People often ask how I could carve a niche in the t-shirt business. My answer usually revolves around three core items: a passion for digital art, excellent customer relations, and expert equipment acquisitions. But, I mostly encourage these people to get only the best machines on the market.
So, why am I talking about getting a cheap vinyl cutter today? For one, vinyl cutter machines differ in price but perform the same essential functions. I’ve also noticed that an affordable vinyl cutter machine produces excellent results on cardstock and regular vinyl.
Cheap vinyl cutters are often more portable and easy to store. I could go on about the advantages if I had more time. Sure, premium-priced models allow you to work with a broader selection of materials and on larger projects. But, in life, you often have to start small. That’s why I encourage you to start with a cheaper model.
You’ll still need to buy a printer, heat press, a computer, and keep up with software updates. The t-shirt business also has loads of consumables such as inks, heat transfer papers, t-shirts, and other substrate materials. By opting for a cheaper vinyl cutter, you can pass on the savings to such materials.
What is a Vinyl Cutter Machine?
A vinyl cutter is a computer-controlled device that cuts designs on a piece of vinyl or cardstock. You can also use them to cut heat transfer vinyl, reflective materials, and even delicate materials such as tissue paper. Some of the more pricey models are capable of etching designs on wood, glass, and even metals like aluminum.
Like printers, vinyl cutters range in size. So you can get a desktop machine or something larger. But, unlike printers, they have blades instead of pens (styluses).
Vinyl cutters use these blades to carve intricate designs into paper or vinyl. Most of these machines feature companion software that controls exporting graphics and the movement of the blade. But, you can also use third-party design and vinyl cutter solutions to add more flexibility to your workflow.
Later you can weed out the undesired parts to create a stencil for screen printing or whatever you desire. So, getting a suitable model can offer simple around involving or repetitive tasks in a print shop.
The terms vinyl, plotter, and craft cutter are often used interchangeably. But, that shouldn’t bother you as they describe the same machine.
Is a manual die cutter the same as a vinyl cutter? Yes, it’s the same thing, but you operate it with a manual hand crank instead of electric power. Manual die cutters remain popular as they don’t need electricity or to interface with a computer.
However, I’ll maintain a deliberate focus on electric options because it takes less time to get used to operating them.
How Much Does a Vinyl Cutter Machine Cost on Average?
Once upon a time, only large enterprises could afford commercial grade vinyl cutters. So you had to either part with thousands of dollars to get the machine. Or outsource any vinyl cutting projects to someone who had access to these large machines.
Indeed this was a hustle because few people had a vinyl plotter. Therefore, I imagine having to commute to such a firm and getting in line to wait your turn. This situation sounds untenable, especially when you factor in deadlines, personal targets, or any alterations a client may request.
Thanks to the rapid match or advancements in technology, I don’t have to contend with such a situation. Now it’s possible to get a cheap vinyl cutter that can save you loads of time, money, and effort.
The explosion of the gig economy and personal online craft services such as Etsy has led to a higher demand for these desktop machines – a vinyl cutter is a must-have item for seasoned pros and hobbyists alike!
Manufacturers have slashed the prices in response to such pressure and a broader readily-available market. You can even get a cheap household vinyl cutter for under $199. At the same time, small business owners can get a commercial-grade vinyl cutter for $500 or less and an industrial-level machine for less than $999.
You can expect these prices to fall as more people learn about the technological marvels of having one of these machines.
7 Best Budget Vinyl Cutters Reviewed
The Cricut Maker 3 is proof that some big things come in small packages. The powerful rotary blade on this vinyl cutter machine can cut through 300 different materials besides vinyl. This is all thanks to an impressive cutting edge of 2.4 mm. But what makes it an excellent desktop solution is that you can slot in 30 cm wide material.
The first time I took it out of the box, I could already see over 50 projects rearing on the Cricut design space: On the companion vinyl-cutting software dashboard. However, you can expand your design template and font choices by subscribing to the optional package.
It’s worth noting that the Cricut Maker 3 comes at a premium price point. But, it’s worth every buck because of its portability and versatility. Indeed, you’ll find few desktop options that can cut through more than mere vinyl. So, it makes the best choice for talented small business owners that need something to get them to the next step.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 is probably one of the best vinyl cutting machines for t-shirt production. The machine displaces a desktop space of 7.9” x 22.4” x 6.7” and has a cutting width of 11.8” – Making it an ideal fit even for print shops with minimal space.
Why do I think it’s ideal for the t-shirt printing business? For one, the Cameo 4 offers a generous cutting clearance of 3 mm. It can also cut through any material between leather and vinyl. It would be best to have such versatility, especially when faced with mixed-media textile design projects.
A backlit control panel adds ease to making custom settings and other adjustments as you work. I also like the flexibility in connectivity options: you could connect to the Cameo 4 via USB cable or Bluetooth. But, there are also onboard controls that allow you to accomplish a lot even without pairing your smartphone or computer.
I also like that the built-in cross cutter keeps everything primed for the next assignment. The Silhouette Cameo 4 is always ready to go!
Let’s cap the list on a high note with the Brother ScanNCut SDX85S. This beast is the only vinyl cutter on my list with a built-in 300 DPI (depth per inch) scanner. This Makes it ideal for print shops that need to make quick sketches as part of their t-shirt design print-proofing.
The default software gives you 100 unique design templates and 7 pre-programmed fronts. But, you can also download more fonts or add custom applique designs as part of your project. A high-caliber blade lets you cut through virtually any material.
And you also get more value out of the bundled accessories. As for connectivity? Well, that’s a no-brainer as you can choose to pair the device via Bluetooth or USB cable. The only limiting factor to making custom t-shirts is creativity when you have such a robust vinyl cutter machine.
