Silhouette Cutters Compared: Cameo vs Curio vs Portrait

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If you’re wondering what the best Silhouette machine is, wonder no longer.

As avid Silhouette fans, we’ve owned and loved all of the cutting company’s machines and feel like we’re in a good position to show you the differences and similarities, and advise on which machines are best for different kinds of crafters.

cameo or portrait

If you want to know who wins out in the battle of Silhouette Curio vs Cameo, which machine is best for sticker makers, and how the best Silhouette machine measures up against its Cricut rival, this is the guide for you.

Here’s a quick peek at the results:

Silhouette Cutters Compared

Cameo vs. Curio vs. Portrait
 Cameo 3CurioPortrait
Imagecameo 3 vs explore air 2Silhouette Curio reviewSilhouette Portrait, cheap vinyl cutter 2016
Type of CutterAll rounderGood for deep cuts & embossing featuresLow cost, good for beginners
Max. Cutting Size12" x 10'8.5" x 6" (8.5" x 12" with large tray)8" x 12" (8" x 10' if using lined media)
Price$$$$$$
Amazon Price>> Check Price>> Check Price>> Check Price

Strap in, it’s time to go on a Silhouette journey…

The Machines

Firstly, let’s get a look at all the individual machines on offer before we compare them.

If you’re looking for a Silhouette die cutter, you’ll be choosing between three options:

They each bring something very different to the table, although can generally all be relied on for quality.

Let’s take a look…

Silhouette Cameo 3

The Cameo 3 follows the Cameo and Cameo 2 (surprise, surprise!) as the flagship Silhouette cutter. It was released in Summer 2016 and has been a¬†big hit with Silhouette fans — us included!

>> Read our full review and rating of the Cameo 3

Silhouette Cameo 3 Review

Here’s what you need to know about the machine:

  • It has a maximum cutting size of 12″ by 10′¬†
  • Has the AutoBlade — a blade that automatically adjusts its settings according to different materials
  • Can cut¬†100+ materials
  • Has a¬†dual carriage,¬†which means it can cut and score, or cut and draw at the same time
  • It’s also¬†Bluetooth enabled¬†so you don’t need to connect it by wires to your computer
  • Benefits from a large and intuitive¬†touchscreen
  • Plus there’s loads of awesome¬†bundle deals!

Overall, we love the Cameo 3: it’s one of our favorite desktop craft cutters and certainly holds its own against its main competitor, the Cricut Explore Air 2.

It’s great for crafters working on large designs and, considering its quality, is sold at a very reasonable price.

silhouette cameo 3

We do have one niggle with it:

  • The cutting force is a little weak, so it can struggle on more complex designs

Silhouette Curio

Staying true to its name, the Silhouette Curio is a curious little machine indeed.

It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s intended to be used as a companion to the Cameo, rather than as a rival to it, as it can do a number of things that the Cameo can’t.

>> Read our full review of the Silhouette Curio

Silhouette Curio review

Here’s what you need to know about the machine:

  • It has a maximum cutting size of 8.5″ x 6″ (or 8.5″ x 12″ if you purchase a large tray)
  • Has¬†new features¬†that the Cameo doesn’t have
  • Has a whopping¬†5mm clearance
  • Can cut materials up to¬†2mm thick
  • Benefits from a¬†dual carriage which enables cutting and scoring, or cutting and drawing at the same time
  • Can cut a¬†huge number of materials¬†‚Äď the only limit is your imagination!
  • Deep cut capability¬†if you buy the DeepCut blade

>>¬†Don’t forget to check out the Curio bundle deals!

The best thing about the Curio is undoubtedly the number of new features it has that no other Silhouette die cutter can do.

As well as cutting and drawing, it can also:

  • Etch
  • Stipple
  • Emboss
  • Deboss

Take a look at the Curio in action:

Add this together with all the different materials and thicknesses you can use, and you’ve got yourself a pretty¬†diverse machine.

