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Looking to buy a new vinyl cutting machine? Does your small business require a commercial cutter? Are you a Silhouette or Cricut fan looking to get your hands on the coolest new craft cutter for 2018?
Our complete guide to the best vinyl cutting machines is for you.
We’ve curated a list of the best machines, the best buying advice, and — well — pretty much everything you need to know about owning a vinyl cutter in 2017!
Browse the guide below, or skip to the section that interests you.
Here’s a quick sneak peek of some of our favorite machines:
The Best Vinyl Cutting Machines in 2017
|Name||Image||Max Cutting Width||Wireless/Bluetooth Connectivity||Price||Our Rating|
|Cricut Explore Air 2||11.5"||Yes||$$|
|KNK Zing Orbit||15" or 24"||Yes||$$$|
|Silhouette Cameo 3||12"||Yes||$$|
|Sizzix 660425 Big Shot||6"||No||$|
|USCutter MH Series||31"||No||$$$|
The 2018 Guide to Vinyl Cutting Machines
- 1 The Best Vinyl Cutting Machines in 2017
- 2 Vinyl Cutters in 2018: Buying Guide
- 3 The Best Vinyl Cutting Machines In 2017
- 3.1 Personal Vinyl Cutters For Hobbyists
- 3.1.1 Cricut Maker
- 3.1.2 Cricut Explore Air 2
- 3.1.3 Silhouette Cameo 3
- 3.1.4 KNK Zing Orbit
- 3.1.5 Cricut Explore Air
- 3.1.6 Cricut Explore One
- 3.1.7 Silhouette Cameo 2
- 3.1.8 Silhouette Curio
- 3.1.9 Silhouette Portrait
- 3.1.10 Silhouette Portrait 2
- 3.1.11 Brother CM350 ScanNCut 2
- 3.1.12 Sizzix Eclips 2
- 3.1.13 Sizzix Big Shot
- 3.1.14 Klic-N-Kut Zing Air
- 3.1.15 Klic-N-Kut Force
- 3.1.16 USCutter MH Series
- 3.1.17 OrangeA Vinyl Plotter
- 3.2 Commercial Vinyl Cutters
- 3.3 Share this post:
- 3.1 Personal Vinyl Cutters For Hobbyists
Vinyl Cutters in 2018: Buying Guide
There are a huge number of vinyl cutting machines on the market this year, and it can be overwhelming to decide which one is the best for your needs.
Before you start browsing, you should have some idea of what it is that you’re looking for.
A personal or a commercial cutter? Bluetooth enabled or a manual operation? What’s your budget? Space restraints? We could go on.
Here are a few pointers that should guide you into deciding exactly what type of vinyl cutting machine is best for you.
Commercial vs Personal Cutters
If you’ve read our article on Vinyl Cutting 101, you’ll know that there’s two distinct markets when it comes to vinyl cutting: the commercial businesses and the at-home hobbyists.
Which of these categories you fall into should dictate what category of vinyl cutting machine you’ll be buying.
Commercial businesses who’ll be using the machine for signage, intricate designs or for a large roster of demanding client work, will need a machine that is:
- Able to cut large designs in lots of different materials (not just vinyl!)
- Able to cut complex designs quickly and without error
- Able to handle multiple, complex jobs at one time
- Physically large
- More expensive
Individuals and craft cutting hobbyists, however, will have a different set of needs for their machine. It should be:
- Small enough to fit on a desktop
- Easy and quick to use
- Budget conscious
- Able to handle smaller projects with ease
- Able to operate reasonably quietly
- Able to handle one job at a time, regardless of complexity
There will be a few people or groups who will float somewhere between the categories — small businesses, for instance, or hobbyists who like to do large-scale designs. Thankfully, there are a few machines that cater to this market as well, like the US Cutter MH Series, for instance.
It’s always worth bearing in mind that just because a machine is able to cut bigger designs, it doesn’t mean that it will necessarily cut better. Only buy a big machine if you know that you’ll be needing it for large designs.
The one reasonably accurate indicator of how well a vinyl cutting machine will cut is…
Price: You Get What You Pay For
As with anything in life, when it comes to vinyl cutting machines, you get what you pay for.
