Silhouette Cameo 3 vs Cricut Explore Air 2

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It’s the ultimate battle of the craft cutting machines… Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2.

Which will come out on top?

Silhouette released their hotly anticipated Cameo 3 in July of this year, whereas Cricut held off until mid October before releasing their batch of Explore Air 2s.

You can check out our full reviews and ratings of the Cameo 3 here and the Explore Air 2 here.

When it comes down to choosing the winner of Silhouette Cameo vs Cricut, most crafters find themselves on polar opposite sides of the divide. You’re either a Cricut fan or a Silhouette lover — there’s not much room for ambiguity here!

But these latest releases are certainly tempting all manner of crafters, and they’re certainly in competition for market share.

silhouette cameo vs cricut

Let’s see which one is the right fit for you.

Here’s a quick teaser:

Silhouette Cameo 3 vs Cricut Explore Air 2

NameSilhouette Cameo 3Cricut Explore Air 2
Image Silhouette Cameo 3 Reviewcricut explore air 2
Max Cutting Size12" x 10'11.5" x 23.5"
Bluetooth Connectivity?YesYes
How many materials can it work with?100+100+
SpeedSlowestFastest
Auto-Settings?YesYes
SoftwareSilhouette StudioCricut Design Space
VCM Ratingbest budget vinyl cuttervinyl cutting machines
Amazon Price>> Check Best Price>> Check Best Price

Silhouette Cameo vs Cricut: Features

Let’s take a look at the specs of both individual machines first.

Maximum Cutting Size

Both machines are personal, desktop size cutters so their maximum cutting sizes are relatively small — at least in comparison to larger, commercial sized cutters.

The Explore Air 2 has a maximum cutting size of 11.5 inches wide by 23.5 inches long. Relatively compact but perfectly serviceable for the majority of hobbyist crafters.

Unfortunately, cut sizes with the Cricut are limited even further if you use the Print Then Cut function with imported files (instead of buying them direct from the Cricut Image Library). How small the cut size depends on the browser you’re using.

Here’s a guide that advises on the maximum size for Print Then Cut according to browser.

The Cameo 3, on the other hand, packs a bigger punch. It’s maximum cutting size is 12 inches wide (realistically, more like 11.5) by 10 feet long. That’s a good deal longer than the Explore Air 2 can handle and ideal for crafters creating signage or particularly long designs.

How Easy Are They to Use?

If you’re a beginner, choosing whether to buy the Cameo or Explore Air can be tricky. One thing that can be said for both machines, however, is that they’re super easy to use.

The Cameo 3 has a large, intuitive touchscreen that is designed to minimize user errors and encourage confidence in beginners finding their way.

It also has an AutoBlade setting which automatically calibrates the correct blade settings according to what material you’re using — no more fiddling about with cutting depths!

The Explore Air 2 is also perfect for beginners.

The Smart Set Dial on the front of the machine has settings automatically calibrated for the most commonly used materials — including vinyl, cardstock, paper and bonded fabric — while you can select automatic settings for over 80 other materials within the Cricut Design Space software.

Both machines also benefit from Bluetooth connectivity, meaning that you don’t need to be plugged into the machine to design and cut.

We love that we can be design on our iPad while laying on the sofa and then easily send our creation over to the craft cutter without getting up!

cameo 3 vs explore air 2

Cutting Specs

In the battle of Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2, there is one machine that clearly provides the best cuts.

The Cricut Explore Air 2 consistently delivers precision cutting from its premium German carbide blades, even for the most intricate of designs.

It’s also noticeably faster than the Cameo 3 at both cutting and drawing, thanks to its Fast Mode, which can be used on vinyl, cardstock and iron-on materials. Fast Mode works up to twice as fast in the Explore Air 2 than in its predecessor, the Explore Air.

It also benefits from a dual carriage which allows for writing and scoring or writing and drawing to be completed in one step, instead of 2.

The Cameo 3 also enjoys the benefits of a dual carriage, but it’s cutting isn’t quite up to the standard of the Cricut.

Cutting force is a little weaker and it’s not quite as precise on more intricate designs. It’s also a slower worker.