As you might expect from a companion cutter, the MSRP for the Curio is cheaper than the Cameo.

silhouette curio vs cameo

It’s not all sunshine and smiles with the Curio, however — we do have a couple of small issues with it:

  • The¬†cutting capacity¬†is very small
  • You have to¬†buy extra accessories¬†to really get the most out of this machine (for instance, a deep cut blade, stippling and etching tool, and large tray)

Silhouette Portrait

The Portrait is a cracking Silhouette cutter that’s perfect for beginners and those just dipping their toe into the craft cutting world.

It’s low cost and little — ideal!

>> Read our full review and rating of the Portrait

Silhouette Portrait, cheap vinyl cutter 2016

Here’s what you need to know about the machine:

  • Maximum cutting size of 8″ x 12″¬†(or 8″ x 10′ if you’re using lined media)
  • Can work with¬†100+ materials
  • Great for¬†card and sticker makers,¬†and those making small designs
  • Very¬†lightweight¬†at just 3.5 lbs

>>¬†Don’t forget to check out the Portrait bundle deals!

Depending on various sales and discount deals, the Portrait can retail for up to 50% less than the Cameo — it’s definitely a good option if you’re undecided on whether to invest in a more high-spec machine.

silhouette curio vs cameo

Of course, with a low price and small size comes some compromise. Here are the issues you should know about:

  • It’s not powerful or accurate enough for¬†large, intricate designs
  • There are some issues with¬†calibration and alignment¬†— we’ve found it best to ignore the guidelines on the left side of the mat and to use those on the right instead, and to slow down the machine’s speed

Silhouette Studio Software

A photo posted by Silhouette (@silhouette.inc) on


The major feature that all three Silhouette machines have in common is the software they use: Silhouette Studio.

Critics are split on the merits of Silhouette Studio.

Some say that it has a steep learning curve that requires beginners spend a couple days getting to grips with, while others claim that it’s great for more advanced users and allows the user a lot of creative control.

We agree with both camps: once you’ve practised a fair amount with Silhouette Studio, you’ll find it great. There’s a lot of functionality and lots of opportunities to try out new things and be creative.

Although Cricut Design Space is arguably much easier to get to grips with for beginners than Studio, it doesn’t offer a huge amount of potential from there. It’s a bit of a¬†let down.

Thankfully, there is a compromise — it’s just not here¬†yet.

The cutting community has been awaiting Silhouette Studio 4.0 for what feels like months now. It promises a much easier learning curve and a boat load of tutorials and step-by-step guides that are sure to be invaluable for beginners.

Silhouette Studio 4.0 will also enable the Bluetooth functionality of the Cameo 3. There is a patch available to enable this already, however — just follow this tutorial.

You’ll also have access to the design store when you buy a Silhouette die cutter, which will give you access to a plethora of truly great designs. You can download these individually or in packs for a small fee, or sign up for a monthly subscription for $9.99.

Anway, enough about the similarities between the machines…

Silhouette Curio vs Cameo

Now, time to get down to the differences.

If you’re wondering whether to get the Curio or Cameo, then you just need to answer one easy question to find out your answer.

Do you need to use the emboss, deboss, stipple and etch features?

If your answer is “yes”, then the Curio is the Silhouette die cutter for you. This is the only machine that can access the emboss, deboss, stipple and etch features in the Silhouette Studio software.

It can also handle and cut thicker materials than the Cameo: it has a 5mm clearance and 2mm maximum cutting thickness, whereas the Cameo only has a 2mm clearance.

curio or cameo

Both the Cameo 3 and the Curio have a dual carriage

The Cameo 3, on the other hand, is much more of an all-round cutting machine.

It’s superior to the Curio in terms of:

  • Cutting size
  • Bluetooth connectivity (the Curio doesn’t have this)
  • It has an AutoBlade that allows you to automatically adjust the material settings

If you’re thinking to yourself that, actually, you want the best of both worlds — an all-round machine that also has the capacity to emboss, deboss, etch and stipple — then you will need to buy them both.

After all, the Curio is supposed to be a companion to the Cameo!

