Our complete guide of the best vinyl cutting machines has been specially curated for you to offer the best guide possible as well as the pros and cons of each product based on size, ease of use, the capacity of the machines and how well they operate.
- Buyer’s Guide of the Best Vinyl Cutting Machines
- 1. Personal or Commercial Cutters:
- 2. Drive Motors
- 3. Price
- New Features in Vinyl Cutters
- The 8 Best Personal Vinyl Cutters
- #1. Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine – Embedded Bluetooth for Wireless Cutting
- #2. Silhouette CAMEO 3 – Wireless Cutting Machine
- #3. Silhouette America Cameo 2 Touch Screen Starter Bundle Kit
- #4. Brother CM350 ScanNCut 2 Home & Hobby Cutting Machine
- #5. Sizzix Eclips2 Starter Kit
- #6. Silhouette Portrait
- #7. Silhouette Curio Cutting Tool
- #8. Klic-N-Kut KNK Zing Air
- #1. Vinyl Cutter USCutter MH 34in BUNDLE
- #2. USCutter MH721 28in Vinyl Cutter and Plotter
Buyer’s Guide of the Best Vinyl Cutting Machines
Choosing your first vinyl cutter is one of the most difficult parts of being an aspiring sign maker. Buying the wrong equipment could lead to a lot of frustration and failure. It’s not uncommon to find a startup buying a cutter because of its speed or price. So what are the most important criteria when buying a vinyl cutter? This guide will show you what to look for when you go out to shop for the best vinyl cutting machines.
1. Personal or Commercial Cutters:
The vinyl cutters come in two different categories, one for personal use and the other for commercial use. Your present need will determine the one you end up buying.
+ Commercial Cutters: Commercial businesses will be using their cutters for signage and other large roster demanding work for their clients. These kinds of cutters are physically large, a bit expensive with an ability to cut large designs and other materials. Individual cutters, on the other hand, are for those whose needs for cutting are not to the extreme.
+ Personal Cutters: They need something small enough to fit their home office, preferably their desktop; something quick and easy to use that can be operated quietly without disturbing the kids or waking up the neighbors and a cutter that is simple for anyone to operate irrespective of their experience in vinyl cutting.
2. Drive Motors
The engine of a vinyl cutter determines its power and how well it operates.
There are two kinds of drive motors – the mechanical stepper motors which moves in ‘steps’ and are driven by physical gear. They are mainly used to save cost, but the downside could be costly as they are quite noisy during operation. There is also the issue of some graphics losing their precision.
As with most things that are large, it finds it easy to cut them accurately but on characters that are less than half an inch, the size prevents it from being able to plot the path smoothly.
The servo motors operate at a quieter level compared to the mechanical stepper motor since it doesn’t have mechanical gears as well as being able to turn and pivot along smaller paths with precision. It can cut smaller letters with as much precision as it cuts larger materials.
When it comes to vinyl cutters and even most things in life; you get what you pay for. It is true that most of the times an expensive machine might not be the most functional but we also can’t ignore the fact that the most expensive vinyl cutters are also the highest quality ones that can take on different and delicate designs. They can produce results without a hitch as they have the highest quality blades for the most precise cuts possible.
They can’t handle the heavy load but they have their specialty, and they are good at what they do. These desktop machines can handle lighter load way better than their expensive counterparts and are ideal for home owners and even small business owners who are just starting out.
New Features in Vinyl Cutters
Vinyl cutters have continue to evolve with 2016 being the year we saw a lot of the popular vinyl cutters emerging with new features. Some of the major features that we came across include:
Let’s take a closer look at the top 8 best vinyl cutting machines for personal use and compare their capabilities and features in this reviewed list.
#1. Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine – Embedded Bluetooth for Wireless Cutting
This is one of the best personal vinyl cutting machines on the market. It is a newly released product from Cricut.
This DIY speed machine can cut and write up to 2X faster than the previous models from this manufacturer and can help you make products from vinyl, cardstock even to leather. You can choose from more over 3,000 ready to make projects or make quick cuts from their extensive library to make iron-on for t-shirts, totes, and pillows.
