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chubsANDdoggers

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I am looking to get a vinyl cutter to create stencils for blaster props that I build. Ive noticed that a lot of people use them for lightsabers, blasters.. pretty much everything really. I was curious to hear some suggestions on whats a good place to start. Silhouette cameo or Cricut Explore Air 2 (&or maker) are two that I have been lookin into. Anyone have any experience with these or have a suggestion on what to use to create some vinyl sticker templates? Looking for some advice. Much appreciated.
 

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ARKM

Sr Member
I only have experience with the one I own which is a KNK Zing Air using software called Make the Cut. It works great for making vinyl stencils for etching or painting. There is a learning curve and some experimentation is required to get optimal results but that's true of all vinyl cutters.
 

division 6

Master Member
I was doing a little looking on this subject last week.
It seems that the Cricut Explore Air 2 is currently rated the best.
Talking with someone at work that has one, she said it's really easy to use and can even be run from your phone.

Target currently has the best price.
 

Riceball

Master Member
Cricuts can be pretty good if you have the settings dialed in. My wife has one she uses for cutting felt and it works pretty well, depending on the felt and how new the blade is. I've only used it cut paper, but it's worked well for that.

One thing to keep in mind with the Cricut is that they recently changed the way their software works. I don't recall the exact details but I believe that you now have to pay to use their software, at least for designing things. I don't know if you can still import in designs that you've made in Photoshop or Illustrator and not have to pay to use their software.
 

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Starbase101

Sr Member
We have a Silhouette Cameo, and honestly it's not all that great. The smaller the details you're trying to cut, the more "garbled" the outlines are due to the way in which it functions (a rotating blade being "dragged" through the vinyl). Silhouette's software is also very lacking and buggy, for example Boolean operations nearly always f*** up and produce garbage. That's why I typically create all my vector artwork in a different application and then import it into Studio (a feature of the upgraded pay version). Lastly, another factor to consider is customer service. Silhouette America's is terrible, with messages often remaining unanswered.
 
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chubsANDdoggers

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Cricuts can be pretty good if you have the settings dialed in. My wife has one she uses for cutting felt and it works pretty well, depending on the felt and how new the blade is. I've only used it cut paper, but it's worked well for that.

One thing to keep in mind with the Cricut is that they recently changed the way their software works. I don't recall the exact details but I believe that you now have to pay to use their software, at least for designing things. I don't know if you can still import in designs that you've made in Photoshop or Illustrator and not have to pay to use their software.
I’ve read this as well and was a little confused by it. Hopefully someone can shed some light on what they have now restricted. Pay to play aspect bewilders me when the machine itself costs over 2 hundred.
 

E Williams

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Cricut attempted last month to require a subscription service in order to use custom designs. While they did reverse the policy change after angering their customers it still seems like a big red flag on them. Apparently custom designs still require an internet connection and upload to their servers for some reason, if I understand correctly.

I'd certainly lean more towards Silhouette. I have a Silhouette Portrait 2 (smaller version of the Cameo) and before that had the original Portrait that was still going strong (unfortunately it was old enough that it wasn't compatible with Windows 10). Have made a ton of vinyl/mylar decals, paint masks, and printed decals on it. If all you are doing is making paint masks, the base software may be enough for your purposes as it can still import vector art in DXF format, which is exportable by most vector art programs like Illustrator and Inkscape -- or you could just draw your masks in the Silhouette software to begin with. Native SVG/PDF import functionality as well as additional features are unlocked with a $50 software upgrade and is mainly useful if you are doing complex print and cut decals (it's possible with the base software but it's a tedious dance and the upgrade is well worth it to avoid that). The software works without internet so there's no danger of shady stuff later on.
 

chubsANDdoggers

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Cricut attempted last month to require a subscription service in order to use custom designs. While they did reverse the policy change after angering their customers it still seems like a big red flag on them. Apparently custom designs still require an internet connection and upload to their servers for some reason, if I understand correctly.

I'd certainly lean more towards Silhouette. I have a Silhouette Portrait 2 (smaller version of the Cameo) and before that had the original Portrait that was still going strong (unfortunately it was old enough that it wasn't compatible with Windows 10). Have made a ton of vinyl/mylar decals, paint masks, and printed decals on it. If all you are doing is making paint masks, the base software may be enough for your purposes as it can still import vector art in DXF format, which is exportable by most vector art programs like Illustrator and Inkscape -- or you could just draw your masks in the Silhouette software to begin with. Native SVG/PDF import functionality as well as additional features are unlocked with a $50 software upgrade and is mainly useful if you are doing complex print and cut decals (it's possible with the base software but it's a tedious dance and the upgrade is well worth it to avoid that). The software works without internet so there's no danger of shady stuff later on.
This is great info. Thank you for sharing
 

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Kokanee

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
IMHO "designer" cutters like the cricut and others are a complete waste of money. Buy one and I guarantee you a job will come along that requires you to cut larger than you can with them. As well as the above mentioned issues with access and control of files etc.

