Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Silhouette Cameo 3. A comparison of Cricut vs. Silhouette – two popular electronic die-cutting machines with the pros and cons of each one.

Most people I talk to are either team Cricut or team Silhouette. I have always used a Cricut, but I have a lot of crafty friends that rave about their Silhouette machines. Today, I am going to walk you through some basic functions using both the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Silhouette Cameo 3. I will compare both machines and show you how to cut something out on each machine.

Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Silhouette Cameo 3

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Please read my full disclosure policy here. Thank you to Cricut for providing me with a Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, products for this post, and a Silhouette Cameo 3 for review.

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With full disclosure, I was sent both a Cricut Explore Air 2 and Silhouette Cameo 3 for free for review. I have owned a Cricut machine for a long time. I started by purchasing my own Cricut Expression machine and cartridges. Shortly after I started blogging, I was lucky enough to connect with Cricut and they sent me the new Cricut Explore to try. And now, I have the newest Cricut machines – the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Maker.

Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Silhouette Cameo 3

Smart Set Dial - Cricut Explore Air 2

Readers and friends ask all the time whether I would recommend Cricut or Silhouette for an electronic die-cutting machine. Since I use and love my Cricut machines, I always recommend Cricut. But I will be honest, before writing this post I had never tried the Silhouette machine. I had no honest answer for how well the machine worked or not. I am grateful to Cricut for sending me a Silhouette machine to try out so I can go through the pros and cons with all of you.

Today, I am going to complete some basic functions like adding text and an image using both machines with each software program. At the end of the post, I will compare both machines and give my honest review on which one I like better.

We will walk through using the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine and Cricut Design Space.  One of the major differences between the Silhouette Cameo 3 and the Cricut Explore Air 2 is that the Silhouette uses software that is downloaded onto your computer. The Cricut uses cloud-based software through the internet. The initial setup before you start crafting is longer to get the Silhouette up and running since you have to download it all to your computer. But, if you want to be able to create any time without the use of the internet, the Silhouette might be the right machine for you.

Silhouette Cameo 3

Note: You can now design projects on your iPad in Cricut Design Space without being connected to Wi-Fi. Use any content you download to your iOS device anytime without an internet connection.

Adding Text

How to Add Text in Cricut Design Space

Click on the Text button in the Design Panel.

Cricut Design Space - add text button

A box will open up and you can type your text into the box. You can then edit the text at the top of the screen – change the font, style, size, letter spacing, line spacing, alignment, curve the text, and separate the letters or lines of text.

Cricut Design Space - edit text

You can sort the fonts by all fonts, Cricut fonts, or System fonts.

Cricut Design Space - sort fonts

In Cricut Design Space you can use both Cricut fonts (some of which are free) and any font you have downloaded onto your computer. I am using the computer font Alyssum Blossom and sized it to 144pt.

Cricut Design Space - formatted text

To cut out your design on textured cardstock click the green Make It button.

Cricut Design Space - Make it button

Make sure everything looks okay on the mat preview page, and click Continue.

Cricut Design Space - mat preview

Set the Smart Set Dial to Cardstock+ (one notch past the Cardstock). Load the mat into the machine using the arrow button. Click the flashing Cricut button to start cutting. Once it is done cutting out the cardstock, press the unload button to release the mat. On your computer, click Finish.

Cricut Explore Air 2 - Smart Set Dial - Cardstock+

How to Add Text in Silhouette Studio

Click on the Text Tool in the left menu panel.

Silhouette Studio - Add text

This will open up the Text Style window on the right side of the screen. You can also open the Text Style window by clicking on the capital letter A on the right side menu. Then you can click anywhere on the mat to add a text box. Use the style box to format the text – font, style, justification, vertical or horizontal facing, size, character spacing, line spacing, and kerning.

Silhouette Studio - edit text

Click on the Store link to search fonts to find Silhouette fonts available for purchase. You can sort them by Premium or Craft fonts and then also by the style of font. You can also choose whether you want to purchase it for personal or commercial use. Once you purchase a font from the store you will be prompted to download the font.

Silhouette Studio - fonts in store

In Silhouette Studio you can use both Silhouette fonts (some of which are free) and any font you have downloaded on your computer. I am again using the computer font Alyssum Blossom and sized it to 144pt.

SIlhouette Studio- formatted text

To cut the design click the Send button.

Silhouette Studio - send tab

Load the mat using the onscreen button.

