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on January 10, 2012
I am writing this review from the perspective of a comparison between the Cricut Expression 2 and the Silhouette Cameo. My review is also approaching the application of these machines from a more industrial perspective, NOT from and arts & crafts perspective. In other words, what applications can inexpensive computer-controlled cutting machines be put to outside of the usual arts & crafts world, and how do the two most popular machines of that type compare in those divergent applications?

By Arts & Crafts, I am referring to applications that involve the usual 'hearts, flowers, puppy dogs, cupcakes' shape cutting. By Industrial, I am referring to other tasks such as cutting stencils for spray painting numbers on shipping crates, cutting gaskets, cutting of labels and industrial markers, cutting picture frame masks, and so on.

I have obtained and used both machines during the same time period. I have had extensive communications with both manufacturers, both in pre-sales discussions and in post-sales customer/technical support. If I mention a feature of a product, it is one that I have used and verified personally. If I mention a limitation of a product, it is one that I have experienced personally AND also discussed with the manufacturer to see if I was missing something and/or if there was a work-arounf or alternative way of achieving the goal.

Both machines will cut out shapes from sheets of flat materials under computerized control. Both machines are very similar in design and layout, and both work in the same mechanical fashion. Both machines are about the same size and can cut shapes from similar sized pieces of raw material. Both machines use a tiny metal knife that us moved up and down under computer control, while the knife holder moves sideways and the material moved front and back. Both machines use a knife blade that swivels so that it always cuts regardless of the direction the materials is moving in relative to the knife itself.

Other than these similarities, there are significant differences in the philosophy between the two products. Henceforth in this review I will refer to the Cricut Expression 2 as the "Cricut" and the Silhouette Cameo as the "Cameo".

The Cricut is fundamentally designed to provide a wide range of predefined symbols and symbol sets from which the user can select adn assemble the desired craft projects. It does this without the need for any additional equipment, and specifically the user does not need to have a personal computer or have any knowledge of software or computers. It is the more portable of the two products because you can pick it up and take it to another location easily without the need to lug along a personal computer (or have a personal computer in the new location). The Cricut is self-sufficient.

The Cameo is fundamentally designed to act exactly as an inkjet or laser printer does when connected to a personal computer; it is in effect a computer printer that produces patterns by cutting them from material as opposed to producing them by putting ink or toner on material. It cannot be used without a personal computer. Its user mist be able to learn and use computer software, the same as learning other software such as word processors, photo editing, web browser, page layout, and other popular applications. The Cameo is not self sufficient.

The Cricut does not allow the user to create shapes from scratch. You must find a suitable shape, or group of shapes, from within the huge library of predefined symbols that is spread across a large number of Cricut cartridges. It is possible to 'weld' different shapes together and this offers some flexibility, but ultimately the shapes must originate in the cartridges. When the user has a specific shape in mind and cannot alter it to suit what can be found in the cartridges, it can become quite frustrating. In the task of trying to assemble the designed custom shape, the user might have to purchase several cartidges, and they are not cheap. It is also quite possible that the desired shape cannot be cut at all.

The Cameo allows the user to create shapes from scratch. There are no cartridges at all. If the user does not wish to design their own shapes, there is also an extensive library of online shapes designed by other users. Cameo does not limit where the shapes come from, but does offer a great many from their own online library at 99 cents per shape. The user can buy only the shape, or shapes, desired and does not need to buy an expensive cartridge only to get a single shape from it. Instead of purchasing shapes designed by others, the user can draw any desired shape using the compter software, and can offer it to others for use.

The Cricut has a nice display, consisting of a color LCD screen with touch sensitive surface. All the operations can be performed by touching the screen, or for more precise selections a plastic stylus is included. Once a given cartridge is plugged into the Cricut, all of its shapes can be viewed on the screen as tiny thumbnail images, and the desired shapes can be selected to a queue, from which they can be dragged to a virtual cutting mat, showing where they will appear on the material to be cut. Any shape can be selected, enlarged, and resized.

The Cameo has a small simple display like a calculator's or an older cell phones. It diplays only one color and shows only text. It is used for diagnostics and for messages like "Load the material" and "Unload the material". All other operations are done using the included computer software, using the computer's keyboard, mouse and screen.

