Silhouette vs Cricut: Which is the Best Die Cut Machine for You?

Cricut
Silhouette

I’m going to give you my 100% unbiased review of Silhouette vs. Cricut cutting machines. This post is unsponsored, meaning Neither Cricut nor Silhouette is compensating me in any way to write this post, nor would I want them to. I want everyone to be able to read this completely unbiased post and decide which cutting machine is best for them, because the answer may not be the same for everyone!

If you’re in the market for a die cut machine, you’re probably trying to decide between a Cricut and a Silhouette - but which one and more importantly why? 

Silhouette & Cricut Machines Tested

Let's break up our die cut machine comparison into sections. I'll be comparing the Cricut Explore Air 2 to the brand new Cricut Maker along with the Silhouette Cameo 3 machines for each answer. Before you continue reading, realize that no machine is ‘better’ than the other. These machines will all work similarly and can cut similar materials, so we will focus on how these machines are different, which machine excels in each area and we'll point out special features that might be of importance to you - ultimately to help you choose the machine that is best suited towards the projects that you want to create.

Die Cut Machine Specifications

Max Cutting Area

12 in. x 24 in.

12 in. x 24 in.

12 in. x 10 ft.

Max Media Thickness

2 mm

2.4 mm (3/32 in.)

2 mm

Max Cutting Force

350 grams of force

4,000 grams of force

210 grams of force

Computer Connection

USB 2.0 high speed,
Bluetooth® wireless

USB 2.0 high speed,
Bluetooth® wireless

USB 2.0 high speed,
Bluetooth® wireless

Works without Internet?

No for Desktop use,
Yes with iOS App

No for Desktop use,
Yes with iOS App

Yes/No
No for syncing files

Machine Colors

Black, Flamingo, Mint Green, Raspberry, Sky

White/Blue

White/Champagne (Gold)

White/Rose

Aqua Blue, Mint Green, Pink (@Michaels), Slate Grey, White

Machine Dimensions

24 x 9.5 x 9.5 in.

22.6 x 7.1 x 6.2 in.

22.5 x 6 x 8.5 in.

Machine Weight

21 lbs

24 lbs

9 lbs

MFR Warranty

MSRP

$299.99

$399.99

$299.99

Silhouette & Cricut Features

Automatic / Adaptive Cutting: Cricut Maker and Silhouette Cameo 3 lead the way with Automatic pressure setting functionality. Not having to worry about whether you're cutting your project at the optimal pressure setting for that material is a game-changer and the answer to many a die-cutters prayers. I've wasted plenty of material in utter frustration from not remembering to change the cut setting before I switched materials. Ugghh. 

PixScan: PixScan enables you to precisely cut around a printed design or to insert cut lines into specific locations on your material through the aid of a scanner or simple camera like phone and tablet cameras. The PixScan algorithm allows the Silhouette Cameo 3 to recognize specially placed registration marks on the PixScan cutting mat. This technology is also very ideal for saving any photographed or scanned image into your personal digital library or transforming a hand-drawn sketch into a new custom cut file.

Die Cut Machine Feature Comparison

Cut

Yes

Yes

Yes

Draw

Yes

Yes

Yes

Print then Cut

White only

Light/medium color

Yes

PixScan

No

No

Yes

Pressure Setting

Smart Set Dial

Adaptive Tool Set

Manual +
Auto-Blade available

Double Tool Holder

Yes

Yes

Yes

Touchscreen

No
use iPad or Computer

No
use iPad or Computer

Yes

Software

Cricut Design Space

Cricut Design Space

Silhouette Studio

Upload Your Own Images
PNG, SVG, DXF

Yes

Yes

Yes*
with $49.99 Designer Edition Software

Blades & Cutting Mats

Blades & Cuts: The Cricut Maker has almost all the capability of the Cricut Explore machines, and more. The main differences between the Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore Air 2 are cutting force and tools. The Cricut Maker is 10x stronger than the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Silhouette Cameo 3. The Cricut Maker's Knife blade cuts thicker materials up to 2.4mm thick, while the Rotary Blade is used for cutting fabric. With the Rotary Blade, you don’t have to worry about tearing the fabric. Both of these tools are controlled by Cricut's new Adaptive Tools System, which automatically controls the pressure and direction. This Adaptive Tool System eliminates the need for a smart dial to control cut pressure settings. Cricut has a dozen additional tools in testing—so the Maker will do more and more as more tools are released.

Silhouette Cameo 3 has an available Auto Blade that doesn't need manual adjustments before each cut. It's sold separately, annoyingly so, as it's a major feature and contributes greatly to it's functionality. Disappointingly, their Fabric Blade isn't a separate blade that is specialized for cutting on fabric, it's the same 'Fine-Point' blade but in a different color, that's it. 

