If you’re just getting started with die cutting for crafts, you may be overwhelmed with the options out there. Multiple companies make top-notch machines, and each provides three or four different lines of products.
You may wind up asking yourself which one you should choose. In this piece, we’ll take a closer look at the Silhouette Portrait. The Portrait is far smaller than most of the other machines on the market, and the price follows the trend.
You’ve likely stumbled across the Portrait when looking for a low-priced die cutting option. Here, we’ll tell you what we think about the machine, and give you our recommendation on whether or not it’s worth picking up.
What is the Silhouette America?
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The Silhouette Portrait is a discount die cutting machine for home crafters. It won’t wow you with its vinyl cutting ability, but it will fit almost any budget for someone who is looking for an affordable die cutting option.
The more popular Silhouette Cameo outshines the Portrait in almost every way, but it’s also more of an investment. Silhouette designed the Portrait to appeal to people who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a die cutting machine. They can pay just over $100 for a Portrait, and make most of what they want before becoming more advanced.
The Portrait is fantastic for cutting things like stickers and cards. It can even handle cutting some fabric, though this stretches its capabilities a bit. It’s not the best machine for quick precision cuts, but slowing the cutting speed will allow the Portrait to tackle more intricate designs without the result looking silly and unprofessional.
Who is it For?
The Portrait is best for beginners. This is the machine you want if you’re interested in die cutting but don’t want to commit to a larger machine. The price is small enough that you won’t feel guilty if you give up on the hobby in six months, and you’ll still find some use for it even if you don’t regularly cut your own decals.
You may also want to consider the Portrait if you only cut decals and nothing larger. The Portrait is best when it’s cutting small designs, and it’s portable enough that you can bring it anywhere and cut decals on the go.
The Portrait is one of the better options out there if you want a machine that you plan on exclusively using for cutting decals. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars buying a device that can cut through all kinds of fabric if you don’t need it to. Save some money and go with the Portrait instead.
What Makes the Portrait Unique
The most significant difference between the Portrait and other similar products is the size and the price. The Portrait is smaller and cheaper than most of the other die cutting machines you’ll find in the same category. It weighs only 3.5 pounds, which means bringing it with you isn’t a concern.
The size of the Portrait is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s fantastic for portability and small projects. On the other, you can only cut certain kinds of material and can just complete small designs.
Whether or not this product fits your needs is up to you. The aspect that makes the Portrait unique is also what limits its capabilities.
Other small die-cutting machines are a bit heavier and more expensive but offer a bit more versatility for the price.
Take a look at our comparison section below if you’re interested in learning how the Portrait matches-up against similar discount die cutting machines.
How Does it Compare?
The Silhouette Portrait isn’t near as powerful as many of the other die cutters on the market, but Silhouette didn’t design it to compete with the top options. Silhouette has several other products in their lineup that have more features and capabilities than the Portrait.
The Portrait isn’t what you want if you’re looking for a powerful cutting machine. Serious home crafters will be disappointed by the output, and should probably plan on spending $100 to $200 more on a machine that will meet their required specifications.
Portrait vs. Cameo
The Cameo line is the best-selling product out of the Silhouette die cutters. Deciding which is better will come down to what you’re looking for in a die cutting product. The Portrait is smaller, cheaper, and more portable than the Cameo 2 and 3.
On the other hand, the Cameo allows you to cut larger pieces with more precision. Neither will offer the most precise cutting you can find on the home market, but the Cameo is a better selection if you’re serious about die cutting.
The Portrait, on the other hand. Will serve most of your small cutting needs. If you’re interested in making cards or decals, the Portrait is functional and cheap enough for you to consider.
If we’re comparing the specifications of the two, the Cameo will come out ahead. You should consider, though, that Silhouette made these two products for different customers.
The Cameo line is an intermediate machine, while the Portrait is better for people who want to complete small jobs or are just getting started with die cutting.
Silhouette Portrait vs. Cricut Mini
It’s more of a fair comparison to look at the Portrait next to products like the Cricut mini. Both Cricut and Silhouette designed these products to appeal to the novice cutting crows or those who are looking for a portable die cutting machine.
The Cricut Mini and Silhouette Portrait are about the same size, price, and weight. Both are a bit dated at this point, and the value you get will vary depending on where you buy it and what discounts they might have.
Regarding performance, both cutters are a reliable option. The Cricut Mini cuts 8.5 inches wide while the Portrait only cuts 8 inches wide, but this slight difference won’t inspire most users to choose one over the other.
