Although I enjoy crafting, I've never used a vinyl cutter and had no idea what one was until my hardcore crafting friends enlightened me. This tool is essential for designing and producing stickers, decals, labels, magnets, cards, signs, wall decor, banners, stencils, T-shirt heat-transfer prints, bulletin board decorations, and more.
You can personalize anything or, as one friend said, "make something ordinary something special" with customized designs. Another friend commented that a vinyl cutter helps with upcycling because you can "breathe new life into anything old" by sprucing it up with new embellishments.
A vinyl cutter does more than just cut vinyl. It can also carve through different materials (e.g., card stock, foam, foil, fabric, balsa wood, etc.); some models can draw, emboss, etch, and/or scan. You can use a vinyl cutter to create small items (as gifts or for sale) and logos for business. My vinyl-cutter friends confess to rarely using scissors anymore. When slicing shapes precisely — sometimes repetitively for multiple copies — they use their vinyl cutters.
Think of a vinyl cutter as a digitally controlled scissor, shaped like a printer with a computer's brain. Instead of printing images, a vinyl cutter carves letters and shapes from sheets of vinyl or other materials. You first upload an image — either premade or your own design — and adjust font, sizing, etc. Then, load the machine with a sheet of vinyl from which your design will be cut. Adjust the cutter's settings (e.g., speed, knife depth, cutting pressure) if your cutter model doesn't do this automatically. Push start: The machine carves the image before ejecting the sheet with your design cut out.
Sound too simple to be true? It isn't, especially if you choose the right model for your needs. Consider size (to accommodate your projects); speed (especially when producing multiple copies); output quality (precision in cutting), versatility (in materials it can handle and in its functions), and software (user friendliness and library of designs); and connectivity (wired vs. wireless, online vs. offline functionality).
It may seem like a lot to think about, but don't worry — plenty of crafters recommend watching YouTube tutorials on vinyl cutter use and searching project ideas online. Just be sure not to use copyright images on items you plan to sell. After reading crafter reviews and interviewing users, we compiled this list of top vinyl cutters for different needs.
Owners gush over the Cricut Explore Air 2. The spouse of an avid user joked that he'd be divorced if this "homewrecker" vibrated. Why all the fuss? For starters, it's able to cut many different materials (e.g., vellum, card stock, leather, fabric, balsa wood, etc.), opening up endless possibilities for projects. Also, it's multifunctional — it cuts with a German carbide premium blade (included), writes with a black pen (included), and even scores and embosses with a stylus (sold separately).
The Cricut Explore Air 2 also comes with a cutting mat and materials for conducting a test-run project as well as practicing using the pen with the blade. It features two compartments for holding accessories, a magnetic strip for grasping extra blades, and a cup-holder-like area for stashing pens or tools. Best of all, this model comes with Bluetooth for cord-free connections to computers, phones, or tablets.
The Explore Air 2 uses Cricut's Design Space software, which contains more than 100 free images and fonts (available for Mac and Windows computers, and iOS and Android mobile devices). Because Design Space is only accessible through the manufacturer's website, you will need access to the internet. However, the iOS version of Design Space lets you download content for offline use.
Nonetheless, when all systems are go, this model cuts intricate designs with accuracy and surgical precision. And if you are in a hurry, simply switch it to Fast Mode for cutting and drawing at twice the speed.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is one of the top-rated models on BestReviews, the second-highest on Hambly Screen Prints and The Best Vinyl Cutters, and the third-highest on 10Techy. More than 900 of 1,250 Amazon reviewers rate this model 5 out of 5 stars.
Cons: Needs to be connected to internet for downloadable content, software has learning curve for some
The Silhouette Cameo 3 is a super-handy cutter that offers nearly limitless possibilities in creating projects and supports a variety of materials. In fact, with the Silhouette Deep Cut Blade (sold separately), it can slice through materials up to 2 millimeters thick.
This model has a dual-carriage system that holds two tools at once (e.g., two blades or one blade and one pen) for efficient multi-functionality. For example, you can cut card stock with the blade and then embellish it with the pen, in one pass — no need to change tools manually. Simply tell the machine which tool to use.
And there's more: The Silhouette Cameo 3 has a Print and Cutfeature that lets you create a design using the included Silhouette Studio software and print it out. Then, feed the printed design into the cutter for scanning; the cutter then carves out your design.
What users really find convenient is that the Silhouette Cameo 3 doesn't have to be connected to the internet in order to operate. As a stand-alone machine with Bluetooth, it offers lots of freedom during use.
