ScanNCut vs. Silhouette vs. Cricut: Which Machine is Right for You?

ScanNCut vs. Silhouette Cameo vs. Cricut: Which Machine is Right For You?

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There are quite a few posts and videos on Cricut vs. Silhouette Cameo machines, but not too many on ScanNCut vs. Silhouette Cameo vs. Cricut machines. I use all three kinds of machines and thought I may be able to help you decide between them if you’re thinking about purchasing one for the first time or about expanding your collection of machines.

I am covering the models of machines that cut 12″ W or larger. This includes the ScanNCut DX 125e, the Silhouette Cameo 4, Cameo Plus and Cameo Pro along with the Cricut Explore Air 2, Cricut Explore 3, the Cricut Maker and the Cricut Maker 3. I give a general overview of the features of each machine and then give you my pros and cons for each brand as well as who I think each machine is right for.

Once you decide on which machine you are most interested in, please do your own research on it. I cannot cover everything each machine can and can’t do in this post so please check on your own before buying any of them. I encourage you to jump into this crazy world of electronic cutting machine crafts, but do so at your own risk and with your own knowledge. I’m happy to give you my advice, but you have your own needs and expectations, so please take some time to make sure the machine you want will meet those.

Click HERE for the LINKS to MACHINE & SOFTWARE DEALS

Check out my How to Layer Heat Transfer Vinyl video here.

Please check out the video tutorial below or scroll down for written information:


ScanNCut SDX 125e Main Features

Brother ScanNCut SDX 125eThere are a lot of ScanNCut models available. I’m covering the SDX 125e in this post because it is the most similar in features and price to the other manufacturers’ machines. If you are thinking about a different ScanNCut model, please make sure you look into its particular features as they may vary from the SDX 125e. Most of the more expensive models will usually have these features and then additional ones as well.

The ScanNCut SDX 125e Features Include:

  • Auto sensing technology with the blade to sense the thickness of a material and adjust the pressure and blade depth automatically, also known as an AutoBlade – this is the machine that invented that technology
  • Can cut materials up to 3 mm thick including paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric, felt and thicker materials like balsa wood and leather
  • Has a built-in LCD screen that allows you to move and edit designs right on the machine; technically you can make projects with a ScanNCut without using a computer because of the built-in designs and fonts that come with the machine
  • Can connect wirelessly to your computer or via an included USB cable; you can also transfer files to the machine with a thumb drive
  • Has a software program called Brother Canvas Workspace that allows you to design and edit project files including SVGs; the software program also offers a number of free projects – no membership required. You can open SVGs in it but can only save proprietary file types from the program
  • Has a half cut feature that will prevent you from cutting through the backing on materials like vinyl and sticker paper
  • Has a built-in ¼” seam allowance setting that can be added when cutting fabrics
  • It’s super, super quiet when cutting
  • Cuts a little less than 12” x 24” with a mat and 12” x 70” with the accessory roll feeder (no mat needed with backed materials)
  • The machine can also draw with pens from Brother as well as other manufacturers and offers additional accessories that allow you to emboss, paper pierce, cut rhinestone patterns and more. There are also many pattern collections available from Brother and even Disney and third-party accessories that allow you to engrave
  • It has a built-in 600 DPI scanner. It’s the only electronic cutting machine to have this feature and that is what makes it truly special

What Can You do with the ScanNCut Scanner?

The scanner allows you to scan the mat through the machine and the machine will save any image placed on the mat. This is great if you want to turn your kid’s drawings into stickers or grandma’s hand written recipe into an iron-on design. It eliminates the need for a Print then Cut feature because you can print images out of another program, scan them into the machine and then cut them without ever going to a program to set up everything – no registration marks needed.

You can also use this feature to scan in stamped images and cut them out with or without adding a border. It eliminates the need to purchase the metal cutting dies that are often sold with stamp sets for this purpose. It’s also a timesaver as you can cut out hundreds of stamped images at once rather than running them through a machine by hand over and over again, using one die.

