Having difficulty finding the best vinyl cutter?
With so many different brands and models, it might be difficult, regardless if it’s your first time buying or not.
Although the industry is dominated by Silhouette and Cricut, both brands have several models that provide different features to choose from.
Today we will go over which things you should know as a beginner before buying a vinyl cutter and review the most popular options.
What Projects Can I Do With A Vinyl Cutter?
If you came to this page you probably already have a certain project in mind that you want to do with your vinyl cutter.
Especially making designs for vinyl T-shirts is becoming popular lately.
But a vinyl cutter can be used for many other applications as well. Think for example about home decor, signs, stencils, and decals.
Most vinyl cutters are actually not limited to just using vinyl and can work with other materials too. Before you know it, you might be making rhinestone transfers with your vinyl cutter.
If you want to work with some special materials, it might be worth looking into commercial vs home vinyl cutters. A commercial vinyl cutter is obviously more expensive, but they can normally deal with many more materials and can handle more complicated jobs. In this article, we will just be looking at the best vinyl cutting machines for home applications. These are much more affordable and normally all that a beginner needs to get started.
For a quick impression of the possibilities, check the video below.
What To Look For When Buying A New Vinyl Cutting Machine
To find the best vinyl cutting machine for you, it helps to make a list of all the things you expect your machine to do and on which points you can compromise. Depending on the vinyl cutter brand you buy from, features and price can change a lot. If you know what you don’t need you can save quite some money.
In this article we are focusing on Silhouette vs Cricut as both of them are well known to provide a good product for a decent price. Additionally, if you are looking into vinyl cutters, you also might want to consider buying a heat press to make vinyl T-shirts or a trusty sewing machine.
The most important feature to consider in a vinyl cutter is the maximum cutting area width of your model. If you buy a small model the maximum width might become a limiting factor in your design. You can only make designs smaller than the maximum width of course.
Additionally, some models come with extra features. Think for example about an embossing option or a double tool holder that might be useful for certain projects. If time and speed are important, a double tool holder can be a valuable feature to have.
Although today we are focusing on the best vinyl cutters, most of these machines are actually multifunctional and can operate with several different materials. If you are planning to use other materials such as canvas, fabric or iron-on, make sure to check if your machine is compatible with those materials.
When comparing Silhouette vs Cricut, it is important to not only look at the machines themselves but also the software it comes with. Most Silhouette and Cricut machines come with Silhouette Design Studio or Cricut Design Space respectively.
In general Silhouette Design Studio is the better among the two. It gives more freedom and you can create your designs from scratch. Additionally, the images available for purchase look professional compared to the ones available in Cricut Designs Space. Although the basic Silhouette software is free, if you upgrade to the paid version you even have the option to make rhinestone patterns.
On the other hand, Cricut Design Space is easier to learn and better if you only plan to create simple designs. If you want to make a design from scratch, it’s better to do so in another program and then import it to Cricut Design Space.
Cricut Design Space supports svg, png, dxf, gif, bmp and jpg files while the free version of Silhouette Design Studio only supports jpg, bmp and png files. If you want to use svg files you need to pay a fee to upgrade the software.
Finally, the Cricut Design Space software requires a permanent internet connection. If you don’t have a stable internet connection it might be difficult to work with.
Vinyl Cutter Bundles
If this is your first time buying a vinyl cutter machine it might be very overwhelming. Besides the machine itself, there are many different you will also need to buy such as tools, add-ons, sheets, transfer paper, cutting mat, etc. In this case, we recommend you purchase a vinyl cutter starter kit. This way you make sure you have everything you need to get started without having to worry about what to buy and what not to buy.
Vinyl Cutter making a rare appearance in the office today 👀🖨🔲 pic.twitter.com/bStenPh8gQ
— Made by Tone (@madebytone) 29 September 2017
Best Silhouette Vinyl Cutter
Let’s take a look at the different Silhouette vinyl cutter machines out there. Silhouette is one of the best vinyl cutter brands and well known for their quality machines.
Different Types To Choose From
If you look around you will find that there are 4 different machines offered by Silhouette; Cameo, Curio, Portrait and the Mint. With all these different models you might have difficulty finding the best vinyl cutter for you.
Don’t worry! We are here to help.
First of all, you might notice that the Silhouette Mint is considerably smaller than the other machines. In contrast to the other machines, the Mint is for making small tags and labeling and can’t handle vinyl.
So for most people, either the Cameo 3 or the Curio will be the best choice. Let’s look at them a little closer.