Set the settings for Tool 1 to Cut. Then choose the material, action, and tool. You can do a test cut using the test button to be sure all the settings are correct. Click Send. Once it is done cutting click the unload button on the machine.

Silhouette Cameo 3 - unload and load mat

Below you can see the results of the cuts with each machine. The top is cut with the Cricut and the bottom was with the Silhouette. As you can see, the cuts look identical. Both cut cleanly without any snags.

Cut comparison - Cricut vs. Silhouette

Adding Images

How to Add Images in Cricut Design Space

Click on the Images tool in the Design Panel on the left side of the screen. From here you can type what you are looking for directly into the search bar. You can search by selecting all images, categories, or cartridges. You can also filter to only show certain types of images like free, your purchased images, 3D objects, printables, and more.

Cricut Design Space - search images

For example, I can search for “butterfly” and find all the images available to me to use. Click on the image you want to use and add it to the canvas.

Cricut Design Space - butterfly image added to canvas

To upload your own image, click on the Upload button in the Design Panel.

Cricut Design Space - upload image

Then, browse for your design on your computer and click Upload Image.

Cricut Design Space - browse for image

Once your image is selected you may have to do some additional clean up on the image before importing it. Follow the directions onscreen. Then select whether you want to save the design as a Print Then Cut or Cut image. You can also type in an image name and identifying tags to help you search for it later. Click Save.

Once uploaded, click on the image and then click on the green Insert Images button.

How to Add Images in Silhouette Studio

You can search for designs in the Silhouette Studio store to download.

Silhouette Studio - search images

All your images available for use are found in the Library tab at the top. Any design you purchase, that came for free with the machine, or that you have uploaded from your computer will show up here.

Silhouette Studio - Library

To add an image into Silhouette Studio from the Library simply double-click it.

Silhouette Studio - butterfly image added to canvas

To upload your own design, click File > Library > Import to Library. Browse for your image and click OK. This will take you to the Library tab, where you can double-click on your design to add it to your design. All uploaded images default into the folder User Designs.

Silhouette Studio - import to library

Note: You can use PNG or JPEG images in Silhouette Studio, but in order to be able to cut out the image, you have to convert it to a Silhouette cut file. I found a helpful tutorial at Simply Kierste.

Below you can see the results of the cuts using the same snowflake design in the same size on the same sheet of cardstock. The top image shows the Cricut cut and the bottom the Silhouette cut. The Cricut definitely cut better for this design. If you look closely, the edges of the Cricut cut are much nicer than the Silhouette one.

Cricut vs. Silhouette - results of intricate cuts

The Cricut cut clean through most of the small holes and I only had to punch some of them out using my weeding tool after I removed the cardstock from the mat. Below is the backside of the design.

Cricut vs. Silhouette - Cricut cut results

The Silhouette did not cut through any of the little hole cutouts completely. You can see on the back side how by my pushing/pulling out the little holes, it actually ripped the paper. Not all of the edges of the snowflake were cut cleanly. Below is the back side of the design.

Cricut vs. Silhouette - Silhouette cut results

How is the Cricut Different From Competetive Cutting Machines?

Both machines have onboard tool storage. The storage for the Cricut is right below where you rest your cutting mat. For the Silhouette, it pulls out from underneath and then opens up.

Integrated storage compartment - Cricut Explore Air 2

Tool storage Silhouette Cameo 3

Both machines have two areas to hold tools.

Cut Smart Technology - Cricut Explore Air 2

Silhouette Cameo 3 cutting blade

Similarities between Cricut Explore Air 2 and Silhouette Cameo 3:

  • onboard tool storage
  • double tool holders to be able to use both a cutting blade and another tool like a scorer, pen, etc.
  • thousands of images in the design library to use to create projects
  • Bluetooth so you can cut wirelessly
  • print then cut feature
  • price: machines each cost ~$249.00

Differences between Cricut Explore Air 2 and Silhouette Cameo 3:

  • you can cut up to 10 feet without a mat on the Silhouette Cameo 3, but only 12″ x 24″ with the Cricut Explore Air 2
  • cloud-based vs. downloaded to computer:
    • Cricut has a cloud-based software to be able to use it anywhere you have Wi-Fi, plus download on iOS devices
    • Silhouette Studio is on your computer so you do not need Wi-Fi to operate it, however, you can save your library to the cloud to access from multiple devices
  • Cricut Explore Air 2 has the Smart Set Dial; Silhouette Cameo 3 you set your cut settings via the software
  • Cricut Explore Air 2 allows you to design with images before purchasing; Silhouette Studio requires you to purchase images before designing with them
  • Cricut Explore Air 2 allows you to cut thicker, denser materials with ease

Working with a new program almost always has a learning curve. Learning a new program can be more difficult when you are used to a different one. I also know certain programs seem to be more intuitive to some people than others. This may be why there is such a fierce debate of Cricut vs. Silhouette. I think the Cricut beats the Silhouette to set up the machine with a great cut the first time using it.