You can also add scraps to a mat, scan that through and then move designs around using the built-in LCD screen to place them over the scraps to make sure the designs cut out of exactly the right pieces of material.

How Much Does the ScanNCut SDX 125 e Cost?

As of November 2022, The ScanCut SDX 125e retails for $399.99 in the US. The comparable machine in other parts of the world is the ScanNCut SDX 135 which retails for 599.99 pounds in the UK.

The SDX85 is a less expensive DX model but can only cut and scan slightly less than 12” x 12” (no 12” x 24”). The older CM models which are cheaper lack the Autoblade technology, Half Cut and Seam Allowance settings, wireless connectivity and cannot use some of the available accessories. If you are interested in any of those models, as well as the more expensive models with additional features, I encourage you to do additional research.

I don’t see these machines go on sale very often, if ever. The best thing to look for when purchasing is a package that offers the machine with additional materials and accessories that make the purchase a better deal. I’ve had the best luck on HSN.com, Amazon and SwingDesign.com (please see the Machine & Software Deals links below)

Silhouette Cameo 4, Cameo Plus and Cameo Pro Main Features

Silhouette Cameo MachinesThe Silhouette Cameo 4, Plus and Pro Features Include:

  • Uses a dual carriage with one carriage having the highest force or pressure capacity on the market; this means it should be able to cut even more materials that are up to 3 mm thick
  • Cuts all of the standard materials like paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric as well as felt, balsa wood and other thicker materials
  • Also uses an AutoBlade but requires more finesse of the settings in the software program to get the best results
  • Can connect via Bluetooth to your computer or via an included USB cable
  • Has a built-in roll feeder for long material and a cross cutter on the back that allows you to trim off materials once fed into the machine
  • Can cut with a mat or matless with the built-in roll feeder
  • Has Print then Cut abilities through Silhouette Studio software program
  • The machines can also draw with pens from Silhouette as well as other manufacturers and offers additional accessories like a rotary blade, punch tool and kraft blade for thicker materials. There are also third-party accessories that will allow you to engrave
  • Machines work with the software program Silhouette Studio which has a free version and then three paid tiers that add additional file types that you can open and/or save as and extra tools. It’s a very powerful software program that can allow you to design your own SVG files but has a learning curve. You will need a paid version to open SVG files and the highest tier of the paid versions to save as SVG to your hard drive
  • The main difference between the Cameo 4, Cameo Plus and Cameo Pro is the width that the machine can cut.
    • The Cameo 4 can cut up to 12” W x 24” L on a mat or 12” x 10 feet long with the roll feeder
    • The Cameo Plus can cut up to 14.6” W x 24” L with a mat or 14.6” W x 10 feet long with the roll feeder
    • The Cameo Pro can cut up to 24” W x 24” L with a mat and 24” W x 10 feet long with the roll feeder
    • Obviously, the machines are physically larger the wider the material it can cut, so the space you have to store and use the machine needs to be considered

How Much Do the Silhouette Cameo 4, Plus and Pro Cost?

As of November 2022, The Cameo 4 retails for 299.99, the Cameo Plus retails for $399.99 and the Cameo Pro retails for $499.99. The machines and the accessories are often on sale and the paid software tiers often go on a discounted sale, especially around Black Friday. I purchased my Cameo 4 and my software upgrade to Business Edition from SwingDesign.com and got really good deals on both (please see the Machine & Software Deals links below).

There are older versions of the Cameo, basically the Cameo 3, that can be found for less but they lack the high force carriage, can only cut up to 2mm thick and is slower than the newer models. The Silhouette Portrait 3 is also a less expensive cutting machine but is similarly limited and can only cut up to 8” wide.