This machine doesn’t just cut. You can score for fold lines. You can also write with individual pens and markers. Once your product is ready, you can send it from your computer to the Cricut via Bluetooth.
The following items are included with the Cricuit Explore Air 2 machine:
- Accessory adapter
- Cricuit Design Space software and app
- USB cord and power cord
- 100+ free images
- Instruction manual
- German carbide premium blade
- Pen and cardstock sample
One of the major advantages of the Cricut Explore AIR 2 is its versatility. This machine can work with a range of different materials that includes cardstock, vinyl, paper as well as fabric. Though it is possible that you might need to buy an additional deep cut blade for cutting thicker materials, but it is compatible with lots of materials.
The Smart Set Dial in front of the machine can be used to set ‘automatic settings’ when cutting different materials while the ‘custom material selection’ within the software (which comes with the device) has more automatic settings as well that can be used.
The cutting width of the Explore Air 2 is 12″ by 24″ long which translates to 11.5 by 23.5 inches when you use it. We know it’s not the biggest vinyl cutter on the market, but it is quite ideal to service the needs of most crafters.
If there is one area where crafters have found tiresome when using Cricut products is in their software. Their products are usually rigid meaning you can’t use any other software other than Cricut Design Space software. While it’s not news that the Design Space software is not as robust as the Adobe or CorelDraw, but it’s still quite easy to use, and it serves as an excellent starting point for many beginners.
* Read more on our in-depth review of the Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine.
#2. Silhouette CAMEO 3 – Wireless Cutting Machine
The SILHOUETTE CAMEO 3 is a great machine to cut your custom designs. It is quite similar to the Cameo 2 save for some few upgrades such as the Cameo 3 having a dual carriage which allows you to cut and print at the same time without having to stop operations.
There is Bluetooth functionality to send and receive jobs wirelessly as well as the matless cutting capability to cut lined media up to 10 feet long. The dual carriages are a top upgrade which allows you to draw and cut on one project without having to stop. Previously, on its predecessor, you have to halt the cutter, swap out the blade and then start the job again.
The other items in the box aside the SILHOUETTE CAMEO 3 cutting machine include:
- Power cable and USB cable
- 12×12 inch cutting mat
- Silhouette Studio software
- AutoBlade cutting blade
- Vinyl Crosscutter
- One month basic subscription to Silhouette Design Store
- 100 free digital designs
When it comes to materials that the Silhouette can work with, consider it at the forefront of developments. It can cut a variety of over 100 different designs and a whole lot of others that you probably haven’t heard of. It is quite versatile, and we have to agree with its marketing slogan that tags it as the “the ultimate DIY machine’.
When you decide to cut materials on the SILHOUETTE CAMEO 3, it can cut a maximum of 12 inches by 10 feet long. It can be used for smaller design cuts as well as for larger designs.
The SILHOUETTE CAMEO 3 uses the Silhouette Studio 3.0. We initially thought the Studio 4.0 would be released along with this product as originally announced by the company but instead, they created a patch for the Studio 3.0 which now allows you to set up Bluetooth connection. There is also a mobile app that is compatible with both iOS and Android that makes things quite easy for users.
A major part of the SILHOUETTE CAMEO 3 that makes this cutter highly rated is the AutoBlade. With the AutoBlade, you don’t need to manually adjust your cutting depths and hope that you can remember the sizes used for each cut.
The AutoBlade setting ensures that the blade will be automatically calibrated based on what you’re working on. This is a very nifty feature that will appeal to everyone from the experienced operators who might forget to change the depth as well as beginners who don’t know what the best setting should be.
AutoBlade can be setup from the software. You will need to instruct the software on the material that you’re cutting, then you select AutoBlade, and the Silhouette Cameo 3 will handle the rest.
* Read more on our in-depth review of the Silhouette CAMEO 3.
#3. Silhouette America Cameo 2 Touch Screen Starter Bundle Kit
The Cameo 2 is the predecessor to the Cameo 3 but it is still quite popular among Silhouette fans that haven’t made the jump quite yet.