The Cricut can be used, optionally, with the free Craft Room software on a personal computer. This software must be downloaded from the Cricut website; it is not included with the machine. The software includes a library of all currently known cartridges, and allows the user to assemble a complete cutting session before the actual cartridges needed have been purchased. The Craft Room software will not function unless the computer is currently online with Cricut; this is important, since it means that you must have an internet connection anywhwere that you want to use the Cricut in conjuction with the Craft Room software. The Craft Room does not allow the user to design their shapes, but it does provide a more user-friendly interface for the Cricut, since more tools and objects can be viewed on the larger computer screen.

The Cameo must be used with the included Studio software; this comes on a CD-ROM in the box with the machine. For a fee of about $50, it will upgrade itself to the more advanced Designer Edition. The main advantages of the Designer Edition are the ability to import a wider range of graphics from other programs. Both the regular version and the Designer Edition allow the same design and cutting functionality, so for most people there is no need to buy the Designer Edition. The Cameo's software only needs to be online with the Silhouette website when you wish to purchase shapes from their library, or when you wish to do an upgrade to a newer version. Otherwise, the software works without the need for an internet connection.

The Cricut includes a white LED headlight next to the blade, so you can see what it is cutting as it does so. The Cameo does not have such a light.

Both machines use cutting mats, which are clear plastic sheets with a special adhesive on the top surface to make it a bit tacky. This holds the material to be cut so that it does not slide around during cuttings. The mats wear out due to wear from the blades cutting through into them, and from the adhesive wearing out.

Both machines use blades that attach to a tool holder on the machines. The Cricut uses tiny blades that fit into a blade holder, while the Cameo requires the user to replace the blade holder when the blade wears out; this makes the Cameo blades a bit more expensive, but on the other hand it is much easier to handle the larger blade holder then it is handling the tiny (and sharp!) Cricut blades. The Cricut blade depth can be adjusted while the blade holder is attached to the machine, whereas the Cameo blade holder muct be removed from the machine in order to change blade depth. Both machines seem to cut equally well.

The Cricut is not intended to make its cuts on specific areas of the mat (you can get close, though, using the Craft Room software). The Cameo allows very precise cuts relative to the material, so you can specify that a shape be cut starting 1/2", for example, from the edge of the material.

The Cricut is not intended for cutting out pre-printed materials; it is intended to cut out shapes in different materials (of materials of different colors) that can be later assembled to form a multi-colored overall shape.

The Cameo is not a printer, but it does allow importing and designing shapes in any desired color or combination of colors. Then it will send the image to the printer of your choice, printing on the material to be cut; this is limited only by the ability of your printer. The Cameo software will print registration marks on the printed sheet, and when the printed sheet is then loaded into the Cameo machine, it used an electric eye to scan for the registration marks, and will syncronize and align the cutting with the pre-printed images. This allows an infinite number of printed images and cut shapes to be made. The syncronized cuts are very accurate, matching the desired printed images. The user can specify where the cuts are to be made relative to the printed shapes, or the software can automatically figure it out. This even applies to graphical objects imported into the Cameo software, as opposed to being designed in that software.

The Cricut requires that all text come from the cartridges, so the user is very limited in regards to available fonts. The Cameo software can use any True Type font that is installed on the computer, which means pretty much all fonts available to other Windows applications, and of course you can download any font you want from the internet.Since none of the Cricut cartridges include a 'stencil' style font, you cannot easily use it to cut stencils for painting signs and such.

I find that overall, the Cricut is probably a better choice for people interested in arts & crafts projects, or for people who don't have or don't care to use a personal computer. I find that the Cameo is better for people who are prepared to use a personal computer and who desire complete freedom in what shapes they cut.

