Which Die Cutting Machine Should I Pick?

If you craft, a digital die cutting machine will open so many doors for you!  You cannot pass up the accuracy and intricacy of cuts that you can achieve with an electronic die cutting machine.  With so many machines on the market, you may be at a loss as to which one to pick.  Below are the top brands of die cutting machines currently available and some things to consider if you’re looking for a new tool:

Which die cutting machine should you choose? Silhouette Cameo 3, Cameo 2, Curio, Brother Scan N Cut, Explore Air and Explore Air 2.

Which die cutting machine you should pick largely depends on the type of crafter you are, how tech savvy you are and what types of materials you want to work with.  Below is a list of popular die cutting machines along with some information about what makes each one special.  The machines have largely similar output, but the software differs quite a bit and each machine has it’s strong points.  You can download the software for each machine from their respective manufacturers for free from their websites (find a list of them below).  If you play with the software, you may find one that fits best with your crafting needs, but here are a few more things to consider:

Silhouette Cameo 3 from Silhouette America

Silhouette cameo 3 machine.

The Silhouette Cameo 3 is the newest machine released by Silhouette America.  The Cameo 3 sports built in touch screen with speakers, dual carriage to do two things at once, built in storage and Bluetooth capabilities.   You can cut materials from 12 inches wide to 16.5 feet long and up to 2 mm thick!  If you are working with materials that have a backing (such as heat transfer vinyl or adhesive backed vinyl), you can cut with or without a cutting mat.  With the Silhouette Cameo, you can cut vinyl for home decor, heat transfer material for custom made t-shirts, draw or sketch designs, and cut paper for scrapbooking or card making.   The Silhouette Cameo runs on the powerful Silhouette Studio software.  With just the base software, you can create your own designs and use any font on your computer.  With optional software upgrades, you can bring in SVG files and have even greater design capabilities including being able to work with CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator files directly without converting them first (with Silhouette Connect).  If you’re not feeling creative, you can also purchase designs from the Silhouette Design store (where you’ll also find a weekly freebie!).  The Silhouette software is PC and Mac friendly and can be used with or without an internet connection.  Find all our Silhouette Cameo 3 machine bundles here. 

Silhouette Cameo 2 from Silhouette America

Silhouette Cameo 2 machine.

The Silhouette Cameo 2 is the previous version of the Silhouette Cameo.  While this version of the machines lacks the Bluetooth capabilities and dual carriage of the Cameo3 machine, it uses the same Silhouette Studio software and is just as powerful and versatile as the Cameo3 machine.  Just plug your machine into your computer (via the included USB cord) when you need to complete a job.  The Cameo 2 can get you all the design power of a Silhouette Cameo machine with a smaller price tag.  Find all our Silhouette Cameo 2 machine bundles here. 

Silhouette Curio from Silhouette America

Silhouette Curio machine.If you want to sketch, etch, stipple or emboss & deboss, check out the Curio.  The Silhouette Curio runs using the same software as the Cameo2 and Cameo3, but it has a smaller footprint.  The Curio can cut 8.5 inches wide and up to 6 inches long.  With the optional larger base, you can cut 8.5 inches wide and up to 12 inches long.  The Curio can emboss paper for card making using the included wide and fine embossing tools, create stippled designs with a stippling tool or on paper with a marker or pen, and etch metal sheets with the etching tool.  You can cut and draw, draw with two pens or emboss and cut all using the dual carriage.  The Curio is great for small projects like custom jewelry and is especially useful for card making or smaller projects.  With a 5mm clearance bar, you can work with thicker materials using the deep cut blade as well.  Find all our Silhouette Curio bundles here. 

Cricut Explore Air from ProvoCraft

Cricut Explore Air machine.The Circut Explore Air is user friendly and features a Smart Set dial, which makes setting the adjustments for different materials simple.  Go from cutting vinyl to lightweight leather and more with just a twist of the dial.  Create your own designs, purchase designs online or use Cricut cartridges.  You can work with Cricut Design Space online, or save your files for use when working offline.  The Explore Air also features Bluetooth capabilities to cut without being connected to your computer, a dual carriage to do two things at once, and is PC, Mac and iOS mobile friendly.  If you want to cut ready-made designs, the Explore Air might be the perfect fit for you.  Find all our Cricut Explore Air bundles here. 

Circut Explore Air 2 from ProvoCraft

Cricut Explore Air 2 machine.

The Explore Air 2 machines are the most recently released Cricut Explore Air machine from ProvoCraft.  Both the Explore Air and Explore Air 2 have the same features, but the Explore Air 2 has FastMode allowing you to cut and write up to 2x as fast on materials such as vinyl, iron-on and cardstock.  Find all our Cricut Explore Air 2 bundles here. 