It is one of the best-selling vinyl cutters on the market alongside the Cricut’s Explore Air. The package it comes with includes the Cameo 2 machine, four metallic sketch pens, cutting blades (two), 2 cutting mats, USB and power cord, an instruction manual for guidance and 51 exclusive Cuttables designs.
When it comes to cutting of materials, the Cameo 2 cuts them up to 12 inches wide to 10 feet long, which is the size still used in the Cameo 3. It uses the Silhouette Software 3 as well. The software requires a bit of learning curve but once you get the hang of it, you will find it quite versatile and unique as compared to other software from other vinyl manufacturers.
One of the standout feature for the Cameo 2 is for the continuous community support that is provided for Silhouette machines. When you buy a Silhouette, you will never run out of ideas to use, tutorials, step-by-step guides, etc.
#4. Brother CM350 ScanNCut 2 Home & Hobby Cutting Machine
The Brother CM350 SCANNCUT 2 is an electronic machine that doesn’t require cartridges or dies. It is quite popular with artsy craft fans particularly those who like scrapbooks. One reason why this Brother ScanNCut stands out in our list of the best vinyl machines is that it’s the first vinyl cutter that offers built-in scanning capabilities. There are so many things that make this unit a better upgrade to the ScanNCut. It features a much larger display screen that makes tinkering with your designs easier. It supports wireless design transfer as well.
Transferring designs from the computer to the cutter is more digital nowadays than it was in the past when you had to connect cables. There is support for direct connection via USB cable also, but the package doesn’t come with a USB cable, so you have to buy it separately.
The Brother CM350 SCANNCUT 2 is sold with the cloud-based application needed to edit, resize and design your cut data. This tool lets you convert files from SVG format to the FCM format that SVG uses.
* Read more on our in-depth review of the Brother CM350 SCANNCUT 2 Machine.
When you are searching for the perfect cutter for a careful cutting and precision based ability to handle intricate designs, this machine could be the best for you.
The Eclips 2 is a significant upgrade to its predecessor, the Eclips. It’s a more robust and reliable craft cutter with industrial grade components. The motor driving the Eclips 2 has also been enhanced making it a much stronger and better machine than its predecessor.
One of the good things of having superior strength under the hood is that your cutting ability becomes improved. The Eclips 2 has a combine cutting force of 600 grams that cuts like butter. For those who like bigger machines, this is a much larger machine compared to the Eclips and it doesn’t require the use of cartridges which is usually a problem for users. It runs a quiet operation, and there is no handle controller anywhere on this device. It is an all-around better device than its predecessor.
The Sizzix Eclips2 works with a variety of materials such as vinyl, paper, sticker paper, and vellum. While this is enough to get started for most clients, some might prefer a high-end cutter that can handle as much as 100 different materials.
On software, the Eclips2 uses basic free software called eCAL Lite. This software allows you to upload images into the software as well as most file formats. There are custom made shapes and designs in the store within the software and a host of other font and
Introduce in 2012, as a small and light version of the traditional Cameo; the Portrait has garnered many fans within a space of 5 years for its functionality as well as its price. This affordable vinyl cutter is perfect for entry level cutters trying to find their feet in the game. It is perfect for card making, signage and has all the trademark of the Silhouette that we have come to admire and expect.
The low price does have an effect on the number of sales generated by the Portrait, but it’s more than a cheap vinyl cutter.
It is designed to appeal to appeal to the needs of the beginners who might be using this cutter as their first cutter but can’t see any reason why they need to invest so much in a vinyl cutter. The Portrait is a great compromise if you fit that category and are on the lookout for a cutter. The machine comes in a small and compact package that can fit anywhere on your desktop with no hassles.
Most newbies we spoke to said they bought this vinyl cutter to cut stickers. While the Silhouette Portrait can cut stickers quite well, it will be a mistake to feed it just stickers.