Generally, the most expensive machines are also the highest quality, able to take on intricate and complex designs and churn them out without a hitch. They usually have the highest standard blades that are able to make precise cuts in a variety of materials.
That’s not to say, however, that the cheaper vinyl cutting machines aren’t worth bothering with.
In actual fact, some of the latest desktop machines priced well under $300 are some of our favorite craft cutters on the market. They may be able to handle a lighter load than their more expensive counterparts, but they’re pretty much perfect for home-style crafting and even for small home businesses.
As long as you buy a machine that’s best suited to your needs, you should be more than satisfied.
Top New Features In 2018
2018 has seen the emergence of a few great features in some of its most popular vinyl cutting machines…
- Wireless capability: Some of the best desktop cutters, such as the Cricut Explore Air and the Silhouette Cameo 3, are now Bluetooth enabled, meaning that you can be designing on your iPad on the sofa in one room, and send your design to the craft cutter in another room with just one click. Ideal!
- Automatic settings: We remember the old days when you had to fiddle around with pinch rollers to experiment with the best blade pressure for different materials — now, some of the more advanced craft cutters are able to automatically adjust their own settings to a range of materials at the flick of a switch.
- Software: As always, software for vinyl cutting machines remains contentious in 2018. Our vote still goes to Adobe Illustrator for the best and most advanced designing, although we’ve also been experimenting with Sure Cuts A Lot, VinylMaster Cut and Cricut Design Space.
The Best Vinyl Cutting Machines In 2017
Here we take a look at some of the bestselling vinyl cutters on the market.
We’ll cover the top personal machines for hobbyists, as well as some of the best commercial cutters too.
Personal Vinyl Cutters For Hobbyists
These are cutting machines ideal for people wanting to create their own crafts without going Full Industrial:
Released about halfway through 2018, the Maker is the very latest product from Cricut and it’s a real powerhouse of a machine.
Here are the features you’re looking at:
- Can cut virtually any fabric (even unbonded)
- 4kg of force
- Can cut hundreds of different materials, including thick balsa wood and matboard
- Adaptive Tool System means that it can work with all past, present and future Cricut blades and tools
- Huge sewing pattern library available
This is the machine for makers — those of us that like to dabble in numerous different crafts and like to experiment. It’s hard to fault this brilliant machine.
- The Good: A hugely versatile machine
- The Bad: More expensive than other desktop cutters
The Explore Air 2 is the latest release from Cricut and, in our opinion, is the best personal vinyl cutting machine on the market right now.
It cuts and writes at double the speed of its predecessor, the Explore Air, and still boasts the same precision cutting, Bluetooth wireless capability, and software that — while basic — is ideal for the beginner cutter.
The Explore Air 2 works with over 100 different materials and has pre-installed settings for over 80. The fast mode works on vinyl, cardstock and iron-on materials.
- The Good: 2 x as fast as the Explore Air, Bluetooth connectivity, precision cutting
- The Bad: Quite loud
The Cameo 3 is the latest Silhouette craft cutter on the market and is one of our favorites, thanks to the AutoBlade settings, a dual carriage allowing both cutting and writing in one step, and the generally sleek aesthetic.
It’s certainly a more than capable rival to the Cricut Explore Air 2.
One of the best things about buying a Silhouette product is the fabulous community of craft cutters that you’ll be joining. Who needs lifetime phone support with these crazy guys?!
It also comes with the Silhouette Studio design software (with soon-to-be-released Bluetooth technology) which, while basic, is easy to use and a great jumping off point for cutting beginners.
You can read our full review and guide to the Silhouette Cameo 3 here.
Here’s a video detailing the major improvements of the Cameo 3:
- The Good: AutoBlade automatic settings, double the cutting clearance of the Cameo 2, interactive touch screen and a roller locking mechanism
- The Bad: Cutting force is a little weak
Early 2018 saw the release of the hotly anticipated KNK Zing Orbit — an upgrade on the Zing Air below.
Available in both 15″ and 24″, this is one of the most powerful craft cutters on the market right now, with a whopping 1,000 grams of cutting force.
It also benefits from WiFi connectivity, smooth feeds with no jams, and more accurate print & cut functions.
Read our full guide to the KNK Zing Orbit here.
