The best Silhouette machines are electronic cutting machines, similar in some ways to that of a Cricut. You can hook them up to your computer or tablet, and create a masterpiece, before 'printing' it out on paper, fabric, heat transfer material, or vinyl. Crafters love them because they allow you to create endless creative projects, and can ramp up your crafting abilities just by adding this small printer-sized tool to your crafting desk.
The best machines on offer from Silhouette come with a robust design software, called Silhouette Studio, which helps crafters streamline the creation process, and has countless tools and features to bring your vision to life. Crafters are able to cut projects up to 10 feet in length, and create vinyl, heat transfer and cardstock projects without needing to use a cutting mat.
Whether you opt for a Silhouette or Cricut machine is the big question in the design space, we answer this dilemma in our Cricut vs Silhouette feature. We think the best Cricut machines are unbeatable, however Silhouette machines are real contenders for the best Cricut alternatives, and has four lines to choose from, whereas Cricut has three main lines.
One of Silhouette's main machines is the Alta, a 3D printer, which is quite unique in itself, as well as the Mint, a stamp printing device. Both of these offer a new angle on modern crafting that Cricut currently doesn't cover.
In this piece on the best Silhouette machines, we take a look at the four different options currently available from this top American brand, and determine which machine is best suited to your needs.
The best Silhouette machines available now
The Silhouette Cameo 4 comes in three different size options so unlike Cricut's Maker you have more choice; there are three sizes, different power/pressure of cutting, and different colours. In a sense Silhouette Cameo is a range, meaning while on paper this company has four machines, it reality it has seven.
No matter which you choose, they all have more power than the previous Cameo machines (and more than Cricut Maker). The extra power means these cutting machines are more efficient and deliver clean cuts on a range of materials, from the classic vinyl and fabrics, to metals and leather. We find this is a cutting machine that can be use for almost any craft project.
The base model of Silhouette Cameo 4 is 12-inches, and comes in two more models, the Silhouette Cameo 4 Plus at 15-inches and the Silhouette Cameo 4 Pro at a large 24-inches. Only the base model comes in colours other than white.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 has a backlit touch panel which ensures that it's incredibly easy to use – and makes this cutter more manual than Cricut which keeps everything in the app. The dual carriage also allows for additional tools, such as a deep-cut crafting blade and a rotary blade. It also generates an amazing 5 kgf of force, making it more powerful than Cricut Maker 3 and arguably better for sewers and quilters.
There's a level of out-of-the-box use that we like about Silhouette Cameo 4, for example it has a built-in roller meaning you can create projects up to 60 feet in length without needing to buy an additional tool. We do find the Silhouette Cameo 4 is less approachable than the Cricut Maker 3, with more manual settings to adjust and fiddle with. But this is also a bonus for seasoned cutting machine users, as you can really tailor this machine to how you want to use it.
The Silhouette Portrait is a neat little cutter that sits just between Cricut's medium machine, the Cricut Explore 3 and the tiny Cricut Joy. At a cutting width of 8-inches it's small-ish but the length can be extended to a massive 60 feet if you buy a roller add-on. The size ensures the Silhouette Portrait is best used for small card, sticker and scrapbooking projects.
Given its beginner machine status we find the Silhouette Portrait ticks many boxes a newcomer will want; it's bluetooth out of the box so there are no wires, you don't need cutting mat and can simply feed material in manually, there's a smart gadget that detects the tool you're using and adjusts the settings hassle-free, and finally the AutoBlade will set itself dependent on the material being used. We think this really is a nice and approachable machine.
Designs are created in Silhouette Studio, which is an in-depth desktop design software that beginners may find overwhelming, which is why Silhouette has the Silhouette Go app for mobiles. We really love the connectivity to PixScan, an app that enables you to create designs from pictures and photos.
Seasoned cutter users may find the 2mm cutting clearance and 210 gf cutting force limiting, but beginners will absolutely find this a neat and portable machine for small craft projects. With 50 exclusive designs included, we think the Silhouette Portrait is a nice machine to get you started, particularly if you're looking for an alternative to Cricut Explore 3.
The Silhouette Mint does one thing and it does it very well. If you're a scrapbooker or love designing cards and gifts then we highly recommend this little craft stamping machine for creating stunning paper art.
Silhouette has a great software called Mint Studio, which comes alongside this nifty little machine. Small in size, and easy to use, the Silhouette Mint is unlike traditional stamping machines. In use, we are are able to create their own designs and even import images and photos to make bespoke stamp designs, in a variety of colours. A nice option is to use any font from you computer to turn into slogans and clever designs, which again shows easy of use is paramount.
