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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Silhouette Review and Comparison: Silhouette Cameo Vs. Silhouette Portrait

Silhouette Cameo Review
As a designer of electronic die cuts, I've been asked several times what my opinion is on various electronic cutting machines for the home crafter or hobbyist. I've owned a few different die cutting machines including the Cricut, and the Silhouette Cameo, and have had the opportunity to "test drive" many of the other cutting machines out there.

Of those machines, I have definitely have two favorites, that I'm not shy to talk about. So today, I thought I'd take the time to review the Silhouette Cameo and the Silhouette Portrait electronic cutting machines. Both machines are made by Silhouette America, and are similar in many ways with a few key differences. 
Silhouette Cameo Review
What I like most about the Silhouette Cameo and Portrait is their ability to integrate with your home computer. This is the number one reason why both these machines top my list. When I say integrate...I really mean it. Once you plug your Silhouette machine into your Computer and download the software (which comes in both PC and Mac friendly versions) you are ready to fly out the gate with the ability to cut any of the true type fonts that you already have loaded on your computer.

With the software provided, Silhouette Studio, you can also create basic shapes (and even more complex ones if you are adventurous.) With other machines, like the Cricut, you have to buy several expensive font or shape cartridges to even be able to cut letters and shapes. That feature alone is a HUGE savings as these cartridges start at $29.00. 

This may not be a selling feature for those who feel that they aren't computer savvy, but let me put it this way, if you can hook a printer up to your computer and use it to print, you can use a Silhouette machine.

If the thought of using software to design your own cut-outs terrifies you, no worries, Silhouette offers an amazing online library of thousands of designs that you can download individually starting at .99 cents per download--they even offer subscription programs to bring the download price down significantly.
Both machines cut designs with amazing just need to make sure that your blade depth and other settings are accurate for the type of paper or media you are cutting. I discuss blade depth in this post here to help you with selecting the right blade depth. Luckily, the software tries to make that a no-brainer by offering setting suggestions for your type of media. There are many similarities in these machines but a few key differences which I will detail below:
Shared features of both the Silhouette Cameo and Portrait:
  • integrates with your home computer to give you more options (just fonts galore from your home collection!)
  • clean detailed cutting (I'm constantly amazed at the ability of these machines!)
  • ability to cut multiple surfaces (because the blade has an adjustable depth from 1-10) cuts vinyl, heat transfer, magnetic media, cardstock, lightweight chipboard, fabric and more!
  • optical scanner gives you the ability to print (from your home printer) then cut it out with your Silhouette machine (feature works when you print from the silhouette software, your printed piece will print with registration marks that the scanner uses to align the cutting blade.)
  • software is included with either machine with the option of upgrading to their designer version of the studio software.
  • ability to design your own shapes with the included Studio software
  • huge library of designs available online through the Silhouette store
  • same great cutting mechanism
Features unique to the Silhouette Cameo:
  • cuts just shy of 12 inches wide--this is important if you want to cut many of the 3D designs or boxes that are offered as downloads at the Silhouette online store. You can cut some of those shapes on a portrait machine, but they just end up being smaller. For this reason alone, I prefer the Cameo to the Portrait.
  • digital screen display with options to load cutting mat + media, just media, pause, load, unload.
  • There are arrow buttons to guide your cutting motor to an exact spot on your paper if you desire.
  •  weighs about 6.5 pounds
  • the machine has a sleek straight edge design
  • Slot for an SD card (to take designs with you--however, you will still want to connect to a computer if you want to edit anything with the Silhouette Studio Software.)
More Silhouette Cameo Reviews
You can watch a video about the Silhouette Cameo Here

Features unique to the Silhouette Portrait:
  • cuts 8 inches wide
  • compact (doesn't take up much desk space--important for compact craft areas)
  • portable (easier to transport to crafting gatherings--this is the reason why some people own both the Cameo and the Portrait machines.)
  • no digital display but does have easy to use buttons: Power, Pause, unload, Just Media (for Vinyl), and Media + Cutting mat
  • buttons are covered by the lid, and only exposed when the lid is open. This feature might be nice for those who have curious kids and neat-nicks who don't like lint to gather anywhere.
  • weighs about 3.5 pounds
  • curved lid is kinda cute! Picture of the Portrait machine here
More Silhouette Portrait Reviews
You can watch a video about the Silhouette Portrait here
  • The machines are super noisy, but that's the nature of electronic cutting machines. (my husband and I like to mimic the sounds it makes as it cuts "er un iner neener uuuuu jjjiggg zzz dud dud dud du du pop pop pop mmmmm" Honestly, it kind of sounds like a constipated fax machine or the angry mother of old dial up internet. You youngin's might not know what I mean by dial up internet...but trust's a noise you may not be ready for at first. Sometimes my husband and I have "contests" to see who can make the most annoying imitation of my Silhouette machine...yes, we are grown adults who act like children sometimes...what can I say? )
  • you will need to replace the mats and blades from time to time--you can get them cheap here and here. (hint: usually I can get a little more longevity out of my mats by taping my paper to the mat when it starts to run out of sticky...I just don't attempt that on detailed cuts...but it does work for basic cuts if you want to be frugal.)
I hope this review of the Silhouette Cameo and Portrait cutting machines has been helpful. If you end up purchasing one of them (or if you currently own one), you can come back to my blog often for Silhouette tutorials from me and my creative team as we offer instructions for some of the more complicated files that I design for the Silhouette Online store, as well as a few helps with the Silhouette Studio Software. The Silhouette Blog is also an excellent source of information for inspirational uses for their cutting machines.


  1. Thank you so much, this really helps!

  2. Hi there, thanks for a great comparison guide. Can you tell me, I have the cameo machine, but thinking of getting the portrait as more convenient for smaller jobs, how do I get my library off the cameo to work on a portrait? Do I just plug it in and then it will automatically be visible on the portrait or do I have to download the software again? Thanks for your time, kind regards Tania


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