- The Good: Incredibly high quality cutting for a personal machine, no jamming, WiFi connectivity
- The Bad: No software included — you’ll have to buy Sure Cuts A Lot separately if you don’t already have it
The Cricut Explore Air was actually released back in 2015, but it’s continued to make waves in the craft cutting community throughout this year too.
We think that it’s one of the best vinyl cutting machines for beginners, blessed as it is with wireless capability, surprisingly high-quality, precision cutting and a refreshingly inexpensive price tag.
Here’s a quick video about what you actually get with the Explore Air and how easy it is to operate:
The best Explore Wireless Air bundle includes a deep cut blade and housing to cut thick materials like felt, canvas, poster board-even leather. It also has scissors, tweezers, a weeder, scraper, and spatula. Again, a fantastic choice for those starting out.
- The Good: Wireless capability, high-quality cuts, automatic settings, budget pricing
- The Bad: You have to use the basic Cricut Design Space software
You can read our in-depth review of the Explore Air here.
Before the Explore Air came the Explore One.
And… they’re almost exactly the same, save the Explore Air benefits from wireless capability. There’s only a very small difference in price as well, so we’d advise bypassing the Explore One and going straight for the Air if you can.
In all other respects, however, it works just as well as the Air (and suffers from the same software issues posed by the Cricut Design Space).
- The Good: High quality, precision cutting at a budget price
- The Bad: No wireless connectivity and very basic software
The Cameo 2 is the older sister of the Cameo 3 but is still popular with a number of Silhouette fans who haven’t yet made the jump to the latest edition.
Alongside Cricut’s Explore Air, this is one of the bestselling vinyl starter kits on the market and always represents amazing value. This starter package includes the Cameo 2 machine, 2 12″ x 12″ cutting mats, 2 cutting blades, a Silhouette Pick Me Up Tool, a Silhouette Metallic Sketch Pen Pack and a 1 month basic subscription to the Silhouette Design Store.
The machine cuts material up to 12 inches wide and 10 feet long, which should be plenty for hobbyists and lighter-use commercial users.
It comes with the same Silhouette Studio software as the Cameo 3, which is again basic but easy to use.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of purchasing a Silhouette machine is the endless community support that is provided for them. You’ll never run short of tutorials, walkthroughs and step-by-step guides for using this thing.
The Cameo is a fantastic cutter and comes highly recommended by many users, with a top rating on Amazon spread over hundreds of reviews.
- The Good: Excellent all-round starter kit for small to medium size cuts.
- The Bad: Weak cutting force, no wireless connectivity
The Curio from Silhouette is a lovely little desktop machine that’s great for experimenting with a wider range of thicker materials.
It’s certainly not just a vinyl cutter — it allows you to use interesting new specialist tools like embossing, stippling and etching and can be used like metal, leather and even wood.
It can cut up to 2mm thick material with the deep cut blade, and enjoys a 5mm clearance allowing you to feed through some pretty thick materials!
Silhouette have marketed this as a companion to their Cameo products, but some crafters will find this machine perfectly sufficient by itself — if you only want to use the emboss, stipple and etching features, the Curio is a must-have as the only machine that can unlock these features in the Silhouette Studio software.
Here’s a video tutorial on embossing and debossing with the Curio:
There’s an incredible Silhouette Curio bundle deal on Amazon right now that includes the machine, 8.5″ x 12″ base, 8.5″ x 12″ cutting mat, 8.5″ x 12″ embossing mat, 8.5″ x 6″ base. 8.5″ x 6″ cutting mat, 8.5″ x 6″ embossing mat, vinyl starter kit, 24 sketch pens, deep cut blade, premium blade, etching and stippling tool, fine emboss tool, wide emboss tool, cutting blade, pick me up pen, and much more.
- The Good: Excellent tool for crafters who enjoy using thicker materials
- The Bad: Only good for small designs with just a 8.5″ x 6″ base
Silhouette have knocked it out of the park again with the Portrait — it’s very much a budget machine but offers great cuts for small projects. It’s the vinyl cutting machine of the moment for card and sticker makers.
It’s just generally a good machine for beginners, thanks to its low price and easy to use machine and software. Silhouette Software is often described as basic — which it is — but it’s a great entry point for those new to craft cutting.
