Silhouette Cameo vs Silhouette Portrait

Today instead of posting the next giveaway for the big Scrapbook Update anniversary, I am going to take an opportunity to answer a recent comment from a reader about the Silhouette Portrait machine that I use.

Scrapbook Update reader Michelle commented on my last Silhouette article that “I’m having a hard time figuring out the distinction between the two,” meaning the Portrait and the Cameo machines.

This seems a good time to discuss the differences between the two machines because a new Silhouette promotion is launching today that focuses on the Portrait machine. (Details on that awesome deal coming at the end!) Despite my personal love of the Portrait machine, it is most definitely the wallflower of the Silhouette line, with most Silhouette fans using (or coveting) the larger Cameo machine as their machine of choice.

portrait_with_cameoThe Silhouette Portrait machine was announced nearly two years ago in October 2012. I bought mine a few months later. For some of those locked out of the Cameo by the $299 MSRP, the $179 MSRP on the Portrait machine is much more reachable (and the frequent Silhouette promotions make it even more affordable). But what are you giving up for the discount in price on the Portrait?

The most obvious difference between the two machines is in size. The Portrait machine’s footprint of 16.25″ x 5.6″ is physically much smaller than the Cameo (20.9″ x 6.5″). This to me is one of the benefits of the Portrait machine, as it takes up much less space in my crowded work area, and is easier to move around if needed.

However, the reason for the Portrait’s smaller size is that it has a smaller cutting width than the Cameo machine. The Silhouette Portrait’s maximum cutting width is 8″, while the Cameo can cut a full 12″ width sheet. Whether this is an issue for you would depend on what you plan to use the machine for. If you plan to use your Silhouette for small decorative elements like titles and embellishments for layouts, cards, and Project Life, the Portrait is plenty large. It can cut journaling cards, A2 cards, and titles and elements. Some larger items can be cut on the Portrait with a little extra work, like large vinyl phrases and some 3D objects, to divide the cuts between several different sheets of cutting.

The true limitations of the Portrait’s size are its inability to cut full 12″ backgrounds, and its inability to cut large 3d items. If those two items are important to you, you’ll need the Cameo. Otherwise, the vast majority of the time you’ll have no issues with the size of the Portrait. (And at some point, you have to ask yourself how much extra you are paying for how often you cut items that can only be cut on the Cameo.)

The other major difference (really, the only other difference) between the two machines is that the Cameo has an SD card reader and LCD display. Theoretically, this gives users the option to save specially formatted files from the Silhouette desktop software to an SD card, and then have the ability to cut from the Cameo without a computer being present. However, I am so spoiled by the level of control offered by the Silhouette software on the computer that I can’t imagine wanting to cut without it. This is a Cameo feature that I have never once missed on my Portrait.

So having explored the differences between the machines, what is the same about them? To put it simply – everything else.

The Portrait machine can cut any material that the Cameo will accept, including all of the specialty materials from Silhouette. Regular readers of Scrapbook Update have seen many projects that I’ve completed with a variety of them on the Portrait. The Cameo and Portrait interact in the same way with the Silhouette design software, and can use all of the same features in it. All of the same accessories available for the Cameo – like the light hold mats, pen holders, and the exciting new PixScan feature – are available for and work on the Portrait.

In other words, the Portrait is nothing but a little baby Cameo machine with the SD card slot and LCD screen stripped off. And, like many babies, it’s cuter than its older sibling! (For a way to make it even cuter, check out my project where I embellished my machine cover.)

Use promo code “UPDATE

Use promo code “UPDATE


25 Responses to Silhouette Cameo vs Silhouette Portrait

  1. Michelle t September 15, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    Oh, wow, thanks so much! (That was me.) I appreciate the time you’ve taken to go into detail the differences between the two machines. Very helpful. Happy anniversary! Thanks again. Michelle t

  2. Nicole September 15, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    Great comparison. I have the Cameo and had wondered if I chose wrong, but it sounds like the reason I chose the Cameo (the 12″ wide cutting space) mean I wouldn’t want the Portrait. I use mine mostly for scrapbooking. And I had no idea it has an SD slot. Not sure why I’d ever need that but it’s always good to learn things. 🙂

  3. Holly Denghel September 15, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    I’m with you on the SD slot. It seemed like a good idea, but that requires way too much planning ahead.

  4. Pamela McGillin September 15, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    I agree completely Nancy. I have a Cameo (and I love it), but sometimes I think a Portrait would have been fine 99.9% of the time. Rarely do I cut anything that requires 12×12. If you’re on a budget, the Portrait will do you just fine.

    • Becky January 7, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

      That is good to know because I want to use the Portrait for making stickers, small planner stickers. Will that work.

  5. Dana September 16, 2014 at 4:32 am #

    I love my Cameo and the SD slot comes in handy. There are times, because of health issues I can’t carry my laptop to the Cameo. It’s very easy to load my designs on an SD card and then plug it in the machine. Once it’s in the machine it’s easy to find and load the design. I usually have several designs on the card. However, if I’m doing something that I want to change from the blade to a pen I use my laptop. Whether attached to my laptop or using the SD card I love my Cameo and wouldn’t want to go without it!

  6. Marilyln September 16, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    I have to say I love my Cameo. I have not been the least bit disappointed with this machine. I’ve had several Cricut products and will continue to use my Cricut, but the Cameo goes to an entirely new level. I waited several years before purchasing this machine, wanted to make certain all the bugs were worked out, really wanted to see what the feedback was from the consumer. I bought it on Black Friday, got a heck of a deal and just love the machine! Thank you Nancy for posting this information, for anyone considering the purchase, Nancy was spot on with her comments!

