It’s hard to make a confident determination of what craft cutter is definitively better: Cricut vs Silhouette. Both brands make cutting machines that have their loyal fans, but can you say one is better than the other?
It’s fair to say that the Cricut Maker is the best cutting machine that Cricut has produced so far. The same can be said about the Silhouette Cameo 4. The Cameo 4 is the best Silhouette machine, so far.
We’ll get to side by side comparisons of machines in a moment, but we wanted to point about some of the differences in the brands, and how one seems to be taking off, while the other seems to be holding steady.
Cricut vs Silhouette – Which is most popular?
This screenshot shows the relative popularity in Google searches for cricut and silhouette for the past three years (before the introduction of the Cricut Maker). You can see that Cricut searches have taken off over the past three years, while Silhouette is trailing off.
To refine the results even more, we tried narrowing down the category option to just look at Google searches in the Hobbies & Leisure category, and holy cow, the results are even more distinct. People are searching Google for Cricut related topics at a rate far exceeding Silhouette.
This is just the first clue that Cricut is the much more dominant player in the craft cutting market. But this is just internet searches by brand. What about other metrics?
What vinyl cutter is most popular on Amazon?
While Amazon doesn’t release actual sales number to the public, it does include a sales rank on every listing. In the “Arts, Crafts and Sewing” category, the Cricut machines are definitely outranking their competitors.
Amazon Best Seller Rank
(Arts, Crafts and Sewing)
Cricut vs Silhouette: online community
When you need support, free SVG files or inspiration for your next project, where do you turn? Both Silhouette and Cricut have large online communities, but does one have an edge over the other?
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Pinterest Monthly viewers
Cricut Design Space vs Silhouette Studio – Compare the Software
The first thing I have to say is both companies deserve a big thumbs up for making the software free to download before you purchase. For people with different confidence levels when it comes to mastering new computer programs, that’s a huge help! Anyone can download either Cricut Design Space or Silhouette Studio and watch hundreds of official or community tutorial videos to get a basic mastery before you start cutting or drawing with your machine.
(It should also be noted that there are many, many outdated reviews of “Cricut vs. Silhouette” that knock Cricut Design Space for being web based and only available online. As of December 2019, this is no longer true. Design Space can be downloaded to your home computer and used to design and import cut files without an internet connection.)
Cricut Design Space: Easy for Beginners, but Robust Enough For Experienced Users
Cricut Design Space is a really basic graphic design program that mostly deals with shapes and text. At first I thought this was too basic for most crafting projects, but then I got playing with it, and using the basic shapes in combination with the welding and slicing functions, I found I could make reasonably detailed forms and outlines.
What I like about Cricut Design Space is that there is only one version of the software that every machine and every user uses. That makes all of the software tutorials accessible and relevant no matter how you use your Cricut.
For advanced designers, Design Space also lets you import completed SVG files from other programs like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape and then cut or draw with your machine. However, you cannot export your Design Space creations as SVG files to share them with friends.
Silhouette Design Space: Surprisingly Robust with a Comfortable Learning Curve
I was impressed at how feature-rich Silhouette Studio is as a beginner-level design software. You can use shapes or draw freehand lines, plus there is an eraser tool. In addition to welding and slicing functions, I liked that you could trace shapes from images as well.
(Silhouette also has a vector point editor tool so you can reshape and clean up traced images.)
The basic free version of Silhouette Studio software has its limitations, however. You cannot import SVG files using the free version (the paid upgrade is required.) Likewise, you cannot save designs you have created as SVG files to share with friends. The only vector file format you can use with the free version of Silhouette Studio is DXF. This format has its limitations but there are tools available to help you convert images to DXF.
So unlike Cricut, Silhouette’s tiered software packages means that tutorial videos are going to exclude some users. Frustrating! For those curious, the different levels 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)
Cricut Maker vs. Silhouette Cameo 4
The Maker and the Cameo 4 are the respective flagship models from Cricut and Silhouette and they represent the top end of the craft cutter market. There are many similarities between the machines but a few key differences.
The Maker (released in 2017) has a dual tool carriage, with one side dedicated to drawing instruments and the other carriage dedicated to blades and tools. Like the Explore Air 2, this Cricut cutting machine uses the same fine point, deep point and bonded fabric blades in the traditional blade housing.
What’s new with the Maker is the rotary blade and the knife blade for cutting a wider range of materials. The rotary blade is designed to cut fabric and thin, delicate material, while the knife blade is for cutting thicker stock (up to 3/32”) like chipboard, balsa wood or leatherette.
Both of these new blades are driven by the Adaptive Tool System. The new gear head on top of the tool housing allows the Cricut Maker to intelligently adjust the blade direction, cutting depth and pressure during the job for more precise cuts in very thick or fine material.
The Maker also unveiled the Quickswap tool housing, referring to a universal tool body with interchangeable heads. New tools compatible with the Quickswap housing include:
- Perforation Blade Tip: creates clean, easy-to-tear perforations
- Debossing Tip: lets you embellish projects in intricate detail
- Single Scoring Wheel Tip: allows for clean creases in a single pass
- Double Scoring Wheel Tip: makes clean creases on thick materials
- Engraving Tip: for professional-looking engraving
- Wavy Blade Tip: for decorative scalloped edges on a variety of materials
Three options to buy
the Cricut Maker:
Cameo 4 Introduces Increased Cutting Force
The Cameo 4 made its debut in November 2019, just in time for Black Friday. Silhouette addressed a serious shortfall in cutting force compared to both the previous Cameo 3 and the Cricut Maker. Whereas the Maker has up to 4,000g of cutting force, the Cameo 3 had 210 gf (totally reasonable for a machine designed for cutting vinyl and paper), Silhouette added a new motor to the Cameo 4 that was capable of applying 5,000 grams of cut force to material up to 3mm thick.
