Cricut Maker vs Silhouette Cameo 4: A Deeper Look [UPDATED: Cricut Maker 3 enters the chat]

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Cricut and Silhouette are the two current leaders in the world of craft cutting machines. This article will compare the tools, features, capabilities and software for the flagship machines for each brand: Cricut Maker vs. Silhouette Cameo.  

These machines share many great features but both have unique strengths. The Maker 3 is the advanced craft cutter with the most tool types and works well with more materials, but the Cameo 4 series machines (12″, 15″, and 24″ widths) have superior print & cut and matless cutting capabilities.  

There’s a lot of information to sort through when comparing these two machines, so we want to do our best to provide easy to read material for skimmers and more details for readers looking for more data. Behold: Cricut Maker 3 vs. Silhouette Cameo 4: A Complete Guide.

Maker 3 vs Cameo 4: Unique Advantages at a Glance

Cricut Maker 3

  • best for crafters, this is the most advanced craft cutter on the market
    • cuts the widest range of materials
    • Adaptive Tool System cuts fabric and thick materials with greater precision than any other craft cutter
    • has the most functions, including:
      • foil embellishment
      • debossing/embossing
      • engraving
  • everything is automated – no manual adjustment of blades or cut settings
  • Cricut Design Space software is limited, but easy for beginners, and can be used on mobile devices

Silhouette Cameo 4

  • best for home business, these machines offer the best commercial features for everyday users
    • Cameo Plus and Cameo Pro offer 15″ and 24″ wide cutting for big jobs
    • very large max print & cut sizes
    • matless cutting: pop-out cutting of cardstock, and roll-fed, any-brand vinyl cutting up to 60 feet
  • all blades except the Autoblade are manually adjusted, which offers more control for advanced users
  • users can choose between feature-packed Silhouette Studio or other software options

Cricut Maker 3

Silhouette Cameo 4 

Maker 3

12"


Cameo 4

12"

Cameo Plus

15"

Cameo Pro

24" 

MSRP

Cutting Mat Size(s)

12" x 12"

12" x 24" 

12" x 12"

12" x 24"

15" x 15"

15" x 30"

24" x 24" 

Matless Cutting

(Roll Feed)

12" x 12 ft

12" x 60 ft 

15" x 60 ft 

24" x 60 ft 

Capabilities

  • cuts materials up to 2.4 mm thick

  • writing/drawing

  • scoring

  • engraving

  • de/embossing

  • foil tool

  • modest print&cut

  • cuts materials up to 3 mm thick

  • writing/drawing

  • punch tool

  • massive print&cut

Software

Cricut Design Space

  • Silhouette Studio (free or paid)

  • Silhouette CONNECT plugin for Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw

  • Sure Cuts A Lot

Compatibility

Windows and Mac
USB and Bluetooth Compatible

Windows and Mac
USB and Bluetooth Compatible

Mobile Friendly?

Android and iOS

No

Dimensions

(l x w x h)

22.1" x 7.1" x 6.2"

15.4 lb

22.5" x7.7" x 6.7"

10.4 lb 

25.5" x 7.7" x 6.7"

11.9 lb 

34.5" x 7.7" x 6.7"

19.4 lb

Support

phone, e-mail, or chat 

e-mail or chat

Warranty

1 year 

1 year 

Cameo Plus and Pro: Extending the Cameo Range

Since this article was first published, Silhouette has expanded (literally) the Cameo lineup to include the Cameo Plus and Cameo Pro.

Silhouette Cameo Plus 15" vinyl and craft cutting machine

The 15″ wide Cameo Plus

what's included with the Cameo Pro?

The 24″ wide Cameo Pro

The Plus and Pro are 15 inches and 24 inches wide respectively and mark the first time either Silhouette or Cricut has entered into the XL vinyl cutter market. These two wide format cutters have the same toolsets as the Cameo 4, both perform matless cutting and print and cut, and both have the new, high pressure cutting carriage 2.

The Plus and the Pro are really big wins for crafters using MacOS that want to do cutting at a small business scale. Previously, if you wanted to do oversized cutting on a Mac, the cheapest cutter you could find would cost you at least $750, and even then you’d be sacrificing print and cut capability.