The Sizzix 660200 Big Shot enjoys such a mass appeal that it even borders on a cult following, and for a good reason too. Well, a couple of reasons.
For one, it’s so safe and straightforward to use that you can even allow your kids to make cards and stickers in it. Sure, the cutting width is only 6 inches, but the machine is perfect for cutting materials and for expert embossing.
Sizzix has also done away with electricity gazing features as its manual. This non-electric system uses a crank to die-cut all kinds of materials. However, you don’t need a lot of elbow grease to operate it as the motion is smooth and consistent.
To top it off, the Sizzix 660200 Big Shot comes with a 3-year warranty on parts and services!
I’ve worked with various manufacturers’ machines, but none of them left a stronger impression than VEVOR. Their products show a flare for material sourcing and built quality unsurpassed by a few. The VEVOR 28” PLOTTER VINYL CUTTER MACHINE captures this in a sturdy, convenient, and surprisingly affordable package.
This machine cuts vinyl up to 43 inch-wide material for large-scale billboards and signage. So, think of what you can if you pair it with yards of heat transfer vinyl and a dependable heat press? Pure magic and insane profit margins are all that come to mind!
The speed is 10 -800 mm/s, and it has an impressive max pressure of 500g. You can adjust speed, pressure, and other settings on the fly through the simple side control panel. Alternatively, you can do so through the companion desktop software.
The Cricut Joy is a vinyl cutting machine that brings sheer delight to every crafter. It may be designed for vinyl cutting, but it helps to consider it as the ultimate desktop die cutter. The only drawback is that it comes with a narrower cutting compared to other machines on the list.
But, the Cricut Joy is still a beast that can cut through a 20-foot long roll of vinyl and other smart materials. Despite its small size and cute exterior, you can even use it on long and repetitive tasks. The good news is that you won’t even need a cutting mat if you are a fan of Cricut’s branded vinyl and other materials.
The Joy machine offers no onboard controls or backlit panels. But that’s fine since you can control all the functions using a smartphone or laptop. I recommend it if you’re the techy type that adopts vinyl cutting software with ease.
Next, we have a company that produces vinyl cutters that make up for most of Cricut’s shortcomings. Case in point the Gemini Companion Crafter’s vinyl cutter machine! When it comes to embossing, it is a boss, and nothing on this list comes close. This provision is because you get to use a manual die system that allows you to be more deliberate and hands-0on with the materials.
The only drawback is that you won’t get to work your custom design on software. So, I highly recommend it for those who aren’t too comfortable with the digital parts of graphic design.
The endless dies give you satisfying results, and you can also pair them in different configurations for endless customization options.
The best thing about this machine is that you can control it electrically. This means you get constant blade contact and pressure whenever you cut cardstock, vinyl, or other materials. The Gemini also comes at a fraction of most fully digital vinyl cutter prices, making it the best choice for designers who prefer to kick it old school!
What to Consider When Buying Vinyl Cutter Machines
My first vinyl cutter needed to fulfill 3 things: Be portable, ideal for both home and commercial use while cutting through virtually any material. That sounds like a tall order, but it’s not that hard to get a lot out of a cheap vinyl cutting machine, as you can see from my list.
It’s merely a matter of knowing what you want and then finding something that matches your needs. Here are a few things worth considering when looking for the ideal fit for your t-shirt business:
Vinyl cutting tools and materials come in all shapes and sizes. But the main distinction is that most are suitable for commercial use, hobbies, or other personal tasks. So, assessing the commercial viability of a vinyl cutter machine may be prudent before even considering a purchase.
For this reason, you may be tempted to spend more on a premium machine. However, that’s not always the case, as some cheap options can also produce excellent results. Take your time and do your homework to avoid disappointment down the road.
Versatile Material Cutting Functionality
An ideal machine ought to be capable of cutting more materials than merely vinyl. These can range from cardboard, plastic, and light metal foils to denim and leather. Throw in a spot of embossing, and you’re on to a winner!
The cost is rarely a deal-breaker for me when it concerns a business-essential machine. I always reason that I’ll put the device to work to recoup the investment. However, at the time, you may feel the urge to acquire a vinyl cutter despite having other business needs like rent, blank T-shirt stocks, or inks.
In that case, you can opt for something versatile but affordable like the Gemini Companion Crafter’s vinyl cutter machine. It comes with some quirks that’ll strengthen your design process. That way, you’ll have a more diverse skillset when upgrading to a premium vinyl cutter machine.
Vinyl cutters are versatile machines that can pack many features that you can use simultaneously in various tasks. This adds loads of ease to your design process and encourages innovation as the implementation will be less of a burden for you.
Result? You get to go crazy with your design because your vinyl cutter will implement it minus the added steps.
It is worth noting that each machine offers a different set of features. So here’s a list that cuts across all brands to make your choice easier:
- Operating system compatibility (windows, iOS, Mac, Linux, or Android)
- Automatic settings
- Replaceable blades, dies, folders, and other components
- Wireless functionality
The list goes on, so feel free to add your preferences until you settle on the best yet cheap vinyl cutting machine.
In the past, a vinyl cutter was only as good as the blades or dies fitted on it. And these so-called manual die cutters were only helpful at cutting materials. However, these days a vinyl cutter is ideal for more functions.
For instance, the Cricut and Silhouette Cameo models on this list can make banners, stickers, gift cards, and countless projects. While the Brother ScanNCut can even scan documents!
Today it’s tough for me to pick a clear favorite. That’s why I made this list in no particular order of preference- these machines are that good! I also understand that I may have left some prime examples out of the list.
I hope you find this article helpful as I encourage you to do more research. Feel free to leave any questions, thoughts, or observations in the comment section – I always make time to respond to them. But, most importantly, go out there and make something beautiful today!
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Last update on 2022-03-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Disclaimer