Cricut Explore Air 2, Explore 3, Maker and Maker 3 Features

Cricut Explore Series MachinesThe Cricut Explore Air Series Main Features are:

  • Uses a Dual Carriage system so can Draw and Cut in one pass (pen in one carriage, cutting blade in other carriage)
  • Can cut 100+ thinner materials including paper, cardstock, vinyls and bonded fabrics
  • Can connect via Bluetooth to your computer or via an included USB cable
  • Can draw with a wide variety of Cricut pens, can Score and Foil
  • Has Print Then Cut capabilities through Cricut Design Space
  • Explore Air 2 can cut up to 11.5” x 23.5” with a mat; cannot cut without a mat
  • Explore 3 can cut up to 11.5” W x 23.5” L with a mat and 13” W x 75 feet long with matless Smart Materials
  • Explore 3 machines are up to 2x faster at cutting than the Explore Air 2 models
  • Must be used with Cricut Design Space software program. It’s free to use but some features and most of the projects require a paid $10/month Cricut Access membership. I have no problem just using the free version but that’s just me. The Access projects and features are nice so you’d need to decide for yourself if it’s worth it for you

Cricut Maker SeriesThe Cricut Maker Series Main Features are:

  • Uses a Dual Carriage system so can Draw and Cut in one pass (pen in one carriage, cutting blade in other carriage)
  • Can cut 300+ materials including paper, cardstock, fabrics, felt, balsa wood, leather – materials up to 3 mm thick, similar to the ScanNCut and Cameo 4 machines
  • Can connect via Bluetooth to your computer or via an included USB cable
  • Can draw with a variety of Cricut pens, can Score with both single and double scoring wheels, can foil, deboss, engrave and more with extra accessories
  • Has Print then Cut capabilities through Cricut Design Space
  • The original Maker can cut up to 11.5” x 23.5” L with a mat; cannot cut without a mat
  • The Maker 3 can 11.5” W x 23.5” L with a mat and 13” W x 75 feet long with matless Smart Materials
  • Maker 3 machines can also cut up to 2x faster than the original Maker machines
  • Just like the Explore Air machines, Maker machines require the use of Cricut Design Space software
  • Both series of machines have lots of accessories, tools and materials available from Cricut

How Much Do the Cricut Machines Cost?

As of November 2022, The Explore Air 2 machines retail for $199.00. Explore Air 3 machines retail for $319.00
Original Maker models retail for as little as $249.00 (seen on clearance at Michaels). Maker 3 machines retail for $429.00

The machines are often on sale as are the accessories at both retail and online locations. Both Michael’s and Joann’s in the US have them at good sale prices as of posting in November 2022. Black Friday sales are also a great time to purchase one of these machines (please see the Machine & Software Deals links below).

My Pros and Cons for the ScanNCut SDX 125e

PROS

  • Super quiet
  • The Scanner!
  • Cuts a lot of materials easily with some exceptions
  • Well made and heavy duty
  • Can be used without the software or a computer, although there’s a learning curve
  • Free software program that can open SVG files and has cute free projects

 

 

 

 

 

CONS

  • Expensive – both the machine and the consumables like mats
  • Has a lot of problems cutting vinyl with the regular AutoBlade; I needed to invest in the expensive Vinyl Auto Blade
  • Requires expensive extras to get the most out of its capabilities beyond just cutting
  • Strange cutting patterns – cuts the outside edges first and the detailed insides second. Only a big problem if mats aren’t very sticky (other manufacturers’ machines cut the opposite way – inside first, outside last)
  • Software program is a bit limited and cumbersome, especially when cutting/sending to machine
  • You can’t save SVG files from the software
  • Limited number of users so videos and classes to help learn the machine and software are somewhat limited
  • Can be hard to find where to buy – especially higher-end machines

Who do I Think the ScanNCut SDX 125e is Right For?

  • People who stamp and don’t want to invest the time and money into dies anymore
  • Quilters and sewers – it’s amazing with fabric
  • Anyone who wants to turn personal drawings or mementos into cut files
  • People who want to make stickers and don’t have the patience to learn complicated print then cut settings found in other programs

Bottom line, anyone who is going to get a lot of use out of the built-in scanner should purchase a ScanNCut!