Finally, I have found that emails to Cricut take four to fives days before a reply arrives, whereas emails to teh Cameo folks are answered almost immediately, and with real and useful responses. I have found that phone calls to Cricut require long waits on hold (typically 20 to 30 minutes) and then often the person answering the phone does not know the answer and transfers me to another group of tech support people, with another long wait. Evbery time I have called the Cameo folks, I have gotten through very quickly. Most importantly, it seems that Cricut support people either know the software or the machine, but nor both. The Cameo folks know both the software and the machine, since they must be used together. My experiences with the Cricut software included issues with getting the software to recognize the machine, whereas in my experience, the Cameo software was more bullet proof and installed easily and recognized the machine every time without trouble.
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on November 25, 2011
This is another great Cricut machine. It cuts great. No need for an overlay, you can see it on your LCD. You can also zoom on the images so you can see them even larger. It cuts with all Cricut cartridges.
As far as the other reveiewer, this is not a machine that lets you cut out images that you design on your own. If that is something you wish to do, you need to explore other types of cutting machine. With Cricut, they have cartridges that you insert into your cutting machine. They have over 300 cartridges that you can buy with many different types of images available. There are so many to choose from.
Cricut has great quality products. They even have a Cricut Craft Room where you can purchase and design online and then you can cut it with your Cricut machine.
This is another awesome Cricut machine. You will love it!
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on November 26, 2011
I was sooo excited when I bought my new Cricut Expressions 2. Couldn't wait to use it! I've got the original Cricut (small) and have used my Mother and my neighbors Cricut Expressions. But now I was the one with the Cricut Expression 2...the newest one! Just bought it today..played around with it...I'm returning it tomorrow and buying the Sillouette Cameo.
The first Expressions was easier to use. A few things.
1} The touch screen (stylist included) made it difficult for me to simply load and unload my paper. You have to exit a screen to get to the next screen just to click on the Load and Unload button.
2} Same issue with resizing and adjusting position. You need to exit a screen, click a couple arrows to get to the icons to do the task.
This made me miss the instant buttons that are on the previous version. Simply press a button for pressure, quantity etc. Now you must scroll through menus to do these things. Just not as simple.
4} There is no upper flap to open when starting. Only a bottom flap. This bottom flap is short and thick, causing the mat and paper to dangle a bit too much over. This dangling that the mat does causes the paper on it to lift due to the bend, and in turn begins to shift while cutting.
5} The solution to this would be to download the Cricut Software which will allow me to do all this on the computer. However, there are many issues with the software, and is not allowing me to download due to a driver issue( not on my end)My husband is an I.T engineer, so not even he could troubleshoot this. And as he looked more online, he discovered this is a problem right now for many.
6} I was a huge Cricut fan! But Cricut is the only die cutter that makes you buy there software (over $50.00) and you can only use their cartridges and templates. Unlike other die cutters who include software with your purchase. (I discovered this after being very disappointed with my new purchase and began researching online of other die cutters.)
I am going to be purchasing the Sillouette Cameo...it just came out last month...I will post my review then! :)
PS.
I gave two stars cuz once you get it to cut..it cuts great! and is super quiet! But you still can only really cut cardstock or thicker. Anything thinner will snag in the Cricut.
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on February 28, 2013
I am a Cricut fan and LOVE my Cricut Mini and Cuttlebug. I have made numerous items for friends, family and even accessories for set design for a local dance studio on my Mini without any issues. I bought an Expression2 (E2) because I wanted to be able to make larger boxes, bags and vinyl projects but it has been nothing but a headache.
The first E2 machine I received never even responded to touch screen commands. This model does not have the buttons that other Cricut machines have so you are not able to even load paper if the touch screen is not working. I boxed the machine back and attempted to exchange it only to be told that ProvoCraft does not allow retailers to exchange products or accept returns, everything must be done through ProvoCraft. I could understand if I had used the machine for a while, but this was literally the next day after I purchased the machine. So I spent the better half the day on the phone with Cricut support each time being told one or two things to try and then to call back to wait another 30+ minutes on hold if that didn't work.
After several days of these shenanigans I called the Better Business Bureau to see if I could log a complaint and they asked me to call ProvoCraft one more time to obtain the information the BBB suggests a complaint include and let a support manager know my intentions. Suddenly they could let me mail my machine back in and said I would receive a shipping label via email. Four days later I had to call back in and get pretty firm to get the FedEx shipping label finally sent to me. When I took the box to FedEx they said it would be $40 for them to make me a box because the E2 does not fit in any standard box. Luckily a guy standing behind me in line said he often ships with FedEx and would put two of the boxes together for me. Even with this gentlemen's kindness, it cost me $19 to buy two boxes to ship the box.
I watched the tracking number from FedEx and called ProvoCraft almost a week after they received the machine and was told that their warehouse had not inprocessed the box yet. More frustration and time to get PC to finally ship me a new machine which arrived in the mail yesterday, a full month after I bought the first lemon.
The new machine works wonderfully when using a cartridge directly in the machine but when using Cricut Craft Room takes 30 minutes to an hour to cut one page of images due to frequent long pauses and sometimes freezes up and quits cutting all together. This means I cannot use all the digital cartridges and images I bought from Cricut.com with the E2. Plus I don't want to design large projects on the tiny touch screen. Support states that the machine they sent was several firmware versions behind- why would you mail someone a replacement machine that is several versions behind? I have made 5+ calls between today and yesterday because the new machine will not update- Support has had me try to update the firmware, update the cartridge files, attempt a format and restore and more hard resets then I think would be good for the machine. After all this, Support tells me that they really think they need one of their technical people to dial in and troubleshoot the machine. They then say that someone will be available towards the end of next week and ask if mornings, afternoon, or evenings are better. When I asked for which day, the support rep said, they can't say which day it will be but most likely next Wed-Fri. Even if I didn't have a job and outside life, who has the time to just sit in front of your machine for even a portion of 3 days waiting for a call?
I have received better customer service when I have purchased a $10 item and had an issue. In this case I have spent hundreds of dollars on the new E2, larger mats, etc. and I ready to return it and take the hit on the $20% restocking fee.
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on November 10, 2013
I really like this machine. We have cut several shapes in varying stocks of paper with it. They claim that it can also cut vinyl, fabric and other materials but I haven't tried them yet. The cutting mat that came with my machine had been curled up into a tube for packaging in the box. Unfortunately it took a lot of effort to uncurl the mat which needs to be flat to proper feed into the machine. I would plan on just buying a new cutting mat and tossing the included one.