Scan N Cut2 CM350 from Brother

Brother Scan N Cut 2 CM350.The Scan N Cut 2 CM350 machine from Brother was made with sewers and quilters in mind.  You can cut vinyl, paper and heat transfer with it as well!  The Scan N Cut is the only electronic die cutting machine with a built in scanner (the Silhouette and Cricut machines can do similar jobs, but you must take a picture and import it into the software first).  You can use the Scan N Cut online (an activation card will be required and is sold separately), or as a stand-alone machine.  With over 600 designs built in and 7 fonts, you don’t need a PC or the internet to use the ScanNCut.  Find all our Scan N Cut items here.

Software to try:

One of the biggest differences in these machines is the software that you use to run them.  If you’re more inclined to make your own designs, check out the Silhouette Software here: Silhouette Studio Software

The Cricut machines can also be used to create your own designs, but are not as easy to customize your designs as the Silhouette.  Download and try out the Cricut Design Space here.

While you can use the Brother Scan N Cut machines without the PC, you can try out the Brother Scan N Cut Canvas here to get a feel for the software here.

Some further considerations:

There are a few things that would lead to a recommendation for one machine over the others.  If you want to make your own designs, you can use any of the machines, but the Silhouette has the most versatile software for designing.  With an interface that is similar to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, designers will pick up Silhouette Studio quickly.  If you’re not a designer, no worries, you can use purchased designs as well and have all the designing done for you.  Most designs are $0.99 and once you buy them, they’re yours to keep.  The software is not so complicated that you HAVE to be a designer, but it’s nice to know you have full control over your designs if you want to make alterations on your designs too.

If you want to work mostly with premade designs, or feel less tech-savvy you may want to consider the Cricut.  Of the machines listed above, the Explore Air is rumored to be the easiest of the machines to take out of the box and start crafting with.  With very little knowledge of the machine or software, even a new user should be able to create a beginner project.  If you have a lot of Cricut cartridges, the Cricut is also an obvious choice as you’ll be able to use all those cartridge designs with the Explore Air or Explore Air 2 as well.

If you do a lot of sewing and quilting, the Brother Scan N Cut machine is a shoe-in.  While you can cut fabric with both the Silhouette and the Cricut, the Scan N Cut was designed with this task in mind.  With the built in scanner, you can cut out fabric designs faster than the other machines.  Being able to use the machine independent of a computer may also sway you to a Scan N Cut machine.



13 Replies to “Which Die Cutting Machine Should I Pick?”

  1. I know there has not been much activity for two years but I thought I would try.
    I’m a quilter and have three things I wish to do
    1. Cut fabric shapes for machine appliqué. I know all three can do this.
    2. Cut fabric shapes for hand appliqué – with NO backing
    I think the newest Scan N Cut and the Cricut will be able to do this
    Will either one?
    3. Cut quilting templates and draw sewing lines and othe detail using heat -resistance template film, cut templates. The pattern and details for these templates would have been created already.
    I think the scan n cut can do this, not sure of the others.
    Can’t tell if the material I wish to cut is too thick or dense.

    Patty says:
    1. Hey Patty!
      Thanks so much for stopping by! This post is a little older, and there is a new machine that came out since this post was made. I think the Cricut Maker would be perfect for you! The rotary blade can be used to cut without stabilizing or backing the fabric first. The Maker can also draw in your sewing lines, and cut different templates.

      Hope this helps! Please send me a message if you have more questions!

      Kala says:
  2. Hi, I’m looking to purchase a cutter for making t-shirts. mainly writing on vinyl.
    which one do you think would be best for this?

    Magda says:
  3. Which of these machines are quiet? I live in an apartment & like to craft very late at night or early morning.

    Samantha Baker says:
  4. I’m having so many issues deciding which cutter will work for me. I will use it for many projects but the most immediate one will be printing photographs of children and then cutting their faces out perfectly. I can not figure out if any of these machines can do this.

    I would prefer to use the software as little as possible and I will be doing ALL of my own designing. I am very advanced in illustrator and photoshop so I need the machine I purchase to work well using these. I previously worked at a promo company as a designer and production artist so I think this mindset is confusing things for me. Ideally I’d like a cutter like my old company had where you create cut paths in illustrator and the machine cuts it to perfection. Unfortunately I do not have the budget for this nor the understanding of how these smaller scale cutters actually work.