Mats: All 3 machines have 12 x 12 in. cutting mats, as well as 12 x 24 in. mats that come in Light, Standard and Strong Grip/Tack levels for holding an array of materials for cutting. Cricut Maker offers the Fabric Grip Mat, a SUPER strong adhesive mat. 

Blades & Mats Comparison

Auto Blade (Fine-Point)

No

No

​Yes

Fine-Point Blade

Yes
@350g force
up to 1mm

Yes
@4,000g force
up to 1mm

Yes
@210g force
up to 1mm

Knife Blade (Deep Cuts)

Deep Point
@350g force
up to 2mm

Yes
@4,000g force

up to 2.4mm

Yes
@210g force
up to 2mm

Rotary Blade (for Fabrics)

Bonded Fabric only
@350g force

Yes @4,000g force

No
use Fine-Point blade + Fabric Stabilizer

Scoring Wheel (for Folds)

Scoring Tip @350g force

Yes @4,000g force

No

Light Grip Mat

Yes

Yes

Yes

Standard Grip Mat

Yes

Yes

Yes

Strong Grip Mat

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fabric Grip Mat 

No

Yes

No

What Materials Can it Cut?

All 3 Diecut Machines

  • Paper - Cardstock, Photo, Copy, Vellum, Tissue Paper, Wrapping Paper, Wax Paper, Sticker Paper
  • Vinyl & Heat-Transfer Vinyl
  • Fabric (Bonded)
  • Iron-on
  • Leather (THIN)
  • Faux Leather (THIN)
  • Cereal box chipboard
  • Craft foam
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Magnetic Sheet
  • Aluminum – up to 0.14mm

*Material up to 2.0 mm*

  • Leather (THICK)
  • Faux Leather (THICK)
  • Fabric (Unbonded)
  • Linen
  • Burlap
  • Balsa Wood
  • Chipboard
  • Felt
  • Corkboard

*Material up to 2.4 mm (3/32 in.)*


Die Cut Machine Cut-Quality Tests

I chose a very detailed and intricate design to challenge all three die cut machines. I used the recommended mat stickiness level for each brand, and used the best/premier blade for each machine - each machine was setup to perform at it's best capability. The same design was cut by all three machines with the same Recollections 65lb cardstock, but different colors, and with default settings for each machine for the cardstock material. I kept the design small, a width of 4.5 inches, as that's the max size I'd realistically cut for a Greeting Card.

Blade: Premium Fine-Point Blade

#of Cuts Made: 1

Smart Dial Setting: Cardstock

Cardstock Weight: 65lb

Paper Brand: Recollections

#of Visible Flaws: 6
Had difficulty with pointy swirl ends and the small holes inside the letters S & M.

Blade: Fine-Point Blade

#of Cuts Made: 1

Design Space Setting:
60lb Cardstock

Cardstock Weight: 65lb

Paper Brand: Recollections

#of Visible Flaws: 1
Had difficulty with 1 pointy swirl end under the letter M.

Blade: Auto Fine-Point Blade

#of Cuts Made: 1

Silhouette Studio Setting: 
Auto Detected - Cardstock

Cardstock Weight: 65lb

Paper Brand: Recollections

#of Visible Flaws: 7
Had difficulty with pointy swirl ends and the small holes inside the letters S & M.


Design Software

Cricut Design Space

Cricut Design Space is the web-based program that let you browse pages and pages of predesigned projects as well as design your own projects on your desktop, laptop, tablet and phone. Cricut Design Space houses over 50,000 images for you to choose from and more than 800 predesigned Make it Now projects. The Make It Now projects are already done for you and all you have to do it click “Go.”

Cricut Design Space also lets you upload your own .jpeg and .svg files as well as use your own fonts. It includes basic shape and editing features geared toward hobbyists.

Design Space for desktop or laptop computer does require a high-speed broadband internet connection. It could be painfully slow depending on your internet speed, however, there is an Offline feature for the iOS mobile Design Space app.

Silhouette Studio

Silhouette Studio Edition Comparisons

Edition Comparison - Click to Enlarge

Silhouette Studio - even in its basic form - is a very powerful software program allowing Silhouette users to create original designs with drag-and-drop tools that help you move, resize and add texture to your images, import a wide range of file formats, and use fonts on their computer all without the need for an Internet connection. (Internet is needed to sync files)

There are 4 Editions of the software, with progressively more robust feature sets. Let's highlight their main selling points.

Basic Edition

MSRP: FREE 
(You do not have to own a machine to download the software - Cricut Maker fans, you can download the software!!!)

