Silhouette Cameo versus Cricut Explore – Which One is Best?

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***This post has recently been updated to reflect the newest machines, Silhouette Cameo 3 and Cricut Maker. Read it at this link.***

I get asked a lot about which machine I like better – my Silhouette Cameo or Cricut Explore Air. As a user and fan of both machines, I’m happy to share my experiences with both. I have no connection to either company – and neither company asked me to write this post.

Pros and Cons of the Silhouette Cameo

Pros

  • You can cut without a mat and you can cut up to 10 feet long (12 inches wide). I create a lot of stencils to use with wood signs that I make to decorate my home and it is easier to cut long stencils than to have to piece together smaller stencils. If you do attempt to cut longer pieces, I highly recommend that you purchase a roll feeder.
  • You can cut without a mat. This goes hand-in-hand with the above point, but you can cut certain materials without a mat (like vinyl). I find this a money saver, because I don’t have to keep buying mats.
  • Silhouette’s software program is robust. Even after using it for several years, I still find myself learning new tricks.

Cons

  • Silhouette Studio has a huge learning curve. There are tons of tutorials online, written by fellow bloggers to help you out along the way.
  • Silhouette requires you to purchase add ons to enhance the features of Silhouette Studio (Designer Edition, Business Edition, etc). I feel like I purchased the expensive machine already, just give me the best possible software!
  • The Silhouette blades do not last as long as the Cricut blades. I usually use a CB09 blade in my Cameo, but this does void your warranty.
  • It’s LOUD. In fact, it’s much louder than a Cricut.

Pros and Cons of the Cricut Explore Air

Pros

  • The Cricut cuts better than the Silhouette. I think this has to do with the way that the blade rotates in the machine. For this reason, I use my Cricut for all of my paper cuts.
  • The Cricut already takes a CB09 style blade which lasts way longer than the Silhouette blade.
  • You select cutting settings on the top of the machine, no need to remove the blade to change a setting. Some people have found that the presets don’t work as well as they should, but I’ve never had an issue.
  • Has the ability to cut wirelessly. This means that I can take my computer away from the machine when it is doing intricate cuts because it doesn’t have to stay connected.
  • The Cricut can cut thicker materials – like balsa wood – and handles leather, glitter paper and more with ease. If you are looking for more information about this, Cricut had an independent lab do two studies on the Cricut versus the Cameo. This link gives you the reports for materials and precision tests.
  • If you’ve previously used a Cricut and have designs on cartridges, you can use them with your Cricut Explore – but they are not necessary.
  • Dual cartridge is standard. Like the Silhouette Curio, the Cricut has two cartridge holders. This is time saving for sketching and cutting without reloading.

Cons

  • The software, Design Space, requires an internet connection to use. This means that if you have a slow internet connection, Cricut is not for you. Design Space has been known to crash, freeze, and lag. Basically, if Cricut is having an issue with their site, you will have issues with Design Space.
  • Design Space is a simplified software program. This is a pro and a con. If you plan to cut predesigned files, this is great for you. If you want more freedom in the software, you may find it limiting.
  • The Print and Cut area is much smaller than the Silhouette. (For novice users, print and cut means printing something on your home printer and having the machine cut it out.)
  • The machine itself is bigger and heavier than my Silhouette.

So, which machine is right for you? It’s completely a personal preference, but this is my opinion:

Plan to cut vinyl? I’d recommend a Silhouette Cameo.
Plan to create lots of custom designs? I’d recommend a Silhouette Cameo.
Are you tech savvy and interested in learning the ins and outs of software? I’d recommend a Silhouette Cameo.
Live in a rural area or have slower or limited internet? I’d recommend a Silhouette Cameo.

Plan to cut paper? I’d recommend a Cricut Explore Air.
Looking to cut thicker, denser materials or a wider variety of materials? I’d recommend a Cricut Explore Air.
Plan to cut premade or predesigned projects instead of designing them yourself? I’d recommend a Cricut Explore Air.

What are your thoughts? If you have used both machines, leave a comment with your observations.

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Silhouette Cameo versus Cricut Explore - Which One is Best for You? by cuttingforbusiness.com

71 thoughts on “Silhouette Cameo versus Cricut Explore – Which One is Best?”

  1. To be honest, the biggest con of the cricut is their strict rules on sale of created work. That angel policy is really difficult to work around depending on your business venture. I even emailed them additional questions and the reply was not any more clear – not worth starting a business with the Cricut in my opinion. Team Silhouette!

  2. I have the Cameo because I live in a rural area and have slow internet. Data usage is very expensive too. I do love my Cameo though.

  3. I have not used the Cricut Air but I did own two previous models before purchasing my Silhouette. I sold both my Cricuts after making my first cut with my Silhouette. Yes, there is a learning curve but I am learning more every day and the capabilities of this machine never ceases to amaze me. Team Silhouette!

