Greetings fellow macophiles, and welcome to a totally reasonable conversation about finding the right Mac compatible vinyl cutter for your needs. I’ll do my best to get right to the point, offer just the relevant details and helpful links. I won’t be turning this article into a bacchanalia of sales copy.
There is a spectrum of vinyl cutting machines that runs from
- home crafting cutters
- desktop cutters for home business
- large commercial cutters
Mac compatibility depends on the software used to run each machine. While all major brands of craft cutters are Mac-friendly, many commercial machines are not.
Mac compatible Craft Cutters
There are a handful of big brands in the craft cutting world. Each brand has a range of machines for different crafts and different types of users. They all (generally) run on user-friendly Mac compatible software.
Cricut – current best seller of the craft cutting world. These cutting machines operate using software called Design Space, which is basic design software plus controls for tools and material selection for the cutter.
Design Space has its detractors, mostly based on how rudimentary the design tools are. If you are used to using more advanced design software like Adobe Illustrator, you can easily import finished vector images (in SVG format) into Design Space and complete your projects on the Cricut.
The big selling point for Cricut Design Space is that it coordinates every possible tool and every possible material. Design Space determines the blade depth, cut pressure and cutting speed for you. The results are great and you don’t have to spend time and costly materials on trial and error.
Personally, I like Design Space because it’s really clean and uncomplicated. The tools they provide actually work, and there’s just one version of the program. If I get stuck on something, all of the tutorials are based on the same software.
Another point for Cricut and Design Space is that is works on MacOS machines, iPhones and iPads. If you are working on multiple Apple devices, you can connect to your Cricut via Bluetooth or USB.
Mac compatible Cricut Machines
Cricut Maker 3
Cricut Maker 3: The flagship Cricut machine. The Maker is a 12” cutter with a dual tool carriage, but it boasts a wider array of tools than the Joy or the Explore 3. If you are interested in more complex crafting projects like 3D models, home décor, fabric or quilting projects, the Maker 3 has a specialized tool ready to work perfectly. This is the new version of the Maker, and can also do matless cutting of Cricut Smart Materials including Smart Vinyl and Smart Iron-On.
Cricut Explore 3: A great 12” desktop cutter for popular materials like vinyl, paper and cardstock. The Explore 3 has a dual tool carriage for pens and blades, and it’s a great home vinyl cutter that can also be used for projects to sell (like t-shirts). This is the newest Explore machine and has the same matless cutting capabilities as the Maker 3.
Cricut Joy: a portable cutter great for card making, writing labels or cutting decals. The Joy only has a wireless connection option, so you can use it with any Mac, iPhone or iPad.
We like the Joy because it can make projects up to 20 feet long, and it’s so easy to set up and use.
12" x 12"
12" x 24"
12" x 12 ft matless
12" x 12"
12" x 24"
12" x 12 ft matless
4.5" x 6.25"
4.5" x 12"
4.5" x 20 ft matless
Read more about Cricut machine specs and features here: The Best Cricut Machines 2021
Silhouette – a top competitor in the craft cutting market, with a lineup of newly revamped machines. These cutters operate on Silhouette Studio software. It is a more robust design platform than Cricut Design Space. Users can design from scratch if they don’t have access to vector editors like Illustrator.
Silhouette Studio is praised for being more “hands on” than Design Space. Users can manually set variables like cutting force and speed, blade depth and number of cutting passes. This is great for experienced crafters working with specialized material or projects requiring unique finishing.
The downside to Silhouette Studio (in my opinion) is that the software comes in four tiers. They range from Basic (free) to Business ($100). The type of files you can import and the range of design tools depends on the software edition you have.
This shouldn’t be unexpected, but the free level doesn’t allow you to open your own vector files (unless they are .dxf) and even official tutorials from Silhouette often use advanced level software that excludes users of the free version of the software.
While all Silhouette cutters are MacOS compatible, they are not mobile-device friendly. Silhouette is beta testing a new app for iPhone and iPad, but the functions are limited.
Mac Compatible Silhouette Vinyl Cutters
Silhouette Cameo 4
Cameo 4: This is the star cutting machine in the Silhouette family. The 12” Cameo 4 has a dual-carriage tool holder capable of writing, drawing, and cutting with the Autoblade (vinyl, paper and cardstock), Rotary cutter (fabric) or Kraft Blade (thick materials).
The Silhouette Cameo 4 series is capable of performing roll-fed cutting (ie cutting without a mat!), making it very attractive to crafters interested in cutting higher volume vinyl and paper projects.
Silhouette Cameo Pro
Cameo 4 Plus and Pro – The Plus and Pro are the 15” and 24” versions of the Cameo 4. Each machine comes with the same toolset and carriage configuration and the Cameo 4, and each machine is capable of matless cutting for vinyl and cardstock. These upgraded models are great Mac-compatible options for users looking to expand a home business with a wide format cutter for under $500.
