Monday, November 26, 2012

Cricut and/or Silhouette Cameo

Lots of people have been sending me questions about the Silhouette Cameo machine and software.  Most of them are Cricut owners who have collected many cartridges to use with their machine(s).  They often say that they have invested too heavily in the Cricut to try another system, even if there are some things that they are not happy about with their Cricuts.  Today I thought I'd start a series of posts to try to answer these questions for everyone who is interested in more information about the differences between these two systems.

First, a little background...

I bought my first Cricut in November of 2007.  It was the ACMoore bundled package with the Cricut Expression, Plantin Schoolbook, Accent Essentials, Paper Pups and Stretch Your Imagination cartridges and a set of markers.  The Cricut was my first electronic die-cutting machine and it seemed magical to me!  I owned the original Sizzix and the Sizzix Sidekick and a few sets of alphabets and shapes (which were very expensive) and the ability to cut letters and images in many sizes was a wonderful step forward.

Shortly after I got my first machine, the Design Studio program was released.  I got it for Christmas that year but didn't get around to trying it until sometime in January.  It was fantastic to be able to weld letters and shapes together and to create new shapes using the images on my cartridges.  I became very adept at using Design Studio and figured out "workarounds" for some of the flaws in the software.  I started my blog soon after I started using the program in order to share files and to help teach people how to use the software.  I enjoyed using the software because of the way it expanded the possibilities of the machine and I wanted others to be able to get the most from their machines and cartridges.

At that time, there were far fewer cartridges and each release of new cartridges was eagerly anticipated and discussed on the message boards.  Some of my message board friends were great at putting together shapes to make items that were not available on any cartridge.  I always preferred making more abstract designs and combining shapes in geometric patterns.

When the Gypsy was released as a portable Design Studio, it had many flaws.  Over a period of months, these were gradually corrected.  Although assurances were made that the Design Studio program would be updated and missing functions added, there were no more program updates made after May 2010.  The Gypsy seems to be on the way out and is being replaced by the Craftroom.  The Cricut Craftroom was intended to provide advanced design capabilities to Cricut owners but progress has been slow in working out all of the bugs.  The Craftroom is fine for making simple cuts and laying out a project but I want to do more complicated designs and often have found that they just don't work correctly.

My main interest has always been in the design possibilities available for creating new designs with the Cricut machines.  I finally got so frustrated with the limitations of the design tools available to me for the Cricut that I decided to purchase the Silhouette SD in the spring of 2011.  When the Cameo came out, I waited for a little while but took the plunge and purchased the larger machine at the beginning of this year.

The Silhouette machine is designed to work with a computer instead of cartridges.  There is a free software program that you use to send the cutting directions to the machine from your computer.  You can also put the designs on an SD card and place that in the machine but I have never used it this way.  I like to make multi-layered designs and I find it easier to work with the computer screen available to view the pieces as I move them on and off the mat.

The Silhouette software allows you to draw your own shapes and to use the fonts on your computer to cut out words.  There is an enormous library of shapes that you can purchase and download from the Silhouette store while you are using the software and there are also many files available from other sources.  If you upgrade to the Designer Edition of the software, you can use SVG files which are easy to find - both free and for purchase.  You can also use other software programs such as Make the Cut and Sure Cuts a Lot with the Cameo.

Another striking advantage of the Silhouette system is the ability to print and cut using just your normal home printer.  The Cricut Imagine was meant to be the ultimate in printing and cutting machines.  However, owners experienced many problems with the machine and the updates required for it to function and it has been discontinued.  I have never been able to get a perfectly aligned set of cuts on the Imagine but the cuts I have made with the Silhouette system are fantastic.  The additional design possibilities and the ability to use all of my digital content (not limited to cartridges) has made the Silhouette a much more useful tool for me.

I have a number of Cricut machines and many, many cartridges.  After years of working with the design options through Design Studio, the Gypsy and the Craftroom, I now tend to use them more as free standing machines without using any of these design tools.  I find the Silhouette software to be much more enjoyable to use so most of my designing is now done for the Silhouette.  However, I see the Silhouette as an addition to my crafting tools and not as a total replacement for the Cricut.  There is no reason not to use each system for the things that it does best.  I might sell or give away some cartridges that I don't use very often (or at all) but there are many times that I enjoy the "plug and play" convenience of the original Cricut system.

If you are thinking about adding to your crafting tools, this is a great time to buy a Cameo.  There are special deals available from Silhouette America (use the code BLACK) as well as Amazon, Overstock and other online retailers.  Check to be sure what is included in each bundle - I think some offer extra items and download cards.  There is also a 50% off sale on all of the shapes in the Silhouette online store.