Upgrading to wide format cutting also lets crafters take advantage of cheaper materials in bulk, as well as cutting high volume projects, including t-shirt HTV, gift tags, decals, cards, invitations or stickers. 

Read more about the Cameo Pro and Cameo Plus here

Cameo 4 vs Maker 3 Toolset Comparison

Cricut Maker 3 Tools

Included with purchase:

  • Fine Point Blade

Available Separately:

  • Rotary Blade
  • Knife Blade
  • Deep Point Blade
  • Bonded Fabric Blade
  • Scoring Stylus
  • NEW Sept. 2020  – Foil Transfer Tool 

Quickswap Tools: (Available Separately)

  • Debossing Tip
  • Engraving Tip
  • Wavy Blade
  • Perforation Blade
  • Single Scoring Wheel
  • Double Scoring Wheel

Silhouette Cameo 4 Tools

Included with purchase:

  • AutoBlade

Available Separately:

  • Rotary Blade
  • 2 mm Kraft Blade
  • 3 mm Kraft Blade
  • Punch tool
  • Manual Blade (1 mm)
  • Manual Blade (2 mm)

Cricut Maker 3 Tools

Cricut debuted two new important features when it released the Maker:

  • the Adaptive Tool System (ATS)
  • QuickSwap tool housing

The Adaptive Tool System developed for the Maker links the gears of the drive housing to the gears of the ATS inside the machine, allowing the blade to lift and turn, controlling blade direction and cut pressure to match the material.

I cannot emphasize this enough: the Adaptive Tool System is completely unique to the Maker series and is found in no other craft cutter. The only other machines that use a separate servo motor to lift and turn the blade to make precision cuts (sometimes called “tangential cutting”) are commercial cutters that cost thousands of dollars.

The Maker features two main blades that combine this power and precision:

  • Rotary Blade for fabric and delicate materials like crepe paper
  • Knife Blade for thicker, denser material like chipboard, mat board, and balsa or basswood.

The Knife Blade uses the Adaptive Tool System to make cuts in multiple passes, increasing cutting depth and adjusting cutting pressure as the job progresses to give clean cuts without destroying the cutting mat.

The Rotary Blade is a workhorse, capable of cutting with the full down force of the Maker 3 across a really broad range of fabrics. From burlap (3,800 gf) and denim (3,200 gf) to crepe paper (958 gf) and nylon (684 gf), the Rotary Blade and the ATS deliver clean cuts through most fabrics.

The QuickSwap Tools look similar to the Rotary and Knife Blades because of the signature gear wheel on top (these tools also use the ATS), but the cool thing is that Cricut has made a system where a wide range of tool tips can pop on and off of a universal body. This allows you to keep expanding your toolset as Cricut releases new tips and it allows you to switch tools quickly while you craft.

The Cricut Maker QuickSwap Tool line includes:

  • Debossing Tip: lets you embellish projects in intricate detail
  • Engraving Tip: for professional-looking engraving
  • Perforation Blade Tip: creates clean, easy-to-tear perforations
  • Wavy Blade Tip: for decorative scalloped edges on a variety of materials
  • Single Scoring Wheel Tip: allows for clean creases in a single pass
  • Double Scoring Wheel Tip: makes clean creases on thick materials

Silhouette Cameo 4 Tools

Silhouette also boasts new tools to go with the Cameo 4. It has an updated AutoBlade similar to the blade included with previous models, plus:

  • Rotary Blade for fabric projects
  • Kraft Blade for thicker materials and tougher fabrics like burlap and denim (this is like Cricut’s Knife Blade)
  • Punch Tool for creating punch holes in negative space to help you weed your vinyl projects

Both the Rotary blade and the Kraft Blade are manually adjusted for depth, although their force and speed settings are set using Silhouette Studio software. One thing about the Cameo 4 design is that the new tools – Rotary Blade, 3 mm Kraft Blade, and Punch Tool – are the ONLY tools used in carriage 2, the carriage with the higher cutting force. The AutoBlade (the blade you will likely use the most) and every other tool – Manual Blades, 2mm Kraft Blade, and sketch pens – must be used in carriage 1.

That means that for projects where you want to use sketch pens and cut with the AutoBlade, you have to swap back and forth between the blade and the pens in carriage 1 during the project. This lack of attention to detail is frustrating, as this is what having a dual tool carriage is supposed to solve. It’s doubly frustrating considering the Cameo 3 had this capability, but Silhouette chose to omit it in favor of creating the new, higher force carriage (that doesn’t have much practical application to most paper or vinyl projects).