Both machines can cut over 100 different materials, which is great news for creative crafters and those that love to experiment.

Here’s a good video from Ken’s Kreations about the differences between the machines (as well as against the Brother ScanNCut 2!):

Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2: The Look

While we all know that you should never judge an electronic craft cutting machine by its cover, there’s no doubt that aesthetics are important — especially if they’re sitting on your desk all day.

Which ‘look’ you prefer is entirely a personal choice.

Here’s the Silhouette Cameo 3:

cameo 3 vs explore air 2

And here’s the Cricut Explore Air 2 in all its different colors:

cricut vs silhouette

Via Facebook

They’re both of a minimalist design so it really boils down to the colors. The sleek, chic white of the Cameo 3? Or the pretty pastels of the Explore Air 2?

Cameo or Explore Air?

The choice is yours.

Difference between Silhouette and Cricut

It’s also worth exploring the differences between the brands themselves, rather than just the individual machines.

Software and community support are vital in finding success with craft cutting.

Software

The Explore Air 2 comes with the Cricut Design Space software.

It certainly doesn’t pack the punch of heavyweight programs like Illustrator or CorelDraw, but it’s easy to use and certainly ideal for beginners.

For more advanced crafters, you’ll enjoy that you can upload and convert your own designs to cuttable images for free. We’d recommend you design in a separate more advanced program rather than creating them in Design Space.

There’s also a large image library, which is available either by monthly subscription ($9.99 a month) or you can pay 99¢ per download instead. The image selection on offer here isn’t quite as good as Silhouette’s, but it’s not too far behind. There’s a great ‘Make It Now’ section for instant packet projects you can start immediately.

There’s also an app for Design Space, but it’s only available on iPad and iPhone right now. The Android version is still in the works…

Silhouette Studio for the Cameo 3 is a better, more advanced software than Cricut Design Space, but it does have a steeper learning curve and may be a tad overwhelming for beginners at the start.

Silhouette do have a more beginner-friendly version of the software in the works — Silhouette Studio 4.0 — which promises to include walkthroughs, interactive guides and a more streamlined interface than previous iterations.

The release of 4.0 is delayed (as of early November 2016) but is promised as a free upgrade for all Cameo products when it is eventually released.

Just like with Cricut, there is an App available (although this one works with iOS and Android!).

silhouette vs cricut

Community Support

Both Cricut and Silhouette have a loyal legion of fans and followers. Once you buy either the Cameo or Explore Air, you’ll find yourself as a fully paid-up member of these engaged communities.

Here’s where you can find out more:

Cricut:

Silhouette:

Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2: Pros and Cons

silhouette cameo 3 vs cricut explore air 2

Now we’re going to list out all the pros and cons of the Silhouette Cameo 3 and Cricut Explore Air 2 so you can see exactly what you’re getting yourself in for when you choose to buy either one of these machines.

Cameo 3 Positives

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Large cutting size: 12″ x 10′
  • AutoBlade technology
  • Dual Carriage
  • 2mm maximum cutting clearance for thicker materials
  • Works with 100+ materials
  • Intuitive touchscreen with audio alerts
  • Lots of storage for tools
  • Reliable and consistent cutting
  • Media line guides to ensure correct alignment of materials
  • Roller locking mechanism
  • Silhouette Studio software is great for advanced crafters (and the imminent arrival of SS 4.0 promises to cater to beginners)
  • Sleek and chic look

Cameo 3 Negatives

  • Cutting force is a little weak
  • Doesn’t work as precise or as fast as the Explore Air 2

Explore Air 2 Positives

  • Cuts twice as fast as the Explore Air in Fast Mode and is faster than Cameo 3
  • Bluetooth enabled
  • Excellent, precise cuts
  • Automatic settings available through the Smart Set Dial
  • Works with 100+ materials
  • Dual carriage
  • Beautiful pastel colors, sleek design
  • Lots of storage space for tools
  • Cricut Design Space software is easy to use and great for beginners

Explore Air 2 Negatives

  • Smaller maximum cutting size than the Cameo 3
  • No Android app yet available
  • Works quite loudly

cameo vs explore air

Overall Verdict

It’s hard to choose between the Cameo 3 and the Explore Air 2 as while they both have a huge number of positives and great features, there are some compromises to be faced with whichever machine you buy.

