The ultimate guide to finding the best vinyl cutter to suit your needs

So, you’re considering buying a vinyl cutter, hey? And there’s such an enormous range of vinyl cutters on the market that you’re not sure where to start?

That’s ok, because I’m here to help you find the very best vinyl cutter for you.

I know all the new terminology and specifications and varied opinions can be overwhelming when you’re assessing the range of vinyl cutters for sale, because I was in the same position as you not that long ago! I’ve pulled together everything I know about buying the best vinyl cutting machine and I’ve put it all into this massive guide.

I know this is a really long guide, so after the comparison chart I’ve included a table of contents so you can quickly navigate to the section that is most important to you.

Best vinyl cutting machine — quick comparison chart

 

Make and ModelPhotoMaximum
media dimensions
(width x length)
Maximum
media thickness
Maximum
cutting force
Price range
Cricut Explore Air 212 inches x 24 inches1.5mmnot stated
$$
See price now
Silhouette Cameo 312 inches x 10 feet2mm210g$$
See price now
KNK Zing Orbit 15"15 inches x
whatever length you want!
not stated1000g$$$
See price now
Cricut Explore Air12 inches x 24 inches1.5mmnot stated$
See price now
Silhouette Cameo 212 inches x 10 feet
0.8mm210gf$
See price now
Silhouette Portrait8 inches x 10 inches0.8mm210gf$
See price now
Brother ScanNCut 212 inches x 24 inches1.5mmnot stated$$
See price now
Janome Artistic Edge 15"15 inches x 15 inches1mm750g$$$
See price now
Silhouette Curio8.5 inches x 6 inches2mm210gf$
See price now
KNK Force15" x however long you want!2mm4000g$$$
See price now
US Cutter MH Series Up to 49.5 inches (for the 53" model)
and 8 feet long for all MH Series models
Not stated350g$$
See best now

How to choose the best vinyl cutting machine

There are lots of different things to consider when buying an electronic cutting machine. So, let’s have a brief look at some of the questions you need to answer before you buy one. Knowing the answers to these questions will ensure you get the best cutter for your needs.

  • Intended use

Are you a hobbyist, small home-based business or commercial production company? It might seem obvious but the very first thing you need to consider is what you intend to use your new vinyl cutting machine for. If you’re a keen crafter and hobbyist just starting out in the world of vinyl cutting, then a desktop machine should more than meet your needs. If you’re a small business that provides vinyl cutting services and signwriting, then you’re going to need a machine with a whole lot more oomph than a home vinyl machine will give you.

  • Your budget

Have you got a couple of hundred dollars to spend, or a couple of thousand? Even the cheap electronic cutting machines suitable for beginners can be a couple of hundred dollars, so you need to keep this in mind. While a cheap vinyl cutter may be great when you’re first starting out, as you get more experience you might want push your creativity further with your own designs, so upgrading to a more versatile machine will be necessary. Regardless of your budget though, there are some fantastic options across all price points. Just keep in mind that there more you get addicted to vinyl cutting, the more likely it is you’ll outgrow the cheaper models.

  • Media you want to cut

Do you just want to cut vinyl, or do you want to cut tissue paper, fabric, leather and wood too? While this website is dedicated to vinyl cutting machines, vinyl is not the only material these machines can cut. All of the machines I review can cut vinyl well but some of them can cut so many more materials. For example, some of the home desktop cutters can cut also tissue paper, leather and cardstock as well as vinyl, and some of the higher grade machines can even cut wood. If you’re planning to cut much heavier media such as leather and wood, in addition to cutting vinyl, then I recommend steering away from the desktop cutting machines. It’s also a good idea to be sure that you’re buying a machine that can feed the right size of media. The smaller desktop vinyl cutters for the home can be very limited in the size of media you can feed through the machine. The semi-commercial and commercial vinyl cutters don’t have the same restrictions. Before you buy though, you also want to consider the thickness of the material you want to cut. Some of the cheaper models are limited to a very measly maximum cutting thickness of 0.8mm, whereas the higher end models can cut much thicker materials.