In the Maker 3, all tools and blades go in carriage B (including non-Adaptive Tool System tools: Fine Point blade, Deep Point blade, Bonded Fabric blade, and Foil Transfer Tool) and carriage A is for pens and markers (and the Scoring Stylus). There is no need to swap pens and blades from the same tool holder.

Cricut and Silhouette Replacement Blades

Cricut machines use blades that can be replaced without discarding their original drive housing. The Fine Point, Deep Point, and Bonded Fabric blades are easily replaced in their drive housing, and you can buy multipacks of the blades for very reasonable prices – cricut.com sells premium Fine Point blades in 5 and 10 packs, for example, for about $8 per blade.

Beyond the basic Cricut blades, Rotary and Knife blades for the Maker can also be replaced without changing the drive housing, and so can all the QuickSwap Tools, where users can simply buy new tips.

In contrast, the actual blades inside Silhouette tools cannot be replaced. When your blade becomes dull, then you must purchase an entirely new tool assembly, blade + housing, and toss the old one. According to Silhouette, the average blade lifespan is about 6 months, so if you’re into regular cutting projects, that is a lot of plastic in the trash! On the plus side, Swing Design often has deals on 2, 3, or even 4-packs of tools like AutoBlades and Kraft Blades at great prices if you can find them in stock, so they’re not overly expensive.

Cricut and Silhouette Blade Price Comparison

Ultimately, Maker 3 and Cameo 4 blade prices are fairly comparable:

Cricut Maker 3 Blade Prices 

Fine Point/Deep Point/Bonded Fabric blade + housing

$35

Fine Point/Deep Point/Bonded Fabric blade replacement

$9-$15 each

5-pack Fine Point replacement blades

$40

10-pack Fine Point replacement blades

$80

Rotary Blade + housing

$45

Rotary Blade replacement kit

$17.50

Knife Blade + housing

$46

Knife Blade replacement kit

$20

QuickSwap housing

$30

QuickSwap housing + 1 tip

$45-$50

QuickSwap tip

$25-$30

Silhouette Cameo 4 Blade Prices

AutoBlade (Type B)

$13

Manual Blade (1mm)

$20

Manual Blade (2mm)

$25

Rotary Blade

$35

Kraft Blade (2mm)

$20

Kraft Blade (3mm)

$20

Punch Tool

$13

Cameo 4 vs Maker: Paper Scoring Notes

Cricut Maker 3 Scoring Options

  • Quickswap Single Scoring Wheel
  • Quickswap Double Scoring Wheel
  • Scoring Stylus

Silhouette Cameo 4 Scoring Options

  • Manual Blade, 1mm

Papercraft and cardmaking is a big area of interest for many crafters and makers, and I thought it was pertinent to point out the differences in scoring tools and options between the Maker 3 and Cameo 4.

The Cricut Maker 3 has both Single and Double Scoring Wheel tips as part of the QuickSwap tool system. The Single Scoring Wheel is used with thin materials like paper, light and medium cardstock, and even copper foil sheets, while the Double Scoring Wheel lets you score thicker materials like card/poster board, cork, and even 2mm craft foam.

There’s also a Scoring Stylus you can use in carriage A like a pen to trace scoring lines in paper and cardstock, but you will not get the same results as using the Scoring Wheels with the much higher force of carriage B.

The Silhouette Cameo 4 does not have a dedicated scoring tool. Instead, the Cameo 4 uses a Manual Blade to cut a score line in the material. Scoring is selected in Silhouette Studio when you send the project to your machine (the other options for your lines are cut and sketch), depending on the material you are using. Studio will let you score cardstock, patterned paper, and “score & emboss” paper, but not regular copy paper or most other materials.

Silhouette Studio preselects Manual blade, 1mm as the scoring tool; this blade is sold separately from the Cameo 4 and used to be called “ratchet blade”. Silhouette Studio preselects a cutting pressure and recommends a cutting depth. Getting a good score line this way can be tricky depending on your material, because it is easy to cut right through thinner materials with a blade – I recommend test scoring before you start a project.