If you’re a complete beginner, we’d recommend you go for the Explore Air 2. It’s very easy to use and the software is much better suited to novices.

The Explore Air 2 is also a good buy for crafters who prioritize speed and precision cutting. Remember that you can upload and convert your own designs for free with the Cricut Design Space software so it’s certainly suitable for more advanced crafters.

If you prefer working on larger creations and like to design within the included software, then the Cameo 3 is your best bet. It has a large maximum cutting size and the Silhouette Studio software is comprehensive and promises to only get better with the next version.

We recommend both machines wholeheartedly.

Where to Buy the Explore Air 2 and Cameo 3

We’d always recommend starting with Amazon if you’re interested in deals:

silhouette cameo 3

cricut explore air 2

You can also buy the Explore Air 2 from the Cricut website and the Cameo 3 from the Silhouette website if you’d prefer to buy directly.

Silhouette Cameo vs Cricut: Bundle Deals

Both machines are featured in a huge number of bundles on Amazon and their own company sites and these make a great starting point for both beginners and those buying for a gift.

We’ve recently compiled a couple of guides to the best Cameo and Cricut bundles. Check them out!

>>> The Best Cricut Explore Bundle Deals

>>> The Best Silhouette Cameo Bundle Deals


Which is your favorite in the battle of Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2?


66 Comments

  1. I really love the look of the PINK explore Air 2 (favorite color lol!!!) but can’t find it on Amazon. Do you know when its coming out/or where else I can buy it!

    • Hi Margaret.

      We think both machines are good for scrapbookers in different areas — the Cameo 3 has a larger cutting area but the Explore Air 2 offers more precise cuts.

      Ultimately it depends on the sort of scrapbooking you do. Would you prefer being able to make larger designs, or more intricate, smaller ones?

      Hope that helps!

  2. Isn’t it true that the Cricut is limited to a cut size of only 6″ wide by 8-1/2″ high (browser dependent) when using imported files?

    I’m currently looking to buy either of the two macines compared here, but, as someone who prefers to design and cut their own projects, I find the size limitation of imported files to be the major deciding factor.

    This could also be severely limiting for anyone who wants to cut files other than those found within Cricut’s Design Space.

    It’s unfortunate to have to give up cut quality and speed in favor of the larger cut size. I think it would be smart for Provocraft to open up their machines to work with SCAL or MTC so that myself and others would be more likely to purchase their product. I really don’t know what they’re thinking. It’s clear to me that some of the most talented designers out there are choosing Silhouette macines due to the software limitations of the Cricut.

    • Hi Lynne.

      You’re right — Print and Cut limits the cut sizes of uploaded files, which could well be a deal breaker if you work with larger files.

      It’s a shame that crafters have to choose between limited cut size (Cricut) or arguably inferior cutting (Silhouette) — at some point, one or the other company will offer both large cut sizes and superior cutting and will suddenly start to dominate the desktop cutter market.

      We love the Cricut machines, but much prefer the Silhouette Studio software. Hope you decide which one works best for you!

    • Thank you for pointing this out! I have been researching and I want speed and precision, but I also planned on uploading my own files… oye.

  3. Can you cut svg files purchased elsewhere on either the cameo 3 or the Cricut explore air 2? I have files I purchased & used to cut out projects on my old Cricut expression, which I loved, using SCAL. But, now with a new computer, I can’t use SCAL to cut those purchased files, due to problems with Cricut.

    • Hi deb,

      Yes – both Silhouette Studio and Cricut Design Space allow you to import your own SVG files for these machines.

  4. Hi, I’m new to the world of cutting machines and was just wondering if one or the other is more costly to use in the long run. For instance I’ve heard of people talking about the cricut requiring different cartridges for different designs. Im not sure exactly what they are talking about but would this machine be more costly to use? Also, the main thing I will be using the machine for would be making vinyl stickers and htv vinyl for shirts etc.

