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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why Make-the-Cut? (MTC vs Silhouette Designer Edition)


This article refers to Make-the-Cut (MTC) v4.1.0 and Silhouette Studio Designer Edition (SSDE) v.2.2.0d, and reflects my personal observations about the MTC and SSDE software.


I have used Make-the-Cut (MTC) since the day it was released in December 2009, and the Silhouette Studio program since April 2011. I have been using the Silhouette Designer Edition (SSDE) since September 2011. Since the release of the MTC-Cameo plug-in last December, many of you have written in to ask for my recommendation. Should you purchase MTC or the SSDE in order to cut SVGs with your Silhouette cutter?

Even though I have not used SSDE for as long as I have MTC, I have come to like the software a lot. It is easy and fun to use. However, I do find that the program is limited in terms of the features that it has to offer compared to MTC. Here are some of my favorite tools in MTC that I have noticed are not available in SSDE :

Layers: If I have to pick a feature of MTC to be my favorite tool, it has to be Layers. By putting the different elements on different layers, you can easily control which ones to cut or hide. While there are also ways to "hide" images in SSDE, personally I find it more convenient to use MTC's Layers than to have to drag the images off the virtual mat like in SSDE.

MTC example of Layers

Pages: I can save multiple pages of the project in a single file. For example, in my recent Cowlendar project, I had to save it in 4 files in SSDE: 1 for Jan-June, 1 for July-Dec, 1 for the covers and 1 file for the backing. If I had used MTC, I would have been able to condense that into 1 file (with 4 pages).

MTC example of Pages
There is only 1 method of tracing in SSDE (Pixel-tracing). In MTC, the user can trace using Alpha-tracing, Palette-tracing, and Color Tracing, IN ADDITION to Pixel-tracing. These other methods of tracing are very useful in times when Pixel-tracing just can't give a good trace of the image.

Import Multiple SVGs: MTC makes it really easy to import SVGs. Just click on the SVG button to import the file. When using the File>Import, or File>Merge commands, SSDE defaults the Files of Type to the native .studio format. It is a huge hassle to have to change that for the other non-studio files to show. Although you can overcome that inconvenience by opening the folder where the SVG is stored and drag it onto the virtual mat, you will still only be able to drag/open one SVG at a time. MTC allows multiple SVGs to be imported at the same time. This is useful when the project is made from several different SVGs. 

Allows Temporary Font Installation: I don't like to install fonts that I do not use frequently. In order to use a font with SSDE, I have to install it on my computer. On the other hand, MTC allows me to load fonts temporarily for use without having to install them.

Export as SVGs and other formats: In my opinion, this feature of MTC alone could possibly justify the use of MTC over SSDE. The only format that the Silhouette Studio programs allow the user to save the file in is the proprietary .studio format. Since all .studio files can only be opened in Silhouette Studio program, any user-created designs cannot be used by any one who does not use Silhouette Studio. On the other hand, MTC allows your designs to be saved as a .mtc file or be exported as SVG, PDF, EPS, AI, JPG, and PNG.

Wrap text and objects to path: Even though SSDE (and the regular Silhouette Studio program) includes the wrap text feature (for example, place words around a circle), MTC has gone one step further and allow for wrapping of text OR objects (e.g. stars, hearts, etc.) to a path.

MTC example: Wrapping Hearts to a circle.

Use with many different cutters: You can only cut to the Silhouette SD or the Silhouette Cameo with the SSDE program. With MTC, you can cut to many different cutters including the Black Cat Cougar/Lynx, all Klic-N-Kut machines, Pazzles Inspiration, Craftwell eCraft, and more. While I am primarily using my Cameo now, I like that I can use MTC with all these other cutters. Should the need ever arise so that I have to use a non-Silhouette cutter (e.g. crafting at a friend's house where she does not own a Silhouette cutter), it is good to know that I still have the option of using my MTC to cut to many other cutters.

screenshot taken from the MTC website.
Free Updates/Upgrades: I paid $49.99 for the Designer Edition Upgrade. My initial purchase price of MTC is the only cost that I have to pay. I pay $0 for all MTC updates and upgrades.


