Cricut vs. Silhouette: What are the Major Differences?

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cricut vs silhouette machines side by side

What are the differences between Cricut & Silhouette machines?

If you’re a crafter, you’ve most likely heard about all the amazing DIY craft projects you can make using a personal desktop die cutting machine. Silhouette and Cricut are the main brands dominating the die cutting market. I’m the proud owner of both the older Silhouette Cameo and the Cricut Explore Air.

Since I’m frequently asked the differences between both machines, I am sharing my experiences to help you decide between the Silhouette vs. the Cricut.

personalized onesie using cricut

What can I make with a die cutting machine?

Like a home printer, these machines plug into your PC or Mac computer and they make cuts in crafting materials. Both Cricut and Silhouette machines can cut similar materials like vinyl, paper, and cardstock.

They’re both excellent tools for creating personalized gifts, cups, t-shirts, home decor signs, organizing labels, party supplies, paper crafts, and so much more!

1. Software

Cricut and Silhouette use different types of software.

Cricut’s Software – Design Space

Cricut’s free software, Design Space, is web-based and now also offline, plus offers capabilities via Cricut Design Space (iOS). This program allows for designing and cutting using downloaded content without an internet connection.

Importing .jpg images and converting them to .svg images to use them for cutting projects is fairly simple in Design Space. You can also use your own fonts and images for free if you already have them.

There are images/fonts available for purchase individually in the software or you can pay $9.99 per month to join Cricut Access and use the files available only for Access members. It’s important to know that the images downloaded through Access can only be cut for as long as you have Access membership.

In addition, you can find lots of free .svg files on the internet that can be opened in the Design Space software for cutting.

Silhouette’s Software – Silhouette Studio

Silhouette Studio also has downloadable computer software where you can work offline, which is great if you don’t have a strong internet connection or want to take your machine on-the-go. It also has a wider variety of graphic design features to help you design your own images from scratch, which is a benefit if you want to make your own images and aren’t intimidated by design programs. Additionally, you can use any fonts downloaded on your computer within Silhouette Studio.

Silhouette Studio has a free version of the software and you can open and save files in the proprietary .studio file type, but you’re required to have the $50 paid version to upload .svg images, which is the most common type of file found free on the internet.

You can purchase files one at a time from the Silhouette Studio online store or purchase a subscription that allows you to download files at a discounted rate.

Software comparison in a nutshell:

If you want to just open and cut files, Cricut software seems easier to use. If you’d like to design your own files, Silhouette software has more designing options. If you’re buying images from Silhouette’s program, you’ll be able to keep them even after cancellation from Silhouette’s design store.

2. Exterior Design & Tool Storage

Cricut has slightly more storage than the Silhouette.

My Silhouette and Cricut machines are very similar in size and weight. They are about the size of a small printer and can fit nicely on a shelf or desk.

The Cricut offers handy onboard storage both on the top left of the machine and underneath to store all your tools, markers, and extra blades. My Silhouette machine does not have any storage, but the newer models do have storage space.

3. Blade Adjustment

Cricut and Silhouette are both relatively easy to set to different cutting thicknesses.

Both Cricut and Silhouette cut materials using blades. The Cricut has a knob on the top of the machine to adjust appropriately based on the material.

To adjust the Silhouette blade strength, simply twist the blade to a specific number based on the material before cutting.

Both brands have separate deep-cutting blades available for purchase (perfect for cutting thicker materials). I haven’t had to replace any blades yet, so they are long-lasting on both machines when you are cutting primarily vinyl.

4. Materials

Cricut and Silhouette both cut through different kinds of materials.

Both Cricut and Silhouette can cut through a long list of materials including cardstock, vinyl, heat transfer vinyl, vellum, craft foam, thin leather, window clings, etc.

However, the newer Cricut Maker has 10x the cutting force of the Explore machines and has a rotary blade and a deep knife blade that can cut even more materials, including fabric without backing and balsa wood!

5. Ease of Use

cricut projects using vinyl

In my personal experience, the Cricut had a slightly easier setup, easier software, and is easier to load the mat correctly right off the bat. I was able to dive right into completing lots of projects on my very first day of using my Cricut Explore.

I did not have an easy setup experience with my Silhouette machine and spent some time working with their customer service to make sure I was loading the mat correctly. In the end, it was just user error, but I didn’t feel like their introductory instructions were as clear as Cricut.

Hip Tip: It’s worth noting that both the Cricut and Silhouette websites have responsive customer service teams with online chats to ask questions and receive help.