Silhouette Cameo 3
The Silhouette Cameo 3 and the Silhouette Portrait are very similar. Their only considerable difference is the width of their cutting area. While the Portrait model has a cutting area width of a slightly limiting 8 inch, the Cameo 3 has a cutting width of 12 inches. In most cases, the Silhouette Cameo is the better vinyl cutter.
Finally, the Silhouette Curio comes with a cutting area width of a meager 8.5 inch. That is slightly bigger than a Portrait! The Curio is not completely useless though it has some features that can’t be found in the Silhouette Cameo 3.
The Silhouette Curio operate with much thicker materials with a maximum thickness of 5 mm and it can cut up to 2 mm deep. This makes the Curio much better at dealing with home décor products while the Cameo is better for simple vinyl cutting.
Additionally, the Curio has a special embossing function. With this function, you can easily add an extra dimension to your work or create foldable lines.
Overall we would recommend the Silhouette Cameo 3 if you mainly working with vinyl and looking for a personal vinyl cutting machine.
Silhouette Vinyl Cutter Comparison Chart
For a closer comparison between the Cameo 3 and the Curio look at the table below or check out this page.
|Silhouette Curio||Silhouette CAMEO 3|
|Goal||-Home Décor Products||-Scrapbooking and Cards|
|-Specialty Crafting||-Sign Making|
|-Multicolor Sketching||-Vinyl Lettering and Stencils|
|Dimensions||5.5 inch x 17.25 inch x 12 inch||20.9 inch x 6.5 inch x 5 inch|
|5.5 lbs.||6.5 lbs|
|Cutting Area Width||8.5 inch||12 inch|
|Max Cutting Thickness||2 mm||-|
|Max Cutting Force||210 gf||210 gf|
|Max Media Thickness||5 mm||0.8 mm|
Best Cricut Machine for Beginners
Cricut is the second vinyl cutter brand we will look at. They offer 3 main options if you are looking for a home vinyl cutter; Explore One, Explore Air and Explore Air 2
Although you might be looking for the best Cricut for vinyl, all three machines can actually cut over 100 different materials, from vinyl to thick leather. Check out which materials you can use here. That means Cricut machines can be used as general die-cut machines and not just as a desktop vinyl cutter.
When comparing Silhouette vs Cricut, the Cricut machines are more versatile while Silhouette machine only focuses on doing a few things really good.
Cricut Explore One
The Cricut Explore One is the oldest model and thus has fewer features than the Explore Air or Explore Air 2. The main difference is that the Explore One doesn’t have a double tool holder. It can cut and write, but in two separate steps. While the Explore Air and Explore Air can do it simultaneously.
Cricut Explore Air
Secondly, the Explore Air and Explore Air 2 both come with a built-in wireless Bluetooth adaptor. If you want to use your Cricut Explore one wirelessly you will have to buy a Cricut Wireless Bluetooth Adapter separately.
Although the Cricut Explore Air is an older version of the Cricut Explore Air 2, they can both still be bought commercially. The major improvement over the Explore Air is that the Explore Air 2 can cut and write up to 2 times faster.
This sounds great but maybe not completely necessary for most hobby artist. If you are trying to run a small business though, the Explore Air 2 can reduce precious production time. Keep in mind though that the faster cutting and writing only holds if you work with vinyl, iron-on, and cardstock.
Cricut Vinyl Cutter Comparison Chart
Check out the comparison table between the different Cricut models below.
|Cricut Explore One||Cricut Explore Air||Cricut Explore 2|
|Precise cutting, writing, and scoring technology||yes||yes||yes|
|Cuts 100+ materials||yes||yes||yes|
|Easily design your project on PC, tablet or smartphone||yes||yes||yes|
|60,000 project and design ideas to kick start any project||yes||yes||yes|
|Upload your own design and images free||yes||yes||yes|
|Double tool holder for one-click cutting and writing||no||yes||yes|
|Works wirelessly via Bluetooth||no||yes||yes|
|Up to 2x faster cutting & writing||no||no||yes|
Finding Inspiration For Your Next Project
Even for experienced vinyl cutter users, it is sometimes difficult to come up with new and creative ideas.
You can apply your vinyl designs to so many different places that you might not even have thought of before!
Following a few craft blogs is a good way to see what other people have done.
If you want to make vinyl T-shirts, you might want to check out this blog post that describes 20 original ideas that you can replicate or improve on.
Another blog called WallWritten also publish a nice article on applying vinyl to canvas. This is a quick and easy way to make paintings and decorate your house.
Finally, CoolWallArt also wrote a blog post on 8 cheap vinyl decals that you can use to decorate your empty walls. Of course, if you own a vinyl cutter, you can just as well make them yourself rather than buying them.