Looking to buy a new vinyl cutting machine? Wondering if a manual or an electronic cutter is the one for you? Are you a Silhouette or Cricut fan looking to get your hands on the coolest new craft cutter for 2020?
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 2020!
Browse our guide to the best machines below, or skip to the section that interests you.
There are a huge number of die 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 manual or an electronic cutter? Bluetooth enabled or a plug n’ play? 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.
Manual vs Electronic 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 manual machines that usually come with a hand crank, and the more sophisticated electronic cutters.
Which machine is best for you will really depend on how you want to use the machine.
Manual Die Cutters
Manual die cutters will appeal to crafters who fall into the following camps:
Beginners and children
Those who don’t want to deal with design software
Those on a tight budget
Those who prefer smaller size projects
Those working with a smaller space Sticker makers and card makers
Electronic die cutters are more expensive than manual cutters — typically costing anywhere between $150 to $400 for the latest machines.
A Note on Size of Cuts
Machines That Cut Bigger Designs Do Not Necessarily Cut in Better Quality
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.
Top New Features In 2020
Here are some of the features and trends we are enjoying with the very latest vinyl cutters.
Consider which are important to you before making a decision on which cutter you need!
Some of the best desktop cutters, such as the Cricut Maker and the Silhouette Cameo 4, 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!
Ability To Cut Unbonded Fabric
One of the most interesting things we’ve seen with the latest releases this year is stepping away the focus from just vinyl and cardstock to more materials, particularly fabric. Both the Cricut Maker and the Cameo 4 are now able to cut unbonded fabric just as well as any specialist fabric cutter worth its salt. The Cricut Maker has gone so far as to curate a huge sewing pattern library as well.
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 — or can even calibrate automatically according to the material.
As always, software for vinyl cutting machines remains contentious in 2020. 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, Silhouette Studio and Cricut Design Space.
Before we get on to the best vinyl cutters that tick these boxes…
Our Thoughts on the Best Prices
What should you expect to pay for a good machine? Well, 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.
Likewise, there are popular manual die cutters available for less than $100 than can satisfy the majority of small craft cutting projects. Paying more does not always mean getting more if your projects are simple.
We’ve included links to the best price for all of our featured vinyl cutters.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is the predecessor to the Maker and, in our opinion, still one of the best personal vinyl cutting machines 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 USCutter MH Series is a 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.
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
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 — a vinyl cutter to take with them on the road perhaps.
The Good: Huge improvements on the original, like a mini version of the Cameo 3
Now let’s take a look at our top rated manual vinyl cutters of 2020.
As you’d expect, these machines are manually operated — and considerably cheaper than their digital rivals. Great for smaller craft projects!
Sizzix Big Shot
The Sizzix Big Shot is a powerful 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.
The Big Shot is small, portable and suitable for desktop use.
It is operated by a hand 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
Finally, here are some commercial vinyl cutting machines ideal for small businesses and those who need extra precision and reliability.
These are heavy duty cutters used by professionals (and perhaps a few die-hard enthusiasts!).
Roland CAMM-1 Pro GX-500
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.
The Good: Famous Roland reliability, excellent precision
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). Sounds complicated? You’ll know when you need one of these!
The Good: Outstanding professional all-round machine at a good price; cuts thick surfaces