  • Precision

Are you cutting detailed and intricate designs or large, basic shapes?Buying an electronic cutting machine that doesn’t cut vinyl with the level of detail you desire is a waste of money, so it’s worth considering just how detailed you want your cuts to be. To be honest, there’s a bit of a trade-off here. Many of the desktop cutting machines offer terrific precision but can only cut small designs, whereas the larger semi-professional machines can often cut much larger designs but without the precision.

  • Speed

Does a super-fast cutter appeal to you, or are you happy to wait a bit longer for your machine to finish cutting? To be honest, speed isn’t a huge consideration for me, as personally I rather a slightly slower but more versatile machine; however, not everyone shares this view. This is particularly true if you’re running a small business. Obviously, the faster your digital cutting machine is, the more designs and projects you can complete each day. And you know the old adage, time is money, so speed is definitely something you should consider.

  • Noise

Is the machine’s noise going to bother you because it’s in your living room, or noise not too worrying because it’s housed in a commercial business away from the main office? 

Vinyl cutter reviews

There are two distinct markets for electronic cutting machines: the home and craft market, and the commercial business market. There’s also a bit of cross-over though, with some vinyl cutters being more suited for serious crafting or small home-based businesses. So considering this, I’ve broken my reviews up accordingly.


Cricut Explore Air 2

If you’re a keen crafter and looking for a great home vinyl cutting machine, then look no further than the Cricut Explore Air 2. The Cricut Explore Air 2 is the latest model in Cricut’s range of craft cutters, boasting speeds up to twice as fast as its predecessor the Cricut Explore Air.  Cricut’s latest vinyl printer and cutter can handle a massive variety of materials with ease and is perfect for home users as well as beginners to the world of vinyl cutting machines.

Scroll down to take a closer look at its pros and cons. Alternatively, read my full, in-depth review here.

Pros

  • Easy to use design software
  • Its normal mode is quite fast
  • Offers an 2x faster mode for some materials including vinyl
  • Fairly inexpensive
  • Wireless connectivity to desktop, mobiles and tablet
  • Compatible with both PC and Mac
  • Loads of accessories to help you get even more creative
  • Cuts over 100 different types of materials
  • Large community of helpful users and creative Cricut fans

Cons

  • Louder than its predecessor the Cricut Explore Air
  • Restricted to a maximum media size of 12″ x 24 “
  • Cricut Design Space is fairly basic and can require a monthly subscription fee for greater design choice
  • Needs a specialCricut Explore deep-cut blade to cut up to 1.5mm deep
  • Must use proprietary Cricut accessories, so it can’t use cheaper or better quality blades
  • The cutting force is not stated, but is fairly weak in comparison to other craft cutters on the market.

Best uses

Personally, I think the Cricut Explore Air 2 is the best Cricut machine on the market today, and is best for home crafting use. It’s great for one-off vinyl lettering designs, scrapbooking and is a terrific vinyl decal cutter and stencil cutting machine.

Silhouette Cameo 3 review

The Silhouette Cameo 3 is another terrific desktop vinyl cutter aimed for home users, and runs a very close second to the Cricut Explore Air 2. In fact, it has an edge on its closest competitor with a significantly larger maximum cutting width and can make deeper cuts. Like the Cricut, it offers precise and intricate cutting, albeit is somewhat more slowly. It also runs on proprietary software, Silhouette Studio, which has a steep learning curve, so is less suited to craft cutter beginners. Despite this, I think the Silhouette Cameo 3 is a top vinyl cutting plotter and is a great addition to your home crafting space.

Let’s take a look at what makes the Silhouette Cameo 3 great, as well as it’s not-so-great features.

