How to Decide which Cutting Machine is Best for You

There are plethoras of different electronic cutting and embossing machines to choose from, and it can be overwhelming to make a decision. Some of these machines aren't necessarily "cheap" either, so we'd like to give you a comprehensive view of your options before you make a purchase. Even if you have decided on a specific brand that you might like, many brands make more than one kind of cutting machine, each with different pricing and capabilities. You may choose to start with a simpler machine for basic projects, but later switch to a different machine/brand to create projects that are more complex. There are many factors that come in to play when you are deciding which machine is best for you, and that all depends on your budget, projects you plan on making, and knowledge about certain software… So let's get started.

1. Cricut Maker

a. Currently dominating the market, the Cricut Maker is thought to have the greatest capability and best strength. The machine is relatively quiet and can cut & emboss hundreds of materials including wood and leather. This is a great machine for cutting firmer, thick materials with speed and precision. The software meant for the Cricut Maker is relatively easy to learn, free (with optional subscription), and there are many tutorials on how to work the systems. The retail price for one of these machines is about $400, so its not the cheapest, but well worth the price. You will notice many advanced professionals on YouTube using this machine, but that does not mean it is not meant for beginners.

2. Cricut Explore Air

a. Made by the same company as the previous, the Cricut Explore is a more compact version of the Maker. It still has incredible versatility, but not necessarily as "strong," meaning it can't cut materials like leather and wood. The Design Space software is the same, and the machine itself comes in at a much cheaper price of $250. This is a really good option if you are wanting to do more vinyl, paper, and ink transfer projects.

3. Silhouette Cameo

a. Many regard the Cameo to be the best Silhouette machine, and it is most frequently compared to the Cricut Explore Air. The cameo is very compact and has all of the necessary capabilities for creating stickers, decals,etc. Like the Explore Air, the Cameo cannot cut thicker materials like fabric, leather or wood, but is still suitable for over a hundred lighter-duty materials. The newest Cameo is $300, and its Silhouette Studio software has different levels. Their basic software is free, but their most complex software is $75, which.

4. Silhouette Curio

a. The Curio is meant to be used in conjunction with the Cameo rather than as a replacement. The Curio can emboss, deboss, etch, stipple, and can handle thicker materials, which is amazing for a wider range of projects. You may be thinking that if this machine has more capability than the cameo, then it must be better, but not necessarily. The Curio does not have as large of a cutting capacity, auto-adjustments, or the Bluetooth connectivity that the Cameo has, but it comes in at $250.

5. Silhouette Portrait

a. This is the most basic of all three cutting machines offered by Silhouette, however is perfect for those who are only looking for the simple cutting capability. The machine does not work as fast, and isn't the best for extremely intricate designs. However, it is the cheapest option offered by Silhouette, and it still gets the job done. With a price of $200, the Portrait is perfect for those getting started in smaller cutting crafts.

6. Brother ScanNCut

a. The Brother ScanNCut machines stand out from other brands mainly because of its "scan" feature. This means that the machine can scan an image that is on your paper/material and cut it out. This machine still works with SVG files, but files are not necessary in using the scan feature. The machine only cuts the lighter-duty materials, but is good for those aiming to make paper crafts, stickers, and decals. You can edit your files and cuts on the free CanvasWorkspace software or on the machine's touchscreen, a perfect option for those who do not want to deal with a computer or external apps.The highest model is $400, but you can get a model for as low as $305.

7. Honorable mentions

a. Sizzix Eclips (discontinued) - Sizzix still makes manual die cutting machines that work with a crank, and if that's more your style, check out their Sizzix Big Shot.

b. Gemini by Crafter's Companion is not a manual crank, but it is also not an electric cutting machine. It moves the die on top of the paper and through itself, but the die cuts the material instead of a moving blade.

Important things to remember when picking out a machine:

  • The projects you want to make
  • The cost of the machine
  • The cost of the software
  • If you even want to use a software vs. in-machine editing