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Silhouette Portrait Review

Before you read our Silhouette Portrait review, please note:

This is an archived review.

Originally published after the launch of the Portrait, this machine has now been surpassed by the Silhouette Portrait 3 — which you can read all about in our review here.

Whilst the Portrait is still a useful small cutter, it has been improved in nearly every way by the updated Portrait 3 model. You may still be able to pick up the original in local stores, or used on eBay. But for the best cutting technology from Silhouette, head on over to our Portrait 3 review or our most recent analysis of the best vinyl cutters.

We have kept our original write-up of the Portrait below, but please note that a lot has changed since the time of its initial release!

It’s marketed as ‘Love at first cut‘, but is the Silhouette Portrait (available now on Amazon) really the best cheap vinyl cutter right now — or is it starting to show its age?

We’ve had our Portrait for a few years now, and still bust it out on occasion for small crafts like sticker and card making.

We know plenty of other crafters that swear by it too — even though the new Cameo 3 overtakes it in terms of cutting specs and size.

It’s hard to resist that bargain price!

silhouette portrait review

Here’s our review of the Silhouette Portrait — including what we think are its greatest pros and its weakest cons.

If you’re thinking of purchasing the machine, read on to hear our final verdict!

Overview of Silhouette Portrait

The Silhouette Portrait was introduced in 2012 as a smaller, lighter version of the bestselling Cameo vinyl cutter.

While the two machines share much of the same functionality, the Portrait offers a smaller cutting size and is aimed at first-time vinyl cutting hobbyists.

For many craft fans, the Portrait is a perfect entry-level cutter that is great for cardmaking and small signage. It comes with all of the trademark Silhouette gloss and user-friendliness, with an exceptional low price tag.

The Portrait is designed every step of the way to appeal to small craft fans who might not have used a vinyl cutter before.

If you’re unwilling to shell out the extra cash for a Cameo, the Portrait is a great compromise to test if you’re ready to invest more in craft cutting.

As you can see, the machine is small and compact, while still bearing that trademark Silhouette sleek aesthetic. It should fit on top of your desk with no problems.

If you are interested in making your own stickers, the Portrait is a fantastic tool.

It’s seen as the cutter of choice by many vinyl sticker enthusiasts. Simply feed in your vinyl sheets and it will cut them with accuracy and reliability, all day long.

See more: our pick of the best vinyl sticker maker machines.

For the many craft fans interested in selling their own vinyl decals, the Portrait provides expert cutting technology without the larger cost outlay of a machine built to handle thicker materials.

In fact, it’s often seen as a specialist machine for cutting stickers.

Silhouette Portrait, cheap vinyl cutter 2016
Silhouette Portrait: Is it the best cheap vinyl cutter?

That’s a little unfair, though.

It can cut far more than just stickers.

We fed it all kinds of fabrics and cardstock during our testing.

The results? Solid accurate cuts with minimal fuss.

That said, we did encounter some teething problems when we tried to cut some intentionally intricate decals with lots of tiny details.

Initially, the Portrait struggled. It churned through some of the tighter cut lines, missing some of the detail or — in the worst cases — cutting off-line.

The good news is that we managed to significantly reduce the mistakes on intricate designs by slowing down the cutting speed via the Silhouette Studio software.

This is something we highly recommend. The extra time it takes to cut materials is well worth the trade-off for better accuracy and reliability.

Silhouette Portrait Specs

What’s in the Box?

  • Silhouette Portrait machine
  • Adjustable blade with ratchet cap
  • Power cable
  • USB cable
  • 8″ cutting mat
  • Silhouette Studio software for PC and Mac
  • Basic instruction guide
  • Download card good for $10 of digital designs from the Silhouette store
  • 50 exclusive free cutting designs

What Materials Can it Work with?

Despite its diminutive size, the Silhouette Portrait can cut over 100 different materials — the same as the Cameo and the Cricut Explore series.

This incredible versatility means that it can handle materials like paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric, chipboard, heat transfer material and even rhinestone template material.