6. Price Range

Cricut and Silhouette are both about the size of a large, compact printer.

Silhouette seems to be a little more expensive, but overall, the pricing is pretty similar considering the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Silhouette Cameo 3 are the most similar models between both brands.

The main difference between the Explore series machines is the speed with which they cut images. Check out this detailed list of comparisons for the Explore family. The Cricut Maker is a more powerful machine with more cutting options, so it makes sense for that machine to be priced highest among Cricut’s offerings.

Popular Cricut Machines: 

Popular Silhouette Machines: 

The Takeaway:

Lina with her Cricut

Honestly, both machines are very similar. The biggest difference seems to be in the design and ease of use right out of the box (at least for the models I own). The bottom line for me is I enjoy using my Cricut more, find the machine and software easier to use, and have less craft fails with Cricut.

However, my team member Michelle prefers Silhouette machines. She likes to design her own files and finds the software has more features for doing so. She also likes the variety of images available for purchase in the Silhouette Store better than Cricut.

Hip Tip: Whichever brand you choose, take some time to learn your machine. I find the more projects I complete, the faster I become at using the machine and raise my success rate.

That said, I have craft fails too—so don’t give up!

Mainly due to user error, sometimes my project is a bust. It’s usually because I didn’t select the type of material correctly for the blade before cutting, I forgot to reverse the image for iron-on vinyl, or my mat has lost its stickiness.

Don’t get frustrated—just practice and stick with it! Join some Cricut and Silhouette Facebook groups online to gain inspiration and helpful tips.

diy rae dunn inspired labels using cricut

My cutting machine has been my favorite craft tool EVER!

I’ve made so many fun crafts, and it’s been the best label maker for organizing.

Craft embroidery hoop Christmas ornaments using iron-on vinyl.

About the writer:

Lina has a Bachelor's Degree from Northern Arizona University with 11 years of blogging and photography experience having work featured in, Martha Stewart, Country Living, Fox News, Buzzfeed, and HGTV.

Join The Discussion

Comments 58

  1. Court!

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been interested in this type of crafting but hesitant to invest so much money without properly knowing about the machines etc! This is so helpful!

    • Deborah Phillips

      I just came here to write the very samething! Lol This looks like something I’d really enjoy doing!

  2. Juli

    Cameo 4 can cut many materials that the maker can cut. It has a rotary cutter.

  3. Laura

    I already know I want the Maker. I just don’t know if the average price on sale ($350) is as cheap as it’s going to go this holiday season. I keep hoping for a LITTLE bit less!

    • Jennifer

      I used the Cricut access discount and the Hip2Save discount and got the Maker essentials bundle and a pack of pens for $327.40. I don’t think it will get cheaper than that this season.

      • LauraG

        Thanks, Jennifer!

      • Cyndy

        Looking at purchasing the Maker, where did you find the access discount and the Hip2Save discount? That bundle deal is a very good price!

    • Latisha

      The Cricut explorer 2 is on sale at Michael’s and Walmart for $199

  4. Blue

    I love my Silhouette Cameo 2. I didn’t have any issues setting it up and using it right out of the box. I love designing things with it. Right now Silhouette is having their Black November sale and you can get a free design each day of November.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. Cristine

    I have the silhouette cameo 3 and it’s pretty nice. I’m still learning but so far the most trouble I have had is getting my designs transferred to the project all nice and neat. My vinyl doesn’t seem to always want to come off of the sticky sheet and I end up with crooked letters. Anyone got any tips or is it just a practice makes perfect kind of thing?

    • ashley

      it might actually be the vinyl you are using VS what you are doing. consider purchasing a vinyl with a thicker backing, a good brand is Oracle

    • Michelle

      I agree with Ashley. It is probably the type of vinyl that you were using. The paper studio brand from Hobby lobby is horrible in my opinion. Are usually stick with Oracle or GT5 vinyl from H&H Sign Supply. It is less expensive than Oracle but hold up just as well, in my opinion. I’ve been using it for about 10 years with no problems whatsoever.

    • twirlergirl101

      By sticky sheet I assume you mean transfer tape. Your transfer tape could be too sticky. That’s a common issue. I actually use contact paper (clear shelf liner) from dollar tree as transfer tape. I’ve been doing that for around 3 years now. You can also purchase it at Walmart or target

    • christy

      I agree that the transfer tape you use plays a big part in getting the vinyl to stick. But another problem I see a lot is your cut may be too deep. If it cuts into the paper backing even a little bit it makes it really hard to lift your design off the backing onto the transfer tape. Once you get tour cut settings just right you will see a difference.