  4. Dottie McFadden

    I have had 2 Silhouette Cameo machines and loved them both. I also had a Cricut but after fighting with it for a couple of years I gave up and sold it I have had no trouble with cutting paper with my Silhouette, but I also use a Cb09 blade but my machine is no longer in warranty so I am not worried about that. My problems with the Cricut, I don’t want to have to be online to use it and I also want to own my images once I have paid for them without having to pay a monthly fee to continue having access to my images. I also have a problem with the way Provo Craft deals with, or should I say doesn’t deal with problems the consumers have. I would not recommend Cricut to anyone, but I would certainly recommend the Silhouette Cameo to anyone and everyone.

  5. Another Pro for the Silhouette is being able to create different cuts in one pass; you can cut by line-color. So I can create a sticker sheet with kiss-cut stickers and, in the same pass, cut-though around the sheet.

  6. I own both. I love how my cricut cuts but hate how limited the software is. I brought my cameo first. I agree with your Christine.. It depends on what I’m doing as to what machine I use. Lately I’ve been leaning towards my cameo but I’m more familiar with the easy cricut software. I’ve been trying determine which design edition of cameo I need. I’m venturing into cards so I’m boxing my cricut for a while so I can focus on learning cameo. I think most choose cricut because you find more tutorials and its cuts thicker items. But cameos more versatile for creations its unlimited possibilities.. I actually love them both.

  7. I bought the cricut at the beginning of the year & started making shirts almost immediately. It’s extremely easy to use!!! I decided to buy the silhouette in case I wanted to do larger projects or knock out more shirts by having 2 machines. I have yet to learn how to work it. The set up is so different from cricut. It did not provide a sample project like cricut did. I am overwhelmed every time I try to mess with it and will probably just sale it. If you’re looking to buy your first machine like I was, I’d definitely recommend the cricut over the silhouette!!!

  8. I have owned a cricut explore air since march and as such I have yet to make a single cut or even get through the registration process. (Though I have had to upgrade my web browser twice in that time and go on a pretty intensive learning course about how browsers work and learning to empty caches and all sorts of other IT tricks –though none have solved the problems completely)). You really need a very fast and stable connection AND for the cricut website to be up and running. It is turning out to be a very expensive doorstop…. Having seen the details of the new Cameo 3 I am totally gutted ….
    (Edited per reader request)
    The overall final conclusions were that the deep blade available for the Cricut was the main reason for the better cuts. Silhouette now also have the deep cut blade and a number of other blades such as a long life blade—perhaps its time for a rematch.
    More pros for the silhouette: You can use PDF files. (cricut can’t)
    You can use SVG with precision (cricut has handling and sizing issues with this format)
    It’s cheaper to run—no costly internet, no need for specialty mats +
    huge library of shared free files can be found on the internet

    More CONS for the Cricut
    SVG handling issues
    Cant use PDF –many printables come as PDF
    when you –“purchase” files from the store you don’t own them you are only actually “renting ” them
    truly awful software. if you are even vaguely computer literate or use MTC or SDE or SCAl you may well find this truly frustrating and counter-intuitive.

    1. Thanks for sharing your comments! Independent lab results are that – independent. There’s pros and cons to both machines and I’ve laid them out from my experience. Thanks!

  9. I started out with a Cricut expressions which was “of its time”.

    Wanting to do more I moved onto the Sizzix eclips (which introduced me to SCAL) this opened my eyes to amazing creative possibilities.

    When my eclips died I got a Cameo and was blown away with its versatility. I quickly upgraded to SDE for very little money. It was still way cheaper than shelling out for a Cricut. I have now upgraded again to SDE business edition which is just completely superb and dare I say actually better than both MTC and SCAL. Again the up grade was very little money. (many places do really good offers for purchasing these upgrades–many such as Misskatescuttables give you a free voucher for purchasing files from her site)
    I don’t know why you would complain about this small cost when to use the cricut designs you have to pay a monthly fee and buy all sorts of add ons such as specialty mats and blades and pay for broadband.

    I bought an explore as a back up and because I wanted the dual score and cut feature. I have struggled to do any thing with my Cricut — the software is just so dire. I spend so long watching tutorials that I run out of crafting time. I end up using my Cameo or not doing the project at all. I do not consider the things I do to be particularly difficult but the Design Space software makes it feel like I am attempting Mission Impossible! I scratch my head in wonder when people say it’s so simple… I genuinely find it impossible to use.