For crafters who prefer creating larger designs, the limited cutting size of the Portrait may put you off — it can only cut a maximum of 8″ x 12″. But what it loses in size, it more than makes up for in the large number of materials it can cut with: vinyl, paper, cardstock, heat transfer, vellum, wood paper, magnet paper and more.
At such a low price point, it would be a little naive to expect professional grade cuts. We found that it worked perfectly well on every material we tested, but that we needed to reduce the cutting speed significantly as soon as we tried more intricate designs.
Other users have noticed a few teething problems with alignment, so it’s worth checking that everything is in line where you need it to be.
You can read our full review and rating of the Silhouette Portrait here.
- The Good: Cheap vinyl cutter ideal for card and sticker makers
- The Bad: Not so great on intricate designs without slowing down cutting speed considerably
Towards the end of 2017, Silhouette released a long-awaited upgrade on the Portrait — the Portrait 2.
It’s improved on the original in almost every imaginable way — it’s more like a mini version of the Cameo 3, with plenty of bells and whistles. It’s Bluetooth and Pixscan compatible, comes with the Autoblade, and is capable of much deeper cuts.
It’s still very reasonably priced, although it is understandably more expensive than the original. We think it would be great for people looking for a smaller version of the Cameo 3 — a vinyl cutter to take with them on the road perhaps. It’s not quite cheap enough to be a budget priority.
- The Good: Huge improvements on the original, like a mini version of the Cameo 3
- The Bad: Almost as expensive as the Cameo 3
The ScanNCut 2 from printing behemoth Brother is another rival to the Cricut Explore Air and Silhouette Cameo 3.
We love it because it offers built-in scanning, unlike its rival machines, and matches them with wireless design transfer (no more tripping over cables!).
There are also no monthly software subscriptions or cartridge purchases (we’re looking at you, Cricut) to navigate. The ScanNCutCanvas Software comes free (and is tablet compatible) but isn’t particularly user friendly or comprehensive. Because of this, we think it’s a better fit for crafters using existing designs or scanning their own handdrawn designs in — you’re not going to be getting too creative in the software.
The machine itself can cut a maximum width of 11.5″ and has a large LCD touch screen to enable easy operation. It looks pretty good on your desktop! Cuts are reliably precise.
- The Good: In-built scanning, wireless and direct connectivity, great for fabric and mixed-media crafters
- The Bad: The creative potential of the software is limited
Sizzix is probably best known for its crank-operated Big Shot (reviewed below), but the Eclips 2 is their electronic die-cutting machine offering that joins the Explore Air, Cameo 3 and ScanNCut 2 as desktop cutting rivals.
We’ve found it best for paper crafts, especially card-making, thanks to its high precision cuts. It’s not quite as versatile with materials as its rival machines above, and doesn’t have any engraving or embossing features. The included (and free!) eCAL lite software is beyond basic but reasonably intuitive to use.
It does have a great scoring feature, which we found super handy in creating boxes and other foldable crafts as it promises no accidental perforations and clean folds every time.
If you do want to use it on other materials, it does have easy to use automatic speed and pressure settings. You can also adjust the blade depth, which can cut to the nearest 1/100 of an inch.
- The Good: Precision cuts and true scoring
- The Bad: Not particularly versatile with different materials, basic software
Strictly for hobbyists looking to dip their toes in the cutting waters, the Sizzix Big Shot is a cute little machine that can be used to make cards, invitations, scrapbook pages, home décor, fashion, altered art and quilting. It has a huge community. Seriously, h-u-g-e.
This cult hero of the die-cutting world is just as useful for embossing as it is for slicing through materials (of which it can handle plenty, including all types of vinyl).
It cuts up to 6 inches, ships very cheap, and comes with a 3 year warranty.
As you can see in the video below, the machine is small, portable and suitable for desktop use:
The Big Shot differs from the rest of our cutters in that it is not an electronic die-cutter. It is operated by a crank.
However, if this is a problem and you would prefer electronic cutting at the push of a button, check out the latest version of the Sizzix Big Shot Express, which sacrifices the crank for an electric motor that saves us all grinding our wrists in to pulp.