  6. Slgomez

    My husband got me the Silhouette Cameo 3 last year and I still haven’t touch it. Lol! When I get my new laptop this Christmas then I’ll start making projects. Been downloading the free designs though.

    • Val Ledesma

      I’ll take it from your hands lol

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Yes! That’ll be exciting to start some products!

  7. Ashley

    There is an “auto-blade” for Sil Cameo 3- where you just change the cut setting for what type of material, and the autoblade sets to the required speed and force so no manual adjusting the blade setting.
    This is all I’ve ever used.
    It did take some trial and error to learn the software- all you need is youtube and some patience. 🙂

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      oh great tip – thanks for sharing!

  8. Michelle

    I love my Silhouette!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      awesome – thanks for sharing!

  9. Lindsay E.

    I totally agree with Michelle. I’ve had both machines and prefer my Cricut. In my opinion, it’s much more user friendly than the Silhouette. The Silhouette can do things the Cricut can’t, but the easy of use it more important to me.

    • Lindsay E.

      Whoops! It looks like Michelle prefers the Silhouette.

  10. CJ

    I’m going to keep checking the repossessed here because I’m getting one of these machines but not sure which. Your post was helpful, Lina, but I still can’t decide (probably just my character trait of indecisiveness!). I thought I was sold on the silhouette until I saw the version 4 where you can have the roll of vinyl be held going in. That seems like a nice feature but would it be super helpful? I plan on labeling things like Lina and making gifts like that as well as making tshirt transfers.

    • CJ

      Silhouette Cameo 4

      • CJ

        NEW Silhouette CAMEO 4 Features Increased Downward Force – up to 5kg (5000 g) to allow for the cutting of thicker materials including leather, matboard, balsa wood and craft foam Increased Cutting Speed and Acceleration – About 3x Faster than CAMEO 3 Ability to use Silhouette Rotary Blade Ability to use Silhouette Kraft Blade Single tap AutoBlade Larger Tool Carriage Housing (Tool adapter included. Silhouette CAMEO 4 tools will not fit in older machines) Gear Driven Tool Carriage to accommodate Rotary Blade, Kraft Blade, and new Auto Blade Touch Panel Auto Tool Detection allows for the software and machine to detect if the tool in the carriage is a sketch pen, blade, auto blade, etc Built-in Pull Out Roll Feeder Retractable Cover

    • twirlergirl101

      Honestly it won’t really make a difference. I have my Cricut sitting on a 10 drawer organizer and if it’s a shorter roll I’ll just let it unroll because they roll back up but if it’s longer I just pull the top drawer open and let it sit in there. It won’t impact your projects.

  11. twirlergirl101

    I’ve had both Cricuts and silhouettes and I will always choose Cricut. While I do have a computer, the ease of designing and cutting everything from my phone or iPad is crucial to me and you can’t do that with silhouette. The only thing I do on the computer is upload svg files to design space and upload fonts after I unzipped them to Dropbox to download to my phone and iPad.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks for adding your thoughts on this! I always like to hear what others think!

  12. chenga57

    I agree with the set up for silhouette. I have the cameo 2 and the instructions were not super clear. I had to figure out some steps (almost guess!) on my own and I feel like I know my way around a computer pretty well! But overall I love that you can create your own designs. YouTube videos were SUPER helpful too

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Great! Thanks for adding that feedback ❤️👍

  13. kelleymcghie

    I’m going to throw out there that I have the Brother Scan N Cut. I love it. I had Cricut and it was not my favorite.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh interesting! Thanks for sharing kelly!

    • Anita

      I started with a cricut, switched to silhouette 2, upgraded to silhouette 3 but about 3 months ago bought a brother scan N cut sdx125 because I wanted to cut stamped images without paying for expensive dies. Now I can scan the image and it cuts. There are so many things you can do with images that you scan. Love my brother. I also did not like cricut. Still have my sil3 but use brother sdx125 most.

    • charleneearhartsanders

      Scan N Cut is underrated but it is a great machine. So easy to use. I love being able to have multiple pieces of fabric or paper and precisely place designs to be cut on the mat. If I had to be on my computer or online all the time I would not have a cutting machine (and I didn’t until SNC came along).

    • charleneearhartsanders

      They are underrated. I can take an applique file from embroidery machine to the SNC and cut it out without using a computer, just USB. Great time-saver. Love the scanner and ease of use. Having to design online and be very careful how you set your materials on the mat (since you can’t see what is on there) was, to me, ridiculous. Wouldn’t trade it for a Cricut or Cameo.

