Best electronic cutting machine for Cricut and Silhouette in 2021


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After an outcry from the community, Cricut announced that it would no longer advance changes to its subscription service.
On March 16, Cricut published a blog post stating that it will soon limit users who use the free Design Space application to 20 uploads per month and require a paid subscription for unlimited uploads.Crickart abandoned the change less than a week after announcing the change.Users of the free design space can still upload unlimited designs without a subscription.
Electronic cutting machines can engrave images with vinyl, cardstock, and ironing transfer paper-some can even cut leather and wood.They are a powerful tool for all craftsmen, whether you are DIY everything or just want to make some stickers.Since 2017, we have always recommended Cricut Explore Air 2 because it does a lot and is cheaper than most other cutting machines.The machine’s software is easy to learn, the blades are accurate, and Cricut’s picture library is huge.
The machine provides the simplest and easy-to-learn software, smooth cutting, huge image and project library, and strong community support.It is expensive, but very suitable for beginners.
Thanks to the user-friendly software, we found the Cricut machine to be more intuitive for beginners.The company provides selected images and ready-made items (such as greeting cards), and provides better customer support than competitors in case you run into trouble.Although Cricut Explore Air 2 is not the newest or fastest machine we have tested, it is one of the quietest machines.Cricut also offers great bundles, with discounts for accessories that you need to purchase separately (such as extra blades and spare cutting mats).If you want to upgrade to a newer machine, Explore Air 2 has one of the higher resale values.
The cutting speed of Maker is faster than any machine we have tested, and it can cut fabrics and thicker materials effortlessly.It has updatable software, so it should stay up-to-date for longer.
For beginners, Cricut Maker is as easy to learn as Cricut Explore Air 2.It is also the fastest and quietest machine we have tested, and one of the only machines that can cut fabric without the need for ribs (such as joints).Cricut’s design library contains thousands of images and items, from small sewing patterns to paper crafts, and the machine’s software is updatable, so the Maker may last longer than competing models.Since we first tested it in 2017, its price has dropped, but since it is still more than $100 more expensive than Explore Air 2 as of the publication of this article, we recommend that you only buy Maker when you sew a lot of small items and want to use it Heavy duty-working materials, or require extra speed and quietness.
The machine provides the simplest and easy-to-learn software, smooth cutting, huge image and project library, and strong community support.It is expensive, but very suitable for beginners.
The cutting speed of Maker is faster than any machine we have tested, and it can cut fabrics and thicker materials effortlessly.It has updatable software, so it should stay up-to-date for longer.
As a senior staff writer at Wirecutter, I mainly report on bedding and textiles, but I have been engaged in production for many years and have owned and used various models of silhouette and cricut machines.When I was an elementary school librarian, I used them to make bulletin board cutouts, signs, holiday decorations, bookshelves, bookmarks, and vinyl decals to decorate my whiteboard.At home, I made card flags, car decals, cards, party gifts and decorations, T-shirts, clothing and home decoration items.I have been reviewing cutters for seven years; the last four were used for Wirecutter and previously used for the blog GeekMom.
In this guide, I interviewed Melissa Viscount, who runs the sketch school blog; Lia Griffith, a designer who uses cricuts to create many projects on her website; and Ruth Suehle (I know her through GeekMom), a Craftsman and serious role player, she uses her cutting machine for various projects, including costumes and party decorations.Many outstanding craftsmen and teachers who use knives prefer Cricut or Silhouette, so we also contacted Stahls’, a company that sells professional equipment for clothing decoration companies, to get some unbiased information about how these machines work.Jenna Sackett, an educational content expert on the Stahls TV website, explained to us the difference between a commercial cutter and a personal cutter.All our experts have provided us with a list of features and standards to look for when testing and recommending machines.
Electronic cutters are a powerful tool for hobbyists, teachers, manufacturers selling works in markets such as Etsy, or anyone who just wants to cut occasional shapes (although if you only use it once, it’s an expensive indulgence) wait a minute) .You can use these machines to make items such as stickers, vinyl decals, custom cards and party decorations.They use software that allows you to create, upload, or purchase pre-made designs that you want to cut, and cut out designs from a variety of materials.Usually, if you use a pen instead of a blade, they can also draw.A quick tour of Instagram hashtags shows the various projects that people make using these machines.
Keep in mind that these machines have a learning curve, especially software.Melissa Viscount from the Silhouette School blog told us that she heard from many beginners that they were intimidated by their machines and the complex projects they saw online and never used it out of the box.Ruth Suehle told us the same situation: “I bought it after a while. I have a friend who bought one and put it on his shelf.” If you are satisfied with the online tutorials and manuals, or if you have someone who can teach you Friends, this will help.It also helps to learn the basics from simple projects such as simple vinyl decals.