The Maker 3 and the Cameo 4 each present different scoring options which will both work. However, you are more limited with the materials you can score with the Cameo 4, and the Maker 3 has specialized tools (the Scoring Wheels) that allow you to take advantage of the machine’s increased downward force capabilities.

Bottom line: due to multiple scoring options as well as specialized tools like the Debossing Tip and the Foil Transfer Tool, the Maker 3 has an advantage when it comes to papercraft, although the Cameo 4 can do matless Pop Out cutting for cardstock.

Cricut Maker vs. Silhouette Cameo 4: Fabric Cutting Comparison

As I touched on earlier, the introduction of Rotary Blades to the Maker and Cameo 4 greatly increase the fabric cutting options for users.  Rotary blades let you cut fabric of all weights, from burlap and denim to chiffon and lace, using the increased downward force of these machines. You don’t have to bond the fabric to interfacing, just stick it to a mat and you’re set to cut.

One puzzling aspect about the Cameo 4’s new toolset is that Silhouette Studio preselects the Kraft Blade for cutting heavy fabrics like denim or burlap instead of the Rotary Blade. 

Both the Cameo 4 and the Maker 3 have their limitations when it comes to sewing projects, however. As you can imagine, the projects available from both companies are geared towards quilting, fashion accessories, plush toys or children’s clothing.

There are now Strong Tack mats for both the Cameo Plus (cutting area of 14″ x 15″) and the Cameo Pro (24″ x 24″), which expands the possibilities for cutting large pieces for adult clothing and giving it a size advantage over the Maker 3. The Maker’s maximum cutting area for fabric is limited to the 12″ x 24″ Fabric Grip mat.

The Maker’s fabric cutting advantage over the Cameo 4, however, is the Adaptive Tool System. The Maker 3 precisely controls the Rotary Blade in carriage B, lifting and turning the blade to change direction instead of just dragging it along.

The Cameo 4, while able to use higher downward cutting force, can still only drag the Rotary Blade. In order to change the direction of the blade, Silhouette Studio adds a series of curves called loops and hooks to the design when you send it to your machine. The loops and hooks are placed outside of the design, in the negative space, and allow the blade to turn, so they will take up more space on your material.

Maker vs Cameo 4: Cutting Force

Cricut Maker cutting force

  • Clamp A: 400 grams force
  • Clamp B: 4000 grams force

Silhouette Cameo 4 cutting force

  • Carriage 1: 210 grams force
  • Carriage 2: 5000 grams force

When the Maker debuted in 2017, the 4,000 grams of cut force generated by the redesigned Carriage B astounded the crafting community. Compared with every other vinyl cutter, the Cricut Maker’s force was unmatched.

That is, until the Cameo 4 entered the market. Unveiled in late 2019, the Cameo 4 boasts 5,000 grams of cutting force, greater than the Maker, but also dwarfing its predecessor, the Cameo 3 (which had 210 gf).

But what does increased cutting force actually mean for the user?

If you read a lot of blogs, many reviewers imply that the cut force is applicable for wood cutting projects, but in reality, the Maker only applies 200 or 300 grams of force on balsa, depending on the thickness. The way to cut thin woods with craft cutters is to make multiple passes, not use more force. The Maker is capable of adjusting the force it uses with each pass, just another one of its sophisticated technologies.

In terms of cutting, higher force is used primarily for cutting fabric with the rotary blade, according to Cricut’s material reference chart.

Increased force gets really interesting for the Maker in two ways, though: debossing/embossing, and engraving. These are unique functions that require higher downward force, and the Maker 3 really delivers. Strangely, Silhouette has made no embossing or engraving tools for the Cameo 4 series – what a waste!

Bottom line: both the Maker 3 and Cameo 4 machines have plenty of force for whatever you want to cut, but only the Maker 3 really takes advantage of the increased downward force to expand their toolset.

Maker vs. Cameo 4: Cutting on a Mat

The original Maker could only cut on a mat, but the Maker 3 can cut on a mat and do matless cutting. Cameos have always done both mat-based and matless cutting.

First, cutting with a mat. The Maker 3 cuts on 12″ x 12″ or 12″ x 24″ mats, and so does the 12″ Cameo 4. The Cameo Plus and Pro models have their own mats for wide-format cutting. Multiple mat types for different materials are made for all of these machines, and the mats are actually pretty interchangeable between brands; some Silhouette users, in particular, prefer using Cricut mats in their machines.