The big difference between the two is in the software they use. Most hobbyists who have experience in home die cutting machines prefer the Silhouette Studio Design software over the Craft Room Software from Cricut.
Cricut machines are great, but their biggest downside comes in the software they use. It’s manageable and won’t make a huge difference if you’re new to die cutting, but after a while, you’ll start to notice the limitations of the software.
Silhouette Studio Design is far superior to Craft Room regarding functionality and ease of use. The Silhouette Portrait also offers PixScan technology, which lets you upload photographs from your camera or smartphone directly to the cutting machine.
Because the technical differences are small between the Mini and the Portrait, we give the edge to the Portrait because of the design software. This verdict will vary depending on personal preference, though.
The Cricut design software is functional enough, and those who have had a lot of experience with Cricut may prefer this interface. If you’re buying your first die cutting machine to see if you like the hobby, though, we recommend the Portrait over the mini.
What We Think
There are some things we liked about the Portrait, but there were also a few places where we feel it falls short. In this section, we’ll take a deeper look at some of the things we liked and some of what we didn’t.
What We Liked
The first element we liked about the Portrait was its surprising versatility. It’s best for cutting decals, sure, but that doesn’t mean it only cuts small pieces of vinyl. You can cut a host of different materials with the Portrait, including some fabrics that other discount die cutters can’t even touch.
The Portrait is at its best when it’s cutting decals, though, and this is where home crafters will likely use it the most. It’s great for beginners, but even experienced vinyl cutters will enjoy working with the portrait if they’re making decals. The Portrait offers an affordable option to those who only want to cut decals at home on a small, portable machine.
The size and portability is another aspect of the Portrait we loved. It’s one of the smallest and lightest products on the market, so if you need to bring your cutter with you, the Portrait is one of the ones you’ll want to consider.
Accessibility is another positive for the Portrait. Silhouette designed this machine to appeal to beginners, which is obvious by its limited ability when you compare it to other Silhouette products.
The only part of the Portrait that’s difficult to learn is the software that comes with it, but even that won’t take too much time. After a bit of fiddling with the interface, you should be able to start making basic designs.
You should feel like you have complete control of the software in a week or two, but there’s always a few places where you can learn and improve.
What We Didn’t Like
The size is great for a lot of functions, but it’s also quite limiting. You can’t cut anything that needs large designs, meaning you’ll eventually hit a cap of how much you can use the Portrait. As we’ve said, it’s great for beginners, but every beginner ultimately graduates into a die cutting regular.
When this shift happens, you will likely outgrow the Portrait. The size limits what you can do with the machine, and the precision is far less optimized than it is with many of the other Silhouette products you’ll find for a few hundred dollars.
These machines aren’t too much more expensive, and they offer you far more options in what you can cut and design.
It also takes a bit of work to calibrate and align the Portrait’s cuts properly. You may find that, after a while, your cuts start to look uneven or off of the center. The Portrait begins to cut a bit inconsistently, which leads to problems if you’re making a large amount of one design.
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Overall, we like the portrait for beginning crafters and those who are looking for a portable machine with which they can cut decals.
Silhouette designed the machine to appeal to hobbyists and those who are new to die cutting, so if you’re more experienced, we suggest looking at another die-cutting product.
The price of the Portrait is hard to beat, which is what makes it so great for beginners. The product is a few years old now, and you can find it for an even better deal now than upon the initial release.
If you already have years of experience with cutting vinyl and other materials, though, we suggest looking at something else from Silhouette or Cricut. Both companies have made advancements in recent years, and their products are coming close to professional-grade.
Starting a die cutting business with the Portrait would be a mistake. The cuts aren’t going to be as precise as many of the other products you’ll find, and you’ll end up spending more money on upgrades in the long run.
Is the Portrait Worth it?
Deciding whether or not the Portrait is worth a buy is entirely up to you and your experience level. If you’re looking for your first die cutting machine and plan on making items like small cards and decals, then we suggest picking up the Portrait.
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You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better machine at a lower price if this is the function you’re looking for. If you’re interested in replacing an existing die cutting product, though, there are better options out there. Silhouette offers a host of other die cutting machines, and companies like Cricut are coming as close to commercial grade as they can for home use.
The Portrait is a decent product, but it’s not for everyone. If your expectations are correct, you might be pleasantly surprised with what the Portrait has to offer. If you want professional-grade cutting, though, try something else.