My Pros and Cons for the Silhouette Cameo 4, Plus and Pro Machines

PROS

  • Good price for all it can cut – both machines and accessories
  • Cuts a lot of materials once you find the proper settings
  • Software program is very powerful and can do a lot, especially when upgraded to a paid version
  • Often on sale – both machines and accessories
  • Pretty easy to find where to buy – online and retail locations
  • A decent amount of third party tutorials, classes, guides, etc. available to learn the machine and software
CONS

  • Kind of flimsy construction, feels like the cover and roll feeder will break easily and the machine is pretty light
  • Bluetooth connection is very iffy – may require replacement of Bluetooth transmitter
  • Not a lot of use for “powerful” carriage force but maybe that will change in the future?
  • Software can be intimidating, especially for newbies
  • Cutting from the software can be cumbersome and tedious

 

 

 

Who do I Think the Silhouette Cameo, Plus and Pro are Right For?

  • People who are on a bit of a budget but want to be able to cut a lot of different materials, not just paper and vinyl and have matless cutting options (none of these machines are cheap)
  • People who are somewhat tech savvy and not intimidated by the software program that can be overwhelming to newbies
  • People who want to create and test cutting their own SVG files but don’t want to invest in an expensive program like Illustrator
  • The Plus and Pro are for anyone who needs to cut designs larger than 12” W. Honestly, if I needed to do that and had the space for it, I’d probably get the Pro since the Plus really doesn’t offer that much extra cutting width than the regular Cameo 4, but that’s just me

My Pros and Cons for the Cricut Explore Air 2, Explore 3, Maker and Maker 3 Machines

PROS

  • Accessories are pretty reasonably priced and often on sale, as are the machines
  • Cuts lots of materials pretty easily once you find the proper settings and that’s not too difficult due to the large menu of presets in Cricut Design Space; the Maker series in particular cuts, engraves, debosses etc. on more materials than most people will ever need or use
  • Cricut Design Space is constantly improving and adding features without becoming too overwhelming
  • It’s free and pretty easy to upload SVG files to Cricut Design Space and use them
  • The cutting interface between software and machines is by far the easiest to use; program walks you through it without too much back and forth, even with the Joy
  • Lots of tutorials and third party classes and information available – both free and paid
  • Aesthetically, the best looking and they are heavy duty and well made
  • Very easy to find where to buy both accessories and machines, both online and retail locations
CONS

  • Cricut machines can seem expensive, especially the newest models, but are comparable to other brands like ScanNCut and Siser
  • Cricut customer service is hit or miss and they seem to be very strict about warranty claims
  • Preset material settings in Cricut Design Space may require some adjustment, particularly with cardstock since they are designed to work with Cricut brand materials and usually not general ones
  • Paid Cricut Access membership needed to use cute projects, fonts and some functions like certain shapes and monogram creator in Cricut Design Space ($9.99/month USD)
  • Cricut Design Space is somewhat limited and personalizing or creating your own designs, depending on how complicated you want them, can be easier in other programs
  • You cannot save projects out of Cricut Design Space, once you make them there, that’s where they have to stay

 

 

Who do I Think the Cricut Explore Air 2, Explore Air 3, Maker and Maker 3 are Right For?

  • Non-techy beginners to electronic cutting machines. Seriously, they are the easiest machines to get started with
  • Explore Air machines are best for people who want to cut paper, vinyl  and bonded fabric projects for the most part and don’t need to be able to cut thick materials or lots of different non-bonded fabrics. Save the $$ if you don’t need to cut thick materials or fancier fabrics – you’re good with making mainly paper and vinyl projects
  • Maker machines are best for those who want to be able to cut just about anything they can think of (under 3 mm thick) or want the option to learn how to in the future; it’s also good with fabrics for sewers
  • The Explore Air 3 and Maker 3 models are best for people who want to cut lots of long projects, like big vinyl wall decals or porch signs, etc. OR people who want the faster speed. If those things don’t matter to you, save the $$ and buy the older Explore Air 2 or original Maker models

Things to Remember Once You’ve Bought a Machine

Buying one of these machines is an investment of time and money. Even with the easiest and simplest machines, there is still a learning curve so some patience is required with both yourself and whatever machine you decide to try.