The world is your oyster when it comes to experimenting with different materials on the Portrait.

Just as long as that material fits the small machine…

The maximum thickness of material it can take is 0.8 mm and its maximum cutting force is a relatively low 210 g, so don’t try and load it with any particularly thick or hard materials as it simply won’t have the strength to cut reliably.

Maximum Cutting Size

This is one of the areas that the Portrait is inferior to the Cameo: it’s much smaller.

With the cutting mat, the machine can take a maximum cutting size of 8″ by 12″, although the maximum length extends to 10 feet if you’re using lined media.

We wouldn’t recommend the Portrait for lengthy projects, however. It does best with small and relatively simple designs.

The Portrait is designed around the standard 8.5″ x 11″ dimensions of sheet materials provided by Silhouette. So, good news: all of their current products, including the heat transfer vinyl, are available in sizes compatible with the Portrait machine.

Silhouette Studio Software

The Portrait comes equipped with the Silhouette Studio software — one of the better machine-branded software programs around right now.

Although there is a small learning curve to mastering Silhouette Studio, it does offer a lot of opportunities to get creative and really become immersed in the world of craft cutting.

Plus, there are plenty of YouTube tutorials available if you want to get up to speed fast.

Like this brilliant one, for instance:

The Portrait is also compatible with PixScan, which enables you to create designs from photos and pictures.

Silhouette Portrait Review

“Is the Silhouette Portrait right for me?”

Let’s decide by taking a look at some of its key pros and cons.

Portrait Pros

  • The Portrait is perfect for cardmakers and small decals. If smaller size cuts are not a problem for you, then this is an excellent cheap vinyl cutter.
  • For such a compact machine, it cuts an impressive number of materials, including: vinyl, cardstock, magnet paper, fabrics, heat transfer materials, paper, vellum and wood paper.
  • Easy to setup, install and start cutting. Silhouette’s setup is generally more user friendly than Cricut for beginners and hobbyists. The Portrait is no exception.
  • The software is simple to use. Yes, Silhouette Studio has a learning curve if you’re not familiar with tools like Photoshop, but it can be mastered in a few days.
  • Unlike some rival machines, the software is compatible with both PC and Macs. You do not need to be connected online to use it.
  • Silhouette Portrait is around 50% cheaper than the Silhouette Cameo, with much of the same functionality — a very good deal for small craft hobbyists.
  • It’s really lightweight at just 3.5 lbs. Perfect to take with you to a crafty get together or a girls’ night!

Portrait Cons

  • It’s not great for those working with materials that come in larger sizes. Scrapbookers, for example, would probably prefer a cutting width of 12 inches.
  • The Portrait is strictly a hobbyist cutter in terms of precision and accuracy. This is not a commercial grade cutter. Intricate designs may suffer.
  • Some users have reported issues with calibration and alignment, leading to inconsistency in their cuts.
  • The cutting mat that comes with the Portrait is sticky and can cause problems with thin materials. We’d advise you to use a lint pillow or similar to reduce any material shredding.

In regards to the issues with calibration and alignment, one tip we’ve found to be particularly useful is to ignore the guidelines on the left side of your cutting mat.

Line up your materials using the right edge of the mat instead. This, in tandem with slowing down the cutting speed, fixed the majority of reliability issues we encountered.

silhouette portrait reviews

Silhouette Portrait vs Cameo

The main difference between the Silhouette Portrait and Cameo is size.

The Portrait offers a maximum cutting width of 8″. That’s more than enough for cards and small decals, but for some types of signage, the Cameo’s 12″ maximum cutting width will offer greater flexibility.

The actual guts of the Silhouette Portrait are almost identical to what you will find inside the Cameo 2.

The latest Cameo 3 is a more sophisticated model (although is more expensive).

However, the Portrait doesn’t seem to have quite the same accuracy and precision as the Cameo.

Neither machine is what would be considered ‘commercial grade’ for precision cuts, but the Portrait does a pretty good job for most vinyl hobbyists.