If I had to choose one machine, I would pick the Cricut Explore Air 2. I find the Design Space software so much easier and more intuitive to use, probably partly because I have been using it forever. I was able to design a similar project with both software programs fairly easily but to actually cut out the intricate design the Cricut won out.

See a comparison chart below on the features of each machine:

Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Silhouette Cameo 3 comparison chart

Updated May 2018: I updated this post to provide better information about how the two machines work. Find the original project featured in this post: Father’s Day Hexagon Frame tutorial

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Laura Silva

39 Comments on Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Silhouette Cameo 3

  1. Hey, what an excellent review!! The only one thing that makes me a little. Decius spending this much money, is one question. But first let me give a bit of. Axkgorund information. I was originally set on the Silhouette portrait, but the smaller cut size was a little limiting. What I do is I have a macaron business and I was looking to get one of these to start making my own packaging. Logo cuts, stickers, boxes, etc. Smaller boxes are affordable, so those I can buy. It’s the larger boxes that are 10-12 macaron big, they can start to cost a lot. The 12×24 cut area is very ideal. I don’t plan on doing anything such as faux leather, or anything thick. It’ll be just for folding boxes, logo prints, stickers, maybe a little thicker card stock.

    Now for my question,

    Can you completely on your own, draw a design/template and cut it out? Or is it all pre-designed? It may seem redundant but I want a clear cut (pun intended haha) answer. Thank you for taking the time to reply and write your review!

    • Holy smokes, I should’ve proof read. Sorry!

      *makes me a little nervous is spending
      *but first let me give a little background information

      – All I want to do is create my own boxes and packaging.

      Thanks!

    • You can do quite a bit of designing in Cricut Design Space. You can play around with it before you buy a Cricut (I think). You can aslo customize sizes on pre-made boxes that they already have on the site. I find it easier to design in Photoshop Elements and import my designs into Cricut sometimes, depending on what the project is. Hope this helps!
      Laura

    • Hi David,
      My test and review of the Silhouette was included in the post. Was there a specific question you had about one of the machines that I didn’t answer in the post?
      Laura

    • Hi there, Greg!

      I always disclose my relationships with brands per the FTC rules. And I can see how you could be skeptical of my review. I have been using Cricut machines for many, many years, long before I had this craft blog. I started with the Expression machine that you had to use cartridges with. Once I started the blog, I was able to form a relationship with Cricut. I have been so grateful to work with them because I love the company and their products so much. When I find something I love, I want to share it with my friends. And my readers here on the blog are just that – friends.

      Cricut was nice enough to send me a Silhouette machine to review so I can do an accurate and truthful comparison of the two machines. This review is my personal opinion on the two machines. I definitely think there is a learning curve with any new machine and that may be why I had so much trouble getting the Silhouette to do what I wanted. I am used to the Cricut interface and software, as I have been using it for such a long time. I think each machine has its strengths. However, for me, I find the Cricut easier to use. If you Google Cricut vs. Silhouette, you can find lots of other reviews to compare to mine to help you make a decision on which machine you would like to purchase. Please let me know if you have any questions about either machine and I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

      I hope you have a wonderful week!
      Sincerely,
      Laura

  2. Hi there,

    With the Circut, you can only cut 12×24 correct? There is no way to allow the machine to create longer projects like the silhouette?

    Thanks,

    Lexi

  3. I was hoping to get an actual comparison between the two, but this clearly was not. I should have stopped reading when I read your affiliation, but I assumed you would not have been so biased and I could really get some useful information.