    • Hi Amber,

      Only the older Cricut machines require cartridges to use. You can create and upload your own designs with the Explore Air 2 just like with the Silhouette Cameo. I think both machines would cost roughly the same in the long run. The designs that Cricut and Silhouette sell in their image stores cost roughly the same and obviously you’ll be spending the same amount on vinyl with either machine.

      You can cut stickers and t-shirt vinyl on both machines — but the Silhouette offers more space than the Cricut.

      Let us know if you have any other questions.

  5. Decisions, decisions! I’m a creative director, and know professional design software inside and out. I’m looking to purchase a machine to create occasional vinyl decals/stickers (which I assume need to be preprinted on vinyl, before cutting and then overlaying with a UV sealant?) using my own designs. MAYBE my wife will use the machine for craft projects down the road, but that wouldn’t drive the decision. I’ve been leaning towards the Cameo since it has the Connect plugin for Illustrator (which from what I’m gathering, means I’d never have to use their own software). But from the various reviews I’ve been reading, if the software is taken out of the equation, along with cartridges, subscriptions, etc. – then the Cricut is the better *machine* for my needs?

    • Hi Gaz,

      In terms of which machine is the better cutter, our pick is the Cricut. The blades are better, it’s faster and we’ve found it to be more precise than the Cameo.

      However, the Cameo is better if you want to cut larger sized designs as it can cut a maximum of 12″ x 10′. The Cricut, on the other hand, only has a maximum cut size of 12″ x 23.5″ and this is reduced down further to 6″ x 8.5″ (browser dependent) if you’re using the Print & Cut function and importing your own designs from Illustrator or another non-Cricut software program.

      Both these machines cut designs directly onto the vinyl. They don’t need to be overlaid with a UV sealant although you will need to weed out the waste vinyl from the cut before it can be adhered to whatever surface you choose.

  6. I need a machine that also cuts felt and leather. The felt goes up to a thickness of 2 to 2,5 mm.
    Cricut is up to this job?

  7. I currently have a Cricut Expression, but am contemplating an upgrade. Will making a switch to the Cameo be difficult? I have read the comparisons and am really struggling with which machine is best.

  8. Melissa Wilson on

    I have one of the dinosaur cricut machines, and am getting a new Cameo 3.. as I’ve not played around with either really, is there work you’d do on one machine vs the other?

    • Hi Melissa,

      The one major difference between them which could affect which one you buy is the fact that the Cameo 3 can handle larger projects than the Cricut Explore Air 2.

      The Cameo has a max cutting area of 12 inches by 10 feet, whereas the Cricut is just 12 inches by 23.5 inches.

  9. I am new to this world and am wanting to make t shirts and decals for cups, mirrors, etc. which would you suggest? I cannot decide!!!

    • Hi Hannah,

      Welcome to the world of craft cutting! To be honest, both machines are perfect for the work you’re looking to do.

      The Cameo 3 can handle larger projects than the Cricut, but the Cricut is better for cutting detailed designs than the Cameo.

  10. I’m new to the cutting world, and need a machine to cut only flowers petals and leaves?
    Which machine would you recommend? Also, does one of the machine cut crepe paper?

  11. I’ve seen a video on another website in which the Silhouette Cameo can be used to work with metal clay. Anyone know if the Cricut can do this as well? I’m deciding between the two machines for a family member for being able to work with metal for jewelry making is a MUST.

    Thanks for any insight.

    • Hi Melissa,

      I had a quick look at the materials list for the Cricut (https://home.cricut.com/materials-list) and couldn’t spot metal clay on there. I have to admit to not ever using metal clay myself so can’t offer my experience here. It may be a good idea to contact Cricut directly to get their advice.

  12. I need a machine to cut soap boxes from thick card stock for homemade soap and labels to go on bottles. so if I’m understanding correctly the Explore Air 2 would be a better option?

  13. Hi Geanine,

    Both the Explore Air 2 and the Cameo 3 can cut cardstock and labels (although you might need to buy a deep cut blade if the card is particularly thick). The Explore Air 2 has slightly more cutting force and precision so might be the best choice — although the Cameo 3 can work with larger projects. It depends if precision or size is the most important factor for you.