Cricut mats are available in value multi-packs (3, 15, 25 or 30 count options for some mats).

Cricut Maker 3 Mats

  • StandardGrip Machine Mat (green)
    • 12″ x 12″
    • 12″ x 24″
  • LightGrip Machine Mat (blue)
    • 12″ x 12″
    • 12″ x 24″
  • StrongGrip Machine Mat (purple)
    • 12″ x 12″
    • 12″ x 24″
  • FabricGrip Machine Mat (pink)
    • 12″ x 12″
    • 12″ x 24″

Silhouette Cameo 4 Mats

  • Standard tack mat (white border)
    • 12″ x 12″
    • 12″ x 24″
    • 15″ x 15″ (for Plus)
    • 24″ x 24″ (for Pro)
  • Light tack mat (blue border)
    • 12″ x 12″ 
    • 15″ x 15″ (for Plus)
    • 24″ x 24″ (for Pro)
  • Strong tack mat (grey border)
    • 12″ x 12″ 
    • 15″ x 15″ (for Plus)
    • 24″ x 24″ (for Pro)
  • PixScan mat (for scanning images)
    • 11.5″ x 8.5″

Maker 3 vs Cameo 4: Matless Cutting

Like their commercial counterparts, all Cameos can cut vinyl without a mat. The new Cameo 4 machines (12″, Plus, and Pro) can also cut paper and cardstock without a mat (Pop Out cutting) because they have a cutting channel beneath the blade.

Cameos also include built-in or add-on (Pro) roll feeders, and integrated crosscutters.

The new Maker 3 has the ability to perform matless cutting, but it can only do so using Cricut’s proprietary Smart Materials™: permanent and removable adhesive Smart Vinyl™, heat transfer vinyl (Smart Iron-On™), and Smart Paper™ sticker cardstock (78 lb cardstock with an adhesive back). A Roll Holder is sold separately.

I do love Smart Paper sticker cardstock – it is perfect for layered paper projects of all kinds. However, Smart Vinyl products are more expensive and have fewer options for colors and finishes than other brands.

For example, this is how Smart Iron-On stacks up against the most popular brand of heat transfer vinyl (HTV):

Cricut Smart Iron-On, 13″ wide roll

  • Smart Iron-On basic
    • 3 ft (8 colors): $14.99
    • 9 ft (5 colors): $39.99
  • Holographic
    • 3 ft (2 colors): $19.99
    • 9 ft (2 colors): $49.99
  • Glitter
    • 3 ft (5 colors): $19.99
    • 9 ft (4 colors): $49.99

Siser EasyWeed HTV, 12″ wide roll

  • Siser EasyWeed (58 colors)
    • 3 ft: $8.00
    • 15 ft/5 yards: $33.00
  • Holographic (25 colors)
    • 3 ft: $10.00
    • 15 ft: $37.99
  • Glitter (58 colors)
    • 3 ft: $9.99
    • 15 ft: $40.00

Siser HTV comes in a huge variety of 15 different finishes and effects (reflective, glow in the dark, blackboard, etc.), not to mention pattern options. In addition to Siser, you can choose from HTV made by Thermoflex, WALAKut, Chemica, and many generics.

Bottom line: If you want to mainly do matless cutting, the Cameo series reigns supreme – choose any brand of vinyl you want, up to 24″ wide (Pro), and cut up to 60 feet of length at a time. Thanks to the cutting channel under the blade, you can even cut materials like cardstock without any backing material.

Maker 3 vs Cameo 4: Print and Cut Capabilities

One of the most popular features of any cutting machine is the ability to do contour cutting, commonly known as “print & cut.” Users can print on paper, sticker sheets, or printable vinyl using their inkjet or sublimation printer, then cut the images out using their cutting machine.

There are commercial cutters that can both print and cut, but no machines less than about $8000 have those dual capabilities.

So, Maker 3 vs Cameo 4 – which one cuts out printed material better? This is an easy one, it’s the Cameo 4.

The Maker 3 did not improve on the original Maker’s print and cut area; the maximum printed area that the Maker 3 can cut is 6.75″ x 9.5″. Even though they improved the Maker’s optical scanners, this machine can still only do a small print and cut area, but it can cut images with colored backgrounds.