However, the downfall in this design (in our opinion) is that the Cameo 4 reserves this new, high-force carriage (carriage 2) to its three new tools: the rotary blade, the Kraft blade and the punch tool. If you are working on easy vinyl cutting and drawing projects, the standard autoblade and pens have to swap back and forth out of the same tool holder (carriage 1).
This detail aside, the Silhouette Cameo 4 does have a lot to offer that the Cricut Maker doesn’t.
- Matless Cutting. The Cameo 4 includes a roll feeder and supports projects up to 60 feet long without a cutting mat. This feature alone is the reason why many crafters prefer Silhouette over Cricut.
- More software options. In addition to Silhouette Studio basic and its paid upgrades, Cameo 4 users can use Sure Cuts a Lot, Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw plugins to design and cut their projects.
- Larger models available. In addition to the original 12” Cameo 4, Silhouette offers the larger Cameo Plus (15” wide) and Cameo Pro (24” wide). All three models work with the same toolsets and software options.
Two options to buy the Silhouette Cameo 4:
Cricut Access vs Silhouette Design Store vs Club Silhouette Subscriptions
Silhouette and Cricut both have online stores where they sell machines, accessories and materials. Each company also has a separate online marketplace for images, fonts and projects. Both companies offer subscription services to their customers to access free or discounted items in their stores.
- Cricut offers Cricut Access, a monthly or yearly service that offers access to images, fonts and project plus discounts on machines, tools and materials.
- Silhouette offers Club Silhouette, a monthly or yearly loyalty program that offers subscribers free blades and mats for their machines, free designs and free shipping on store purchases, plus discounts on cut materials and tools purchased at the store.
- Silhouette offers a second subscription program to the Silhouette Design Store where subscribers receive store credit to put towards digital designs, fonts and projects.
Cricut Access: How Much Does it Cost?
- Monthly: $9.99
- Yearly: $7.99/month (billed $95.88 per year)
- Premium: $9.99/month (billed 119.88 per year)
- Cricut offers a two week free trial of Cricut Access
The Cricut Access subscription offering is pretty straightforward. When you enroll in their monthly or annual plan, you get unlimited use of Cricut’s library of non-premium, non-licensed images, fonts and projects. Cricut Access members also get 10% savings when shopping for machines, accessories or material from the Cricut store and access to a Priority Member Care line. Cricut Access also offers a yearly Premium plan that includes free shipping on orders over $50.
There is a bit of muddling to determine what is included free and what is offered at a discount with Cricut Access. The images, fonts and projects fall into three categories:
- non-premium, non-licensed. Cricut Access includes unlimited use of 100,000 images, 7,000 projects and 400 fonts in this category
- non-premium, licensed. Cricut offers these files and fonts at a 50% discount for Premium subscribers
- premium, licensed. Cricut offers licensed images and fonts from brands like Star Wars, Sanrio and Marvel for a 10% discount for all subscribers
How Much does a Silhouette Design Store Subscription Cost?
Silhouette offers similar perks for subscribers as Cricut, but they divide it into two different services that you can choose from.
Silhouette Design Store subscription offers a preset amount of store credit you can spend on digital images, fonts and projects every month.
For example, a $4.99 12-month subscription gets you $10 worth of store credit per month. Most images cost a dollar for non-subscribers, but if you subscribe for $5, you can “buy” ten designs for your credit. If you subscribe for the Diamond premium plan for $30 per month, you can “buy” $250 worth of images, fonts and projects per month. Each month’s credits are also good for sixty days if you don’t use up your monthly allotment.
Silhouette’s pricing model is a little complicated, to put it kindly. This subscription program has five different benefit levels (starter, basic, deluxe, premium and diamond) offered in three, six or twelve month periods. The rates go up if you choose a shorter period, but the credit allotment stays the same. Confusing!
How Much does a Club Silhouette Subscription Cost?
Silhouette also separately offers Club Silhouette, a loyalty program for their physical goods store. For $10 per month (or $100 per year) members get:
- Free shipping over $50
- 10 free digital designs per month
- a free blade and a free mat delivered three times per year
- a 10% discount at the Silhouette America store, but that excludes new machines, software, other subscriptions or gift cards
- members earn Club Silhouette points on purchases at Silhouette America (1 point per $10 spent). Members can use those points at a value of one point/$1 toward future purchases.
We appreciate that Cricut keeps it simple. They offer two weeks of Cricut Access free when you purchase one of their machines. Over 100,000 images and 7,000 fonts are offered free to subscribers, and the same subscription deal covers discounts in the Cricut store. Silhouette’s multi-level, dollars-for-credit system is complicated, and probably not what I would want to deal with when also learning a new machine and new software system.
After looking at their machines, their support and communities, and their software, we have to say that Cricut is leading the way in making accessible cutting machines and software that are reliable and easy to use. However, lots of people will find Silhouette products more suited to their abilities and taste.
In the end we like Cricut’s machines and software, but we also agree with one reviewer who summed up the difference nicely: If you want faster learning time and a more automated machine, choose a Cricut. If you want more hands-on control and a more detailed design environment, choose a Silhouette. With the addition of the Cameo Plus and Cameo Pro, we also have to acknowledge that Silhouette is the hands down choice for Mac users who want large size cutting capabilities.
Cricut is great for crafting projects where you will make use of a lot of the different tools. If you are geared up for more vinyl cutting and you want the freedom of cutting from a roll and not having to bother with a cutting mat, Silhouette's matless cutting options are a big big plus.