Combining my years of experience in using, testing and reviewing these machines with the advice of experts I interviewed, I came up with the following standard list of cutting machines:
In my initial 2017 test, I spent a lot of time using Silhouette Studio and Cricut Design software on HP Spectre and MacBook Pro running Windows 10—about 12 hours in total.Before I start cutting anything, I use these two programs to try to create basic designs, view their projects and image collections, and directly ask the company about certain features.I checked the online tutorials and the Cricut and Silhouette help sections to learn some new technologies, and I noticed which software feels more intuitive, and clearly marked tools can help me get started.
I also calculated the time required to set up the machine (all four were less than 10 minutes), and how easy it was to start the project.I evaluated the cutting speed and noise level of the machine.I changed the blade, used a pen, and paid attention to the cutting effect of the machine and their accuracy in predicting the correct cutting depth of the blade.I made a complete project with vinyl, cardstock, and stickers to understand how the process and quality are all the way to the finished craftsmanship.I have also tried cutting fabrics, but some machines require additional tools and products to do so.We weighed this test lightly because we believe that cutting fabrics is not the main reason most people buy cutting machines.
For the 2019 and 2020 updates, I tried three other machines from Cricut, Silhouette and Brother.It took me some time to get used to the software updates of Cricut and Silhouette, and to learn Brother’s software, which is completely new to me.(It took about five hours of testing time.) I performed most of the same remaining tests as in 2017 on the other three machines: how long does it take to set the timer; replace the blade and pen; from vinyl, cardstock, and Cut items on self-adhesive paper; and evaluate each brand’s image and item library.These tests took another eight hours.
In the update in early 2021, I tested two new silhouette machines, retested Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Maker, recorded new notes and made new comparisons of their performance.I also use software from both companies to test updates and evaluate changes to their image libraries.These tests took a total of 12 hours.
The machine provides the simplest and easy-to-learn software, smooth cutting, huge image and project library, and strong community support.It is expensive, but very suitable for beginners.
Since Cricut Explore Air 2 was released at the end of 2016, newer and more shiny cutters have appeared, but it is still our first choice for beginners.Cricut’s user-friendly software is unparalleled, the cutting effect of the blade is cleaner than anything we have tested from Silhouette or Brother, and the library of images and items is very extensive (easier to follow than Silhouette’s licensing rules).This machine also provides the best various tools and material kits available for sale.We found that customer service was faster than Silhouette’s response, and the owner’s reviews were better.If you decide to upgrade in the future, Explore Air 2 also has a good resale value.
The software will make or break the beginner’s experience. In our tests, Cricut is by far the most intuitive.Design Space has a very good user interface, with a large screen workspace and well-labeled icons, which is easier to navigate than Silhouette Studio and Brother’s CanvasWorkspace.You can quickly find an existing project or start a new project, and with one click, you can select the project to be cut from the Cricut store-in our testing, Silhouette’s software took more steps to create the project .If you are drawing instead of cutting, the software will display all Cricut pen colors so that you can clearly understand the completed project-Silhouette’s software uses a common color palette that does not match your pen colors.Even if you have never touched this machine before, you can start cutting ready-made items in a few minutes.
In early 2020, the web-based version of Cricut’s Design Space software was eliminated and replaced with a desktop version, so it can now be used offline like Silhouette Studio.These machines are connected to the computer via Bluetooth or USB, or use the Cricut Design Space app (iOS and Android) on the mobile device.
All the more than 100,000 images and projects provided by Cricut are exclusive, including various officially licensed images from brands such as Sanrio, Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney.Brother also licenses images of Disney princesses and Mickey Mouse, but nothing more.At the same time, Silhouette’s library is larger than Cricut or Brother’s library, but most of the images come from independent designers.Every designer has his own licensing rules, and these images are not unique to Silhouette-you can purchase many of them to use on any cutting machine you like.Explore Air 2 comes with about 100 free pictures, subscription to Cricut Access is about $10 per month, and you can use almost everything in the company catalog (some fonts and pictures require additional fees).You can also use the internally designed images for commercial purposes within the limits of the company’s angel policy (similar to a Creative Commons license, but with some additional restrictions).
Even if you have never been in contact with Cricut Explore Air 2 before, you can start cutting ready-made projects in a matter of minutes.
