Which Die Cutting Machine Should I Pick?

Which Die Cutting Machine Should I Pick?

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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.




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1 comment

Can you use the design software for one machine on a different brand? For example, the canvas Workspace on a Cricut machine?
Thanks so much!

Kay Williams

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