If you're into scrapbooking or making other paper crafts and will be making several different projects this tool gives you much more versatility than using traditional die cutters, etc. You can resize, scale and stretch shapes as well cut out fonts to make unique lettering.

It has a USB plug that allows you to connect the cutter to a computer and use their software to layout your shapes before cutting them. You can even use layering within the software to preview your layered cuts before ever putting knife to paper. Unfortunately the software makes it difficult to access just your available shapes. It seems more like a sales tool that tries to steer you into buying more shape packs which I found very annoying.

Unfortunately, there is one more very serious (in my opinion) drawback to their soft are. It only allows you to cut shapes purchased from Cricut. You can not create or cut your own custom shapes. I don't want to believe that it was probably designed that way just so they could sell more shapes, but it probably was. Especially considering that you can control it via a computer, there is no reason that you have to use their shapes exclusively other than the fact that they want you to buy their shapes. Nevermind that you may want to something unique not part of their shape packs (such as cutting a custom backdrop for a cut photo).

In summary, it seems like a well built quality machine with a lot of potential, but is crippled by crummy software.
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on January 4, 2012
I've been using the Silhouette craft cutter for the past 2 years and found it terribly difficult. I just received my Cricut Expression 2 and am totally in love! SIMPLE to operate, intuitive and thoughtfully engineered. Yes you have to use their cartridges, yes you cannot create your own stuff (images) but since I am not a graphic designer I find this machine completely refreshing. The only drawback I would comment on is it's size. It is simply huge. I'm not familiar with the previous models but it is much bigger than the silhouette.
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on October 28, 2013
E1 v E2 v Silhouette Cameo (CCR vs Silhouette Design Studio)

I've had my E1 for almost 5 years. I wanted a new machine, my E1 is still functioning well but I wanted a new gadget. The E2 had mixed reviews, smooth cuts, glitchy, problematic and the best machine ever. I'll take my chances.

DISCLAIMER: I haven't used my E1 with cartridges in quite some time. I used to load from my gypsy and then when CCR came out, this is all I've done - connected it to my computer and cut away.

DISCLAIMER #2: I apologize in advance if this review is too long (skim to the bottom for summary)

Initial findings: E2 feels a little heavier/sturdier. I like the little plastic casings that cover the cartridge sockets and the screen. The light is kinda snazzy on the cutter but I don't see that being important for me. The touchscreen is really nice (comes with a stylus that's housed in the door of the machine). I love love love the colored screen.