Pros

  • Comes with own design software, Silhouette Studio
  • Cuts media up to 10 feet long
  • Can make cuts up to 2mm deep
  • Wireless connectivity to desktop, mobiles and tablet
  • Compatible with both PC and Mac
  • Cuts a wide variety of media, withmedia-specific blades available for separate purchase
  • Large community of Silhouette fans willing to support newbies
  • Has an auto-blade, which means you don’t have to manually adjust the blade to find the best setting for the media you’re cutting

Cons

  • Its design software, Silhouette Studio, has a steep learning curve
  • Full Silhouette Studio functionality needs a costly monthly subscription
  • Cutting force is a maximum 210gf, which is fairly weak
  • Needs a special Silhouette deep-cut blade, which must be purchased separately
  • Can’t cut material such as leather
  • Slower than the Cricut Explore Air 2

Best uses

The Silhouette Cameo 3 is a great vinyl cutting machine best used for thin media, due to its weak cutting force. It’s great for creating vinyl stencils, decals and stickers as well as scrapbooking and paper crafts. It’s not the best cutting machine on the market but it’s definitely got plenty of fans and flexibility.

KNK Zing Orbit

If you’re looking for the best vinyl cutter for the money, then you’ve found it! The KNK Zing Orbit comes in both a 15″ and a 24″ model, and I have to admit, the smaller model runs rings around hobby craft cutters such as those by Cricut and Silhouette. With a super-powerful cutting force of 1000g, 15 inches of cutting width, and a cutting length that is only limited by your imagination, the KNK Zing Orbit 15″ is a serious craft cutting machine.
Of course, it does have a few drawbacks, which are worth considering; however, I think the pros certainly outweigh the cons.

Click here to read my in-depth review of the KNK Zing Orbit.

Pros

  • An incredible cutting force of 1000g
  • Can cut media up to 15″ wide
  • No limit to the cutting length of your media
  • Can cut a huge variety of media including leather, chipboard, mylar, and fabric, as well as vinyl
  • Can use your own embossing, scoring and writing tools, so you’re not limited to proprietary accessories
  • Is compatible with software such as Sure Cuts A Lot 4
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Very quiet as well as very fast
  • High precision over the entire length of your project, regardless of its size or cutting speed
  • A specialised ‘orbitizer’ attachment is due for release later in 2017, which allows scoring, cutting and marking on spheres and cylinders — perfect for making Christmas decorations or engraving wine bottles
  • Incredible value for money

Cons

  • Does not come with any software
  • Is not that suitable for craft cutting beginners
  • Is more expensive than other hobby vinyl cutters
  • Has only one carriage, so if you want to print and cut a project, then you will need to change cartridges
  • Is larger than most desktop vinyl cutters
  • The orbitizer attachment is not yet available
  • Adjustments to the pinch wheels need to be made manually (which can be a pro, not a con, if you like to have complete autonomy over your cutting machine)

Best uses

Klic-N-Kut had the serious crafter and handmade small business in mind when they released the Zing Orbit 15″ (and it’s big sister the Zing Orbit 24″). This machine is not suitable for rank beginners or the occasional user. It’s a great vinyl cutting machine for t-shirts, stickers, and vinyl decals, as well as for cutting much heavier materials such as leather or craft plastic. This machine is suitable for serious hobbyists as well as small, work-at-home businesses producing handmade products for sale. The KNK Zing Orbit 15″ is not a cheap vinyl cutter, but the flexibility it offers is definitely worth the larger price tag.

Cricut Explore Air review

Although the Cricut Explore Air is a few years old now, it’s still a great print and cut machine. In fact, it’s very similar to its newer sister, the Cricut Explore Air 2 — only less expensive (and a bit slower). If you’re keen to start using a craft cutter, and looking for a cheap vinyl cutter to test the waters, then this a great, economical choice that will give you plenty of enjoyment.

Let’s dive into its pros and cons, hey?

