Even before I began my Etsy shop, I knew I wanted a Cricut. I remember when they first came out - going to Michael’s and begging my mom for one because I spent all my time doing arts and crafts. My friend’s mom was big into scrapbooking and she had one - that was really the first and only time I saw it in action and I wanted one badly.
Fast forward about fifteen years, and when I joined TikTok, I saw all the sticker makers of the world using a Cricut Maker or Explore Air 2. So I knew that if I were to start a sticker company, I too would need one. I didn’t even think about looking into any other cutting machines because I didn’t know that there were even any others! But I soon came to find that there was an underdog rival - Silhouette Cameo.
In my experience of having both the Cricut Maker and the Silhouette Cameo4, I have found that the relationship between the two is very similar to the Apple vs Android feud. One is pretty, popular, and user friendly, and the other one is slightly more cumbersome but is ahead of its time with the features and capabilities that it has (I’ll let you guess which one is which).
Below, I’ll explain my reasons for getting each machine, with their pros and cons, and in my opinion, which machine wins the match!
When researching which machine would fit my needs, I knew that I wanted to be able to expand beyond stickers. From what I saw, most other sticker makers and crafters had the Explore Air 2, which seemed to be a pretty robust machine and relatively budget-friendly as things go. I ended up going with the Maker because it has the ability to cut thicker materials such as balsa wood and magnets, and I thought that those might be things I would want to do.
With tax, the Maker cost me around $400 - which is no small chunk of change. I was also purchasing this during the summer of the pandemic when everyone else had also had their sights set on crafting. I was able to get one of the last in the area with curbside pickup.
I had no experience, and even after doing tons of research and much frustration, I was finally able to make things correctly within a few days. The Cricut Design Space software (free) is pretty intuitive and user friendly and can be used on desktop, mobile, and iPad. I found that it was a lot easier to physically place things and do the bulk of the work on the iPad interface, and then just print from my desktop. Speaking of which - depending on what computer you have (I have a PC with Windows 10) you’ll want to print in best quality mode for doing Print & Cut projects. This option is only available if you print from the desktop program but have ‘Print using system dialogue’ checked off. There, you can set your print quality settings.
In terms of actual cut quality, I would love to know how much paper I have wasted from re-calibrating the machine. If I had to guess, maybe half of a ream (that’s 250 pages)! Every time a new software update came out, I held my breath during the first cut process, only to find out that I needed to calibrate again because the cuts were off. Sometimes, I would get a good calibration and have maybe two weeks of fabulous cuts, and then it would all go down the drain again. As someone who is trying to make a living and is completely at the will of this machine, being worried every time you create something is not a good sign.
However, I did find that for cutting vinyl, it did do a decent job. Because there’s no calibration involved, it finally did what it’s supposed to do! I have absolutely no qualms with the vinyl cut settings on the Maker.
When cutting 30mil magnet sheets, it’s pretty decent. To the naked eye, everything cuts well, but I know that things are slightly off. Thankfully, not too much off where I have to redo projects. Since having my Silhouette, I currently use the Maker exclusively for magnets.
I will admit, the Cameo (and the entire Silhouette family) gets a lot of hate because people don’t know it. Only after hearing some whispers in the TikTok sticker community did I know that the Cameo had zero (and I mean zero) cutting issues. That alone made me interested. After researching, I learned that you never have to calibrate, it had much more customizable cut settings and an expansive design program. There were also models that were 15” and 20+” wide to accommodate large projects. I didn’t have a need for that, but many sign makers and vinyl pros love it for that. I saw that the Cameo also had the same abilities as the Maker and could cut the thick magnets that I make every day. So I decided to give it a try, and grabbed the last one in South Florida! I was very happy to find out that the Cameo was also about $100 less than the Maker.
One of the only ways that the Cameo does not win, is with the ridiculously steep learning curve. Thankfully, I got this machine with the expectation that it did not need to go to work immediately, because, by the time I figured out how to do anything, it was at least a week. While there is no need to calibrate, there is a need to figure out your specific cut settings. I use a blend of different materials so I had to sit there and test out every single combination of blade depth, force, speed, and a variety of other different factors before I made the perfect sticker cut setting. That took about two days. Vinyl was a little bit easier, and I just made some modifications to the default vinyl setting. It has been a month or two since I have had the Cameo, and I have still not found a suitable magnet cut setting - the Cricut will do for now.
The Silhouette Design Studio program is also quite daunting. After reading and rereading the manual about ten times, I understood the basics. More about using the Silhouette Studio coming soon. It may be cumbersome, but it has features I didn’t know I needed. Two major things are that with using the offset tool, your stickers (or other designs) can have an automatic cut border that doesn’t need to be drawn into the design. It’s simple, easy, and creates a perfect and uniform border every time. The other thing is the nest tool - which is only available on the Designer upgrade of the program (one-time fee of $50). I used to spend a lot of time arranging stickers on a sheet to maximize print space, but I no longer need to do that. The nest tool automatically arranges your designs on the sheet with a customizable setting of spacing and room between each design. These settings have changed everything for me!
I was amazed the first time I cut on the Cameo - the cuts were 100% perfect, and they still are every time! I didn’t realize how much I stressed over Cricut cuts until I didn’t have to worry anymore. Vinyl cuts great too, and the bottom tray of the machine opens up to hold a vinyl roll and is able to cut without a mat. There’s no need to measure out how much vinyl needed for a project and to make sure it fits on a 12x12 mat - you can cut a project on a continuous roll!
I think overall, the Silhouette Cameo wins in pretty much all categories. It’s cheaper, quicker, more accurate, and has more features than the Cricut Maker. However, that Cameo is loud as all heck and has a bit of a learning curve. But, if you’re able to handle the noise in favor of quick and accurate cuts, and spend some time to learn the program, it’s an easy decision. I wish I got my Cameo sooner!
Do you have one of these machines? Are you looking to buy? Let me know which one you love more, or if you have any questions!