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. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.
I personally 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, the software, plus show you how to cut something out on each machine.
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. This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine. 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. This post has been updated 2/27/2020 for accuracy
Which is better Silhouette Cameo 3 or Cricut explore Air 2?
I have owned a Cricut machine for a long time – over 10 years. 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.
Personal Experiences with the Machines
Readers and friends ask me all the time whether I would recommend Cricut or Silhouette for an electronic die-cutting machine.
But I will be honest, before writing this post I had never tried the Silhouette machine. I had no answer for how well the machine worked or not. Since I use and love my Cricut machines, I have always, by default, recommended Cricut.
Today, I am going to change all that. I will complete basic functions like adding text and an image using each machine with its software program. At the end of the post, I will compare both machines and give my honest review on which one I like better.
One of the major differences between the Silhouette Cameo 3 and the Cricut Explore Air 2 used to be that the Silhouette uses software that is downloaded onto your computer. But as of January 2019, Cricut Design Space is also available as a Desktop version to use offline.
The Cricut used to only use 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.
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.
1. Adding Text
Click on the Text button in the Design Panel.
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.
You can sort the fonts by all fonts, Cricut fonts, or System 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.
To cut out your design on textured cardstock click the green Make It button.
Make sure everything looks okay on the mat preview page, and click Continue.
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.
How to Add Text in Silhouette Studio
Click on the Text Tool in the left menu panel.
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.
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.
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.
To cut the design click the Send button.
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.
Adding Text: The Results
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.
2. Adding Images
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.
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.
To upload your own image, click on the Upload button in the Design Panel.
Then, browse for your design on your computer and click Upload 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.
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.
To add an image into Silhouette Studio from the Library simply double-click it.
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.
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.
Adding Images: The Results
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 smoother than the Silhouette one.
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.
The Silhouette did not cut through any of the little hole cutouts completely. You can see on the backside 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 backside of the design.
Design Features on both 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.
Both machines have two areas to hold tools for when you want to score and cut or write and cut.
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
- Cricut Design Space and Silhouette Studio work as a download on your computer so you do not need Wi-Fi to operate it; however, on both, you can save your library/designs/projects to the cloud to access from multiple devices; on the Cricut you will need Wi-Fi to download images and fonts for use offline
- 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
- 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
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Silhouette Cameo 3: Final Thoughts
Both the Cricut and Silhouette machines have pros and cons. It ultimately boils down to what you plan to do with your machine.
Working with new software almost always has a learning curve. And learning a new program can be more difficult when you are used to a different one. 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 was able to design a similar project with both software programs fairly easily but to actually cut out the intricate design – the Cricut won.
Personally, I think the Cricut beats the Silhouette to be able to easily 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 in part because I have been using it forever.
However, if you are a designer (rather than an everyday crafter/maker) you may find that Silhouette Studio offers more capabilities to design exactly what you want in the program itself, rather than creating a design on another program and importing it.
Also, if the ability to cut materials longer than two feet is important to you, then the Silhouette machine would be the way to go.
See a comparison chart below on the features of each machine:
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Updated May 2018: I updated this post to provide clearer information about how the two machines work. Find the original project featured in this post: Father’s Day Hexagon Frame tutorial.