You can make around 50 stamps until the ink needs to be reapplied, so the Silhouette Mint is cost efficient and cheap to run, to an extent (see below). The set also comes with four ink bottles and two stamp blanks, so you can get started as soon as it arrives out of the box.
The Silhouette Mint does have a reliance on special sheets to print stamps from – the machine works by thermal printing onto these sheets to create 3D reliefs of your design. These are then placed into the printing block, inks are applied, and you can start printing.
The need to use the Silhouette stamp sheet kits does make this machine a little expensive, and the inking process can get messy as you apply ink to the design rather than the design to inks. There is also potential to waste ink – a single stamp can offer 50 designs, but if you stamp fewer you'll waste the ink. Keep this in mind, the Silhouette Mint is designed for big projects – wedding invites, all your Christmas cards and those kinds of projects.
The Silhouette Alta is another machine that differientiates this US company from competitor Cricut. The Silhouette Alta takes the company's approachable design methodology from machines such as the Cameo and applies it to the complex art of 3D printing. It really is 3D printing made easy.
Unlike some of the more established and best 3D printers the Silhouette Alta comes ready to use out of the box; there's no fiddling with settings or piecing together the device. This machine comes preassembled, pre-calibrated, and is ready to plug use out of the box. It's a refreshing way to get started in 3D printing.
The same ease of use comes from brand's design software, Silhouette 3D, which helps you to create a unique designs before finally bringing them to life in plastic. Taking between 20 to 40 minutes to print most designs, the Silhouette Alta is able to print up to 130mm in height, which is pretty sizeable for those looking to get into 3D printing for the first time.
The Silhouette Alta is a definite must-have for those looking to dabble in bringing their designs to life, but not wanting to invest in a full scale 3D printer. We like the compact size (it has a 10-inch round and stands at about 19 inches in height) and it's very easy to use.
The Silhouette Alta uses PLA filament to create its models, which is made from plant-based material, which sounds great but it does compete with growing food for land use. While a PLA bottle could take up to 1000 years to decompose it is easily recycled. Before you buy a 3D printer, read up on the environmental impact.
The best Silhouette machines: frequent questions
Which Silhouette cutter is best?
The Silhouette Cameo range is the best all-round machine for crafters and designers. The advantage of the Cameo 4 is it comes in three sizes, and three prices, which means you can get the same range of materials to cut and uses but in a more affordable size. The largest Cameo 4 comes in at 24-inches, which makes it an industrial scale machine. The smallest is 12-inches, and the medium, our recommendation, is 15-inches.
Which is better, Cricut or Silhouette?
This can come down to preferences, budget and how you're using your cutting machine. The Silhouette Cameo 4 has a greater cutting power than the Cricut Maker 3, for example, but the Cricut Maker overcomes this with faster cutting and can offer a cleaner edge. The Silhouette Cameo 4 is better for fabric cutters, as its larger size is useful.
Generally Cricut machines are easier to use than Silhouette machines, and they have a larger ecosystem of tools, accessories and associated machines – such as the Cricut EasyPress 2 and Cricut Mug Press. Note: the Silhouette is more customisable, with on-device settings, making it, in the long run, a machine pros love.
What is the most recent Silhouette machine?
The newest Silhouette machine is the Silhouette Cameo 4, which comes in three sizes: Silhouette Cameo 4 (12-inches), Silhouette Cameo 4 Plus (15-inches and Silhouette Cameo 4 Pro (24-inches). All these cutting machines are the same except for their cutting width and the price. Only the Silhouette Cameo 4 Plus is available in different colours, including pink.
How long do Silhouette machines last?
The actual Silhouette machines will last you years, but the replaceable blades attachments will last around six months of constant use. A basic replacement AutoBlade, used for most projects, will cost around $15 / £12 to replace.
Do you have to pay for Silhouette software?
The main Silhouette Studio is free and can be downloaded as well as used in-browser. Upgrades for machines and the software are free. There is a Silhouette subscription service, similar to Cricut Access, that offers more designs and projects.
Silhouette has also recently released software for mobiles with Silhouette Go and Silhouette Mint is the bespoke app for the stamp machine. Silhouette Connect is a new plug-in that enables connectivity to CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator, and its free.
Which is easier to use Silhouette or Cricut?
In our opinion we've found Cricut Design Space is much easier to use that Silhouette's app, Silhouette Studio. This is largely because it's a simpler software. In the long run, if you're keen on doing more original designs and complex projects you will find Silhouette Studio comes into its own. Silhouette Studio is a deeper design app.