When it comes to cutting machines for crafting, there are two brands that make it to the top of the market at every turn: Cricut and Silhouette. Both the Cricut and Silhouette brands have gained a reputation as the perfect tool for home crafters.
However, every home crafter has his or her own preferences and so it’s tough to determine which brand is the better bet for what you want to do.
What is a Cricut machine?
Cricut (not “cricket” though it’s pronounced that way) has a number of different features, but its main one is as a die-cutting machine. The Cricut can cut everything from paper to cardstock to wood to vinyl.
Cricut makes two different machines. The Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Maker.
Cricut Explore Air 2
The Cricut Explore Air 2 machine cuts light to medium weight materials quickly and accurately. It will cut or score a hundred different materials including cardstock, vinyl, polished foils, fabric, and cork.
There is a double tool holder on the Cricut Explore Air 2 so the machine can be equipped with a blade and a pen at any given time. The machine can switch seamlessly between either one. It will shift between cutting and embellishing in a matter of seconds, so adding calligraphy to any project is a breeze.
The machine comes with two different modes, Fast Mode when you need to complete a project quickly and Precision Mode to make intricate cuts.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 will connect to your computer via a USB cord or can connect with Bluetooth technology. It comes with the Easy-to-Learn Design Space software that works with iOS and Android devices, Windows and Mac computers.
Each Cricut Explore Air 2 comes with 50 ready-to-make projects and the ability to upload your own designs, images, and fonts.
It costs $249.99 on the Cricut site. Or you can get one here on Amazon for $227.00.
The Cricut Maker is basically the Cricut Explore Air 2 with more power and more possibilities. The machine has 10 times more power and the ability to cut through heavier materials. In fact, the machine cuts more than 300 materials including fabric, leather, and balsa wood.
The Cricut Maker also has the ability to engrave, deboss, perforate material, make wavy cuts, and cut material on a curve.
When it comes to design, you can program sewing patterns into the machine from some of the major brands like Simplicity and Riley Blake. You also get the Easy-To-Learn Design Space software that works with iOS and Android devices as well as Windows and Mac computers.
The Cricut Maker retails for $399.99 on the Cricut site or you can find one here on Amazon for $368.48.
What is a Silhouette machine?
Just like the Cricut, the Silhouette machine is a die-cutting machine that will cut things like paper, cardstock, wood, and vinyl. Also, just like Cricut, Silhouette machines have the ability to do other things like calligraphy, embossing, and engraving.
Like Cricut, Silhouette has a pair of machines that it sells, the Silhouette Curio and the Silhouette Camio 4. The Cameo 4 is the newest version of the Cameo. Presale started at the end on September 10 and it started shipping in Mid-October.
Silhouette calls its Curio a “hobby machine” because it’s the base level machine that does everything a hobby crafter needs, but not those advanced things a more professional crafter would need.
This one also has a double tool holder so you can equip your machine with a pen and a blade at the same time. Like the Cricut, switching between these two features is easy.
The Curio will connect to a PC or Mac via USB cable, but there’s no Bluetooth connectivity. For that, you need to pay a little more and buy the Silhouette Cameo.
You can use the Curio on materials such as paper, cardstock, and vinyl. It also has the ability to stipple, etch, deboss, emboss, and weld.
When you purchase the Curio, you receive the Silhouette Studio software, however, if you want more designs, then you need to purchase a subscription to the Silhouette Design Store.
The Silhouette Curio costs $249.99. Though you can find a Curio on Amazon for $199.99, just click here.
Silhouette Cameo 4
The Silhouette Cameo 4 is a higher end machine in part because it works with larger materials. The Cameo has a 12-inch width compared to the Curio’s 8.5-inch width.
The Cameo can also deal with thicker materials and comes with a 3 mm clearance, though it only cuts items that are 2 mm thick. The 3 mm clearance just allows thicker items to move through the machine more smoothly.
It works with PC or Mac and comes with Bluetooth connectivity so you can send your projects wirelessly.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 costs $299.99. You can find the Cameo 3 for $199.99 here on Amazon.
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Silhouette Cameo 4
There are a few things that you want to consider when you’re comparing the two machines side-by-side.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 comes with a cutting mat that’s 12” x 12”, but in reality, it can cut anything that’s 12 inches wide and up to 10 feet in length.
Meanwhile, the Cricut Explore Air 2 can cut anything that’s 11.5 inches wide and up to 2 feet long.
If you’re looking to make things like banners, then you’re going to want the Silhouette Cameo 4. The Cricut Explore Air 2 simply doesn’t have that kind of capability.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 and the Cricut Explore Air 2 can both cut materials that are 2 mm thick or less. So, the machines are even from that standpoint.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 comes with Silhouette Studio, a very basic design program. If you would like access to more images and the ability to do more advanced design work, then you can upgrade to the Silhouette Studio Designer Edition for $49.99.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 comes with Cricut Design Space software, which is also a very basic design program.
According to the site Personal Diecutting, “One of the big differences between the Silhouette Cameo and the Cricut Explore is the software that the two machines use. The Silhouette Design Studio is far more powerful and advanced than the Cricut Design Space. The Silhouette software allows users complete freedom to create their own designs from scratch.”
Both have app versions so you can do your designs and make your prints from your smartphones or tablets.
If you’re the kind of crafter that has the skill or ambition to create more intricate designs from scratch, then you probably want to go with the Silhouette machine. However, if you’re the kind of crafter that’s happy with the designs (and there are a multitude) that are provided for you, then the Cricut machine is the one you want.
Both the Silhouette Cameo 4 and the Cricut Explore Air 2 have the ability to cut, write, and score paper/cardstock.
They’re pretty even on the other features.
Cricut Maker vs. Silhouette
You can also compare the Cricut Maker with the Silhouette Cameo.
While the Cricut Maker is more advanced than the Cricut Explore Air 2 in many ways, the cutting size is the same. It only has a cutting space of 11.5 inches by 24 inches. As explained before, the Silhouette Cameo 4 has the ability to cut anything that’s 12 inches wide, but up to 10 feet long.
The Cricut Maker will cut 2.4 mm thick or less, which is slightly thicker than the Cricut Explore Air 2. It also uses 10 times more force than the Cricut Explore Air 2, that’s enough force to allow it to engrave and deboss.
Since the Silhouette machines still only have the 2 mm clearance when it comes to cutting thickness, the Cricut Maker has a slight advantage here if you’re looking to cut thicker materials, such as wood.
The differences in software were explained above. You do not get any more advanced software or extra features by buying the more expensive models of either machine.
Both the Cricut Maker and the Silhouette Cameo are pretty even when it comes to other features. They both allow you to etch, engrave, emboss, deboss, write, score material and cut.
Which is Better Silhouette vs. Cricut?
When it comes to determining which of the two machines is better for you, it really all comes down to preference and what you plan to use the machines for.
Why Silhouette is Better
The Silhouette system is for you if you’re looking to easily create your own designs. With the Silhouette Studio software, it is much easier to create projects from scratch. It’s also better if you’re looking to create large projects such as banners. The Silhouette Cameo’s ability to create designs that are as large as 10 feet is a huge advantage.
Why Cricut is Better
If you’re not really concerned about creating your own designs or have your own design software already then Cricut may be the best option. According to a number of reviews, of the two systems, the Cricut is easier to use and much more powerful.
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