Better solution? Get one of the generic vinyl cutters from china off the evil bay. For the same price as a cricut you can get a nice big 24" cutter that will perform the same as a smaller cutter and give you the space for big projects as well. Also vinyl is cheaper when you are buying a roll of it vs the boutique 12"x12" sheets.
 

Starbase101

Sr Member
For the record, Silhouette does have a 12" x 24" cutting mat which does require a fair amount of desk space when using the full length. There isn't anything larger than 12" x 24" for the Cameo.
 

division 6

Master Member
Guess it just comes down to what you intend to use it for.

Having worked for a sign company years ago that made stuff for buildings and trucks we had large 48" cutters or I had to hand cut large logos.

I was merely looking for doing small lettering or paint masks.
 

E Williams

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
How large of a machine you need just depends on what you intend to use it for. In the last 8 years I've never needed more than the 8" width of the Portrait, BUT I only use it for decals and paint masks for small/medium sized hand props and models. If I were doing larger things like rebel pilot helmets, the 12" width of the Cameo or larger other brands might be more appropriate? I do see that the Cameo 4 is also available in 15" and 24" widths which is news to me.

For decals I will second going for the rolls of vinyl rather than small sheets (unless it's just a one-off small detail in an odd color). Vinyl type is important as well - the adhesive on Silhouette and Cricut brand vinyl is not great. Oracal is what you want and thankfully some of the big craft store chains like Michaels have begun carrying it in small rolls so it's been easier to acquire on short notice.
 

chubsANDdoggers

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
IMHO "designer" cutters like the cricut and others are a complete waste of money. Buy one and I guarantee you a job will come along that requires you to cut larger than you can with them. As well as the above mentioned issues with access and control of files etc.

Better solution? Get one of the generic vinyl cutters from china off the evil bay. For the same price as a cricut you can get a nice big 24" cutter that will perform the same as a smaller cutter and give you the space for big projects as well. Also vinyl is cheaper when you are buying a roll of it vs the boutique 12"x12" sheets.
Ya the fear of buying a “knock off” from eBay does make me a little hesitant as there is a lot of options without many (or any) reviews). I have read some good reviews though that fully supports what ur saying. Very much appreciate ur advice in this matter.

I’ll probably stick with more a name brand simply because they are more regularly reviewed. Safer I’m thinking is all?? But get back to me in a month or two and I might just be kicking myself as well..
 

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13doctorwho

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I have a cricut and I thought it was easy to use. I created my image in photoshop and importing it was really easy. It worked for what I was doing great. I haven’t used it for a while so it sounds like software changes may have made it impractical to use. Live and learn.
 

Starbase101

Sr Member
An unbranded knockoff would be akin to buying from a yard sale. No product support, no firmware upgrades, Chinglish user manual (if it even comes with one), and maybe not even a warranty. Sometimes it's better to pay a few dollars more for a reputable product.
 

chubsANDdoggers

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
An unbranded knockoff would be akin to buying from a yard sale. No product support, no firmware upgrades, Chinglish user manual (if it even comes with one), and maybe not even a warranty. Sometimes it's better to pay a few dollars more for a reputable product.
This is how I feel considering this is a whole new adventure me. My needs are small so the large size is not as valuable at the moment. Plus more feedback and direction possible to be had with a more common machine as well is what I’m thinking. Uploading only 20 a month before having to deal with fees sucks but again..
 

jle2199

New Member
IMHO "designer" cutters like the cricut and others are a complete waste of money. Buy one and I guarantee you a job will come along that requires you to cut larger than you can with them. As well as the above mentioned issues with access and control of files etc.

Better solution? Get one of the generic vinyl cutters from china off the evil bay. For the same price as a cricut you can get a nice big 24" cutter that will perform the same as a smaller cutter and give you the space for big projects as well. Also vinyl is cheaper when you are buying a roll of it vs the boutique 12"x12" sheets.
I used to work at a vinyl shop, and there are times a smaller cutter would have been great, but the bigger cutter always handled it fine. We had a Summa, and it was fun when we ran a 4 foot wide by 12 foot long graphic through it to cut (we had to set up two tables and make sure it didn't kink...).

I've been looking at the little cutters like the cricut for home use, but you're right... it just won't do some stuff.
 

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