Cameo 4 machines, on the other hand, can cut whatever your printer can handle. Like commercial cutters, Cameo machines read registration marks placed in Silhouette Studio, unlike the giant box drawn around print & cut projects in Design Space. Although the optics in Cameos aren’t as good as their commercial Graphtec counterparts, they are still pretty adept at creating accurate contour cuts.

Silhouette Studio sets the media size for print & cut to match your installed printer.

Software Comparison: Cricut Design Space vs. Silhouette Studio

Cricut Design Space

Silhouette Studio

(Basic Edition)

Download before you buy

YES

YES

Free to use

YES

YES

Requires Internet Connection

NO

NO

Import SVG Files

YES

NO

Save as SVG

NO

NO

Weld and Slice Tools

YES

YES

Use Your Own Fonts

YES

YES

Freehand drawing

NO

YES

Image tracing

YES

YES

Print and Cut

YES

YES

One of the hurdles people face when they are considering a craft cutter is their uncertainty about learning the software. While it is true that you have to deal with the software in order to use either the Maker 3 or Cameo 4, millions of people of all ages and backgrounds use their machines every day.

Both Cricut and Silhouette want users to be able to start making projects right away, and how much you want to play around with either software is entirely up to you. Some people learn all the ins and outs of Design Space or Studio, some remain casual users who enjoy making largely ready-to-make projects, but these programs are meant to be relatively easy to use.

First thing, kudos to both Cricut and Silhouette for making their design software free to download and try before you buy. This is a big help to people with different confidence levels regarding learning new software. You can install Design Space or Silhouette Studio on your computer, watch tutorials and experiment with your own designs without having to own a machine!

Second, there are many outdated reviews of the Cricut Maker that say that Cricut Design Space is a web-only app. This has changed! As of December 2019, Cricut Design Space is a downloadable app that can be used without an internet connection.

Cricut Design Space: Do a Lot with the Basics

Cricut Design Space is a basic graphic design program that doesn’t feel intimidating to new users. You can create new designs, as well as import files you have downloaded from the internet or created in other applications. Of course, you can always use the images and projects ready for you through Cricut Access.

As far as design tools go, Design Space lets you create shapes and use text. There are also “weld” and “slice” functions so you can create more complex designs beyond squares and circles. I was disappointed there is no option for freehand drawing,  but you can import SVG files from other apps like Inkscape or even Adobe Illustrator where you can make much more intricate project designs.

cricut design space sample project

Design Space is also linked to Cricut Access, the subscription library containing tens of thousands of images, fonts and ready to make projects. Most require a subscription, but there are hundreds of image files that are free to use.

If you are not particularly interested in designing projects from scratch and just want to use premade images for your projects, this is a great feature. Even if you are using an image from the library, you can customize it with your own text and color palette.

When your design is finished and ready to cut, Design Space makes it very easy to follow each step in the “making” process. You can preview your project on the mat before you cut, and Design Space will provide helpful prompts to help you select the correct material setting and when and where to load each tool.

Another low key helpful feature for new users is that there is only one version of Design Space that covers every Cricut machine. This means that software tutorials from Cricut are going to be relevant for each machine.

Silhouette Studio: Made for Designers

Silhouette Studio is a beginner-level design software that is surprisingly feature-rich. Thanks to many tutorials from Silhouette and other experienced crafters, first time users should be able to quickly master the learning curve so you can cut with confidence. Unlike Cricut Design Space, you can draw freehand lines in Studio, plus there is an eraser tool and a vector point editor tool. In addition to welding and slicing functions, I liked that you could trace images as well.

example of vector project in silhouette studio

One of the main hallmarks of Silhouette Studio is there are many more machine features and settings that you have access to. You can fine tune and tweak cutting speed, blade force and depth and the number of cutting passes over specific shapes.

Setting the different cutting or sketching operations is done manually and requires you to designate different sketch or cut lines by outline color. Overall, the design and setup side of things can be much more “hands-on” in Silhouette Studio compared to Cricut Design Space. People seeking more control over their machine’s settings and functions will appreciate this increased level of management for the user.