    • Cheryl,
      I am sorry you did not find my comparison helpful. I am definitely more familiar with the Cricut machine and the software that goes with it. I plan to play around with the Silhouette more after the new year and add more comparisons for specific functions. The project I created to compare the two machines with was limited compared to comparing them head to head on what they can each do. Check back as I will be definitely adding more side by side comparisons soon.
      Laura

  4. Thanks for the awesome review! I just received the Explore Air 2 as an early Christmas present then I started “panicking”, hoping I made the right decision between these two machines. It’s quite a bit of money to spend especially if you’re not completely happy. However, after reading your great comparison of the two, I’m positive I chose the right one! Can’t wait to start creating! Thanks again for putting my worries at ease!
    -Jenny

  5. I think you are writing with some biase. First of all you are listing things like cloud based software as a benefit, when we all know deeming and saving your files while offline is more of a benefit than strict online access.

    I haven’t tried the cricut. I have the cameo. I appreciate that your machine can cut denser material. And I will admit that I have had issues with not getting full penetration in cuts on the cameo. However I do all my designing in illustrator and import it. It works wonderfully.

    • James,
      I am definitely more familiar with the Cricut as I have been using one for years (since before I started blogging in 2012). I do think that saving offline would be a helpful feature for the Cricut, however, now you can save your project and access it offline on your iPad or iPhone. I do a similar process of designing images and files in Photoshop Elements and then importing them into Cricut. I plan to update this post soon with a comparison of uploading images and a few other projects to give a better, more informative comparison.
      Laura

    • I have both cricut and silhouette. This is definitely a biased review as Silhouette can cut a lot longer materials. Also, the offline feature is way better than cricut’s online design space. You can basically do nothing when you have no internet access with the Cricut which is really dumb. My craft room has poor internet reception and I had to move my cricut and craft computer to connect to the internet when I need to cut something, it’s very annoying.

      • Bleu,
        Thank you for sharing your experience with both machines. I do state in the post that the Silhouette can cut longer materials. For me, personally, I have never needed that feature with the type of crafting I do. Having a 12″ x 24″ mat for the Cricut has always been long enough. Without great internet, the Cricut can be problematic to use. However, I do think many software programs are moving towards online-only usage. I only use my Cricut at home, so I always have an internet connection and I love being able to switch between my Android phone, iPad, and laptop for designing in the software. I do clearly explain all of these differences in the post itself. For me, I love my Cricut, but I have plenty of friends that swear by their Silhouette machines as well. This review is just my personal experience with each of the machines. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week!
        Laura

  6. You missed the “nesting” function in the Silhouette software, it arranges the shapes into the best cutting arrangement and saves material. ALSO, you can cut BY COLOR in Silhouette software. The material settings are usually for Silhouette brand materials…a “Google search” will pull up information on other brands of materials.

    • Thank you for letting me know about these features on the Silhouette! You cut by color on the Cricut. That is how the mats are arranged. It is good to know I can do this in Silhouette, as well. I will definitely try some more projects to review everything even more after the new year.
      Laura

    • Canara,
      That is a great question. I think both machines are awesome, but which one you purchase really depends on what you plan to do with the machine. The new features on the Cricut Maker allow you to use a rotary blade to cut fabric without a backing material and a knife blade to cut through extra thick material. The Cricut Maker can cut the most materials of all the Cricut machines. Plus, it gives you access to hundreds of digital sewing patterns that only work with the Maker. If you are not interested in cutting fabric or really thick materials, the Cricut Explore Air 2 would be the perfect machine for you at a lower price point than the Maker. I hope that helps, and please let me know if you have any other questions.
      xo,
      Laura

  7. Looking into buying my first cutter..
    You know how you said the silhouette prints 10ā€™ without a mat and the cricut only prints 24ā€? Is the cricut may something Iā€™d need to purchase separately?
    Thanks!

    • Jessica,
      When you purchase a machine you will receive a mat to use. After a while the mats do lose their stickiness so they will need to be replaced. There are four different mats – light grip, standard grip, strong grip, and fabric. There is a mat with the Silhouette as well that is necessary for cutting any materials that do not have a backing – like paper. Hope that helps!
      xo,
      Laura

  8. I been thinking about getting a cricut but was advised that with my limited internet this could be a problem, also that I do not own anything apple could be a problem and perhaps the silhouette would be a better choice. Can you download projects and then connect the computer to the cricut machine, or is wifi a must? Thank you
    Martina

    • Martina,
      This could potentially be a problem for you. If you are working on a desktop computer you do need to have an internet connection to use the Design Space program. There is an offline capability for the iOS mobile app, but I see you said you don’t have any Apple products. I believe they are working on having an offline feature for Android, but I am not sure when that will be ready. Unfortunately, this is a drawback for those people that don’t have a good internet connection. For this reason, the Silhouette machine may be a better choice for you. The Silhouette software is downloaded directly to your computer, rather than being cloud-based.
      Laura

  9. I thought this was very misleading. If you had used the Silhouette and the software as long as you had been familiar with the Cricut and it’s software this might have been more credible. Also, you gave up when you found you weren’t up on the Silhouette software (which is free when you buy the Silhouette however you can upgrade to an even more robust version). I thought your comparison chart was misleading also. It makes me wonder what is Cricut’s game plan after seeing someone else do a side by side but the other person was using a past model of Silhouette that had nowhere near the features as the Cameo 3 but they were using the new Cricut machine.

