Disclosure: This is a blog about comparing two products. As such, this post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended, without additional cost to you. Regardless, our reviews are not influenced by the product manaufacturers . As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details.
Cricut vs Silhouette: Which Popular Crafty Cutting Machine Brand is Right for You?
Are you looking for the best cutting machine for your arts and crafts? Chances are you’ve heard about the Cricut and the Silhouette. These two brands are often compared to each other simply because they’re one of the most famous names in the cutting machine business. But which one is better?
To make things easier to compare, only one model from one brand will go head-to-head with each other. For the Cricut, you’re going to know more about the Cricut Explore Air and for the Silhouette, it’s the Silhouette Cameo.
Cricut Explore Air
Table of Contents
A Thorough Comparison
The Silhouette Cameo
The Silhouette Cameo has been around for quite some time now so you might think it’s a little outdated. Does it still work? Of course. However, it might not be as sophisticated as the newer versions of the Silhouette. Nonetheless, it’s a cutting machine a lot of people love so that says a lot about the quality of Silhouette models.
What’s great about the Silhouette Cameo? If you will notice, it looks a lot like a printer. Its color and build feel a lot like it can be best paired with the older Microsoft desktop computers – gray, long, and neutral-colored. While it looks old and serious, the Cameo does offer a wide range of materials that it can cut. It can cut thick and tough materials so if you plan on cutting some leather, you won’t have trouble using it with the Cameo.
Other than design and materials, the Cameo is best known not for the actual machine, but for the design software. If you’re a professional craftsman or you just want to explore and create your own designs, the Silhouette Studio is a great program. It’s loved by graphic artists and that’s because you can do so many different things. It’s a free software that comes with the Cameo but if you want to upload your own designs, you have to pay $50 for the premium version.
Pros and Cons of the Silhouette Cameo
What are the pros of the Silhouette Cameo? Obviously, it’s the Silhouette Studio. Even on the paid version, the Silhouette Studio shows that you can create intricate designs which your machine can cut. You can choose from fonts and other shapes to help create the design you want.
Another advantage of having the Silhouette Cameo is its versatility. Even for an old version, it’s able to cut so many different materials. It can also load large sizes of materials so you don’t need to do the extra loading for a couple of times. If you just love to have everything in one go, then this machine is for you.
But what about its cons? Just like any machine, the Silhouette Cameo comes with its own set of disadvantages. It’s not perfect after all. One of the most obvious disadvantages of the Silhouette Cameo is its ease of use. It’s ironic, right? You’d expect that all cutting machines can be used fairly easily.
The same can’t be said about the Cameo because a number of users have a hard time loading the material especially if it’s vinyl. There’ll be several failures along the process and it can be very annoying when you hate wasting any material.
The Cricut Explore Air
Now for the Cricut Explore Air. How is it any different from the Cameo? You’ll get to that later. For now, you have to know that the Explore Air is the older version of the Cricut Explore Air 2. This means that it doesn’t have all the features the Explore Air 2 has, but it still works just as well.
So what do you need to know about the Cricut Explore Air? For one thing, it looks a little more stylish because it comes in many pastel colors. If you like cute and retro designs, you’ll absolutely love the Explore Air. Did you know that it also has storage space for your blades and your tools? Not only is it a cute cutting machine, but it’s also an organizer for your tools.
Just like the Silhouette Cameo, the Cricut Explore Air is used with a design program where you will create your designs. It’s called Design Space and it often comes with a few free projects. You can also load your own designs without having to pay for anything on top.
Pros and Cons of the Cricut Explore Air
Cricut is known for creating powerful and versatile cutting machines. The good news is that the Explore Air is no exception. It can cut through 100 different materials and you can use the tray that comes with it to bond your vinyl or your fabric. This means that you won’t have to worry about jams when the machine starts cutting. This saves you a lot of effort and frustration.
The most talked-about advantage, though, is the ease of use. When it comes to cutting machines, Cricut is one of the easiest cutting machines you’ll ever find. Even if you’re a beginner, you won’t have a hard time using it. The Design Space is also intuitive so you won’t need to spend hours figuring out how to make your own designs. Plus, you can continue your project on your computer or on your phone or tablet.
However, the disadvantage of the Explore Air is that the things you can design in Design Space are limited. If you love making your own designs, then this might be a drawback because the shapes, fonts, and symbols are not as many as the Silhouette Cameo.
The Explore Air is also not the strongest Cricut machine. If you’re on the hunt for the machine that has more than the cutting force of the Explore Air, then it has to be the Cricut Maker. This means even when it comes to pressure and strength, the Explore Air also has its own weaknesses.