Pros

  • Can cut media up to 24″ long
  • Cheaper than theExplore Air 2 but with many similar features
  • Can cut up to 1.5mm thick with a special Cricut Explore’s deep-cut blade
  • Can cut a huge variety of media of different thicknesses
  • Automatic setting dial means you don’t have to manually adjust the machine
  • Has a dual carriage, so can cut and print, or cut and score at the same time
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Is precise, particularly for small and detailed designs
  • A wide range ofCricut accessories and tools are available
  • Can accept cartridges bought for older Cricut models

Cons

  • Can only accept media up to 12″ wide
  • Limited to using Cricut’s Design Space software, which has a monthly subscription fee for full functionality
  • Is not suited to experienced or commercial vinyl cutters
  • Must rely on the machine’s pre-determined settings to make cutting adjustments
  • Has a fairly weak cutting force but Cricut hasn’t disclosed its exact cutting force specifications

Best uses

The Cricut Explore Air is a top vinyl cutter suitable for beginners. If you’re interested in a machine that cuts vinyl, among other media, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, then I thoroughly recommend this vinyl cutting printer. The Cricut Explore Air is best used home use and hobbyists looking for a terrific vinyl printer cutter combo. It’s great for scrapbooking and paper crafts, as well as creating vinyl monograms, decals and stickers on a small, non-commercial scale.

Silhouette Cameo 2 review

Silhouette has long been a major player in the craft cutter game, and although the Silhouette Cameo 2 has been available for a long time, it’s still a strong contender for the best home vinyl cutter today. Silhouette has a large community of raving fans, and for good reason. The Silhouette Cameo 2 can cut up to 0.8mm deep media with its regular blade, but using a specialised deep-cut blade will bump its maximum cutting depth to 2mm. It can also cut media up to 10 feet long, which makes this an extremely versatile yet cheap vinyl cutting machine.

However, like all craft and vinyl cutters, it has both advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • Can cut media up to 10 feet long
  • Cheaper than the Silhouette Cameo 3 but with many similar features
  • Has a self-adjusting autoblade, so no need to manual adjustments
  • Can cut up to 2mm thick with a Silhouette deep-cut blade
  • Is precise, particularly for small and detailed designs
  • Is a smaller sized machine, so takes up much less space on your desk

Cons

  • Can only accept media up to 12″ wide
  • Only has a single head carriage, so can not cut and print at the same time
  • Limited to using Silhouette Studio software, which has a monthly subscription fee for full functionality
  • Silhouette Studio is not as user-friendly as other vinyl cutter software available
  • Is not suited to experienced or commercial vinyl cutters
  • Has a fairly weak cutting force of 210g

Best uses

The Silhouette Cameo 2 is a great personal vinyl cutting machine perfect for paper crafts, electronic die cutting, and as a small vinyl stencil cutter. The Silhouette Cameo range has the weakest cutting force on the market, so is less versatile in the materials they can cut. If this doesn’t bother you, and you’re planning to use it as an electronic die cutting machine for thin media, then you’ll be more than happy with this option.

Brother ScanNCut 2 review

Brother are relatively new on the craft cutter machine scene; however, they made quite a splash when they released their ScanNCut models with a significant advantage over their competitors: the ability to scan designs as well as cut them. Their latest offering, the Brother ScanNCut 2 is another solid offering the ability to cut vinyl, fabric, magnets, stickers and a whole lot more.

Let’s take a closer look…

Pros

  • Is a scanner as well as a printer and cutter
  • Can cut a wide variety of media up to 12 inches wide and 24 inches long
  • Has a deep blade option that cuts up to 1.5mm deep (although this can vary)
  • Can cut fabric well, and is very popular with keen quilters
  • Has a ‘direct cut’ mode, which can cut out a design directly without using a computer/tablet
  • Has 7 built-in fonts
  • Wireless connectivity

Cons

  • A bit more expensive than its competitors
  • Can only accept media up to 12″ wide
  • Has a single head carriage, so can not cut and print at the same time

Best uses

The Brother Scan N Cut 2 has been a huge hit with the quilting community, due to its ability to cleanly cut fabric shapes. if you’re a quilter or sewing enthusiasts you would be very familiar with Brother’s products and I suspect Brother trades on this brand familiarity for this fabric and vinyl cutter printer. The ability to scan then cut out the shape without the need to use Brother’s proprietary software is also a huge plus in my book. This machine can also be used as a sticker cutter or vinyl decal maker, and has plenty of setting adjustment options as well as other accessories available as separate purchases.