  7. Gab September 16, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Thanks for this Nancy … I too have often wondered about the difference. Probably really dumb question, but these machines need to be hooked up to your computer? And do they work with Macs?

    • Nancy Nally September 16, 2014 at 9:11 am #

      Yes, the Silhouette machines need to be hooked up to your computer to cut (other than using the feature on the Cameo to cut from an SD card, with files that were prepared ahead of time on your computer). It’s where the machine gets its power from, because the computer software has so many features built in since it can rely on the processing power of your whole computer not just what can go in the machine.

      Silhouette is Mac compatible. I use mine running Silhouette’s Designer Edition software with a Macbook Pro that is several years old with absolutely no problem.

      • Gab September 16, 2014 at 9:28 am #

        Thanks for that Nancy. I have a desktop computer which is in my bedroom and my scrap space is in my dining room … maybe I need to get a laptop too!

        • Nancy Nally September 16, 2014 at 11:35 am #

          Sounds like a great excuse to me. 😉

  8. Diane September 16, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    Thank you for this comparison! I’ve wanted a Cameo for a LONG time, but money issues as well as just not being sure have kept me from taking the final step of actually purchasing one. And now, since the new Cricut Explore as well as other new machines have come out, I’ve been very confused. I’d love to see someone (hint, hint) do a good comparison of the Silhouette Cameo and the Cricut Explore… not to mention the Brother ScanNCut! I bought a Pazzles machine several years ago and was just never happy with it and I can’t afford to get a machine that is difficult to use and is just a big pain to deal with again. Money doesn’t grow on trees.

  9. Darlene J September 16, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    Thanks for the great comparison review! It helped a lot. I was thinking of asking for a Silhouette for Christmas and now I know the Portrait will be just fine.

  10. Carly Blaiss September 16, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    I have a Portrait (got it right when they came out in 2012). The pain of not being able to cut 12×12 backgrounds was worse then than it is now because many more backgrounds are scaled for 8 1/2 x 11 (the max cutting size for Portrait). Even though I am a 12×12 scrapper I find 85-90% of my needs are met by the smaller format. However, if I’d known how much I was going to love the machine I wouldve splurged on the Cameo. I know that’s not much help. Bottom line I guess would be if you have the money go for the Cameo. But if you’re on a budget and really want this awesome machine go with the Portrait – you will not be disappointed:)

  11. Amanda September 18, 2014 at 12:13 am #

    I went from an expression to the portrait. I was nervous about going to the 8″ width, however because the silhouette software is so fantastic, there has not been one time I’ve wished I had spent the higher amount for the cameo. I’ve had it well over a year, and I still think it’s a great tool. (The new pixscan mat is awesome too…). I’ve cut large vinyl for sandwich signs and because you can cut vinyl of a longer length (to 15′ if I remember correctly) the 8″ width has never been much of a hindrance.
    The other perk I didn’t see mentioned is that the portrait takes up much less space which is very pertinent to me.

  12. Tammy September 19, 2014 at 2:12 am #

    Well, I finally broke & bought a Cameo! FYI, anyone who is looking, it is on sale this week at Michael’s AND for $229! Now, anyone have suggestions on tutorials, tips, sites to help make crafts with it? I ordered my vinyl & it is supposed to arrive tomorrow and I have projects I want to do, but need lessons! Lol

    • Pamela McGillin September 30, 2014 at 6:18 am #

      Google “Tracing without Tears”. Kerri Bradford learning series. Wait for specials, she has them often. Silhouette has -40% special now, good time to upgrade to Designer Edition. Silhouette Online Store subscriptions start as little as ~$5/month x 3 months + if you pay upfront, you get another -5% rebate & don’t forget to start collecting your free shape of the week every Tuesday. Enjoy!

  13. Rh Ra November 23, 2014 at 7:31 am #

    Thank you for this comparison. I have been wondering for over a year if I bought a portrait due to my budget would I regret it later on and so reading your review I have finally decided, next month I am buying the Silhouette Portrait and then I only have to decide what machine I want for embossing. Whew…one decision made, one more to go!! I am machine free at the moment. I have no die cutting or embossing machines and never have owned one. I do ever thing old school, but due to health issues I have been unable to do things old school and have to break down and finally buy these machines or change my hobby and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Thanks again for helping me get of the fence and make a decision on the Silhouette Portrait.

  14. Theresa December 4, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

    Silhouette is having a great deal on the cameo and portrait. I’ve spent the last few weeks going back and forth on if I really should spend $300 since I’ve just become interested in scrap booking. Then I came across your blog and so happy I did. After reading your blog I realized that the portrait would be perfect for my needs and price was within my budget. So I purchased the portrait. Thanks again!

  15. Courtney December 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Thank you so much for your thorough but concise explanation. This was exactly the info I need — no more, no less — and you turned what I thought was going to be an hour of comparing product reviews into a 5 minute decision.

    • Hope Marsh December 27, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

      I agree with you 100%! I really thought I was going to have to search and search but I found this review and boom decision made.

  16. Arlisa February 21, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    Thank you for the info; very helpful.

  17. tammy malone March 25, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    Very helpful!!!!l hope to get one soon!!

  18. Emma October 28, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    I just bought my silhouette portrait and was thinking if I should have bought the cameo. Now I know I made the right choice! Thanks for this review.

  19. Patti Correa March 17, 2017 at 9:41 am #

    Hi Nancy, I realize this post is way old, but have a quick question. I just started decorating my planner and was looking into the Portrait for cutting stickers. Do you think it would be able to cut a full sheet of printed stickers? or would I have to trim an edge off to fit in? I’m still not sure if the 8.5×11 would actually fit into this machine. I did not want to spend the $300 for just cutting stickers.

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