A fun gift for a craft lover, and simple enough for the kids to enjoy.
- The Good: Kid-friendly, nice starter kit for small crafts makers
- The Bad: Limited size means a limited market
The Zing Air by Klic-N-Kut (KNK) is a cracker of a vinyl cutting machine.
For such a compact machine, it boasts a remarkable cutting force of 750 grams, which leaves similar products from Silhouette and Cricut trailing along in the shade. It’s also a really robust machine — great for clumsy crafters like us!
It’s certainly more expensive than the Cameo 3 and Explore Air but it does have the features to justify the price tag. There’s also no need to buy any cartridges, wireless connectivity and a relatively generous 14″ maximum cutting width. It’s also in a league of its own when it comes to pierce, emboss and engrave features.
We also like the included Make The Cut software, which usually retails for $57.95. It’s much more advanced than is normally included with these machines and it too has some great, easy to use features. Although it’s much better for one-off cuts and designs rather than repeat batches.
You can read our full review and rating of the KNK Zing Air here.
- The Good: High quality, powerful cuts, wireless connectivity, no cartridges, versatile
- The Bad: Quite expensive, tweaking required for perfect cuts — it’s more of a semi-pro hobbyist’s machine than entry level
Buy it direct through the KNK USA store.
The KNK Force is a real stand-out amongst its fellow personal craft cutters, thanks to a few incredible and unique features. It was actually funded by a Kickstarter campaign which is fairly unusual in itself.
KNK are marketing the Force as “the first dual head plotter with a true Z axis” — this is thanks to the motorized cutting head that is able to cut on 3 axis. Most vinyl cutting machines use a solenoid for a cutting head instead.
The dual carriage isn’t particularly unique — we’ve seen it with the Cameo 3 and the Explore series from Cricut too — but is still appealing nonetheless, allowing stipple and emboss, emboss and cut, engrave and cut, draw and emboss (and a neverending host of other combinations!) in just one easy step.
Another major selling point is its incredible cutting force — 4,000 grams! As far as we’re aware, that’s unrivalled in the vinyl cutting market.
It’s not available to buy yet on Amazon but you can get it from the KNK website.
- The Good: Powerful, precise cuts with a true Z axis, WiFi connectivity, speedy and compact
- The Bad: Not available on Amazon, premium price
The USCutter MH Series is another vinyl cutter that straddles the line between personal and commercial use. We think it’s best for serious hobbyists and small businesses working with vinyl signage.
Probably what makes this vinyl cutting machine so popular is the fact that it’s so cheap — comparable to most desktop cutters, in fact, yet with a much larger capacity. The 34in edition can cut to a maximum width of around 31 inches and length of 8 feet.
While it works great on simple jobs, however, it doesn’t quite have the memory or expertise to be particularly useful for complex and intricate designs. It is known to lose its mojo on long runs as well, so it’s best to keep designs small and delivered piecemeal.
Included with the USCutter MH Series bundle deal you’ll receive vinyl rolls, transfer tapes, magnetic blanks, a knife, squeegee, chart and lifetime phone support. One thing missing is a materials basket, which is highly recommended to avoid static catching your vinyl as it passes through the machine, especially with these larger machines.
- The Good: Large unit offers bigger cuts on a budget
- The Bad: Reliability and tracking issues reported, not Mac compatible
The OrangeA cutter (28 inches) is aimed at the hobbyist market and is considered a workhorse with good, reliable performance, although it lacks the user support of a Silhouette or a Cricut.
It is suitable to cut a variety of material including adhesive vinyl, hard paperboard, sandblast stencil, mask material and more. This machine cuts up to 24.5 inches (there are also 14, 34 and 53 inch models) and it is driven by a stepper motor.
The software has received a poor reception with many users complaining of issues installing, finding good instructions, or troubleshooting missing drivers. The consensus is that you’ll have more luck watching videos on YouTube than you will following the software’s tutorials.
We’re including it on the basis of those 24.5 inch cuts though.
- The Good: Reliable, accurate and consistently good cuts (once setup!)
- The Bad: Software problems, lousy support
Commercial Vinyl Cutters
Next up, here are some vinyl cutting machines ideal for small businesses and those who need extra precision and reliability.