    • Molly,
      I am sorry you found my comparison misleading. Since I have been using a Cricut long before my blogging days there is no way for me to go back and use the Silhouette for as long as the Cricut machines. I plan to update this comparison soon with more details about the two machines, rather than doing a specific project, but simply trying different comparable features for each machine, so please check back soon. In this tutorial, I was comparing the Silhouette Cameo 3 and the Cricut Explore Air 2 which are comparable versions of each machine. Those are the two machines I used for the comparisons in my chart, so I am not sure why you found the chart itself misleading. Please let me know if you found an error on my chart about the Cameo 3 or Explore Air 2 so I can correct it.
      Laura

  10. Hi Laura!
    I saw lots of tutorials and read many craft bloggers reviews comparing CAMEO 3 and CRICUT air2, and finally decided to buy the Cri Cut. I just started using it and really loved it until I got a problem.
    Because of my work, I have to do a lot of print & cut projects. For testing at home with my printer and then cutting, all in one session, it all went perfect. But as I needed a better print quality por the final project, I saved my project on a PDF file, went to print to a local shop and came back home to cut… and here is were my problem started, when saving to PDF file, it results in incorrectly sized cut sensor marks, so for example, my circles were not cut precisely were my design is.
    Do you know if this also happens with Silhouette Cameo 3? Do you know if there is a solution? o have you any tip for printing on the local shop and then cutting at home without getting this error?

    THANKS!

    • Ana,
      For the Cricut, you need to print and cut from the same machine. So, for example, both print and cut from your computer, phone, or iPad. You cannot print from one device and then cut from a different device. I can’t say for sure with the Silhouette, whether or not this would work, but you can retry to manually line up the registration marks, so you may have more luck printing from one device and then cutting at home. I have never tried this method myself though, so I am not sure if it would work.
      Hope this helps,
      Laura

  11. Hi there I was reading your review on the cricut vs the silhouette and in one of the sections I noticed something you said about the cricut the design in full color images before purchasing! Do you have to pay to to cut your own uploaded images? I’m sorry if this sounds stupid but I’m trying to decide which machine to buy.

    • Melinda,
      On both the Cricut and the Silhouette software there are free images and images you have to pay for. With the Cricut software you can design all you want, but if there is an image you don’t get for free or is not included with a paid Access subscription, you will need to pay for the image before being able to cut it out. This is the same for the Silhouette software. However, if you want to upload your own images to the software, this is a free feature with Cricut Design Space. With Silhouette Studio you have to pay an upgrade fee to be able to upload your own images. I hope that helps!
      xo,
      Laura

    • Kathy,
      Hi! Thank you for asking. I don’t have one yet, but I do have a series going on YouTube on how to use the Design Space software. This works the same for both the Explore Air 2 and the Maker. What kinds of things would you like to learn, so I know what types of videos to create in the future?
      xo,
      Laura

  12. Hi,

    Does either machine print and cut multi color images, that are uploaded or downloaded from their software?

    • Ashleigh,
      The print and cut feature uses your home printer to print out the design on paper, cardstock, printable vinyl, or printable iron-on. Then the cutting machine will cut out the designs. You can print and cut multi-color images on either machine. If you are working with other materials you can do multi-color designs by layering the designs with different colors. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.
      Laura

  13. I’m looking to cut vinyl figures for use on my classroom whiteboard. Did you happen to find one machine worked better than the other with vinyl?

    • Regan,
      Both machines can cut vinyl well. I do think the Cricut does a little bit better on intricate cuts with any material. However, both machines do well with vinyl. Hope that helps!
      xo,
      Laura

  14. Good Morning. I’m looking into upgrading my original Cricut machine and just wanted to clarify with the Cricut Air 2 if I can download images off the internet and cut them. I’m sure you have already clarified this but with spending the amount of money the machines are, I just want to triple check. Thank You!

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