In our tests, the blade settings of Explore Air 2 are more accurate than those of Silhouette Portrait 3 and Silhouette Cameo 4. In general, we think the blades are better.It made a very clean cut on cardstock (Silhouette machine jammed the paper a bit) and cut vinyl easily.The blades of Explore Air 2 struggle with fabric and felt; Cricut Maker handles fabrics better.The cropping area of ​​Cricut Explore Air 2 is the same as that of Cricut Maker and Silhouette Cameo 3.It is suitable for cushions of 12 x 12 inches and 12 x 24 inches. These sizes allow you to make full-size ironing decals for T-shirts, vinyl decals for walls (within a reasonable range), and 3D items such as snack boxes. Children play with masks.
Of all the machines we tested, Explore Air 2 has the best bundle available.Cutter bundles are usually good value for money-their prices are usually lower than the cost of purchasing all the additional accessories or materials separately-but Silhouette’s additional services are more limited, and Brother does not provide bundles.Cricut’s Explore Air 2 set, you can find on the company’s website (they are currently sold out, but we are checking with Cricut whether they will be restocked) and options on Amazon, including tools, additional cutting mats, and paper cutters , Additional blades, different types of blades, and entry craft materials, including vinyl and cardstock.
We also prefer cricut’s customer service rather than silhouette.You can contact Cricut by phone during working hours on weekdays. The company’s online chat is available 24/7.Silhouette provides email or online chat services from Monday to Friday, but only during working hours.
I have purchased Silhouette and Cricut machines myself for several years, and when new models appear, it is easy to resell them on eBay.Their value is well maintained, and it is always good to have a little money to buy a new machine.At the time of writing, Cricut Explore Air 2 usually sells for about $150 on eBay.
Explore Air 2 is not the fastest cutting machine we have tested, but since it cuts cleaner, we don’t mind being patient.Bluetooth also performed poorly, with a limited range of only a few feet, but we found that none of the cutting machines we tested implemented the technology very effectively.
If you want to design your own image for use with the cutting machine, we recommend that you use a separate graphics program, such as Adobe Illustrator, although you need practice or training to make the most of such advanced software.Unless you are using basic shapes such as circles and squares, Cricut’s software is not designed to create your own images.If you do manage to make something you like, you can only save it in the company’s proprietary format-you can’t create an SVG file and use it on other machines (or sell it).Switch to Illustrator, or even the paid commercial version of Sketch Studio (about $100), which allows you to save in SVG format for use on any machine.
The cutting speed of Maker is faster than any machine we have tested, and it can cut fabrics and thicker materials effortlessly.It has updatable software, so it should stay up-to-date for longer.
Cricut Maker is an expensive machine, but its performance is very good.If speed is important to you, or if you want to cut a lot of more complex materials, it is worth buying.It is one of the fastest machines we have tested, and it can cut more materials-including fabric and balsa-than Explore Air 2.It uses the same accessible Cricut Design software as Explore Air 2 and can receive firmware updates, so we think it has a longer lifespan than any other product we have tried.It is also the quietest tool we have tested.
In our sticker test, Maker was twice as fast as Explore Air 2 and completed in less than 10 minutes, while Cricut Explore Air 2 was 23 minutes.In our vinyl record test, it was 13 seconds slower than Silhouette Cameo 4, but the cutting was much more precise—it took a few attempts to get Cameo 4 to cut vinyl without cutting the backing paper.Cricut Maker allows you to choose from various material settings in the software so that it can accurately measure the correct cutting depth.Silhouette Cameo 4 can do the same, but the accuracy is lower (while Explore Air 2 only allows you to select materials from the dial on the machine, so these options are more limited).
The Maker is the first cutting machine that can easily cut fabric, with a special rotating blade; Silhouette Cameo 4 can also cut fabric, but the blade is additional and not cheap—about $35 at the time of writing.The blade and cutting mat used for the fabric cut with perfect precision, better than I cut by hand, without adding stabilizers, such as the interface with the fabric.Brother ScanNCut DX SDX125E is equally accurate, but Cricut Store offers more project modes.However, the items available for these machines are very small (we are talking about dolls, bags and quilt blocks).Cricut also offers a blade that we have not tested yet, which can cut thin wood including balsa.There are several bundles to choose from, and the resale value of the machine is high-at the time of writing, a second-hand Maker on eBay sells for $250 to $300.
The best practice to keep the machine running smoothly is to turn it off when not in use. This will prevent dust from entering the cutting area.Before starting work, please use a clean dry cloth to wipe all dust or paper scraps on the blade and cutting area, but the premise is that you must unplug the machine.Cricut recommends using glass cleaner on the outside of the machine, but do not use any cleaner containing acetone.The silhouette does not provide cleaning recommendations, but you should be able to follow the same recommendations of the silhouette model.