Thankfully, there’s an amazing bundle deal for exactly that:

Silhouette Cameo 3 and Curio Machine Bundle

cameo or portrait

It contains:

  • Silhouette Cameo 3 with Bluetooth
  • Silhouette Curio
  • Cameo Starter Guide
  • Curio Starter Guide
  • 12″ x 12″ cutting mat
  • Auto Adjust blade
  • Vinyl trimmer,
  • Ratchet adjustment blade
  • Fine emboss tool
  • Wide emboss tool
  • Cutting blade for Curio
  • 8.5″ x 6″ base with 4 platforms for Curio
  • 8.5″ x 6″ cutting mat
  • 8.5″ x 6″ embossing mat
  • Silhouette Studio software
  • 100 exclusive downloadable designs
  • 2 x one month cards to the Silhouette design store worth $50

silhouette curio vs cameo

Silhouette Cameo vs Portrait

OK, now you’ve decided whether you want a Curio or Cameo (or both!), you might want to think about whether the Cameo or Portrait is the right Silhouette die cutter for you.

Again, this can be answered in one easy question:

What’s more important: machine quality or a low price?

If you’re looking for a high quality machine that can serve all of your hobbyist needs, then it’s a no brainer: the Silhouette Cameo is the machine for you.

But, if you’re a beginner craft cutter or constrained by a budget, the Silhouette Portrait will be better.

silhouette die cutter

The Portrait is great for small cutting projects

Essentially, the Portrait has most of the functionality of the Cameo, just in a smaller and more basic body.

The cutting size is smaller, it doesn’t work as quickly and is better suited to small and simple designs.

For your everyday card and sticker makers, the Portrait will be perfect. And you can’t beat that price!

The Cameo, on the other hand, offers a larger cutting area, faster and more precise cuts and more sophisticated functionality.

It’s a great machine for hobbyists who like to work on a variety of different projects, big and small.

You’ve got more freedom with the Cameo.¬†But more cash back with the Portrait.

Portrait or Curio?

The final Silhouette cutter machines to compare against each other are the Portrait and the Curio.

best silhouette machine

The sketch pens at work on the Curio

We know how they stack up against the Cameo, but how do they fare against each other?

Again, which machine will be best suited to your needs can be summed up in your answer to this one question:

Are you a beginner cutter or an experimental one?

If you’re a beginner, the Portrait is definitely the Silhouette die cutter to go for. As we mentioned already, it’s easy to use and low cost.

There’s a steeper learning curve on the Curio; and you’ll definitely be able to gel with it better if you’ve got experience with Silhouette machines already.

While the Curio allows you to explore many more avenues in terms of materials and features, we think it might be a little too specialist for beginner crafters.

So… Which is the Best Silhouette Machine?

After all that comparison, you might be wondering which is the objective best machine out of the Cameo, Curio and Portrait.

Although we see the merits in all of them, in our mind there’s really no contest…

cameo or portrait

The Silhouette Cameo 3 is the best.

It wins out in terms of precision, cutting space and just being the most capable machine right off the bat — there’s no need to buy lots of extra accessories like you need to do with the Curio.

Sure, some people will value the price point of the Portrait and the functionality of the Curio, but in terms of objective quality, it’s hard to argue with the Cameo 3’s popularity.

If you’re feeling generous, why not follow the path of true Cameo fans (including us!) and buy the Silhouette Cameo 3 and Curio Machine bundle — talk about a¬†complete cutting experience.

Silhouette Cameo 3 vs Cricut Explore Air 2

If you’re thinking of venturing outside of the Silhouette family, chances are that you’re considering the winner of the battle of the best Silhouette machine vs Cricut.

Fear not, we’ve already done an in-depth post on the differences between the Cameo and the Explore Air 2 that should help bring you to a decision.

>> Verdict on Cameo 3 vs Explore Air 2

To cut a long story short, we concluded that the Explore Air 2 was better for beginners and small scale designs, while the Cameo 3 was superior for crafters creating big designs and projects.

Ultimately though, both machines are pretty fantastic, especially considering their wallet-friendly prices!

silhouette cutter

silhouette die cutter

 

 

Do you agree that the Cameo 3 is the best Silhouette machine? 

Would you choose the Curio or Cameo?


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