Friday, October 28, 2016

Cricut Design Space vs Silhouette Studio - A Software Comparison

Cricut Design Space or Silhouette Studio? 

As many of you know, I have written a few blog posts comparing the Cricut and Silhouette machines’ ability to cut materials.  You can find my Silhouette Cameo vs. CricutExplore post here, or my Silhouette Cameo 2 vs Cricut Explore One here, and even aSilhouette Cameo 2 vs Cricut Explore One here.  It’s no secret, I simply feel the Cricut Explore series of machines cut sharper, cleaner and have the ability to cut through more materials than the Silhouette.

The most common feedback I have received from those comparison videos is what about the software?  Without a doubt, there is a vast difference between the software.  I will do my best to outline the differences, list what I feel are the pros and cons to each software package, and finally, offer a few alternatives to both software packages.

What are the differences?

Now that I have listed the main differences between the software, I want to share with you my experience with each. 

Let me begin with the Silhouette Studio software.  I was an avid Silhouette user for a few years.  I consider myself tech savvy.  I know how to use Adobe Illustrator and Lightroom,  I am certified in Photoshop, I know how to use Inkscape, Ecal, Scal, Sure Cuts A Lot and many other image manipulating software packages.  It’s safe to say, I’m pretty comfortable on the computer and have a bit more than a general knowledge of graphic software.  Silhouette Studio works with many of the same features, terminology and logic as the programs I’ve mentioned, so for me, it’s user friendly.   However, a new user with no background in graphic software will find quite a learning curve with the Silhouette Studio Software.   

The Silhouette Studio software allows you to use outside images such as JPG, PNG, Tiff, GIF and BMP images.  In order to convert those files to a cut file in Studio, one must “Trace” those images.  Tracing an image involves a series of steps which includes manipulation of a high pass filter and the options of a few sliders to get the desired effect.  It can be intimidating to someone not familiar with the procedure. 

As I stated in the above chart, the basic version of Silhouette Studio does not allow you use SVG files.  You must either convert your SVG files or pay for one of the upgraded versions of Silhouette Studio.

Silhouette Studio recently introduced the “cloud” storage, which allows you to save any of your purchased images and/or projects to the clouds for access in the app.

The Silhouette Studio mobile app is clunky.  It has very limited use and is not user friendly.  I struggled just to find the basic features.  The app allows you to view only images which you have purchased and saved to the cloud.  It is currently rated at 1.5 stars in the IOS app store. 

On the upside,  Silhouette Studio offers quite a few more options than Cricut Design Space.  Options such as node editing, offsets/insets, rhinestone patterns, scissors, eraser (though it is sporatic at working), manipulating compound paths, text/shape on a path are a few of the options that are a part of Silhouette Studio that Design Space simply does not have.   

Silhouette Studio does not require an internet connection.  You do need internet to download their Silhouette Store images, but once you have downloaded them, or if you use your own images, you do not need an internet connection.

Silhouette Studio offers Ready, Set, Make projects which are predesigned projects which you can purchase from the Studio library, download to your computer and use as you would any other library image.  Instructions, materials are viewable after you purchase and download.

Silhouette Studio updates are often filled with bugs.  I have quite often had to revert to a legacy version while the bugs were worked out.  I recently bought the Cameo 3, however the software which allows you to use the Bluetooth has yet to be released. 

Cricut Design Space, in my opinion, is very user friendly.  I feel a person with little to no knowledge of graphic programs could navigate the software with a very little training.  The software is intuitive, the terminology used is basic and the tools/buttons are easily identifiable.  As a designer, I find I can do most of what I need to do in Design Space.

The Design Space software allows you to use outside images such as JPG, PNG, Tiff, GIF and BMP images.  In order to use those images, one simply has to upload them and click through one screen where you have the option to delete any area that you do not want to cut, such as a white background.  Once this procedure is completed, it’s simply a matter of choosing either print or cut. 

Design Space allows you to use SVG files.  No upgrade needed. 

Design Space also separates your images into color coordinated mats.  Simply design your image and send them to the Cricut Explore and Design Space will figure out everything that needs to go on each mat based on the colors in the image.

Design Space’s cloud feature allows you to open and use the software from ANY computer and have access to your entire library.  You may also use multiple Cricuts at the same time by opening another browser tab.

Design Space app is very much like Design Space for the desktop.  The flow is seamless from one to the other.  The buttons are easily identifiable.  The app can be used with or without being online.  Users are allowed to download their images to their mobile device, which can then be used offline.   You have the ability to download the entire 30,000 plus Cricut Image library to your device to play with offline or online, however, if you want to cut, you will need to purchase the image and/or have the subscription.  You can design on the app offline, then save and open the same project on any desktop.  It is currently rated at 3.4 stars in the IOS app store.

Cricut Design Space has “Make it Now” projects which includes the ability to use a project that has already been designed for you and allows you to start cutting it in one click.  You also have the option to customize the project if you like.    You can view instructions,  materials before you buy.

Cricut Design Space allows users to share projects by simply sharing a URL (link) to their project.  This works with any project(s) created using basic shapes or Cricut Images.

On the downside, Design Space is lacking in features.  It’s missing basic functions such as offsets/insets and curved text.  While you can achieve these features with a work around, it’s tedious and cumbersome.  I, personally, go to other software to perform these functions.

Cricut Design Space updates are made behind the scenes via the web.  You mostly don’t know when they happen.  I have found most updates to be well tested and not “buggy”. 

Cricut Design Space is a web based program built on flash player.  You have to be online to use Cricut Design Space’s desktop program.  A slow internet speed or less than good signal can hinder your experience in Design Space.  However, I personally have not experienced any problems, I know there are those who have.  Cricut has announced that they are currently working on a new and improved faster Design Space, however, as of this date, it has not yet been released. 

The Cricut Explore has Bluetooth wireless capability which allows you to put the Explore anywhere within Bluetooth range of your computer.  I have mine behind me so as to allow more desktop space.  The Bluetooth ability also allows your mobile device to talk to the Cricut.

So, which do I prefer?  I use my Cricut 99% of the time.  Why?  Because it simply cuts better.  As I stated before, I consider myself an advanced user and a designer.  I often design SVGs in Illustrator and then open them in Design Space.  However, for basic cutting, printing and to use the Cricut library images, there is no need to go outside of Design Space.  I really can do everything I need in Design Space, but because I can use other programs, I do.   Design Space works.  It is very user friendly.  It’s easy to open the box, set up the machine and get cutting.  I timed it from setup to my first cut and it took me a little over 6 minutes, you can watch the videohere.

I think Silhouette Studio gets honorable mention.  It is a mini Illustrator.  It has far more features from a designer standpoint, but my guess is that a lot of people will never use those features. 

In summary, I think the best machine is the machine that works for you.  I have been an avid user of both machines and have owned every version of both machines as well as a few other machines.  When it boils down to the software, if you want more features Silhouette offers more features.  If you want easier to use,  go with the Cricut.  If you want the machine that cuts the best (in my opinion) and more features, go with the Cricut and Illustrator, Inkscape, Scal, Ecal, SCAL or Photoshop.

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