This cutter can cut fabrics and cardstock accurately without much fuss. It is true that the Portrait is not perfect and we did notice some teething problems as we tried to cut some intentionally intricate decals. It wasn’t as smooth as we initially thought it would be. We did slow down the mistakes encountered during the cutting by reducing the cutting speed from the software.
The Silhouette box comes packed with a lot of goodies to get you started. It has the machine, USB cable for connecting to your PC, 8″ cutting mat, Studio software for PC and Mac, adjustable blade with ratchet cap, instruction manual and 50 free cutting designs which are quite useful for every beginner. This vinyl cutter can work with over 100 different materials as it is amazingly versatile and precise in its cutting.
The maximum cutting size of the Portrait is smaller compared to its predecessor the Silhouette Cameo. Its cutting size is 8″ by 12″.
This is one reason why we don’t recommend the Portrait for long projects, and we believe it’s only suitable for small and straightforward designs.
The Portrait runs on the Silhouette Studio Software as expected. This software has been a hit since it was first released. Although there is a bit of learning curve to be mastered for first-time users, we do believe that once you get immersed into the world of vinyl cutting, you will find it easier to go through and operate Silhouette cutters.
* Read more on our in-depth review of the Silhouette Portrait Machine.
The Silhouette Curio is a curious little machine that is perfect for DIYers that want to diversify their creativity. It can cut, emboss, deboss and etch as well. The CURIO is more of an add-on to the Cameo, which was quite popular itself. One major complaint from users who have bought this cutter is that you need to watch a lot of tutorials before you jump into it.
The CURIO is not one of those machines that you can plug in and just try to wing it. While a learning curve is not unusual in machines such as this, we did notice that if dedicate a certain amount of time to learning; you will be done in less time than you think.
The Silhouette Curio Cutting Tool comes in a box with the CURIO machine, studio software, a basic instruction guide, regular base, embossing mat, cutting blade, embossing tool, wide embossing tool, and a power chord which can be used to connect to the computer as well as 50 exclusive designs.
Another area where customers had a complaint with the Silhouette was in the cutting size. The maximum cutting size was reduced from the 12″ X 10 found in its predecessor, the Cameo to 8.5″ X 6″. Although, there is a workaround, as you can buy a large tray that will increase this size from 8.5″ to 12″.
The software included is the usual Silhouette Studio, and you will have to connect to the Curio before you can access the exclusive emboss, deboss and other features like stipple and etch. This machine expands the amount of functions available and the type of materials that you can work with.
Two things that you need to know about the Curio software that comes in the package: it comes in a CD format, but there is a soft copy available online which is actually up to date.
If this is your first Silhouette product, there is a learning curve that you need to go through before you get to actually unlock the potentials in this machine.
It is often advised that new users set aside time to play with the software and get to grips with it especially with the new features. Once you have gotten your head around it, you will find out how big the scope of the Studio is and how much advanced and superior it is compared to other software like the Cricut Design Space.
* Read more on our in-depth review of the Silhouette Curio Cutting Tool.
This entry level electronic cutter can cut way better than the average machine out there. It is the entry level option for KNK’s line of cutters. It can be used as a personal cutter or as the main equipment for your business to be used to cut your own decals.
Some of the features that make this cutter stand out include its compactness. Standing at 4.75″ tall and 6.25″ deep, this vinyl cutter is extremely portable.
Not only is it small in size, but it does also pack a huge punch beneath the belt as well. It is also remarkably hard to break due to the all metal design rather than the plastic that is found in most entry-level cutter.
To be honest, this cutter won’t win any design or stylish cover awards, but it does the job it was created for, and it does it well. With 750 grams of cutting force, you can imagine how much material this cutter can go through. It can cut through tough materials such as chipboard leathers as well as rhinestone plastic.
The KNK Zing Air comes with a Make The Cut software that has some immaculate features such as the ability to convert Raster Images to Cuttables, ability to create lattices, ability to create Rhinestone templates quickly easily.
