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

* 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. *

Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Silhouette Cameo 3

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. Then, I started blogging, and 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. So, 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 may be 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 should also 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 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, to browse for your design on your computer click on 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. And not all of the edges of the snowflake were cleanly cut. Below is the back side of the design.

Cricut vs. Silhouette - Silhouette cut results

If I had to choose one machine, I would definitely pick the Cricut Explore Air 2. I find the Design Space software so much easier and more intuitive to use, probably partly 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.

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 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

I know that many programs have a learning curve, and learning a new one may 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 definitely beats the Silhouette getting the machine set up and running, plus a great cut the first time.

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

Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Silhouette Cameo 3 comparison chart


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