The features of MTC that I have mentioned so far are just some of what I use most often in the program. There are many other tools in MTC that are not available in SSDE (e.g., Jigsaw Generator, Lattice Creator, Conical Wrap, Vertical Text tool, etc.). For a more detailed list of what MTC can do, please click HERE.

Having said all that, I must mention that there are some features in SSDE that are not available in MTC. For example, while you can use the Join command to integrate one cutting path into another, currently there is no Group tool in the MTC program. In my opinion, MTC is also not able to handle textures as well as SSDE. While I cut most designs using MTC, I prefer to use SSDE for my Print-and-Cut projects.

Despite that, I find that the benefits of using MTC outweighs its shortcomings. While SSDE is a very good program and has its own merits, personally I find that MTC is a lot more versatile. SSDE retails for $49.99 and MTC can be had for $58.36. For the price difference of less than $10, I would certainly choose MTC over SSDE.

But then again, why listen to me? Try it out for yourself before deciding if the software is for you. You can download a free trial of MTC by clicking HERE.

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  1. Thank you for this wonderful review Jin! You've definitely made me interested in trying out MTC, I'm really happy with the traces I can get using SSDE however having more options to trace only certain colors (I'm assuming that's what the color option does?) sounds wonderful etc.

    However you forgot to mention one very important difference in the software, the one thing that will keep me using SSDE. MTC isn't Mac compatible :( SSDE works on win & mac. I hope that SSDE adds some of these features in, they are reported to be working on layers. I also love that I can save all my files within Studio itself (and this does not cause it to function any slower) so that I can easily view/organize/search them.

    If MTC becomes available for Mac's I'll be first in line to try it out!

    1. Candl i'm glade i read your comment
      about the MTC not being a mac compatible

  2. Andy is currently working on a Mac version. In the meantime I understand that some are using MTC with the Mac through Parallels. :)

  3. I prefer MTC in many of the ways you described. One thing that I still have trouble with in SSDE is in selecting the item - you have to be right on the line or sweet spot to get it to select and then if you move the mouse the tiniest little bit, you will de-select your item.

    Also for PnC, MTC does not handle the reg marks as well as SS. IN SS I can make them smaller and farther out in order to give me more paper to use. I can also print outside the cut lines without affecting the reg marks. You cannot do this with MTC. I have devised ways to get around this because I still prefer using MTC for the pixel tracing with PnC but SS handles this better.

  4. Reasons to try/buy Make-the-Cut!

    First the trial is free as Jin said - you can give it a look and see if it is to your liking -

    I like how Andy thinks and designs his program - it is sometimes different from something I have been used to using - but usually I like Andy's methods and interface better.

    If you want something added or changed Andy listens and responds to users. Many of the features now in the program were things that a user posted to the "Wishlist" topic on the forum

    The forum is great for support and learning about the program. Here is the link to the forum.

    The mountain of videos and tutorials are another great resource. Watch a few (start with the later ones - they are all geared for beginning users - and over the months the versions changed as MTC! evolved.)
    Here is the forum topic with links to the webinar videos.

  5. I love MTC! Thanks for confirming that I did the right thing when I bought it. The customer service is second to none!!

  6. Thank you and some day in the future it (MTC) will be user friendly with the Mac.

  7. Thanks so much for this review! I have MTC but just recently bought a cameo (no more cricut!!!) and am trying to figure it all out. My question is, HOW can I take a silhouette file and use it in MTC? I too would like to use these files in layered or multipage documents....
    Thanks for your help!

  8. Thank you!!
    This was exactly the Q & A that I needed since I got my cameo.

  9. I am currently using MTC on my Mac through VMWare Fusion with Windows 7, but I am looking forward to having a true Mac version of MTC.

  10. Great post Jin! I wish I could overcome my fear to use MTC, I downloaded the trial and I was so overwhelmed with all of the icons/commands, etc. Maybe one day, for now I just do what I can with the SSDE.