Silhouette Portrait 3
Curio – The Curio is Silhouette’s multi-function crafting machine. It can cut like the rest of the family, but it also has tools for engraving, etching and embossing. Unlike the rest of the Silhouette lineup, it can only connect to a computer via USB cable.
12" x 12"
12" x 24"
12" x 60 ft (roll feed)
15" x 15"
15" x 30"
15" x 60 ft (roll feed)
24" x 24"
24" x 24"
24" x 60 ft (roll feed)
9" x 12"
9" x 24"
9" x 60 ft (roll feed)
8.5" x 12"
USB cable only
Read more about Silhouette machine specs and features here: The Best Silhouette Machines 2021
Brother Cutting Machines
Brother – Brother is kind of the forgotten step-child of the craft cutting world. Despite being a huge company that makes well-respected office products, Brother’s home crafting cutters are often overlooked. Notwithstanding, Brother cutting machines have unique features and run on MacOS and iOS platforms.
Brother craft cutters use the Canvas Workspace app for design and machine instruction. In terms of functionality as a design application, it falls between Cricut Design Space and Silhouette Studio. It can create basic designs from scratch, has lots of tools, and can import vectors from other programs.
Mac Compatible Brother Craft Cutters
Brother ScanNCut SDX85
ScanNCut SDX85 – The new ScanNCut SDX85 is in the same price class as the Cricut Maker and Silhouette Cameo 4 and shares many features. It cuts up to 12 inches wide and uses either a 12″ or 24” cutting mat. This new model also can use the optional roll feeder to make cuts up to 70 feet long! Brother has also improved the autoblade tool with this machine so it can automatically detect and cut any material thickness up to 3mm.
The main reason I recommend Brother to anyone is that it also works as a stand-alone cutter without a computer or smart device. This is a great feature for classrooms, small offices and maker spaces that have multiple users. The SDX85 has a touch control pad and a USB slot for flash memory so users can bring their finished project to the machine on a USB drive or design from scratch on the touch pad.
Mac Compatible Commercial Vinyl Cutters
If you are looking for a commercial cutter, there are lots of great options from 15″ all the way up to 72″ wide. They don’t offer some of the features that craft cutters do. There aren’t dual tool carriages or a wide range of tools for cutting fabric or thick material. But if you are looking to cut large quantities of vinyl in a hurry, these are the machines for you.
Honorable mention goes to the Silhouette Cameo Pro, which at 24″ wide is a reasonable entry into both craft cutting and small business arenas. It isn’t the same kind of speedy workhorse that a Graphtec cutter is. If you want to expand your crafting into a home business, the Cameo Pro may be a great option.
Mac Compatible Cutting Software options
There are three software options for Mac users when selecting a larger, commercial vinyl cutter:
- Mac-compatible bundled software
- Software plugin for Adobe Illustrator
- 3rd party software
Graphtec Cutting and Design Software
Graphtec – Graphtec is our top choice for commercial vinyl cutting, no matter what platform you are using. These high-end machines are incredibly fast and accurate, and are designed for precise contour cutting on preprinted materials.
Mac users can install Graphtec Studio, the standalone design and cut software to operate their cutter. Graphtec studio for Mac is basic design software with tools like:
- line, shape and polygon drawing
- point editor
- freehand drawing
- object modification (weld, divide, subtract etc)
- alignment and duplication tools
Example of project in Graphtec Studio for Mac.
It’s not Illustrator, but you can import vectors in EPS and DXF format, as well as PNG bitmaps. You can only save your original designs in the proprietary Graphtec Studio format (.gstudio) or PDF. Overall, it’s uncomplicated and lets you modify your design before cutting or create basic designs from scratch.
There’s also a plugin for Adobe Illustrator that you can use to operate your Graphtec cutting machine (Cutting Master 4). There might be troubleshooting required. The plugin has different versions to accommodate different versions of MacOS and older versions of Illustrator.
Mac Compatible Graphtec Cutters
Graphtec CE7000 series vinyl cutters (15″/24″/50″)
Graphtec CE7000 series – Graphtec’s new line of fast accurate cutters for small business. The CE7000 series comes in three models (15”, 24” and 50”), all capable of cutting projects up to 164 feet long.
The CE7000 series excels at contour cutting and is widely praised by t-shirt makers and print shops for its ability to handle high volumes of decals, signage and vehicle wraps.
Graphtec cutters include the proprietary ARMS 8.0 (Advanced Registration Mark Sensor) system. It is the industry standard for print and cut file scanning.
Put simply, the CE7000 series is fast, accurate and Mac ready right out of the box. If you are looking for a wide format cutter for small business, it’s hard to argue with all of the great features this machine brings to the table.