Hambly Screen Prints, Vinyl Cutting Machines, and The Best Vinyl Cutters highlight the Silhouette Cameo 3 as one of the best budget models, given all it has to offer. 10Techy ranks it second, WireVibes fifth, and Milan Clothing within the top 10 models. Out of more than 430 Amazon reviewers, it earned an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
Pros: Dual-carriage holds two tools, has Print and Scan feature, able to work as a stand-alone machine
Fast and portable, the Brother CM350 ScanNCut2 Electronic Cutting Machine comes loaded with 631 built-in designs, including 100 quilt patterns. This model not only cuts these images, but also scans and carves out any original designs you create. With its 300 dots-per-inch scanner, you can scan in practically anything (a magazine clipping, photos, your own drawings, etc.), save it to the machine's memory, and then cut out its image.
This lightweight model operates as both a stand-alone machine and a Wi-Fi-ready device. The cutter's design software is CanvasWorkspace, a free cloud-based web application that comes with a library of images, shapes, and fonts. Using this collection as well as the machine itself presents a learning curve that crafters say is well worth climbing in the end.
The versatile Brother CM350 ScanNCut2 Electronic Cutting Machine easily slices through diverse materials with precision and speed to produce intricate designs. Its hardworking German carbide blade can cut materials up to two millimeters in thickness and one user reported cutting through more than 88 sheets of paper in one sitting. Although it cuts through fabric — and even adds a seam allowance in quarter-inch increments for sewing — a few people noted its performance on felt is only so-so.
The Brother CM350 ScanNCut2 Electronic Cutting Machine has a 4.85-inch touch-enabled display for convenient on-device editing. You can see the scanned images on the screen and then make any adjustments. Just use the stylus to resize, reshape, reposition, rotate, and/or combine images before cutting.
Earning an average rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars from more than 270 Amazon reviewers, this vinyl cutter is ranked within the top five models on Best Reviews and within the top 10 models on The Best Vinyl Cutters and 10Techy.
The compact Silhouette Portrait 2 is a fine, fun tool for beginners to dip their toes into the world of vinyl crafting. Sleek, light, and easy to transport, it takes up little space and is convenient for toting around for on-the-go crafting. The downside of its cute size is a restriction on project size. Although limited to cutting 8-inch-wide sheets, this model is great for making decals and stickers.
The Silhouette Portrait 2 is durable and economical, reportedly lasting years under constant use. It comes with an 8-inch cutting mat and an AutoBlade, which cuts cleanly and works well on small, intricate designs. With the Silhouette Deep Cut Blade (sold separately), you can slice through materials up to 2 millimeters thick.
In addition to a Bluetooth adapter, the cutter comes with Silhouette Studio software, 50 exclusive designs, and a one-month Silhouette Design Store subscription. With its Print and Cut feature, the Silhouette Portrait 2 allows you to create a design with the Silhouette Studio software and print it out. You then feed the printed design into the cutter, which scans and cuts it out. Also, PixScan technology allows you to scan and cut your own images.
The Silhouette Portrait 2 is ranked within the top five vinyl cutters on Best Reviews, fifth on 10Techy, and within the top 10 on The Best Vinyl Cutters. Of more than 570 Amazon reviewers, 66% awarded this model 5 out of 5 stars.
Perched on a floor stand, the large USCutter Vinyl Cutter MH 34in accommodates big projects like signs, banners, and automotive and window decals. It has a maximum feed width of 34.2 inches, a cutting width of 30.63 inches, and a cutting length of 96 inches (8 feet). It has a cutting speed of up to 48 inches per second - ideal for high-volume businesses.
Cutting accuracy isn't sacrificed for speed, though. During operation, the USCutter Vinyl Cutter MH 34in is a bit loud but cuts cleanly. It comes with three blades (one for use and two replacements) and a backlit display for entering commands, controlling speed and pressure, and making adjustments. It also has a pen holder for switching out the knife for a pen and turning the cutter into a plotter. Many users praise this model's vectorization and tracing abilities.
USCutter Vinyl Cutter MH 34in utilizes VinylMaster Cut software but also can run other popular design software like Sure Cuts A Lot, Flexi, SignBlazer, and SignCut Productivity Pro. Setup and software use are fairly smooth if you follow instructions and watch manufacturer videos. Although some reviewers consider this model to be "entry level" as a commercial tool, others feel that it is best for advanced users.
The included sign-making kit offers plentiful supplies: five 2-by-5-foot rolls of Greenstar vinyl (black, white, red, green, and yellow); two 1-by-2-foot sheets of blank magnetic signs; one 6-by-10-yard roll of TransferRite Ultra Clear 1310G (Grid) Medium Tack Application Transfer Tape; and one 1-by-1-yard roll of TransferRite Ultra 592U Paper Application Tape. This large bundle makes this cutter's price a decent deal.
The USCutter Vinyl Cutter MH 34in is top rated on Hambly Screen Prints and Best Reviews Guide. It earned a place within the top five models on Wire Vibes and The Best Vinyl Cutters. Of almost 400 Amazon reviewers, 56% award it 5 out of 5 stars.
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