Silhouette estimates that the blade can be used for about 6 months, depending on what you want to cut (Cricut does not estimate the time limit of its blade), cleaning the blade will help you make the most of its service life.If the blade is not cut correctly, Silhouette has instructions to open the blade housing to clean it.If the machine starts to make a rubbing sound, Cricut also has instructions for lubricating it, which should smooth things out again.(The company will even send you a package of recommended grease.)
The cutting mats of all machines are equipped with plastic film to cover the adhesive surface.Stick to these to extend the life of the cutting mat.You can also extend the life of the mat by using a spatula tool (Cricut has one, and Silhouette has one) to scrape off any material left on the mat after the project.Once the stickiness disappears, you will have to replace the mat.It is said that there are some tricks to refresh the mat (video), but we have never tried it.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 is the best silhouette machine we have tested, but it is still bigger, louder, and less accurate than the cricut machine we recommend.For starters, the more sophisticated Silhouette Studio software can also be frustrating, but if you want to create your own design (or if you are starting a small business), you may prefer the flexibility and advanced options of Cameo 4.The paid commercial version of the software allows you to save your work in more file formats, including SVG, for resale.You can connect multiple machines together to create a production line, which is not provided by Cricuts.In 2020, Silhouette also launched Cameo Plus and Cameo Pro to provide a larger cutting area for large projects.If you are an advanced user, these are all options to consider, but if you are a casual fan of these machines or a complete stranger, we think Cricuts will be more interesting and less frustrating.
We reviewed Cricut Joy in 2020. Although it is a neat little machine for small items such as stickers and cards, we don’t think its value is high.Compared with the 8-inch width of Silhouette Portrait 2, the cutting width is only 5.5 inches and the cost is about the same.We think the cut size of Portrait 2 is more versatile than Joy’s-you can cut and draw some T-shirt transfers, logos and larger garments-and its price is easier to control than Cricut Explore Air 2.If you can’t, Joy can be an interesting gift for learning the basics for cunning tweens or teenagers.
The Brother ScanNCut DX SDX125E, which we also tested in 2020, is disappointing for beginners.It is more expensive than Cricut Maker, and it is sold to sewers and quilters because it can cut fabrics and increase seam allowance, and Maker does the same.But the interface of the machine and the company’s design software are more clumsy and harder to learn than the Cricut and Silhouette machines we have tested.ScanNCut comes with nearly 700 built-in designs—more than 100 free images provided by Cricut on the new machine—but the rest of Brother’s image library is limited, frustrating, and inconvenient. They rely on Expensive physical card with activation code.Considering that both Cricut and Silhouette provide large digital libraries from which you can purchase and immediately access them online, this feels like a very outdated way of obtaining clip files.If you are a sewer who is accustomed to using Brother machines and its software, or if you find it helpful to have a cutter/scanner combination (we don’t have one), you may be happy to add ScanNCut to your crafting tool.It is also the only cutting machine for Linux that we have tried.We think it is not worth it for most people.
In 2020, Silhouette replaced our previous runner-up Portrait 2 with Portrait 3, which is not good.In the test, all the automatic settings I tried failed to cut the test material successfully, and the machine was very noisy. I thought it was damaged during transportation.In one test, the cutting pad was misaligned and ejected from the back of the machine, but the blade continued to advance and tried to cut into the machine itself.There were mixed reviews for Portrait 3—some people praised it, and some people had the same problems as me—but reviewing the Portrait 2 reviews, I found similar complaints about noise and chaotic performance.In the past, we may have been lucky to use the test model of the old version of the machine, which performed very well (we also recommended the original portrait).But Portrait 3 is definitely not worth the money, especially because it only cuts smaller items (cutting area is 8 inches x 12 inches), and it is not much cheaper than the full-size Explore Air 2.
We tested and recommended Silhouette Portrait and Portrait 2 in previous versions of this guide, but both are now discontinued.
We also researched and eliminated the now discontinued Silhouette Cameo 3, Cricut Explore Air, Cricut Explore One, Sizzix Eclips2 and Pazzles Inspiration Vue machines.
Heidi, choose the best electronic craft cutting machine-compare silhouettes, cricut, etc., daily smart, January 15, 2017
Marie Segares, Cricut Basics: Which cutting machine should I buy?, Underground Crafter, July 15, 2017
Since 2015, Jackie Reeve has been a senior staff writer at Wirecutter, covering bedding, tissue, and household items.Before that, she was a school librarian and had been quilting for about 15 years.Her quilt patterns and other written works have appeared in various publications.She manages Wirecutter’s employee book club and makes the bed every morning.
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Post time: Jan-04-2022