The free version of Silhouette Studio has its limitations, though. You cannot import SVG cut files using the basic version (the paid upgrade is required.) Likewise, you cannot save your designs as SVG files to share or sell.

And unlike Cricut, Silhouette’s tiered software packages means that tutorial videos may exclude some users. For those curious, the different tiers of Silhouette Studio are:

  • Silhouette Studio – free
  • Designer Edition – $50
  • Designer Edition Plus – $75 (or $25 to upgrade from Designer Edition)
  • Business Edition – $99 (or $25 or $50 to upgrade from Designer or Designer Plus)

On a side note – for experienced designers considering the Cameo 4, Silhouette offers Silhouette Connect, a paid plugin that allows Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw users to directly connect and send projects to the Cameo 4 without using Silhouette Studio. 

Silhouette Studio vs Cricut Design Space: What Files Can You Use?

Cricut Design Space import files

  • SVG (vector)
  • DXF (vector)
  • JPG (bitmap)
  • PNG (bitmap)

Silhouette Studio (Free) import files

  • DXF (vector)
  • JPG (bitmap)
  • PNG (bitmap)

If you are importing designs or images you’ve downloaded from the web into Design Space or Silhouette Studio, you need to be aware that each software program allows only certain file types.

Both Design Space and Studio can read bitmap images like JPG and PNG. These are basic image types that include pictures you get with a camera and most graphics used in web design. Before you can cut or draw these images in Design Space or Studio you will have to use the trace function them to get cuttable shapes, otherwise the software sees these images as just an area to be cut around.

Design Space and Studio are really intended to cut vector images. Vectors are images that comprise points, lines and curves and can be scaled up or down without losing any sharpness or definition to the lines. There are a lot of different file types that are under the umbrella of “vector” but when discussing Silhouette and Cricut we only need to worry about two.

Cricut allows users to import SVG vectors into Design Space. SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphic and it’s the most widely used vector graphic in crafting circles. There are many sites where you can download them for free and use them in personal or commercial project. (Cricut does not let you save your finished designs as SVG files from Design Space, however. You must save your artwork in a proprietary Cricut file format.)

Silhouette Studio Basic Edition (Free) only allows users to import bitmap (JPG and PNG) images, but there’s a loophole. Silhouette wants users to pay to upgrade the software before you can use the common SVG file format, but because Studio itself is built on a programming foundation similar to AutoCAD (Computer Assisted Drawing software for architects and drafting, dating back to the early ’80s), there is an CAD vector file type called DXF that works in the free version of Silhouette Studio.

DXF (Drawing eXchange File) vector files are not great to work with in Silhouette Studio, especially when you’ve converted another type of vector file into DXF. But if you have patience and expect to see your image do a few weird things, you should be able to use these files.

Cameo 4 vs Maker 3: Connection Options

Both the Cameo 4 and Maker 3 have USB connections for desktop and laptop computers, as well as wireless Bluetooth connections. Very handy options for being able to move your cutter anywhere in your crafting room, and not just next to your computer.

The Maker 3 also has a USB charging port for tablets and smartphones, however it is not for data transfer.

Where these machines differ is mobile device connectivity. The Cricut Maker 3 can connect wirelessly to tablets and smartphones and communicate using the Design Space app for either iOS or Android. You can get most, but not all, of the same features on your mobile device that you do on the desktop version of Design Space, and the features differ depending on whether you are using Apple or Android.

(Knife Blade and Foil Transfer Tool projects are not compatible with any mobile devices, they require the desktop version of Design Space)

The Cameo 4 does not offer compatibility with tablets or smartphones at this time. Silhouette offered a mobile version of the Studio software but discontinued support for it in 2019, before the release of the Cameo 4. Silhouette has commented that a new version of the app could be in the works, and if it becomes available, we will be sure to update this information.

Maker vs Cameo 4: What Looks Better?

After all of this discussion of the features and benefits of these fine machines, it might seem a little crass to mention looks. Nevertheless, crafting and making is all about aesthetic choices, and it seems relevant to talk about what machine has better styling.

After Ashish Arora, formerly of Logitech, took over the reins at Cricut, he originally wanted to make a transparent machine that exposed all of the technology inside the cutter, which turned out to be a terrible idea. Guided by Cricut’s customer base, the first Cricut Explore (2014) and every machine since then has been designed to be sleek, spare, and extremely upscale – reminiscent of Jony Ive’s designs for Apple.

