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.
Vinyl Cutters in 2020: 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 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, 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
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 2020
2020 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 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.
- 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 — or can even calibrate automatically according to the material.
- Software: 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.
The Best Vinyl Cutting Machines In 2020
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.
Best Electronic Cutting Machines
These are cutting machines ideal for people wanting to create their own crafts:
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
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 2020.
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!
- 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 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 Bad: Quite loud
Silhouette Cameo 3
The Cameo 3 is an old favorite in the craft cutting community, 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 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
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.
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
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).
- 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 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
Brother CM350 ScanNCut 2
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
Best Manual Die Cutters
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.
As you can see in the video below, the machine is small, portable and suitable for desktop use:
The Big Shot 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
- 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.
- 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
Commercial Vinyl Cutters
Next up, here are some vinyl cutting machines ideal for small businesses and those who need extra precision and reliability.
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.
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
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).
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
Graphtec FC8600-60 Vinyl Cutter
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!
USCutter Titan 2 Vinyl Cutter
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 2020, 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!)
What do you think is the best vinyl cutting machine in 2020?