Please leave a comment with any questions you have about the differences between these two machines and the way that they are used.  I'll answer as many as I can in tomorrow's post.

A couple of Cyber Monday notes...

Blitsy has celebrated it's first birthday and has a Cyber Monday sale starting at 6:00 a.m. central time - check it out HERE (if you aren't a member yet, you'll need to sign up first - it's free).  I am curious to see what they add - there are so many items available on the site right now...

Joann' is offering lots of deals online and shipping on any size order is free with the code QDFA329 or FSNM327.  I noticed that most stamps and stamping supplies were 50% off...

The Creative Memories "Stuff Your Stockings" sale ends today at 10 p.m. Central Time.  I should find out details for a sale on digital products later today and I'll post them for all of you non-traditional scrappers and crafters!

I created this design using the free version of the Silhouette Studio software - easy to use and the possibilities are endless...

Have a wonderful Monday - and happy shopping online if you haven't spent all of your money already this weekend!  Please share your thoughts and opinions on the Cricut, Cameo or other machines and software programs - I think it will be helpful to many people who are deciding on their next purchases.

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  1. Hi Diane, I agree with your assessments of all the machines.

  2. This is a great comparison! You can love two machines at the same time!

  3. I really love your idea of reusing junk mail for a Christmas card.


  4. Your many beautiful designs have made me consider the Cameo machine, but the main deciding factor for the Cricut machine has not yet changed for me---I am not very comfortable using the computer--my logic and computer logic do not work well together! So the Cricut and the plug and play capabilities were just right. I am in awe of the creations that you show. TFS!!

  5. I am so thankful for this information. But is there anyway that I can use the 100's of cartridges I have with the silouhette, with any of the software that you mentioned? Thanks for the info.

  6. Thank you for the comparison. I agree with everything you wrote. I have a cricut expression, imagine and a silhouette cameo. I tend to drift to my Cameo more and more because of the functionality I have with it and the precision of the cuts. There are some amazing tutorials on the web for the Cameo which is how I learned to use it. I haven't given up on my cricuts as of yet (mainly because of the huge loss I would take), but I no longer buy new cartridges because I can find individual images that I need or like better for a better price.

  7. i totally agree with you. although i still use my cricut occasionally, i much prefer the cameo. i can cut smaller, more intricate designs and the cuts are much cleaner than i can get with the cricut.

  8. I'm soooo bummed. I've got 4 Cricut machines, and about the only cartridges I don't have are the Creative Memory ones. I put everything into Cricut, and now to find out the scoop, well I'm really disappointed. I'd love to make the jump to the Cameo but 1)I'm afraid of being burned again 2) I don't understand the 1st thing about the Cameo 3)well, since my DH decided he wanted someone else to make him happy...I don't have a spare penny to start this type of investment again. I feel really screwed at this point. Do you (and if so, why) see an actual future for the Cameo?

    By the way, lately I've came across some extremely beautiful animal (advertisements) cards and I saved the fronts. Didn't know what I'd do with them but I saved them anyway. TFS your GORGEOUS recycled card!!!

  9. I would really like to try the Cameo but I do have a lot invested in Cricut. I started out with a Big Shott when it still had the Ellison name on it. I got a Baby Bug a few years later and 3 years ago went to thr Expression. I still use all 3 machines. I would have to get a bit more computer smart to use a Cameo and since I still work fulltime (usually with overtime)I do like the ability to say I want to cut something, pull out the cartridge with that shape, pick my size and cut. I really don't have the time to do much designing of shapes other than what I can do with DS or Craft Room.

  10. Thank you for clarifying this for me. It's as if you read my mind. I have been considering the possibility of purchasing a Cameo, but I really wanted the opinion of someone who had experience with the machine beforehand. You have answered a lot of questions I have had.

    I have an Expression, as well as an Imagine, and I love them both. However, I would like a bit more flexibility and I do not feel that Cricut has addressed this need for its customers.

    I will follow your blog posts carefully in the next few weeks to see what other information you provide concerning the Cameo. I appreciate your taking the time to share what knowledge you have on the matter.


  11. Thanks Diane,
    I don't have the Cameo, honestly I don't see any need for it. I have 2 expressions, the imagine and the cake. I keep one of my expressions up to date, and use it with my gypsy and cricut craft room. The other I don't update and I use it with SCAL. I can cut anything I want this way. I know that I shouldn't be using SCAL, but I have way too much invested. I do love my cricuts.

  12. You do such a great job of clearly laying everything out without sounding bias. I so enjoy your blog.


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