Beginners, and those who prefer small, simple designs, will certainly find that it suits their needs very well.

As for software, the Portrait uses the same Silhouette Studio as the Cameo. It does not have the same functionality within the app, though. Some features you will not be able to use on this smaller budget cutter.

Portrait small vinyl cutter
Small cutter: It might not offer the biggest cuts, but the Portrait is great for small crafts and decals.

What Are People Saying?

Is Silhouette Portrait the best vinyl cutter in terms of value for money?

It certainly has lots of positive reviews in the small crafts community and on Amazon.

The machine is praised for being a great ‘start up and cut’ option. You can be up and using it within 10 minutes — perfect for beginners and those dipping their toes into the cutting world.

On the downside, some users have expressed concerns over the machine’s reliability, with calibration issues a common theme.

Below is a good video showcasing the Silhouette Portrait (vs the Cameo) courtesy of zed squared crafts.

It illustrates why many craft fans choose the Portrait for cardmaking.

Silhouette Portrait: The Verdict

For hobbyists dipping their toes in the vinyl cutting waters, the Silhouette Portrait is a fantastic machine with a fast learning curve that can handle most small crafts and decals.

The Portrait is also usually priced much cheaper (check the latest price here), than the Silhouette Cameo, which offers much of the same cutting technology inside. Admittedly, the Cameo 3 that came out in Summer 2016 is a step above both the Portrait and the Cameo 2.

Where these existing cutters differ is in size and, to a less extent, precision.

If you are launching a signage business, it’s unlikely the Portrait will offer a cutting size that fits what you need.

But then again, the Cameo might not either.

Note: Check our complete guide to vinyl cutters for a breakdown of the best machines on the market today, whether you are a hobbyist of somebody in need of a commercial vinyl cutter.

If you can live with the small cutting size offered by the Silhouette Portrait, it has very little competition.

This is an excellent cheap vinyl cutter that will please most casual users, while serving as the perfect introduction to Silhouette’s software and capabilities.

UPDATE: How Does It Fare In 2019?

Even though the Portrait 2 has been released since we last reviewed the original Portrait, we still have a mild preference for this one — despite the fact that the Portrait 2 is objectively a better cutter.

But one of the things we loved — and still love — about the original Portrait is its bargain basement price. The Portrait 2, in comparison is almost as expensive as the Cameo 3, which seems to defeat the point somewhat…

So in conclusion, we’re still major fans of the Portrait — and definitely recommend you getting one if you manage to find one anywhere!

Where to Buy the Silhouette Portrait

The Portrait’s MSRP is $199.99, but you can usually score some cracking deals both on Amazon and the Silhouette America website.

Although it’s currently sold out on the Silhouette website, Amazon has plenty of stock from independent sellers.

Check Price on Amazon

What do you think of the Silhouette Portrait? Is it better value than the Cameo?

Visit our summary of the best vinyl cutters for a comparison of the best machines on the market today. Also, don’t forget to visit our Reviews portal for more excellent vinyl cutters.

Silhouette Portrait Review

VCM Verdict

Pound for pound, the Silhouette Portrait is one of the best value vinyl cutters on the market. It combines the capabilities of a Cameo machine, with the price of a budget cutter. If you can live without a larger cutting width, the Portrait comes highly recommended.

5 thoughts on “Silhouette Portrait Review”

  1. “Line up your materials using the right edge of the mat instead. This, in tandem with slowing down the cutting speed, fixed the majority of reliability issues we encountered.”

    thank you. this helped a lot.

    Got my Portrait on Sunday and have been cutting stickers ever since lol

  2. So with the explore machines you do not need a cartridge? Looking at selling my original expression, and upgrading, but dont know what to keep when trying to sell the old one. I do like doing single letters or words, is this still possible with the new explores?

    • Hi Jamie,

      Yes, that’s right. You don’t*need to use cartridges with any of the Cricut Explore machines but they all have cartridge docks in case you want to use them anyway. You can definitely do single letters and words with them too.


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