It is inevitable that you’re going to have materials that don’t cut correctly the first time. You’re going to want to do something with a design and not be able to figure out how to do it easily. You will probably have to watch some YouTube videos or read some blog posts to get the hang of things initially. But, that’s completely normal and to be expected.

This is a really fun crafting world you are diving into and I want to encourage you to be kind to yourself and your machine while you learn to make all the fun things you want. You can do it!

Questions or Comments?

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you soon. Want to just tell me how much you loved this tutorial? Please leave me a comment below – lol!

Suggestions?

I would also appreciate any ideas you may have for topics to cover related to the software for Cricut (Design Space), Silhouette (Studio) or Brother (Canvas Workspace) and any suggestions you may have on projects to create with the Cricut Maker, Cricut Joy, Silhouette Cameo 4 or the Brother Scan N Cut DX. Please leave any requests you have in the comments. I appreciate you taking the time to visit and read my blog. Thanks!

 


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4 Comments

  1. Just watched your video comparing the 3 cutting machines. I would like to say, there are quite a few tutorials on how to use the Brother Scan n Cut. One great spot is Highlight Crafts. It is based in the UK and has great tutorials on the SNC. Melanie Heaton does the tutorials and is excellent on explaining things as she goes.
    Another thing is you can clean the mats and apply stencil glue to make them sticky again. There are YouTube tutorials on how to do that. I realize the mats are expensive but, you can get a lot more mileage on them, if you do the stencil glue. I do it all the time.
    Great job comparing the machines.
    I will be watching more of your videos.

    1. elenaa3 says:

      Hi Kim! Great info about Highlight Crafts. There are absolutely some fantastic videos for ScanNCut just not as many as Cricut and Silhouette (but Cricut has a gazillion). I actually have a video on how to re-stick the mats for ScanNcut so that’s a good point too. But I re-stick the Silhouette and Cricut mats too so comparatively I still think they are pricey. Don’t get me wrong, I like my ScanNCut and use it so I think it’s a great machine, especially if you use the scanner. Thanks!

  2. Janice says:

    Great article!!! I wonder if you would know.. On the Silhouette Cameo 4 which carriage is the one with most power, the upper or lower one? And is the lower one removable? Also could you engrave say a half inch or even an inch high piece of wood? And about silhouette software’s upgrade to business edition…about how many commercial use designs does it give you use of. And it is not a subscription? Thanks so very much for your help!

    1. elenaa3 says:

      Hi Janice – On the Cameo 4, Carriage 2 is the more powerful carriage. Neither can be removed as they are together in one housing. You can’t engrave anything as thick as 1/2″ – 1″; the max height that will fit in the machine and under the roller bar is 2mm (roughly 3/16″). The only cutting machine I know of that might be able to engrave something that thick is the Silhouette Curio 2 (items up to 20mm thick can be placed in it to be engraved). But a laser engraver/cutter can do that easily. Upgrading to the Business Edition of Silhouette Studio doesn’t give you access to any commercial use (or any type) designs, it gives you access to more tools in the program and the ability to save designs out of that program in SVG format. Silhouette Studio itself is not a subscription, it’s a one time fee to upgrade. But you can subscribe to their design store to gain access to a certain number of credits per month and then you use the credits to buy designs from their store. Each design varies in price as well as offering a commercial license or not (some do, some don’t). As should be expected, the ones with commercial license buying options are more expensive. I think I answered all of your questions. Thanks! – Elena

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