    • charleneearhartsanders

      Scan N Cut is underrated but it is a great machine. So easy to use. I love being able to have multiple pieces of fabric or paper and precisely place designs to be cut on the mat. If I had to be on my computer or online all the time I would not have a cutting machine (and I didn’t until SNC came along).

  14. Linda

    Just a quick question, why did you put the new cricut up against the first generation of Silhouettes? Silhouette 4 just came out and is an amazing machine. Why not test at least the most recent machines against the most recent machine. Seems as if this “test” wasn’t a true test. also there are always discount codes to get the upgraded Silhouette software at a discount. Yes, I am a Silhouette Cameo 3 user and I love it. At some point I will upgrade to the larger and stronger, faster Silhouette 4. I usually love this site and all the information, but this was not a true comparison between the two machine.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh mostly because these are the specific machines I personally own. Most of our readers are beginner users and these older machines are the ones they are often asking about. Thanks for your feedback, and success with Silhouette!

  15. Greta

    I just want to thank you for putting this together. I’ve been trying to decide which system to get but I haven’t found a good breakdown of pros/cons or just an honest review in general. If you come across more info about the Cricut Maker, will you please post that as well?☺

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Yes and thanks Greta! I would love a maker ❤️

  16. Jewel Ahmed

    Thank you for sharing.

  17. Lauren

    I use both software and both machines. Even though I use my Maker more (just based on the location of the machine) I tend to use the silhouette software to design and than upload in design space. Many people suggest getting both software for design purposes. With the newer silhouettes being released the machines will be very similar in their capabilities.
    Silhouette was intimidating to me at first because of the software and all the options, out the box the maker was pretty easy. Both have wonderful customer service and facebook groups that provide support and tips and tricks.

  18. Konstantin

    Hello, thanks for the overview. I would like to buy a machine to make things from paper, cardstock, corrugated sheets. I care about the precision and cut quality more than anything else. I am not going to use their software for design, will work with SVG. Would you recommend Cricut Maket or Silhouette Cameo 4?

  19. Konstantin

    From YouTube it looks like Cricut Maker actively controls the blade direction (orientation) while Silhouette tools don’t. Is it advantageous or useless?

  20. Traci M.

    Hi, Thanks for the article. Very helpful. I am new to the market and am interested in making coil clips using template plastic. Which machine and software would be best for that project?

  21. Cami

    Can you use a sillhouette mat in a cricut explore air 2? My mom ordered me the sillhouette mat from amazon and I have never used my machine before.

    • Kim

      Yes you can but the paper positioning and guide marks aren’t in the same place.

  22. Kim

    I have owned both machines at the same time over the past decade. I started with a Cricut and always hated the “access membership” a waste of $$. When you quit the membership you own none of the cut files you used. It is also clumsy to design with. My Cricut 3 sat there unused, so I sold it and my Silhouette to purchase the new Silhouette Cameo 4.

    Great for designing anything! Cuts anything! The blade system is MUCH simpler than Cricut. There is a great YouTube that reviews the pros/cons and the Silhouette is stronger and faster.

  23. Michael Daniels

    please tell me can one of the machines make template or acetates or Polaroid overlays like on your 4th photo (from the top)

  24. Nicole Hardin

    Thank you for this post! I am a complete newby- not even a crafty person but, I desire to be one!! I am looking to buy a cricut once I find a great deal 🙂

  25. Nicole Brown

    i am trying tumblers but when i buy sublimation paper and try to put it in my DS it keeps saying to big make smaller. i need it to be 9.3 w and 8.1 in h. how can i get it to workout. I have used so much paper and i cant seem to get it to work. can you help a struggling crafter out Please

  26. Steve

    You said in your findings that Sihloutte is more expensive and in fact it is not as your prices show Cricut is more. The other thing you forgot to mention is that the Sihlouette uses a longer piece than the Cricut which if some one wants to make a banner the Sihloutte will outperform the Cricut.

  27. charlotte nydegger

    I want a machine that can cut applique pieces from fabric, my own designs. I also want a machine that will cut stamped images I have colored, eliminating the need for dies. But I don’t see this specific information for any cutter. Including scan and cut.

  28. Janet Omofuriota

    Thanks for tips. I think cricut would be best for me.

  29. Cheryl

    Very informative post. Thank you for al the great information you shared. It will help me decide which machine to purchase. If this is your first machine, and you are intending on using this for business purchases which machine would be your preference. I realize it will be months away due to learning and other events, but before that aspect takes place, thinking about the initial investment as well.

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