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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 2021?
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 2021!
Browse our guide to the best machines below, or skip to the section that interests you.
Vinyl Cutters in 2021: Buying Guide
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
Examples of popular manual die cutters we’ll be looking at include the Sizzix Big Shot and Cricut Cuttlebug.
Manual vinyl cutters are typically much cheaper than digital cutters and can be picked up for under $100.
Electronic Die Cutters
Electronic die cutters
, on the other hand, will appeal more to the following:
- More experienced crafters
- Small crafting businesses
- Those looking for a machine that can do lots of different things
- Those wanting to do larger and more complex projects
- Crafters happy to learn design software
- Those with a bit more space and a larger budget
- Crafters wanting to work with lots of different materials
Examples of popular electronic die cutters we’ll be looking at include the Cricut Explore Air 2, Maker, and Silhouette Cameo 4.
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 2021
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 2021. 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…
The Best Vinyl Cutting Machines In 2021
OK, so here’s what’s hot in 2021.
Let’s take a look at some of the best vinyl cutters on the market today.
This section is updated regularly and contains a mix of our best rated machines for electronic cutters, manual cutters and commercial cutters.
Best Electronic Cutting Machines
These are cutting machines ideal for people wanting to create their own crafts:
Released about halfway through 2018, the Cricut 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.
Read Our Full Review of Cricut Maker Check Current Price on Cricut Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: A hugely versatile machine
- The Bad: More expensive than other desktop cutters
Silhouette Cameo 4
The Cameo 4 was Silhouette’s big release of 2019 and is sure to be at the top of crafters’ wish lists throughout 2021.
It’s a huge improvement on the Cameo 3 — which was already a good cutting machine — and is a worthy alternative to the Cricut Maker.
Call us shallow, but we don’t love the industrial look of the machine and we do find the dual tool carriage to be a little inefficient for our tastes. Very minor niggles though!
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 which, while basic, is easy to use and a great jumping off point for cutting beginners.
Read Our Full Review of Silhouette Cameo 4 Check Current Price on Swing Design Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: A huge improvement on the Cameo 3
- The Bad: Not as sleek-looking as we would have liked
Cricut Explore Air 2
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.
Read Our Full Review of Cricut Explore Air 2 Check Current Price on Cricut Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: 2 x as fast as the Explore Air, Bluetooth connectivity, precision cutting
- The Bad: Quite loud
USCutter MH Series
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.
Read Our Full Review of USCutter MH Series Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: Large unit offers bigger cuts on a budget
- The Bad: Reliability and tracking issues reported, not Mac compatible
The Cricut Joy is the 2020 machine release from Cricut and is designed as a lower-entry cutter compared to the Maker and Explore Air 2.
Lightweight with a small footprint, this is a machine for beginners, those on a tight budget or crafters who want something small for on-the-go cutting.
It’s a fantastic cutter for simple designs and even boasts matless cutting (if you buy the additional Smart Materials).
Read Our Full Review of Cricut Joy Check Current Price on Cricut Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: Perfect for beginners, relatively low cost
- The Bad: You still have to deal with Cricut Design Space, lots of upsells
Silhouette Portrait 2
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.
Read Our Full Review of Silhouette Portrait 2 Check Current Price on Swing Design Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: Huge improvements on the original, like a mini version of the Cameo 3
- The Bad: Almost as expensive as the Cameo 3
Best Manual Die Cutters
Now let’s take a look at our top rated manual vinyl cutters of 2021.
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.
Read Our Full Review of Sizzix Big Shot (Express Version) Check Current Price on Scrapbook.com Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: Kid-friendly, nice starter kit for small crafts makers
- The Bad: Limited size means a limited market
The Cuttlebug is Cricut’s answer to the Big Shot and was similarly very popular, although the company has now shifted its focus primarily to electronic cutting machines.
Just like the Sizzix products, the Cuttlebug works by manual hand crank and the use of die cuts and embossing folders.
Its most popular with children and crafters who are primarily interested in cutting small designs for cards and such like.
As always with manual die cutters, you are limited with the Cuttlebug in terms of the number and size of projects you can feasibly do with it.
Read Our Full Review of Cricut Cuttlebug Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: Budget friendly, perfect for kids and beginners
- The Bad: Increasingly difficult to get ahold of now that Cricut aren’t selling them directly
Best Commercial Vinyl Cutters
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.
Read Our Roland Vinyl Cutter Comparison Guide Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: Famous Roland reliability, excellent precision
- The Bad: Premium cost
Graphtec CE6000 Professional Vinyl Cutter
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!
Check Current Price on Swing Design Check Price on Amazon
- The Good: Outstanding professional all-round machine at a good price; cuts thick surfaces
- The Bad: Premium cost
Still Can’t Decide? Read Our Latest Vinyl Cutter Reviews
For the latest coverage of new machines, be sure to head over to our Reviews section, which is packed full of hands-on guides to the best vinyl cutters — including all of those mentioned above.
This best vinyl cutters guide was last updated on December 27th 2020.