    I also have not noticed the Cricut cutting paper projects better. Nearly all my projects are paper/card based and they always cut perfectly on my Cameo. (the cuts MUST be very accurate as even small deviations will prevent my projects from aligning properly)

    As my Silhouette is over 2 years old and just out of warranty (YES THE SILHOUETTE HAS A 2 YEAR WARRANTY– an extra pro for the Cameo!) I will be looking to replace it soon. I can’t wait for the unveiling of the Cameo 3

  10. Wow–thank you so much for your so quick reply. I think that I owe you an apology, my english is not always that good. Independent in this use has just been explained to me… whoops! I thought it meant just paying someone to carry out your work for you —not looking at things from a neutral view point!
    I thought after 20+ years I had it sussed–guess you always are learning something new.
    so once again sorry!

  11. Hello, I replied to you earlier to offer a genuine apology for my misunderstanding over the independent testing comments –I can not tell you how red faced and stupid I feel. How had I not known what this means all this time?

    It is really bothering me, it is not a good thing to say and so I would be very grateful if you could remove this section of my comment or all of my comment if necessary. I genuinely thought it just like when you say independent shop or when TV channels uses independent production companies to make its shows. Apologies once again for any pain caused.

  12. I just want to say I have a Cameo and the switching blade depth was pretty annoying a time consuming. Now, all of my settings are based on a single blade depth. With that, I’ve found the need for test cuts go away. Once you figure out your settings for that brand and material, you’re good every time! This is the best change I’ve made saving lots of material and time, of course.

  13. I am glad I’m not the only one to have issues with the Cricut. I bought an Air so I could compare….. I hate it. The software is soooooo slow & I have super high speed internet, that doesn’t seem to help. I find the software to be hard to navigate….. I do like to create my own, so I love the Cameo & can’t wait for the new one to come out….

  14. I have a Cameo 3, which replaced a Cameo 1. I also have a Cricut Explore Air, as well as a Sizzix Eclips2. I like them all for different reasons, and I have to agree with you on your assessment. The Cricut Design Space is clunky. I don’t understand why people tout it as simple! Silhouette software is far superior. LOVE the True Score! It’s also faster than the Cameo, and let’s not leave out SO MUCH quieter. I know you aren’t comparing the Sizzix, but I feel it lies somewhere in between. It’s definitely the most sturdy of the three, as well as fast and quiet. The mats are the least expensive too ( 2 pack for $9.99)!

  15. I am so happy I found this info. I am a embroidery digitizer. I want to buy a cut machine for applique designs. Finally found all the info I need. Thank you

  16. Marti VanRavenswaay

    My husband gave me a Cricut Explore Air as a retirement gift — he listened to me about what I wanted! I knew nothing about either the Cricut or the Cameo. Regrettably, I haven’t made the time to even try to learn how to use the Cricut and now I’m really depressed that I got what I WANTED…it sounds like I made a huge mistake. I am very artistic and can’t imagine not being able to “do my own thing.” Since I have it I feel I must use it! I cannot go buy a Cameo and just want to make some cute Christmas gifts. Will that even be possible? If so, what should I do to learn how to make the best of it — I mean learn how to make cute things, quickly since Christmas is right round the corner! ha! Where should I start? Marti

  17. Christine,
    Thanks for the great comparison of the Silhouette and Cricut machines.
    Can you explain to me which kind of “cut files” work with a Cricut? I don’t think the instructions explain that because they would prefer that you BUY the files they are selling. But there seem to be lots of free cut files on Pinterest and I’d like to know which will work with my Cricut.
    Thanks

  18. I bought a Cricut Explore about a year ago & I have a love/hate relationship with it. One of the things that I love about it is the ease of just turning the dial to want I want to cut like vinyl or iron on & not have to worry about what depth I need to be at. I HATE Design Space Shockwave issues! There are times that it literally takes 15 minutes to determine if its going to cut or not & when I’m trying to knock out an order it frustrates me & takes the fun out of it. I’ve been debating for months on whether or not to purchase a Cameo 3. I just cut regular vinyl or HTV & have read that Cricut is best for that from one post several months back before the release of the Cameo 3. I just hate to spend the money if its not the best option for me. However Black Friday is just a week out & if I could find it on sale it may be worth purchasing, Merry Christmas to me! I do appreciate all that you do. Your posts are always so helpful!

  19. Considering between the 2 choices. Currently I use an old Cricut Expressions with SCAL software (got it before the lawsuit) and I really like it. I’m envious of the newer features (print and cut!!). If I go with Cricut Explore and years from now they move on and give up on Design Space will I be left with a paperweight? Or are their other programs out there to hook up to the cricut?

  20. Christine,

    I have never worked with either of these machines and am currently trying to decide which to purchase! Although your reviews were very helpful and informative, I am still quite torn. I like what I am reading about the silhouette because of the fact that it doesn’t have to be connected Internet and the fact that their is apparently more design freedom. As far as the cricut, I like that the blades are apparently better and it cuts more of a variety materials. by reading the comments, I guess there may have been upgrades? Does the silhouette cut a wider range of materials now? Are there other upgrades to either that might help sway my decision? I just lost. I was totally leaning towards the cricut at first, now wondering if the silhouette would be best.. Just lost, and you seem like a nice person so I felt comfortable blabbing about my confusion and frustrations lol. HELP!