  14. I need a machine that will cut plastic stencils for children to use. What machine do you think would work best? Thanks

  15. Tiffany Wallace on

    Hi There. I am in charge of the PTO bulltein board and love to use different fonts for the wording. I am confused on which cutter would be better for me. My friend has a siloutteand we’ve used it before to cut some letters. I usually use construction paper or laminated contruction paper. Sometimes I cut out leaves, hearts, snowflakes, etc. Which do you suggest I purchase?

  16. Tiffany Wallace on

    Hi There. I am in charge of the PTO bulltein board and love to use different fonts for the wording. I am confused on which cutter would be better for me. My friend has a siloutteand we’ve used it before to cut some letters. I usually use construction paper or laminated contruction paper. Sometimes I cut out leaves, hearts, snowflakes, etc. Which do you suggest I purchase?

  17. Piyush chordia on

    we work on forex sheets which height ranges from 2mm to 5 mm . Can cameo or explore work on this?

    • Hi Piyush,

      No — that will be too thick for the Cameo and the Cricut Explore to handle. It might be worth looking at the KNK Force, which has a cutting clearance of around 6mm (this is the maximum thickness the machine can be fed, not how thick it can cut through) and can cut reasonably thick craft foam — particularly if you buy the KNK Force Thick Material Blade to go with it.

  18. Hi, I really appreciate all reviews, advise and tutorials explained on your blog. I am new on crafty machine world, I do crafts but mostly handmade. I want to start with personalized foil, bubble balloons name and wording printing, mug wordings, and T-shirt prints. Please advise me on which of the machines I should buy, I have never used any machine, thank you!

    • Hi Ronnie,

      Both of these machines will be perfect for your needs and are great for beginners. Which one you will prefer will be up to you — they’re both around the same price. The Silhouette Cameo 3 is better for larger designs but we think that the Cricut Explore Air 2 is the best for smaller, more complex designs. Let us know which you choose!

  19. SoFlo Coastal Creations on

    I need the vinyls or stencils for pallet wood signs. Either machine work better for that or which type of vinyl would be best to buy for that medium?

    • Hi there,

      Both machines will be able to tackle vinyl designs for pallet wood signs. The Cricut is better for smaller, intricate designs while the Silhouette Cameo 3 is better for large designs.

      As for the best vinyl for pallet wood, you need to buy permanent adhesive vinyl to ensure that it sticks. We’d recommend the Oracal 651 range (check out this guide for the best deals and discounts).

  20. I am new to the craft machine world. If I wanted to create my own designs for stencils, shorts, cups, mirrors,etc. which machine would be best. Also do you have to purchase additional programs for your computer to design or create your own images?

    • Hi Lisa,

      Both of these machines come with their own software included — Silhouette Studio for the Cameo 3 and Cricut Design Space for the Explore Air 2. Both of these programs allow you to design your own images and are well suited to beginners.

      Again, both machines will allow you create the items you’ve mentioned. The Cameo 3 is able to cut larger designs and the Explore Air 2 is better on smaller, intricate designs.

  21. Hi there

    I have recently purchased the Cricut Air 2. I have been doing a high volume of cutting since I have received it last week or so and I was wondering if I am going to kill it quicker then the time I have had it? I haven’t been able to find any info on the volume suggested for the machine. I am cutting mainly thick paper and chipboard materials getting ready for a market stall.

    Would be great if you had any info
    Thanks
    Amy

    • Hi Amy,

      There’s nothing set in stone about the volume that the Cricut Air 2 can take, but it’s a durable machine so should be last a very long time providing that you don’t make it cut materials that are too thick or force the machine in any way.

      The only component that we can think of that may wear more quickly is the blade but thankfully you can replace these cheaply (they’re on Amazon here). You’ll probably have to stock up on extra cutting mats as well.

  22. Can’t decide on which machine. I’m wanting to make vinyl steciles for sign making. Largest sign is 12×24. Any suggestions which would work better.

  23. Gaby Moreno Chejade on

    Hi!