The mat guiding brackets are genius. I'm digging the perfect alignment of feeding my mat into the machine. I used to be a few mm off on E1 - usually not a big deal b/c I gave myself some wiggle room in the layouts. This would have been a useful feature on the Silhouette - thing is a nightmare for mat alignment.

CRICUTSYNC - make sure to connect your machine to a computer before using if you are going to connect with CCR - I only found this out after wasting over 20 minutes trying to work in CCR (which was on and logged into before I connected the E2) and kept getting the service error (which results to uninstall/reinstall of the software a zillion times) then I get frustrated and hit up the forums - where one useful writer gave the CricutSync hint. (The "Getting Started" instructions that came with the machine doesn't list this step.) This resulted in over 30 minutes getting the machine recognized with CS and then waiting for the date to upload onto the machine (this took 2 runs as CS died midway through the update and it had to reboot itself to keep at it until it was done). Once the update was done, CCR opened like a dream.

How do I get the preinstalled cartridges (Cricut Alphabet and Cricut Essentials) into my CCR acct? One forum responder wrote "They automatically link up, you must first register your machine and after the Thursday update it should show up. If after two weeks have past- after you have registered your E-- then give PC a call... then they can add it in manually!!!" I about lost it on here. Ok, I'm not DYING to use those cartridges since I have some other cuts I can do (but know that if I HAD only those 2 cartridges, I'd send this machine back.

TRIAL #1: Let me see if I can go into CCR and see "All Cartridges", not just the ones that I owned and see if it will cut off the preloaded ones...guess what happened? Machine not detected error. Ok - no biggie. I just turned off the machine, plugged it into a different USB port on my computer, turn it back on and see. This worked, and I picked the first object and cut. Great - got it to work, right?

Trial run #2: I created a project with 6 - 2" strips. The machine would only cut one strip and stop. What about the other 5 strips you ask? WHAT ABOUT THEM?!?!!? I would hit cut again - nada. The machine apparently could not read the mat. Ok - I unload the mat and reload - still can't read the mat...ok, unload mat, restart machine, still nada, unload mat, restart machine, restart CCR, unplug and replug the machine - I can go on and on about my troubleshooting process - but after an hour+ I about tossed the machine across the room. I have since created each strip onto a separate layer in CCR - and sadly, I can't even cut each layer w/o restarting the machine and the software. It just idles on the "checking mat status screen". 6 strips - seriously, 6 strips, with scallop edges - nothing fancy. The machine can't do it.

E1 v E2:
I sadly miss the simplicity of my E1. It was user friendly right out of the box. I had a few kinks in working through the "real dial size" but with CCR, that's been no problem. And always, I would just plug in my computer and cut. E2 is just a nightmare to use, and tech support has regular office hours - well, I do my cricut work on none-office hours since I work regular office hours. Sigh.

E1/E2 vs Silhouette:
I bought the Cameo on a whim last x-mas. I had heard all the buzz about it, and wanted to try it out. Was it any better than my Cricut. At first, NO! You have to buy each cut off their website (if you bought the subscription it's actually not that bad, each design is $1 and if you max out your credit allotment, you get designs at a discounted price). There are some freebies too. I was a little intimidated by the unlimited options. Where do I go, what do I start making....?!?!?! Once I got the hang out of it and had a project lined up, it made it super easy to use and learn.

Major differences of the two:
Cricut mats are THE BEST! I use these mats in my silhouette - the firmness of the mats prevent it from slipping and sliding (which in the silhouette is THE. MOST. ANNOYING. THING. EVER.) Especially when you're down to 1 sheet of the paper you need to complete a project. Cricut mats are also less expensive than Silhouettes. Both mats are insanely sticky (too sticky) so I rub the mat on my shirt to get some lint - this makes it less sticky, and when it's NOT sticky at all, I'll use a baby wipe to clean it up a little, or use soap/water. When the mat is completely "dead" and I'm too lazy to spritz with some adhesive spray, I use it as a working mat to build my pieces on, and I don't care if I damage the mat. Paint on it, spray glue, hot glue gun, etc.

Cricut blades win - the blades are way less expensive - and you get 2 for the price of 1 silhouette blades. Both blades last about the same amount of cuts.