  21. I am the same as Heather! The two biggest things are I want good cutting and good design software! I want to cut just general vinyl/ heat transfer to make koozies, shirts, waterbottles, cups etc…. But I want to be able to design my own thing or pull from something I see on the internet and use their designs if they are free… I just don’t know which to buy!

  22. I too am also confused. I want to cut stencils to put on signs. I also want to use for paper cutting and designing. Can you take a picture of something and duplicate the sign?

  23. Hi,
    I am currently at a loss for which to buy as well. I have an old silhouette (8″x12″) and I really love it. I love the software, taking fonts and minipulating them to my own style. I use it mostly for cutting fabric, felt, and a faux leather. (I also cut vinyl, paper less often) I am looking to upgrade to a wider cutting space (12″) and to find something that will cut my thicker faux leather better…
    can you help me???

  24. I gave back my cricut explore air 2 because of the software’s limitation. It lacked even the basic functionalities. It’s useless to have a Ferrari without an engine. Team Silhouette!

  25. I’m trying to decide which machine to get. I’ve never used either and I’m worried the cameo software will be hard to understand. And then I’m worried the cricut won’t have enough options. I only wanted to do shirts and glasses that type of stuff. Which would you suggest?

    1. It sounds like either would work well for you. If you aren’t tech savvy, I’d opt for a Cricut. If you want to put time in to learn the software, the Silhouette is great!

  26. Christine,
    I’m thinking about purchasing one of the machines, and I’m leaning toward the Silhouette. Are there new models out now, or expected soon?
    Perhaps a ‘Silicut’…a combination of both! 🙂

  27. I have the silhouette and I love it. There are certain things that I have a hard time with, but I do like the challenge. I am on a lot of blogs and you tube trying to learn more about different things. I really thought I wanted a cricut also to cut paper, but I think I will stick with my silhouette. I have upgraded to the designer edition and have gotten the cB09 blades that I have yet to master. Thank you so much for your opinion and everyone else for yours also.

  28. Hello Christine! I am torn in between the two choices.. I would like to cut out and make birthday banners, decorations, etc like the things they sell on etsy! What would you recommend?

  29. Thanks to all! I’m in the process of deciding what machine to get, mainly for cutting stencils and have decided, with the help from this blog, on the Silhouette Cameo 3. Any suggestions on what all I need, besides the machine to get started?

  30. hello, I see that this is a bit of an older article, but hoping you might help me decide. I currently have the old cricut personal, which I’ve been happy with, but lacks a lot of the newer features, mainly for me reverse cut. I was considering just upgrading to a newer cricut, but then thought perhaps I should try something different for more versatility. I used to have a wishblade, which I loved, and I think was probably along the lines of the silhouette, but I also know I didn’t come close to using the capabilities with that. I don’t really like the online design aspect of cricut, I have lots of problems with cricut craft room, so worry that design space will be similar, but I also already know cricut & already have $ invested in supplies and cartriages, for silhouette, I feel like I might like it better but worry it will be harder to use, or I just won’t use all the features. Mainly I like to cut HTV and paper. I do pretty simple projects. I want to be able to cut any font from my computer & will probably be more likely to buy designs rather than make my own. I’m also curious about free designs for silhouette as a friend has told me that cricut puts their designs for free often on their website.

  31. Hi! I’m hoping to choose a machine that will cut fabric shapes for appliques used in quilting. The fabrics will be lighter weight cottons, but I haven’t yet been able to find any reviews on either machine for that purpose. Do you have any experience with this?

  32. Is there any sort of add on tool/blade that will allow the Silhouette Cameo 3 to cut thicker material? For the person that I was intending to gift to, I LOVE that the Cricut can cut thicker leather and some woods. Unfortunately, their current desktop does not adhere to the Cricut system requirements so I guess I’m leaning towards the Silhouette now although, I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed as I’ve seen reviews on it not cutting as well as Cricut.

  33. Hi. I know this is an older post but looking for some advice. I really just want to print and kiss cut downloads from Etsy (both on sticker paper and as cardstock due cuts). I have a Cricut that went back into the box after a few frustrating hours of trying to use it, and it’s sitting in a closet. I’ve been thinking of getting the new Cameo, but based on what I want, would you recommend that I just put the time into learning it? I will never be creating my own designs, but want to make sure I can use the PNG files I’ve bought on Etsy. Thank you!

    1. Hi Lynn! All cutting machines will kiss cut sticker and create die cuts. If you already have one, I’d focus first on just learning to use it – no need to purchase another machine.

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