    Based on what I just said, is there an affordable, non industrial cutter for me? Again, I am needing to print a photograph and then create a cut path for the cutter and feed the already printed photo into the cutter which will then cut the shape in the exact spot on the existing print. Is this crazy?! Please help.

    Sarah says:
    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for the question! Let me see if I can help point you in the right direction… The top two selling brands of die cutting machines that we have are Cricut and Silhouette. Both brands make a machine that may work for you. Let me explain a few options and why you may want one machine over the other.

      The main difference comes down to software. I find that the Silhouette software feels a lot like Photoshop. There are layers, node editing, welding, grouping, etc. The basic Silhouette software gives you a lot of options on how to edit your images, but you can upgrade your software to unlock even more usability. If you are set on not using the die cutting machines software to design, Silhouette offers Silhouette Connect which will allow you to connect your Cameo machine to Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw without having to convert your file to something Silhouette will understand. If you are willing to learn though, I think you’ll find the Silhouette software intuitive if you are familiar with the Adobe Suite.

      Circut offers two different machines for you to consider, the Explore Air 2 and the Maker. The main difference between the two is the Maker has a rotary blade (and will eventually have a knife blade). This means the Maker can handle fabric without having to stabilize it first and can also cut thicker materials like balsa and bass wood, leather, etc. When it comes to software, Cricut does not quite have the functionality of Silhouette. While you can design your own images in both software programs, the Cricut is harder to really refine your design. There is also no software connector for Cricut to use Illustrator. You may be able to save your file as an SVG file and open it in Cricut, but you may need to convert the file into something that Cricut will understand.

      For the project you mentioned of taking photos and editing them to have the machine cut, any of these machines should be able to do that. I think the Silhouette would be easier to use though, because you can trace right in Silhouette Studio and then edit and refine the image. If you already have a printed image, the Silhouette has a PixScan mat that you can use to scan the image into your software to then have the machine cut it out.

      I think the Silhouette would likely be the best fit for your needs. If you have additional questions or need some help picking a bundle, please give me a call and I can walk you though some options depending on your needs. We can be reached at 800-236-3877.

      Hope this helps!

      Kala says:
  5. Great information on vinyl cutters! I am a huge fan myself of the Silhouette cutter and easy cut studio software It’s worked really well for me when cutting vinyl decals.

    Anonymous says:
  6. I have the first Scan & Cut vs the Sand & Cut 2 and decided not to upgrade yet because it’s working fine for what I do.

    Mary Martin says:
  7. I’ve used a Cricut, it was good. Then my friend bought the 1st Scan&Cut that came out a few years ago. She gave it to me to try it out for a week. I have wanted my own ever since! I’m not a quilter, I’m a paper crafter, I made cards. OH, MY………… LOVE THIS MACHINE! It takes some trial and error to get the cutting thickness right and learn a few tricks. I love that I can stamp multiple images using my own rubber stamps, scan it through the machine, and then it cuts them all out for me! WHAT A TIME SAVER! ♡♡ You do need to have a solid continuous line for it to detect & cut along.
    TRICK I learned:
    For those images where the line stops or is not a clear outline & it won’t cut, I found I can tape a piece of clear acetate (that clear plastic that stickers come on), draw the outline where I want it to cut on the acetate, scan it through the machine, then quickly remove that acetate before it pulls through the machine again to cut (the image is saved in the machine), and it cuts the whole image out perfectly!
    No more fussy-cutting!
    I don’t know of anything else that does that!

    Laura I Garrett says:
  8. This is GREAT! My daughter has a Cricut and I saw a Brother scan and cut today. I’m pretty sure that’s the one for me.

    Janie says:
  9. Great info on vinyl cutter machines! I am a huge fan myself of the Silhouette Cameo 3. It’s worked really well for me when cutting vinyl decals to decorate my kids’ rooms. Thanks for the post!

    Kelly C says:
  10. What if you have a picture you would like to copy and cut. Can either the cricut or the silouette do that. Or even if you have the p i cture on you computer(lets say a fairy) and you want to cut it out to look like you picture. Can this be done?

    lainie blum says:
    1. Hi Lainie,
      Yes! You can bring in a photo into Silhouette Studio (I’m not sure about Cricut as I’m still learning). For Silhouette Studio, you would save the image to your computer, then open it in Silhouette Studio. Once you open the image in Silhouette Studio, you can trace it and detach the image, then you’ll be able to print the image or use it for other projects. Here’s a tutorial on how to do print and cut, which you could apply to a fairy image as well) – http://www.craft-e-corner.com/blog/2016/04/silhouette-102-how-to-make-print-cut-files-from-scratch.html

      Hope this helps!

      Kala says:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.