15" x 164 ft
(381 mm x 50 m)
24" (610 mm) per second
24" x 164 ft
(610 mm x 50 m)
36" (914 mm) per second
(at 45º direction)
50" x 164 ft
(1270 mm x 50 m)
39" (991 mm) per second
(at 45º direction)
Read more about the Graphtec CE7000 series in our article on The Best Vinyl Cutting machines.
Does Roland Vinyl Cutter Software work with Mac?
Roland is another maker of high quality cutters for small business. They bundle their machines with Roland DG CutStudio software.
Roland DG CutStudio is sadly only for Windows, but included with purchase is the Roland CutStudio Adobe Illustrator plugin, so Mac users can operate the machine. Be forewarned, however: this plugin only works with Illustrator versions CC (2014) / CC (2015) / CC (2017). If you don’t have a compatible version of Illustrator, you can still use your Mac with a Roland cutter via 3rd party software (see below).
Mac Compatible Roland vinyl cutting machines
Roland CAMM1-GS24 – Roland’s premium 24” vinyl cutting machine is fast and accurate, able to cut thicker materials thanks to its overlap cutting feature. It has optic scan capability for contour cutting printed media, meaning it’s great for heat transfer vinyl, decals, car wraps and more.
Read more about the Roland CAMM1-GS24 in our article on The Best Vinyl Cutting machines for T-shirts.
Mac Compatibility via Sure Cuts a Lot
Sure Cuts a Lot: highly adaptive for many vinyl cutters
Sure Cuts a Lot (SCAL) is widely used design and cutting software that works with just about every craft cutter and commercial machine. It is Mac compatible and even free to try before you buy. As a design platform, it’s about as sophisticated as Silhouette Studio in terms of tool availability and learning curve.
The really impressive feature about SCAL is just the sheer number of cutters the software supports. Big companies like Roland, Graphtec, GCC and US Cutter are all supported by Sure Cuts a Lot, as well as dozens of smaller or niche manufacturers.
SCAL will open SVG, EPS and AI vector files (upgrade to Pro to import DXF files). It will also open JPG and PNG bitmap files for tracing or contour cutting. You can also export SVG versions of your designs.
Sure Cuts a Lot 5 is the latest version of this premium software. It is also available in the Pro version. SCAL5Pro offers more sophisticated options for tiling, cutting by color and layer and controlling cut order. Both versions are more than enough to get you started cutting from your Mac.
So, if you are looking at cutting machines not listed here for your Mac, there’s a good chance Sure Cuts a Lot will be able to communicate with it. That opens up tons of possibilities and levels the playing field for any Mac user.
SCAL5 retails for $75 and SCAL5Pro sells for $250 through the parent company (CraftEdge.com). Both programs are currently available at a discount. SwingDesign.com also sells this software (often discounted rates).
Mac-Compatible Cutters via Sure Cuts a Lot
Roland vinyl cutters – The Sure Cuts a Lot compatibility is great news for Roland fans looking for Mac support. You can use this software to design and cut with the Roland CAMM1 GS-24 and Stika machines without resorting to the Illustrator plugin.
US Cutter – US Cutter makes inexpensive commercial vinyl cutters, and their bundled software (VinylMaster Cut) is for Windows only; Sure Cuts a Lot includes US Cutter on its list of compatible cutters. USCutter lists several of their cutting machines as Mac compatible with SCAL.
a screenshot of Sure Cuts a Lot v5 showing a list of compatible US Cutter models.
US Cutter machines are basic, cheap and user friendly; they are one of the few companies that sell replacement parts so users can repair their machines themselves. They are limited by small memory capacity, so they can’t cut really large projects, but for beginners, they are a solid choice.
Read more about the US Cutter MH series at our review of the Best Vinyl Cutting Machines.
the AR-24 crafting cutter (with stand)
GCC Cutters – GCC is another commercial vinyl cutter manufacturer, with several different product series for all users. The basic models start at 24″ wide, and with every step up the product ladder, the machines get faster and offer higher cut force. The default software is Windows only, so 3rd party software like Sure Cuts a Lot is required to get a GCC cutter working on a Mac.
GCC has a really broad product offering including what they call “elite” and “supreme” level cutting machines, including pro level cutters up to 72″ wide.
GCC cutters at a glance:
- AR-24: 24″ cutter, no print & cut, MSRP $445
- Expert II: 24 and 52″ options, no print and cut, MSRP: $539/$1170
- Expert II LX: 24 and 52″ options, print and cut, MSRP: $749/$1370
- Puma IV: 24 and 52″ options, print and cut, wireless, MSRP: $1300/$2500
- Jaguar V: 24 / 40 / 52 / 63 / 72″ widths, print and cut, wireless connection
Vinyl cutters are having a moment in the pandemic. People are at home and trying their hand at crafting projects, or they are looking at ways to start a home business to make up for lost income. Either way, Mac users aren’t at a disadvantage when considering what cutting machine they want to buy.
The major home craft cutters are all Mac compatible, and with the right software, you can use almost any commercial grade cutter with your Mac as well.