Janome Artistic Edge

Janome are particularly well-known for their reliable sewing machines, and their foray into the world of digital craft cutters doesn’t disappoint. The Janome Artistic Edge is offered in two different sizes: a12″ wide model and a 15″ wide model. The 15″ is the only cutting machine for crafts apart from the KNK Zing Orbit 15″ that comes in this wider size, making it perfect for larger projects. It is more expensive than an entry-level craft cutter but it’s versatility in both cutting media, widths and software performance makes the Janome Artistic edge one of the best electronic cutting machines I’ve seen.

As always, though, there are a few things to consider.

Pros

  • Has 15 inches of cutting width, making it wider than most others on the market
  • Maximum cutting force is 750g, which is much stronger than most of its competitors
  • Comes with three different blades and two different mats as standard
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Runs on Janome’s SimpleCut software, which handles many different file types
  • Can cut fabric well, and is very popular with keen quilters
  • Is quieter than many other digital die cutters on the market
  • Makes very precise cuts and can handle thicker cardstock with precision and ease

Cons

  • Janome’s SimpleCut software is not easy to use for beginners
  • Has a single head carriage, so can not print and cut simultaneously
  • Some users have found that Janome’s technical support is poor

Best uses

Like their sewing machines, Janome’s entry into the digital die cutter market is primarily aimed at quilters, textile artists and applique enthusiasts. Despite this, the Janome Artistic Edge 15″ can handle a wide range of different media including vinyl, paper and cardstock. The inclusion of multiple blades and cutting mats means you don’t need to immediately purchase additional blades or mats to cut a wide variety of media.

Silhouette Portrait review

If you’re looking for a small vinyl cutter and have a tight budget, don’t go past Silhouette’s Portrait. This little machine packs a lot into its small frame, and although it can only cut media up to 8 inches wide, it can cut still cut media up to 10 feet long. The Silhouette Portrait is significantly cheaper than it’s bigger and bolder sisters, and is one a seriously great quality yet cheap vinyl cutting machine.

Let’s take a closer look…

Pros

  • One of the cheapest vinyl cutting machines on the market
  • Can cut media up to 10 feet long
  • Is much smaller than other electronic die cutters, so takes up less desk space
  • Has the same cutting force as its bigger sisters, 210gf
  • Has a solid, helpful community of Silhouette users to help if you get stuck
  • Uses Silhouette Studio software, which many users find quite easy to use
  • Is particularly suited to small, detailed designs

Cons

  • Is limited to cutting media up to 8 inches wide
  • Silhouette Studio has a steeper learning curve in comparison to other entry-level cutter software
  • Has a single head carriage, so can not print and cut simultaneously

Best uses

The Silhouette Portrait is a terrific, entry-level electronic die cut machine with plenty of fans. In fact, I’d go so far to say it is the best cheap vinyl cutter machine on the market. If you’re looking to make small vinyl stencils, or use it as a small sticker cutting machine, then you simply cannot pass the amazing value of the Silhouette Portrait.

Silhouette Curio review

The Silhouette Curio is one of the latest digital cutting machines released by Silhouette; however, it’s so much more than just a vinyl die cut machine. This baby can print, cut, emboss, etch, sketch and stipple as well, making it a terrific machine for keen hobbyists and crafters. It can work with media of 8.5″ x 6″ straight out of the box, and there is a larger mat available separately that increases that size to 8.5″ x 12″.

Of all my vinyl cutting machine reviews, this is the machine that has the most versatility in what it can do. On that note, it’s time to dive deeper into the pros and cons of the Silhouette Curio.

