A Comprehensive Silhouette Curio Review: Buyer’s Guide

When it came out in 2015, the Silhouette Curio embossing machine created much excitement. Following the success of the Silhouette Cameo 3, many experimental crafters were excited by the capability of the Curio to cut, emboss, deboss, stipple, and etch. This range is quite extensive for an embossing machine, so many users were ready to try it out.

Much enthusiasm over a product tends to wander in one of two ways: it lives up to the hype, or it just doesn't stack up. So, on which path did the Silhouette Curio end up?

What Does the Silhouette Curio Do?

Silhouette America Curio Crafting Printer, 10, White
  • The Curio is taking giant leaps forward with its new features; Along with the new stippling and etching functions,...
  • With Curio, you can now cut thicker material. When used with Silhouette's new deep-cut blade, you can cut up to 2mm...
  • It's all driven by powerful Silhouette Studio software and the Silhouette Design Store. The Curio is the only machine...

Advertised as the perfect machine for DIYers to diversify their creativity, the Curio is capable of:

  • Allowing the use of woods, canvas, metals, and other project surfaces
  • Creating multicolor sketches of intricate designs, thanks to the Curio's dual carriage
  • Building stippled ink projects to meet specifications
  • Cutting custom designs out of cardstock, paper, vinyl, fabric, vellum, stencil material, and more
  • Cutting printed materials
  • Embellishing metals and foils with unique stipple patterns
  • Embossing and debossing textures to soft papers, vellum, and other delicate materials
  • Etching metal
  • Sketching and cutting fonts already installed on your computer
  • Using both felt tip pins and stipple foils for dot-only designs
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As a fully automated embosser, you get the convenience of letting the Curio make quick work of your project needs without having to work with a side crank.

Size

All these functions are a big deal for such a small machine. Unfortunately, the size is what brings some of the Curio's most obvious problems.

the curio

The Curio comes with an 8.5" x 6" base and mats, which is smaller than the Cameo 3's substantial 12" x 10" capacity. The fact that the Curio doesn't live up to that legacy is one of its more noticeable flaws. You can purchase a larger tray to increase the size to 8.5" x 12", which is an improvement, but it's not quite the best that Silhouette can do.

Even so, size is also one of the areas where the Curio shines. There's no doubt that this embosser is better for smaller projects, and it does those very well. The level of detail work the Curio can pull off is very intricate, which combines great with the variety of materials it can handle.

Software

Like other Silhouette products, the Curio works with Silhouette Studio. The program offers a lot of advanced design options. You can select from already available patterns, pick up some designs from the Curio store, and even build custom designs yourself.

The Studio is also responsible for a lot of the Curio's advanced functions. While it's great that this allows for the versatility, it also means that you can't use the stipple and embossing features without connecting a computer to embosser. If you want to emboss on the go (which would be easy considering the Curio's light size), the need for a connection is somewhat limiting.

setting up the curio

On top of that, the Silhouette Studio takes a little bit of practice to make the most of it. There are a lot of features available (especially if you download the most up to date digital version of the software instead of using the included CD), and learning them all prevents a steep learning curve. Even Silhouette veterans can have a hard time—though once you get the hang of it, all those options are yours to play with to your heart's content.

Cutting Capacity

curio at work

When you look at the potential materials the Curio can handle, it's an impressive scope. Cardstock, paper, vinyl, fabric, vellum, stencil material, leather, soft metals—there's a lot of crafting possibilities ready to happen. The 5mm clearance is what makes this possible, as many other embossers can fit only thinner materials.

As for how it handles all these materials, the Curio takes on them all with excellent results. Some settings work better than others (deep embossing is more effective on slightly thinner materials, embossing on watercolor paper doesn't come out as well), but, all in all, the Curio performs as expected. It even outclasses some more expensive machines in how well it handles its materials.

The dual carriage capacity keeps the work speedy, too. For only having 210 grams of cutting force, the Curio still has a great variety of things it can accomplish across projects. If the cutting depth bothers you, it's possible to purchase a deep-cut blade to reach even deeper depths with your work.

Mats

When loading mats and materials into the Curio, you need to pull the tray through the back of the machine manually. When you press the load button, the Curio will do the work of detecting the mat and positioning it correctly, which is incredibly convenient. After you've let the Curio finish up your crafting work, you need to press the unload button and pull the tray back out.

There are a lot of mats and platforms included with the Curio. To get the best results out of your projects, you need to build your platforms based on the thickness of the material you're using. This setup may take a little a little practice to adjust to, but it does help a lot to get your projects in the best possible shape. Silhouette does include a reference chart to help you find the best mat and blade combo for whatever product you're putting through the embosser.

Though the Curio does have a lot of mats, the quality is moderate. Some of the mats are easily damaged, which doesn't do you much good when you're trying to put a lot of work through your Curio. It's best to be careful with the mats and maybe consider investing in some alternatives.