Roland is one of the top brands in the vinyl cutting world, and the GX-500 is a tremendous machine that cuts a wide range of materials between 3.5 to 54 inches.
It’s a big old unit, weighing over 120 lbs. The plotter is powered by digital servomotors, offering a professional grade cut that is extremely accurate, fast and reliable. If you need precision on large jobs, you can’t go wrong with Roland. They are expensive cutters, but well worth the investment.
The GX-500 can contour cut pre-printed graphics, letting you create professional vehicle wraps, custom window tinting, and even heat transfers for garments. It comes with the Roland CutStudio design software, which is comprehensive and very well supported.
There are handful of Roland machines to choose between. Check out our Roland Vinyl Cutter Guide to find which one is best for you.
- The Good: Famous Roland reliability, excellent precision
- The Bad: Premium cost
The CE6000 is Graphtec’s follow-up to the successful CE5000 series and it is aimed at professional vinyl cutters who need high precision and reliability. It has been met with widespread acclaim.
This model claims to be cleaner and ‘greener’ than its predecessor with a manufacturing process that minimises the environmental impact.
The CE6000 comes with two floor stands (24 inches and 48 inches). The machine uses digital servo motors to ensure the highest accuracy, has blade wear monitoring, and it also integrates Graphtec’s ARMS (Automatic Registration Mark Sensor).
Here’s an excellent video via Stahlsdotcom of the Graphtec CE6000 series in action:
Amazon also sells a 48 inch model of the Graphtec CE6000-120. But if you really want to supersize your cutting, consider our next machine…
- The Good: Outstanding professional all-round machine at a good price; cuts thick surfaces
- The Bad: Premium cost
The FC8600 series, ranging from 24 to 64(!) inches, is for heavy-duty, high-performance cutting.
This is an industry leader for sign makers, graphic artists, automotive aftermarket professionals, countertop installers and anybody who needs a lot of cutting done very fast and very well.
The machine has a cutting rate of 58.5 inches per second, with a powerful 4.0G maximum acceleration and 600g of cutting force.
Prices range from $3,795 for the smallest, to $7,995 for the largest on the Graphtec website, although occasionally you can find them on Amazon.
In other words, this machine is likely to achieve your commercial cutting objectives (whatever they may be), but it’s probably not going to impress your spouse if it shows up in the living room.
- The Good: Top-spec industrial solution with best technology available
- The Bad: Its size makes a mockery of all but the largest cuts. Not for small crafts!
The Titan 2 represents excellent value for money with a cutter that can handle many professional-grade tasks without tanking your budget.
It is driven by a servo motor and comes with the excellent VinylMaster Cut design software. Unfortunately, VinylMaster Cut does not currently support Mac. This seems pretty unforgivable in 2018, but alas, Mac users are required to contact USCutter to make alternate arrangements, or to buy a KeySpan adapter.
Titan 2 offers a maximum cut width of 24 inches. It benefits from being exceptionally quiet compared to similar models (including the original Titan), relatively lightweight (under 60 lbs). It comes with a floor stand, a materials catching basket, three Titan blades, a pen holder, blade holder and free lifetime phone support.
This model bridges the market by offering a viable commercial machine for professional sign-makers and something that might also appeal to hardcore vinyl cutting enthusiasts.
Titan 2 is also available in 15 or 53 inches.
- The Good: Reliable, cheap but professional solution with a servo motor
- The Bad: Software is not Mac compatible (doh!)
The Maxx Air from KNK is one of the most optimum vinyl cutting machines for small businesses, offering incredible features at a premium — yet reasonable — price tag.
It boasts Bluetooth technology that works up to a maximum of 30 feet away (great for offices), an incredible 1,500+ grams of cutting force and speed range between 1mm and 800 mm per second.
It’s surprisingly compact, despite its incredible power, and operates reasonably quietly too.
For large and complex jobs, it’s hard to go too far wrong with the KNK Maxx Air. It’s reasonably priced too, especially considering its commercial grade features.
Except for one major flaw: it’s not compatible with Macs. When will vinyl cutting machines move into the 21st century?!
- The Good: High power, high speed, high precision
- The Bad: Compatible with PC only
What do you think is the best vinyl cutting machine in 2018?