The MH 34in vinyl cutter bundle from USCutter offers a great deal for individuals and small establishments who are mostly occupied with easy small-scale vinyl cutting jobs. It is relatively more affordable compared with many vinyl cutters of the same size but can cut a maximum width of 32 inches and a maximum length of 10 feet. That is a good cut capacity at this price range.
It also makes good and precise cuts on easy projects, thanks to its adjustable pinch rollers. However, there is only a limited number of materials the MH 34in can work with: standard and heat transfer vinyl, regular and craft paper, paint mask, and cardstock. If you regularly cut laminates, reflectives, tints, and similar materials, this machine will not cut it for you.
The MH 34in can help you produce simple vinyl and paper signages requiring easy cuts at small runs at a time. If you try to push it by making intricate cuts or producing too many pieces in one run, you may end up overworking it and causing it to conk out halfway.
Included in the bundle is the basic version of the design and cut software VinylMaster Cut. The software runs on PC only. If you want to run it on a Mac, you may have to find a workaround like other Mac users did. Although the software package initially looks very outdated (CD format), it is really quite decent. It has just the right features and is very easy to use. You will not have a hard time getting it to work even if you are new to vinyl cutting.
The VinylMaster Cut can be used for lettering, logos, pinstriping, and more. You have just the right text and object tool suite at your disposal. The software works with all major image formats and can convert any image for cutting. It is not so outdated after all. Furthermore, the VinylMaster Cut license applies to an unlimited number of users so you can use the same package for all your PCs if you have multiple units or if you have an office.
Conclusion: All in all, we would recommend the MH 34in for those starting out in vinyl cutting or for people and small businesses that mostly deal with light, small-scale projects. This vinyl cutter performs impeccably in these kinds of operations, making precise and customizable cuts. It comes with a basic version of the VinylMaster Cut design and cut software, which is convenient, user-friendly, practical, and good at what it does. Just remember not to overload it. If you find that your projects are increasing in quantity and difficulty, you might as well just move up to a heavier duty vinyl cutter instead of trying to force the MH 34in to do more.
#2. USCutter MH721 28in Vinyl Cutter and Plotter
The first thing we noticed about the MH721 is its size. Just like the other cutters from its line, this vinyl cutter does not take up too much space. It is lightweight enough to be easily and conveniently moved when necessary but heavy enough to provide stability when cutting. The machine is also very solid and sturdy.
The MH721 cuts at a decent speed and makes even intricate cuts easily, which is a good thing if you have a signage business and regularly deal with projects of varying difficulties. The Sure Cuts A Lot design and cut software that comes with it contains all the essentials and is easy to operate once fully and correctly set up. The only problem is that it sometimes freezes even when it is not too busy but we should not take that against the cutter itself.
This vinyl cutter can take on easy to moderately difficult small- and medium-scale projects. If you run a business cutting around 500 to 700 stickers or decals per day, for example, the MH721 is a good option for you. The products you create using this machine will pay for the machine cost quickly.
The MH721 can work with up to 24-inch vinyl sheets. However, you have to make sure you get enough clearance before you start cutting. In some units, the blade is set too deep into the cutting area, causing the sheet to crumple sometimes and ruining the entire sheet completely.
The two major drawbacks of the MH721 are the assembly and the software setup. Assembly instructions are poorly written and can hardly be understood. You may spend more time guessing than doing any actual assembly. Also, there is no comprehensive guide to getting the machine hooked up to the software and the computer. There are helpful instructions available online but they come from other customers who figured it all out on their own. You can contact customer service but finding a how-to link is faster.
Conclusion: Overall, we think the MH721 is great for you if you are wishing to start out in vinyl cutting and are looking for a cutting machine that pulls off the basics really well. This vinyl cutter is also ideal for you if you are either a long-time hobbyist or a small business owner who needs a cutting machine that gives a lot of value for money. Because you have been into the art of vinyl cutting for a while, you should not be thrown off by the challenging setup and assembly that this product requires. You can just put it together, hook it up to a computer, and start plotting and cutting away. Although affordable, this unit is still more than the typical starter cutter and offers a lot of benefits that you will not find in other units at this price point.