Pros

  • Offers the most variety of functions including cutting, embossing, etching, scoring and printing
  • Has a dual head carriage, so you can do two functions such as scoring and cutting, at the same time
  • Has the same cutting force as others in the Silhouette range, 210gf
  • An active and helpful community of Silhouette fans
  • Can cut up to 2mm deep with a Silhouette deep cut blade
  • Handles media up to 8.5″ x 12″ wide.
  • Uses Silhouette Studio software, which many users find quite easy to use
  • Is seriously great value and one of the cheapest

Cons

  • Is limited to cutting media up to 8.5″ by 6″ inches wide straight out of the box
  • Have to buy an additional larger mat to cut media up to 8.5″ by 12″
  • Is not suitable as a commercial vinyl cutter

Best uses

If you’re looking for a small, great value vinyl printing and cutting machine to cut vinyl decals, make vinyl mongrams, small vinyl stickers or to cut vinyl lettering, then theSilhouette Curio is the machine for you. It’s one of the best value craft cutters available today, and the fact that it has so many other functions means it offers terrific versatility for such a low price.

KNK Force review

The KNK Force is truly a force to be reckoned with, with a massive 4 kg cutting force, this baby can cut through almost anything. You probably don’t need a full 4 kg cutting force if you’re just using this as a vinyl lettering machine; but hey, the versatility in the materials it can cut makes the KNK Force a great vinyl plotter cutter for serious craft cutting. Its tougher build, wider cutting width combined with such an immense cutting force makes this vinyl plotter a solid option if you’re planning to use it for a small home-based business selling your creations on Etsy or at your local markets.

And with that, let’s dive deep into its awesome features, as well as its not-so-great features.

Alternatively, you can read my in-depth KNK Force review here.

Pros

  • The strongest cutting force on the home cutter market, with a 4 kg cutting force
  • WiFi connectivity
  • Very quiet – one of the quietest on the market
  • Can cut directly with Sure Cuts A Lot 4 software, which is well-regarded in the industry
  • Has a dual head carriage, so you can do two functions such as scoring and cutting, at the same time
  • Can cut up to 2mm deep
  • Handles media up to 15″ wide and as long as you want
  • Maximum cutting speed of 29.5″ per second

Cons

  • This machine is one of the most expensive in the home cutting machine market
  • Sure Cuts A Lot 4 is not included and must be purchased separately
  • Not suitable for beginners to craft cutting

Best uses

The KNK Force is not a machine for beginners, but it has a lot of grunt and versatility if you’re keen to learn how to make the most of this awesome beast of a vinyl decal machine. I recommend this machine for keen and regular cutting enthusiasts who want to cut lightweight balsa, matt photo board and other heavier materials as well as vinyl monograms. If you’re planning on using it more than a casual user or considering selling your creations at a design fair, local market or on Etsy, then this machine should more than meet your needs.

USCutter MH Series review

UScutter have been making vinyl cutting machines for many years now, and have a massive range of options, from the MH Series specifically for beginners, right through to high-end commercial vinyl cutting machines worth thousands. It’s fair to say they have a tonne of expertise in producing vinyl sticker machines, and that experience shows. The USCutter MH series is their entry level offering, and comes in four sizes: a 14″ machine, a 24″ machine, a 34″ machine and whopping 53″ machine. So it’s a really good idea to know what size designs you intend to cut before you buy a vinyl monogram machine from this range.

So, what are the pros and cons for USCutter’s MH series vinyl cutter plotters?

Pros

  • There are four different sizes available: a 14″, 28″ 34″ and 53″ models
  • All MH Series models are ridiculously inexpensive
  • The widest model in the series can cut up to 49.5″
  • All models can cut media up to 8 feet in length
  • Wireless connectivity

Cons

  • Not compatible with Mac
  • Is not so great for detailed, fiddly cutting
  • Can only cut a very small range of thin material
  • Has a limited memory, so can get confused and freeze halfway through a large cutting job.

Best uses

USCutter is a long-standing player in the vinyl cutting market, so it’s little wonder they’ve produced a solid, entry level cutter plotter to their range. All the vinyl cutting machines in their MH Series are large, and are intended for the more serious vinyl cutting hobbyist or small vinyl sign printing business. One major drawback of these machines is their limited memory, which means they have a tendency to freeze while cutting large or complex jobs. So it might be best to steer away from USCutter’s MH Series and invest in one of their a higher end models or consider something like the KNK Zing Orbit instead.