    Ive been looking this two machines, and I still dont know wich one to buy. Im thinking more on the Cameo, because here In Costa Rica all the accessories are easier to find than the cricut.
    However, I have seen facebook groups For the Cameo 3 that gives a lot of work it doesn’t cut right, it doesn’t cut where it supposed to, or that they have restarted and it still the machine would not work. So it seems to me that the Cameo its not as user friendly as I thought it would be. How likely is this to happen with the cricut?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Gaby,

      We would say that the Cricut is generally more user-friendly than the Cameo 3 although we haven’t experienced any of the issues that you’ve mentioned. You may find that people only speak up if they’ve had a bad experience! However, we have seen that there are generally more functionality complaints with the Cameo than the Cricut.

      If you’re worried about tracking down accessories, it may be best to buy a bundle. These generally include the machine, software and a load of branded accessories all in one. They’re often a better deal than buying everything separately anyway. Here’s a post we did on Cricut’s best bundle deals: https://vinylcuttingmachines.net/the-best-cricut-explore-bundle-deals/

  24. Hi… I was wondering, if i want to make welcome wood signs at the front entrance with 2×5 feet of wood which machine would work best? Would i do single letters or would i go all in one going vertical? With vinyl…. Thx!

  25. Hi there
    I’m new to the craft cutting business and a stay at home mom. I’m looking to start an at home business making cake toppers for all occasions would the circuit be better for this as the review mentions it’s more precise for cutting detail. Is there any issue with downloading /buying images and using the software in Ireland ?
    Thanks Amy

  26. I too am having a really hard time deciding, as soon as I make my decision I read something telling me the other is best.

    I would like to do engraving. I’d also like to cut some material (not sure what) for stencils to use on pallet signs.

    I’m not great with technology, and I’d like something beginner friendly. I have an Android phone, an older laptop, and a good internet connection.

    Then when I do decide, which bundle do I choose? Can anyone out there give me some guidance?

    Thanks!
    Andrea

  27. Hi! I am wondering which machine is better for (or even allows) working with vector images. I feel like I read somewhere that the software for the Cricut does not allow for the importing and tracing of vector images while the Silhouette does… can you comment on that?

  28. I just got an Air 2 and I am really disappointed in how many basic features are missing in the Cricut Design Space! It is also kind of a pain that you have to be on wifi to do anything. Not the end of the world but it was nice for crafting weekends or going to a friends to not need to get on their wifi. My last machine was a 1st generation Cameo and I am really regretting making the switch. Trying to figure out different ways to use Silhouette Design Studio while still cutting with the Cricut due to the quickness and accuracy of the cricut though. It’s proving to be difficult but not impossible. Why are the makers of the Cricut making such wonderful machines but slacking so much when it comes to the actual software.

  29. I have a lot of cartridges for my Cricut Expressions when I was scrapbooking. Can you tell me if the cartridges would work in the Cricut Explore Air 2 as well.

  30. SO ready to purchase my first machine.
    I’m leaning toward the Silhouette Cameo 3….
    * Precision cuts
    * Larger image capability
    For vinyl projects.
    But
    Will it cut leather pieces ? (Laced into purses)
    And thin foil for punched tin art?
    I’d purchase deep blades, etc.

    Thank you!!

  31. Now I’m torned between the cricut and cameo. Im starting a vinyl heat transfer business. My first choice is the cameo. But now I’ve learned the cricut. I don’t know what to get. Can you please advice me since I’ll be cutting mostly vinyls or print and cut. Thanks

  32. Hi I am looking into getting the Cricut however am struggling with the cricut software, is there any other software to use which would be easier for me. I want to be able to use the heat vinyl to print onto vests/ tshirts etc. So needing beautiful different font and needing to be able to get shapes or things like the outline of Tinkerbell for example. Thanks

  33. Christine Hale on

    I am trying to decide between the Cricut Air and the Cameo 3. For me, it all boils down to which machine is better for cutting fabric. I use light to medium weight fabric for my fabric painting projects.

  34. Am looking to buy a simple cutter largely for making stencils for printing t shirts and occasional cutting relective vinyl. Which one is better?

  35. I’m also contemplating the Cameo 3 vs Air 2. I want to be able to do mostly farmhouse signs but also tshirt designs. I thought I wanted Air 2 for speed, iPad compatibility and cutting but now I’m wondering if the Cameo is better due to the length it can print and the design options.

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