I'm looking to make stencils from vector art, both existing and new. I want to make them in a diversity of sizes and understand no option will be perfect for all sizes.

Some searching has shown me that I'll most likely be looking at either a laser cutter or an electronic cutting machine.

What I don't know is...

  • What are the trade offs between these two options, laser cutter and electronic cutting machine?

And are there other major options for a home stencil maker?

  • What are you making the stencils out of?
    – Catija
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 3:44
  • and what are you planning to use them for? Commented May 22, 2017 at 4:04
  • and how many are you planning to make of each? Commented May 22, 2017 at 4:10
  • Out Of: amazon.com/Blank-Stencil-Making-Sheets-Frosted/dp/B00085FACK or amazon.com/… depending on size options. For: lots of things. Notably, tshirt designs, wall decorations, fine art embellishments, and other 'artistic' uses. I'm not making electronics/traces (at least for now!) Quantity: one or a few of each stencil, but many different stencils over a moderate period of time.
    – Suni
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 17:13
  • Laser cutters are very expensive and can be very large, but they can cut a plethora of materials. I have one at my high school and I love it, I used it for stencils also. It has deadly precision, but I didn't have to pay for it either. It probably ran my school a few thousand dollars for the one we have...
    – Ryan
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 1:59

2 Answers 2


Having used frequently both a Silhouette Cameo 3 and a reasonably powerful laser cutter, I can perhaps offer up both sides.

Cameo 3


  1. Quieter in operation, by a huge factor
  2. Much less expensive
  3. Easier to set up/calibrate initially
  4. Can use common software such as Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw to create designs
  5. Hobby grade cutters are usually small footprint


  1. Slower in cutting
  2. Single sheet capacity
  3. Time consuming to attach material to cutting panel and to weed off cut pieces
  4. Commercial grade cutters much more expensive, have tall profile (floor models) and larger footprint
  5. Limited to mat size provided with hobby machine, not so limited in commercial grade units

Laser Cutter


  1. Extremely fast, especially on thin material
  2. Flexible with regards to material choice
  3. Once configured for specific job, very fast in swap out for volume creation
  4. Able to cut multiple layers for higher production
  5. Not limited to cutting stencils: engraving glass, acrylic, cutting thin wood veneers, as thick as 6 mm plywood, for example
  6. Can handle much thicker material, depending on power
  7. For RDC type controllers, a hugely supportive forum located at RD Works Lab, highly recommended for pre-purchase perusal and post-purchase support
  8. Can use common software such as Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw to create designs
  9. Bed sizes are varied, but typically larger than hobby sized cutters


  1. Almost always expensive, even "cheap" China made models
  2. Support equipment (water pump, chiller, exhaust fan) adds to noise level
  3. Can generate unpleasant smoke fumes (exhaust fan mandatory)
  4. China made models do not work "out of the box" and require calibration, sometimes repair (see 7 above)
  5. Non-China models often require additional expense for factory technician to install/set up
  6. China-made models often over-rated, that is, 60 Watt model ad copy for 40-50 Watt laser
  7. Typical China-made models include "challenging" software for creating work, but support forums exist to ease the pain. See note 7 (plus) above for balancing point
  8. Even small models are larger than Cameo type cutters
  9. Feature options (rotary accessory, bed type, bed control) can be confusing, see note 7 (plus) above

I can only speak about one half of information which you are looking for, but my information is very fresh...

Last night, I was scaling down some of my free-hand air-brush stencils using a Silhouette Cameo 3 on good-quality 80lb. card stock. The smallest one which worked out included 180 degree curves which were exactly 1/4 of an inch wide. Those cuts are smooth and flawless.

I tried a few which included tighter cuts such as a 3/4 inch wide horse silhouette with separate strands for hairs along the main and tail. The legs on that little guy are clean and clearly articulated (great detail) but the tail is just a pulverized puff of macerated cardboard. I think the cutter could have handled that tail if I were working in thin vinyl or transparency film. It was the cardboard that failed, not the cutter.

The only downside to the Silhouette is its cutting speed. I filled a 12x12 inch page with 16 small stencils, each between 1-4 sq-inch and involving lots of curves and interior openings. It took the machine about 10 minutes to cut that whole page.

I don't have access to a laser cutter, so hopefully another forum participant will give you info on that option.

  • Have you used the Silhouette with mylar? I tried to cut plastic folders and they were too hard to cut through. Will the mylar stencil paper the OP is planning to use work? I like my Portrait but it does have some limitations. :)
    – Catija
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 19:14
  • I've done a lot of adhesive vinyl (both silhouette brand and others) and some card board. I'm currently waiting on a low-adhesive mat because the default one shreds small cardboard cutouts during removal. Haven't tried mylar yet but transparency film work fine. Commented May 22, 2017 at 20:57

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