The Portrait 3 is a lightweight digital cutting machine from the Silhouette family. While it does have its faults, it still has a lot to offer those looking for a small and portable die-cutting machine. Thanks to features such as Bluetooth connection and an auto-detect blade, this machine rates highly for smart features in our best die-cutting machines (opens in new tab) round-up.
In the box, you’ll receive everything you need to get started, including power and USB cables, an auto-detect cutting blade, and an 8-inch cutting mat. You’ll also have access to a starter library of 50 designs, and the Silhouette Studio which has thousands of free or paid-for design files, including regular special offers.
The portability of this machine makes it a worthwhile choice for workshop leaders, or craft fair sellers, especially when you have the option to use a mobile app on the move. Crafters looking for an easy-to-use machine for vinyl, heat transfer paper, and cardstock will love the Portrait 3, but as we mentioned above there are some limitations. If you’re looking for something that will cut wider than 8 inches or thicker material than wood veneer then this isn’t the product for you. If you can put this, and the comments on the noise generated when it’s switched on aside, then you will feel the benefits.
The Portrait 3 is Windows and Mac compatible, and also includes an adapter for sketch pens (available separately) which is great for a hand-drawn look on craft projects. Considering you can also purchase additional blades, including one that cuts fabric, there is the versatility to experiment with a range of crafts.
Silhouette Portrait 3: What you need to know
The Silhouette Portrait 3 is similar in looks and dimensions to other die-cutting machines such as the Cricut Explore Air 2 (opens in new tab), and with an RRP of $199, it's also marginally cheaper. While no die-cutting machine is truly cheap, you still want to make sure you're getting what you pay for. So, what's on offer with the Portrait 3?
For starters, you'll get a compact machine. The Silhouette Portrait 3 is 17 inches wide, 5.5 inches deep, and 4.25 inches tall. It's also only 3.5 pounds, which is truly lightweight. The Cricut Joy (opens in new tab) weighs about the same, and is the most portable die-cutting machine in our roundup.
The similarities don't end there. The Cricut Joy has a very narrow maximum cutting width of 5.5 inches, and while the Portrait 3 is wider, it's not significantly so. With an eight inch maximum width you'll struggle to complete larger projects on this die cutting machine. For stickers, cards, and long narrow items such as banners, it's perfectly capable. Like the Joy, the Portrait 3 offers mat-free cutting when you buy specific materials from the manufacturer. This means you won't be limited in the length of your projects by a cutting mat, but if you do want to use the cutting mat, it's 12 inches long.
Silhouette Portrait 3: Features
Many of the smart features you'll find in the Brother ScanNCut SDX125E (opens in new tab) can also be found on the (significantly cheaper) Silhouette Portrait 3. This includes automatic tool selection, which adjusts settings based on your tool of choice, and Print & Cut. This allows you to use your photo printer (opens in new tab)to print photos, labels, or outlines, and then cut around them using your die cutter.
You're limited by the two-millimeter cutting depth on the Silhouette Portrait 3. For cardstock, vinyl, and finer felt or fabric, you'll be fine. However, if you had intended to cut something thicker like leather or balsa wood, this isn't the machine for you. Something else we like about this machine is PixScan - this allows you to place an image, picture, or text on the PixScan mat and import it onto USB or wireless devices using your die cutter. You can then interact with it to re-print it or cut around it via your laptop or phone.
You can connect to the Silhouette Portrait 3 via USB or Bluetooth. While Bluetooth connection can be exciting, many find it reassuring to have the option of USB connections for when internet connections are bad or their signal is unreliable. In order to use this machine, you'll find it easier to use the related software. The Silhouette Design Store has a massive range of incredible prints and illustrations, as well as fonts. You get a one-month registration with your new machine, but after that it's $10 per month.
Silhouette Portrait 3: User reviews
Of all the user reviews we've come across when reviewing die-cutting machines, the Silhouette Portrait 3 had some of the very best feedback. Of 330 Amazon reviews, there's an average of 4.4 stars. Reviewers rave about the auto blade detection and the accuracy of this machine: "Love everything about my Silhoutte portrait 3. Easy to use and perfect for beginners."
People do have some criticisms of the Silhouette software, saying that, "The software is pretty clunky and I wish it were more guided, like the Cricut software is." It's also not the quietest die-cutting machine out there, so if you like to keep your work quiet, this is something to consider.
Should you buy the Silhouette Portrait 3?
This machine gives you the option of cutting on a mat or feeding in rolls of material such as vinyl. Although its blades can’t cut thicker materials such as leather, they are made from durable tungsten alloy, and there are plenty of tips available to help you make them last.
The Portrait 3 comes with an auto-detect blade, and that time-saving ability to adjust to chosen materials selected on screen is a big plus. It’s also capable of printing, then die-cutting round photos thanks to a smart connection to inkjet printers.
As a digital machine, it does save on buying and storing metal dies, and multiple Amazon reviewers compare it favorably against the Cricut Joy for ease of use and set up. Amazon purchasers recommended it for vinyl decals and full sheet sticker printing, the lack of ads and spam in the software, and the ability to purchase a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator and Coral Draw files. It is a little more expensive than the Cricut, but with 77% 5 Star ratings at the time of writing, it’s proving to be worth the extra investment for many creatives.
If this product isn't for you
The Cricut Explore Air 2 (opens in new tab) would be a great option if you’re looking for a die cutting machine with in-built storage, and the ability to engrave and score, which you can’t do with the Portrait 3. It also has a 12-inch cutting width to help you create a wider range of products.
The Silhouette Cameo 4 (opens in new tab) is a bigger, more considered investment, but an ideal choice if you’re looking for faster cutting, work a lot with vinyl or want to create bigger projects. They’ve covered all bases with a deeper 3-mm cutting depth, built-in roll feeder and vinyl cross cutter, and 100 free designs in your library to get you started.
The Cricut Joy (opens in new tab) is our budget-friendly option that also scores points for being super compact and easy to set up and use. On the go, crafting is possible with the design space app (Android and iOS) and it comes with a precision blade for accurate cuts whatever the design or material.