Tool kits for both machines blow. "Making Memorie's Kit" is the best! I actually use all of the tools and they're my go to kit for all crafting activities.

Cricut's pens are more like markers where Silhouette pens are more like ball point pens. Silhouette has a casing which allows you to use ANY pen you like - which makes this more cost effective if you plan on doing sketch work. Both brands of pens are about the same price - sadly, the pens are not interchangeable between E1 or Silhouette.

Silhouettes does NOT require cartridges - which saves a lot of space - which wins - I know Cricut offers digital purchases but I have cartridges prior to that and I can't get rid of them =( Side note: Cricut cartridges have been less expensive to purchase than their digital version. I also like that i can select which cuts I need, the monthly subscription plan is really useful with silhouette - but I would take the time to build a wish list (credits do carry over if unused).

Lastly - the most important part for me - their software:
CCR vs Silhouette Design Studio
SDS wins - hands down - it is by far the EASIEST to use. You don't have to be computer savvy to get the program running - it also does NOT require internet, so design away while on a plane! It allows the user more control over each line/cut. This actually kicks your OCD in overdrive sometimes. If I hadn't already dumped all that money into my Cricut, I'd probably be Silhouette only. The only thing Silhouette is missing - the ability to do layers - in CCR you can create multiple layers for 1 design - which is great so I can sort out which color paper is for what layer, where as silhouette - it's 1 mat and you have to maneuver the designs and just fill in the colors the best you can. My work around is that I put several different "layers" onto the side (off the mat) and just try to piece it together this way. For now, that's the best option until the software gets a major overhaul or update.

CCR is so insanely frustrating - at least in the last 2 weeks I've been having "service error" issues and can't log in. I also run on MAC but that shouldn't matter.

Pros of Cricut - their cartridges are INSANELY cute. The designs are more flowy and caricature-style and there are more licensed images. This is great if you have kids or work at a school. Trust me, my son's school is insanely stoked of all the little things I've been making for their class.

Pros of Silhouette - this machine just feels more "sophisticated" to me. Even when it's cutting, it sounds like a symphony of mini robots making things come to life. There are some whimsical images but they're just NOT as cute as Cricut. This has more intricate cuts as well.

Summarize Long Winded Review:
Get a Silhouette Cameo
If you already have an E1 - keep it - DO NOT GET AN E2 - this is an OBVIOUS DOWNGRADE.
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on September 26, 2012
Bought this item a week ago. Expression 2 has amazing features, one being able to design and create on your laptop. Well, in order to use this you have to long on to Cricut Craft room. The server does not allow you to get in 80% of the time. The program stalls and locks up making you reboot the machine. This machine was supposed to be for enjoyment and entertainment. Cricut has a Facebook page, which I wish I had read the reviews before purchasing this. SO many complaints. DO not purchase this item unless you have a couple hundred dollars to throw away.
Cricut Expression 2 Electric Cutting Machine
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on April 15, 2014
I was so excited to finally purchase my very first cricut after hearing rave reviews and watching the infomercials (a few years back when they first came out). However, I was sorely disappointed in the performance and user-friendliness of this machine. Perhaps had I used other cricuts in the past, it would have made more sense, but it took me over an hour (with the manual!!) to even make my first cuts and even then I totally ruined several sheets of paper because it is not well explained how the sticky mats work and the guidelines for using them are sketchy at best. I gave this a few weeks, hoping there was just a big learning curve but I just couldn't do it. It was not intuitive at all, the screen is tiny and hard to see, I calibrated the thing like I was instructed and when using the stylus it would select images to the left or right, not the one I wanted...I ordered another cartiridge, just to see if I could figure it out easier if I had the motivation of cutting out a design I really liked but that turned out to be a huge waste of money since there aren't many images/fonts on a cartridge (I guess so you'll have to buy more to get exactly what you want) and I still never figured out how to layer images so I could use different colored paper for one cutout. It went back and I'm now looking into some competitor's machines to see if they're any more user friendly. I'm sorely disappointed.
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on August 28, 2013
I purchased the Cricut Espressions 2 last November and I think I got a lemon. The thing hasn't really worked right from the get go, wouldn't cut properly, touch screen would go out, would lose connect on online craftroom, etc. I actually have found it easier to cut things out by hand or with a punch.
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