Silhouette Cameo vs. Cricut Explore Air: Which One is Better?
Now, this is the part you’ve been waiting for – the comparison. There are a lot of differences between the two even if they do the same thing. Here are the factors that each has. Who will be the winner for each category?
Which has the better design? For obvious reasons, to say which design is better is rather subjective, so instead of dwelling on that, here you’ll get an idea which one fits what you’re looking for.
When it comes to size, the Cameo and the Explore Air are almost the same size and weight. However, their main difference is the interface of the whole machine and the storage space. Unfortunately, there’s no storage space for your tools in the Cameo. For Explore Air, there’s a spacious tool holder at the side opposite of the controls.
If you’re into the retro look for your machines, you might be inclined to buy the Explore Air over the Cameo because the latter looks plain in comparison to the Cricut counterpart.
Which machine cuts through more materials? Fortunately, both the Cricut Explore Air and the Silhouette Cameo have a long list of materials that you can use. This is a good thing because all the popular and common crafting materials will be cut using the blades that come with these machines.
What are those materials? The most common ones are vinyl, craft foam, thin leather, and cardstock. These are commonly used by beginners and expert craftsmen.
For this one, both the cutting machines are great choices for a lot of materials. If there’s a specific material you want, you can check the list of materials they can cut on their website.
For this comparison, taking into account the design software is just as important as comparing the two machines. Why? This is because most of your time will be spent on the design software especially when you plan on creating your own designs. Remember, all the work is really done before you hit that cut button.
The design software for Silhouette Cameo is called Silhouette Studio which comes for free. However, it comes with a catch. If you want to upload .svg images (.svg images are the most common file format for cutting designs available on the Web), then you must pay $50.
If you don’t want to that money, you can opt to buy the designs at the Silhouette Studio. However, if you plan on buying a lot, might as well pay the $50 so you don’t have to keep paying every time.
On the other hand, the Design Space offers a monthly fee if you want to download Access designs. The Access designs are only available when you’re an Access member, though, so it’s best that you use them when you subscribe.
When you compare the two design studios, the Silhouette Studio wins when it comes to the many designs you can try. And it’s not just designs, too. The way you design on the platform is also a lot better because it has a number of tools. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Design Space because the tools and designs are very limited.
Ease of Use
If the Explore Air is better, does that mean that the Cameo is not user-friendly? Yes and no.
First, the Explore Air is really very easy to use even if you don’t compare it to other cutting machines. The instructions and tools are straightforward that even those who are new to crafts can easily find their way around it. This gives the Explore Air a huge plus in this comparison.
Second, the Cameo usually experiences failures when it comes to loading and cutting materials. For example, if you load vinyl onto it, it will most likely experience a jam because there’s no tray to keep it flat. You won’t get that problem with the Explore Air because it has a tray holding any material down.
After several failed attempts, you would have wasted a lot of your materials, so the Silhouette Cameo is not ideal if you are short-tempered and if you don’t like wasting materials and time.
At the end of the day, even if you’ve struggled with your cutting machine, the finished product is what will make all your effort worth it. So which machine gives a higher quality to its cut?
While the Silhouette Cameo is not that bad, it has a lot to improve on in terms of accuracy and pressure for its tools. Ideally, it should be able to adapt to the material when you change it. However, that’s not the case. On the other hand, the Explore Air already has a few enhancements on its technology. It uses smart technology that helps adjust the pressure for different materials.
Who wins? It’s the Cricut Explore Air since it gives a great cut regardless of the material. Sure, there are materials that will take longer to cut, but you can always expect an accurate outline after.
Lastly, there’s the price. The Explore Air retails for $249 while the Silhouette Cameo comes with a $299 price tag. If you buy it from other stores, you might have a discount, but that’s generally how much they will be if you buy them brand new.
That’s not the final price yet. What if you want to subscribe to their design platform? For the Explore Air, consider the $9.99 of monthly payments to get Cricut Access. Since this is a monthly subscription, you can cancel anytime which is a good thing if you realized you don’t need it by the next month. For the Cameo, the $50 is paid once a year and you can already get the paid features.
Overall, the Cricut Explore Air and the Silhouette Cameo are two great cutting machines. If your priority is being able to make your own designs, then you might find the Cameo better. It has a more extensive design platform that allows more detailed and advanced editing. But if you want a more high-quality cut and an easy-to-use interface, then there’s no doubt it’s Cricut Explore Air.