Like its predecessor, the Cricut Maker 3 has a polished look: rounded corners, glossy finish and an aluminum lid. While the original Maker was white with five different color options for the lid, the Maker 3 is entirely light blue (“mist”). A soft auto-open reveals clever tool storage in the front panel of the machine, and the Maker 3’s tools all have high-quality metal housings.

The Cameo 4 has a different aesthetic: it is more angular, with a matte finish and integrated, backlit touch panel. I love the backlit touch panel, and the lift-and-slide away lid. I also think it’s good that Silhouette has come to its senses and offers the Plus and Pro only in white. The 12″ Cameo 4 comes in white, black, or a Barbie pink color that made me think some engineer said “hey, these are for ladies, let’s make a pink one”. I love pink, but that’s a “no” from me in this case.

The emphasis with the Cameo cutters is on functionality, and you get plenty of that in an attractive package but not a lot of Apple-esque styling. The blade housings are all plastic, but there are some cool little details that make a big difference. The Cameo 4 and Cameo Plus have pull-out, integrated roll holders at the front of the machine (the Pro has a separate roll feeder). The built-in crosscutter on every Cameo is at the back of the machine where the roll exits, so you can cut the vinyl close to your project without waste. There is also a small compartment with a slide-out lid at the top left of the machine to store an extra blade.

Bottom line: Cameos absolutely out-charm their more commercial counterparts, but Cricut has truly elevated the exterior design of these machines; whether that matters is entirely up to you.

Price Comparison

This comparison is straightforward. The suggested retail price for the Cricut Maker 3 is $399.99, while the suggested retail price for the 12″ Cameo 4 is $299.99. For the same price as the Maker 3, you can get the 15″ wide Cameo Plus, and for $100 more you could get the 24″ wide Cameo Pro.

There are many outlets selling these machines however, and it’s not unheard of to get considerable discounts, either on the machine itself or on accessory and material bundles. You’re unlikely to get a discount on the new Maker 3 directly, but you can still get good deals on bundles.

Speaking of bundles, the Cricut store offers two bundles options for the Maker 3 – the Essentials bundle and the Everything Materials bundle. Silhouette does not offer bundles through its own store, but Swing Design offers some amazing value bundles for the Cameo 4 and Maker 3 that really boost your savings and value.

Cricut Maker 3 vs Silhouette Cameo 4: Bottom Line

The choice is up to you depending on your needs and preferences: you know what kind of user you are. Both machines will produce professional-looking results for your projects, whether they are personal or for clients.

The best reason to buy a Maker 3 is its remarkable suite of tools. While there are many roll-fed vinyl cutters out there, there is no other machine that matches the Maker for sheer variety of functions: 7 different cutting and perforation tools that cut a multitude of different materials, plus tools for scoring, engraving, debossing/embossing, and foil embellishment.

If you want a machine that will do more than the Maker 3, you’d have to buy a laser cutter like the Glowforge. And if you favor the Maker 3 because you want a next-level crafting Swiss army knife, then matless cutting of Smart Materials is a nice extra for bigger projects and faster cutting. Many people do in fact use their Cricuts for home business, it just depends on what you need.

Cricut also has a lot of advantages if you are a beginner, because the software is relatively easy to use if you’ve never used a design program before, and there are tons of ready-to-make projects through Design Space. Cricut has a bigger library of support videos and a much larger online community than Silhouette.

On the other hand, Cameo – especially the wider format machines – is a great option for users who want to do a lot of high-volume matless cutting of vinyl, stickers, or cardstock. If you want to use your machine for small business purposes and you want more sophisticated design software, especially if you upgrade to a paid version of Studio, the Cameo machines are a popular choice.

Silhouette is the home crafting arm of Graphtec America, a company that makes high-end commercial vinyl cutters, and the Cameo line reflects that. The Cameo 4, Plus, and Pro all feature extras like a cutting channel under the blade for matless cutting of cardstock and rolls of vinyl, integrated and included roll holders, and superior print and cut. Silhouette Studio software is leagues ahead of Cricut Design Space, because they haven’t sacrificed software quality in order to enable use on mobile devices, and you can even upgrade to better versions of Studio.

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