  • Cut shapes from the Silhouette Design Store
  • Create designs using shapes, images, fonts, etc (including Print & Cut designs)
  • Trace images and convert to cuttable shapes
  • Grid display
  • Basic knife & eraser tools
  • Send designs to be cut on your Silhouette machine
  • Pop-up creator (basic)

Supported files: .png, .jpeg, .bmp, .gif, .tiff, .gsd/.gst, .dxf

Designer & Designer Plus Edition

MSRP: $49.99 or $74.99

  • Import SVG, GSD and DXF files 
  • Add custom fill patterns
  • Advanced knife and eraser functions - ability to change the size and shape
  • Create custom Rhinestone patterns
  • Select objects by line or fill color
  • Advanced sketch pen option
  • Nest designs into the smallest possible area automatically using the nesting feature limiting waste 
  • Transfer properties of one shape to another using the Transfer Properties tool
  • Shear tool - use to 'italicize' designs and text
  • Add a shadow effect with the Shadow tool 
  • Improved rulers and grids

Designer Edition Plus includes:

  • Import embroidery file types (PES, DST, EXP, JEF and XXX)
  • Unlocks Advanced Rhinestone features
Business Edition

MSRP: $99.99

Silhouette Studio Business Edition software is helpful for those running a Silhouette die cut business.

  • All Designer Edition Features
  • All Designer Edition PLUS Features
  • Cut with multiple machines simultaneously
  • Add auto weeding lines
  • Tiling Feature - split large designs apart
  • Advanced nesting features
  • Matrix copy feature - replicate designs
  • Media Layout View - less wasted material
  • Multiple Undo/Redo - big time saver!
  • Open Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw file types
  • Export SVG, PDF, JPG files to your computer - sell your own SVG creations!
  • All upgraded versions of Silhouette Studio are a one time purchase. They will go with you whether you update to a newer version of the software or move to another computer
  • Almost every Silhouette owner can benefit from Designer Edition. It will quickly pay for itself in free SVGs alone and make your Silhouette life smoother. Designer Plus is good for embroidery enthusiasts.
  • Business Edition is critical for designers, because of the save as SVG feature!
  • Whatever you do, don’t pay full price at the Silhouette store. The (affiliate) links in this post will take you to SVG Tools which offers among the best prices and perks and will get you upgraded in 24 hours (usually much quicker).

Cut Files Library

If you don't want to make your own designs, you can purchase pre-made designs from the Cricut Design Space or Silhouette Design Store. Once you buy a design it becomes your own.  

Both brands offer Subscription based pricing as an alternative to buying images individually, thereby 'renting' the image for the length of your membership.

Cricut Access & Cricut Design Space

Subscriptions pricing: $7.99 to $9.99 / month

Most downloads are $0.99 per file. With a subscription, every item with a green 'a' symbol is free to use for the length of your subscription. 

Enroll in a subscription >>

Additional perks: 

  • 10% savings on all product purchases on cricut.com
  • 10% savings on premium licensed fonts, images, and ready‑to‑make projects from brands like Disney, Sanrio, Simplicity, and Anna Griffin
  • Priority Member Care Line (50% less wait time)
  • Up to 50% savings on licensed fonts, images, and ready‑to‑make projects ($9.99 level)
  • Free economy shipping on orders over $50
    ($9.99 level)

Silhouette Design Store

Subscriptions pricing: $4.99 to $29.99 / month
Unused images rollover for 60 days.

Enroll in a subscription >>

Most downloads are $0.99 per file. With a subscription, images pricing can be reduced down to $0.13 per file.


Tools & Accessories

Cricut Tools & Accessories

Basic Tool Set
Tweezers, Weeder, Micro-tip scissors, Spatula, Scraper

Weeding Tool Set
Fine Tweezers, Hook Tweezers, Weeder, Hook Weeder, Piercer

Applicator and Remover Set
Broad-Tip Tweezers, Soft Rubber Roller

Sketch Pens
Fine-Point,
Extra-Fine
& Glitter Gel

Silhouette Tools & Accessories

Tool Kit
Hook, Scraper, Ruler,
Spatula, Pick-me-up, Microfiber cloth

Sketch Pens
Fine-Point
& Glitter

Vinyl & Heat-Transfer Roll Feeder

Dust Cover


Costs of Ownership Long-Term

Cricut Air Explore 2 Costs

CONSUMABLES

MSRP COSTS

AMAZON COST

Premium Fine-Point Blade Replacement Kit

$14.99

Deep Cut Blade Replacement Kit (2 ct.)

$16.99

Bonded Fabric Blade + Housing (for Fabric)

$34.99

Scoring Tip + Housing (for Folds)

$14.99

LightGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 12"

$17.99

LightGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 24

$20.99

StandardGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 12" (2 ct.)

$14.99

StandardGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 24" (2 ct.)

$20.99

Machine Mat Variety Pack - Light, Standard, Strong Grips, 12" x 12" (4 ct.)

$69.95

Machine Mat Variety Pack - Light, Standard, Strong Grips, 12" x 24" (4 ct.)