My Vinyl Direct

Service and Community

Another significant factor in the Curio's favor is the quality of customer service. Both the representatives and website are helpful will all sorts of information to help you navigate the Curio. For things that the official Silhouette can't handle, the vast user community is bursting with extensive project tutorials that make it a little easier to manage some of the unruly aspects of the Curio's learning curve.

Pros and Cons at a Glance

Pros:

  • Great for diverse crafters
  • Dual carriage keeps it speedy
  • Cuts thicker materials
  • Works with a fantastic variety of materials
  • Silhouette has great customer service
  • Automatic

Cons:

  • High software learning curve
  • Small cutting capacity
  • Need extra accessories
  • More of a companion than a stand-alone embosser
  • The mat is easy to damage
  • Small tray size

Pricing

The Curio is a little pricey considering it's more of a supporting machine than a full-fledged project device. Yes, it has the features, but the limited cutting depth for thicker materials and the small tray size sort of make you wonder if that much is worth it.

Also, the Curio needs some extra accessories to get the most out of the machine. After hunkering down for the stippling and etching tool, the deep-cut blade and the larger base kit and mat, you can find yourself looking at a somewhat pricey investment.

Even so, other embossers can have way larger price tags (the Silver Bullet is over $800), so it's not to say you're getting a bad deal with the Curio. As long as you acknowledge what you're getting for the cost and you hunt around for discounts and deals, you're looking at purchase with a lot more value than paying full price.

Public Perception

The Silhouette Curio holds an unusual position of either great adoration or intense dislike by Silhouette fans. Some users find that the diversity of uses is all they could ever want out of it, while others see the embossing machine's flaws to make the purchase not worth it in the slightest. The mixed range of responses makes it a little difficult to determine just where the Curio falls.

One thing most crafters can agree on is the steepness of the Curio's learning curve, even for those who have used other Silhouette products before. It's not to say that navigating Silhouette Studio is impossible, just that getting the hang of it requires a lot of practice and some binge watching of tutorials. Once you figure it out, though, the Curio becomes much easier to use.

How it Compares

head to head

As a Silhouette product, the Curio's primary point of comparison is its predecessor, the Silhouette Cameo 3. Many people suspected that the Curio would replace the Cameo 3, but that didn't entirely end up being the case. The Cameo 3's larger mat size holds as one of the significant distinctions between the two, making it much more suited to projects of bigger sizes.

What the Cameo 3 has in size, the Curio has in its flexibility of options. A lot of the Curio's functions are things the Cameo 3 can't do. The Curio also has the edge in managing smaller projects with a lot of detail, which is incredibly advantageous for crafters who like working in small details on quirky materials.

For which one reigns supreme, it's a matter of what crafting projects you work on and the overall range of options you want. Those who work on larger projects will aim for the Cameo 3, while those who like smaller sizes with more excellent details will find themselves happy with the Curio's diversity.

In comparison to the Silver Bullet, KNK Zing Orbit, and Pazzles Inspiration embossers, the Curio easily has the smallest cutting force, cutting width, and the number of rollers to hold the mat in place. It's not to say that the Curio is awful at these things, but other embossers have more, which is advantageous. The Curio is also easily the lightest out of the four at 5.5 pounds, making it much easier to adjust and transport.

What We Think

Looking it over, the Silhouette Curio has some great features. At the same time, it also has some problems that almost counterbalance everything the machine has going for it. As such, we recommend this embosser, but not as a be-all-end-all machine. If this is your first venture into embossing machines, you're better off picking up a larger embosser with a more forgiving learning curve.

However, if you know your way around embossers and want more variety in your projects, by all means, purchase the Curio. The high level of detail and material compatibility mean you have a lot of excellent options to try out some fun projects other embossers can't quite handle. You'll have to work on smaller projects without purchasing the mat and tray expansion, but for some crafters, that's all you need.

In the end, the Curio doesn't quite stand on its own. However, it does make a great companion to a larger embosser, giving your crafting process a whole lot more options to use. When you're ready to expand your embossing adventures, the Curio is the product to make it happen.

Deals

While we think the Curio is an excellent pick for those trying to get something extra out of their embossing products, we do admit that the MSRP is a little high for what the Curio offers. The fantastic news is that you don't have to pay the full price. Amazon listings for the Curio provide regular deals that can make this embossing investment a little easier on the wallet.

Besides just great deals on the Curio itself, Amazon also has a fantastic variety of bundle deals for the Curio, which can make starting out on your Curio a much better deal. Great bundles to keep an eye out for include:

No matter what stage of crafting you're at, there's probably a bundle that fits your needs. We're a big fan of the Cameo 3 machine bundle since it gives you the best of both of Silhouette's embossing worlds. If this embosser happens to be the one for you, skip the official Silhouette site and start keeping an eye out for discounts and deals.

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