was a school librarian and had been quilting for about 15 years.Her quilt patterns and other written work have appeared in various publications.She hosts Wirecutter’s employee book club and makes her bed every morning.

Post time: Feb-25-2022