What is the Best Mac Compatible Vinyl Cutter?

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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 without 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 
  • home crafting cutters
  • desktop cutters for home business
  • large commercial cutters 

Mac compatibility depends on the software used to run each machine, and 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, but they all run on (generally) user-friendly Mac compatible software.

Cricut Machines

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.

hummingbird svg in cricut design space

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 you might want to cut, write or score with. Design Space determines the blade depth, cut pressure and cutting speed for you so 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, so if I get stuck or need to read up on something, all of the tutorials and how-to’s are based on the same software.

Another point in favor of Cricut and Design Space is that is works equally well on MacOS machines as well as 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

            Cricut Maker: 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 Air 2. If you are interested in more complex crafting projects like 3D models, home décor, fabric or quilting projects, the Maker has a specialized tool ready to work perfectly. 

cricut explore air 2 best vinyl cutting machine

Cricut Explore Air 2

            Cricut Explore Air 2: A great 12” desktop cutter for popular materials like vinyl, paper and cardstock. The Explore Air2 has a dual tool carriage for pens and blades and a 2x fast mode to speed up projects. It’s a great home vinyl cutter that can also be used for projects to sell (like t-shirts), but all of the cutting has to be done on a mat (no roll feed).

cricut joy

Cricut Joy

            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's the only Cricut machine capable of matless cutting, and you can make projects up to 20 feet long.

Model

Cutting Area

Connection Type

MSRP (USD)

12" x 12"

12" x 24"

USB cable

Bluetooth

Smartphone

Tablet

$400

12" x 12"

12" x 24"

USB cable

Bluetooth

Smartphone

Tablet

$250

4.5" x 6.25"

4.5" x 12"

4.5" x 20' (roll feed)

Bluetooth

Smartphone

Tablet

$180

Model

Cutting Area

Connection Type

MSRP (USD)

12" x 12"

12" x 24"

USB cable

Bluetooth

Smartphone

Tablet

$400

12" x 12"

12" x 24"

USB cable

Bluetooth

Smartphone

Tablet

$250

4.5" x 6.25"

4.5" x 12"

4.5" x 20' (roll feed)

Bluetooth

Smartphone

Tablet

$180

Read more about Cricut machine specs and features here:

Silhouette Machines

Silhouette – a top competitor in the craft cutting market, with a lineup of newly revamped machines. These cutters operate on Silhouette Studio software, which is a more robust design platform than Cricut Design Space, allowing users to 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, and 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.

example of vector project in silhouette studio

The downside to Silhouette Studio (in my opinion) is that the software comes in four tiers, ranging from Basic (free) to Business ($100). The type of files you can import and export, as well as the range of design tools, for example, 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 vinyl and craft cutting machine

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.

the Cameo Pro is the newest Silhouette machine

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 best portable vinyl cutter

Silhouette Portrait 3

            Portrait 3 – Silhouette’s compact and portable cutting machine. The Portrait 3 has a compact 16” x 6” footprint, weighs just 3.5 lbs and can cut rolls of vinyl up to 9 inches wide and 60 feet long.

Silhouette Curio embossing and etching craft machine

Silhouette Curio

            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.

Model

Cutting Area

Connection Type

MSRP (USD)

12" x 12"

12" x 24"

12" x 60' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

$300

15" x 15"

15" x 30"

15" x 60' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

$400

24" x 24"

24" x 60' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

$500

9" x 12"

9" x 24"

9" x 60' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

$200

8.5" x 12"

USB cable only

$250

Model

Cutting Area

Connection Type

MSRP (USD)

12" x 12"

12" x 24"

12" x 60' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

$300

15" x 15"

15" x 30"

15" x 60' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

$400

24" x 24"

24" x 60' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

$500

9" x 12"

9" x 24"

9" x 60' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

$200

8.5" x 12"

USB cable only

$250

Read more about Silhouette machine specs and features here:

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: decent capabilities to create basic designs from scratch, lots of tools, and the ability to import your own vector projects from other programs.

Mac Compatible Brother Craft Cutters

the new brother scan-n-cut sdx85 home craft cutter

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.

Model

Cutting Area

Connection Type

MSRP

12" x 12"

12" x 24"

12" x 70' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

Smartphone

Tablet

$400

Model

Cutting Area

Connection Type

MSRP

12" x 12"

12" x 24"

12" x 70' (roll feed)

USB cable

Bluetooth

Smartphone

Tablet

$400

Mac Compatible Commercial Vinyl Cutters

If you are looking for a wide format cutter for your small business, there are lots of great options for cutting machines from 15 inches wide all the way up to 72 inches. They don’t offer some of the features that craft cutters do, like 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.

Mac Compatible Cutting Software options

There are three software options for Mac users when selecting a larger, commercial vinyl cutter:

  1. Mac-compatible bundled software
  2. Software plugin for Adobe Illustrator
  3. 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 Studiothe 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
graphtec studio screenshot

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, as the plugin has different versions to accommodate different versions of MacOS and older versions of Illustrator.

Mac Compatible Graphtec Cutters

graphtec ce7000 series best commercial vinyl cutting machine

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 that 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.

Model

Cutting Area

Cutting Speed

Connection Type

MSRP

15" wide
164' long

(381 mm x

50 meters)

24"/s
(610 mm)

USB Cable

USB Ethernet

$1,295

24" wide
164' long

(610 mm x

50 meters)

36"/s
(914 mm)

at 45º direction

USB Cable

USB Ethernet

$1,895

50" wide
164' long

(1270 mm x

50 meters)

39"/s
(991 mm)

at 45º direction

USB Cable

USB Ethernet

$4,695

Model

Cutting Area

Cutting Speed

Connection Type

MSRP

15" wide
164' long

(381 mm x

50 meters)

24"/s
(610 mm)

USB Cable

USB Ethernet

$1,295

24" wide
164' long

(610 mm x

50 meters)

36"/s
(914 mm)

at 45º direction

USB Cable

USB Ethernet

$1,895

50" wide
164' long

(1270 mm x

50 meters)

39"/s
(991 mm)

at 45º direction

USB Cable

USB Ethernet

$4,695

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, and they bundle their machines with Roland DG CutStudio software, which is sadly only for Windows. Mac users can use the CutStudio Adobe Illustrator plugin to operate the machine, but the plugin only works with Illustrator versions CC (2014) / CC (2015) / CC (2017).

Mac Compatible Roland vinyl cutting machines

roland camm1 gs-24 vinyl cutter

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.

Model

Cutting Area

Cutting Speed

Connection Type

MSRP (USD)

22.9" wide
82' long

(584 mm x

25 meters)

19.69"/s

(500 mm)

USB cable

$1,995

Model

Cutting Area

Cutting Speed

Connection Type

MSRP (USD)

22.9" wide
82' long

(584 mm x

25 meters)

19.69"/s

(500 mm)

USB cable

$1,995

Mac Compatible 3rd Party software

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.

sure cuts a lot v5 screenshot

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, and is also available in the Pro version. SCAL5Pro offer more sophisticated options for tiling, cutting by color and layer and controlling cut order, but 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) but 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, and USCutter lists several of their cutting machines as Mac compatible with SCAL.

list of us cutter machines compatible with Sure Cuts a Lot software

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.

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 ar24 24" craft cutter

the AR-24 crafting cutter (with stand)

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

Final Thoughts

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.

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