$69.95

StrongGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 12" 

$17.99

StrongGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 24

$20.99

Fabric Grip Machine Mat, 12" x 12"

$19.99

Fabric Grip Machine Mat, 12" x 24"

$20.99

Plus costs of cut files and material for cutting.

Cricut Maker Costs

CONSUMABLES

MSRP COSTS

AMAZON COST

Premium Fine-Point Blade Replacement Kit

$14.99

Knife Blade Replacement Kit (for Deep Cuts)

$19.99

Rotary Blade Replacement Kit (for Fabric)

$16.99

Scoring Wheel Tip (for Folds)

$19.99

LightGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 12" 

$17.99

LightGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 24

$20.99

StandardGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 12" (2 ct.)

$14.99

StandardGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 24" (2 ct.)

$20.99

Machine Mat Variety Pack - Light, Standard, Strong Grips, 12" x 12" (4 ct.)

$69.95

Machine Mat Variety Pack - Light, Standard, Strong Grips, 12" x 24" (4 ct.)

$69.95

StrongGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 12" 

$17.99

StrongGrip Machine Mat, 12" x 24

$20.99

Fabric Grip Machine Mat, 12" x 12"

$19.99

Fabric Grip Machine Mat, 12" x 24"

$20.99

Plus costs of cut files and material for cutting.

Silhouette Cameo 3 Costs

CONSUMABLES

MSRP COSTS

AMAZON COST

Premium Blade

$19.99

Deep-Cut Blade

$24.99

Auto Blade

$12.99

Fabric Blade

$12.99

Light Tack Cameo Cutting Mat, 12" x 12" 

$14.99

Cameo Cutting Mat, 12" x 12" 

$14.99

Cameo Cutting Mat, 12" x 24

$19.99

Strong Tack Cameo Cutting Mat, 12" x 12" 

$14.99

PixScan Cameo Cutting Mat, 12" x 12" 

$14.99

Plus costs of cut files and material for cutting.


Silhouette vs. Cricut: Final Thoughts

Cricut Explore Air 2: Great all-around die cut machine at the hobbyist level. With 350g of cut force, it's enough to cut all scrapbooking, cardmaking, and paper crafting designs. You get the Cricut Design Space software and you can purchase access to it's cut files and project files. More cut force than the Silhouette Cameo 3, but my cut tests show minimal differences in cut quality. With the Maker being Cricut's flagship model, it makes you question how much longer the Explore Air 2 will exist and be supported. Will there be an Explore Air 3 out soon that makes the 2 obsolete? Only time will tell.

Cricut Maker: With an impressive 4,000g cut force, 10X the others, you'll feel unlimited in what you can cut! Up to 3/32 in. thick! It's Adaptive Tool Set is a dream fulfilled - automatically setting cut force pressures & controlling the direction of the blades. Attention Sewers, thick to thin intricate Fabric designs are easy peasy with the rotary blade. Cricut Design Space has even added Sewing Patterns to their Library. Perfect for the Craftpreneur who will be making all sorts of items to keep up with trends to earn a living from your die cut machine. Get ready to dominate Etsy! Cricut is currently testing more tools to work with their new adaptive cut system, so as time goes on, this machine will get better and better! If the cut quality and variety of materials is the most important factors for you, then the Cricut Maker is for you.

All Cricuts: I only wish the Design Space software got the same attention to detail and improvements that their machines get - it's web-based, which means if you have limited internet connection, you'll have to deal with it, it could be painfully slow depending on your internet speed, or get their iOS app for using the machine and Design Space offline. Also it isn't as robust of a creation tool as the Silhouette Studio or Adobe Illustrator is in terms of functionality. I primarily design in Adobe Illustrator and then import my file into Design Space.

Silhouette Cameo 3: Equal to the Cricut Explore Air 2, well suited to the hobbyist level die cutter. Calling all Teachers, Cameo 3 can cut designs up to 10 ft long without having to break them up into sections! Knock out your classroom decorations in a snap. Cameo 3 can be automatic in it's cut pressure settings, by using the Autoblade, but you'll need multiple passes with it's low 210g of cut force as your material gets thicker. Vinyl & T-shirt artists enjoy the Roll Feeder accessory that eliminates the limitation of 12x12 vinyl & heat-transfer sheets, as well as the crosscutter in the rear. Silhouette Studio Software blows away Cricut's Design Space, hands down.

This post does include affiliate links to all machines & accessories for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission which helps keep my blog up and running but it won't cost you a penny more)!

If you’re in the market for a die cut machine, you’re probably trying to decide between a Cricut & Silhouette - but which one and more importantly why? I will compare features, costs, cut quality with pictures, Software, File Libraries and more!
  • This is the best comparison of machines I have seen! I really enjoyed the breakdown on every level and now I think I’ve made up my mind to go with cricut for sure! Thanks for doing this for all of us!

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