  11. Hi Jin,
    Awesome review. I have had MTC since the early days as well and the updates have been amazing all along. I also love that I can create a file and export as a raster. The .png files work so well with my scrapbook artist 2 software and so many other programs that I have. Also with my KnK Studio software I can now copy and paste between Studio and MTC and the files come out great. I am really enjoying MTC. The price is so worth the money. All out there should try the download trial version. Once you get a handle on it you will love it as well.

  12. Jin, thank you for another great review! I have had MTC since April, 2010, right when I bought my first PC product, a Create. After Provo Craft decided to sue MTC and they settled (March, 2011), is when I decided that I treasured MTC a LOT more than my Cricut..and by that time, I had another machine (Expression), plus a Cuttlebug, Gypsy, many carts, dies and folders made by Provo Craft.

    So I donated ALL of my Provo Craft items to a worthy organization that I'm sure is getting great use out of all those machines. I am Provo Craft free.

    I ended up choosing a Silhouette SD (thanks to your great review of all those machines.) and purchased the DE version of Studio right when it was released.

    I will admit, I have used SSDE a lot more, but I do keep up with the updates on MTC. I thought it was so worth the money that I bought it in 2010, and chose to keep it over all the PC was THAT good of a program!

    Again, thank you for your advice! Shared with friends!

  13. I am a total beginner to digital cutting. My background is in glass fusing, etching and sandblasting. I decided to buy a cutter to help me make more detailed stencils for etching and other techniques. I looked at various programs including Flexi and SCAL, but when I found the Make-the-Cut! forum, I was blown away by the amount of useful information there and the huge number of people willing to answer questions and provide peer-to-peer support.

    I became aware of MTC just as KNK introduced a new cutter, called the Zing, which is 100% integrated with MTC. I bought one and I am so glad to report that the marriage of MTC and the Zing is phenomenal! I am learning MTC as I learn to use my Zing and I have already created some amaZing projects.

    It's true that MTC has more features than you'll probably ever need. But it is also true that it's great to have all those options. You'll never know when something may come up that you will need to be able to do something like edit the nodes of your vector art, use a boolean join function that lets you decide exactly how your parts will be joined together, or even create a jigsaw puzzle from a favorite picture.

    I know that many of the features may seem difficult to master, but here is another amazing thing about MTC - weekly webinars! You can post questions to the MTC forum and once a week they do a webinar where they give detailed instructions in response to the questions. The show exactly how different functions work, plus give many examples and show you ways to use these features that you probably would never think of. Example: how to use MTC to do a PnC without the P! That's right, you can set it up to cut out a perfect picture from a photograph or other art that is preprinted. Example: Make custom clock designs using wrap object to path. Example: node editing True Type and Open Path fonts for use in monogram projects. Some fonts are gorgeous, but don't necessarily cut well. With node editing you can make them cut as beautifully as they look.

    Those are just the things I've learned already, after only a month or so of using MTC. I am excited to consider what my skill set will be within a year.

    So I couldn't be more pleased with Make-the-Cut! It gives me the power to do all sorts of projects that I only dreamed about doing a few months ago. And I am taking it slowly, learning a little at a time. With only a few skills to work with so far I'm already getting requests to do custom work!



  14. Jin,
    You didn't steer me wrong with the Silhouette Cameo, I absolutely love it. So If you like MTC, I'm going to give it a try!I like to do a lot of complex designs and the main features you pointed out in your review could really save me a lot of pain and frustration. First off layers, I'm a Photoshop user and I can imagine what an asset that would be with my Silhouette. 2. I am not happy with the tracing features on SSDE many times I was unable to trace something I've wanted to cut because it didnt read an edge (even of a .pgn file), so I had to use a different image. 3.I like the simplicity of exporting a .png or .jpg back into Photoshop if I want to.
    Thanks so much for another informative review!

  15. I had heard that with MTC, you can change any font into a single line font. Do you know anything about this? This would be my biggest reason for buying MTC. I know that Studio does not have this feature.

  16. I love that it's simple enough for me to use. I can actually understand it.
    I love that Andy is constantly upgrading it to meet our needs, like the conical wrap when so many of us were doing the tumblers.
    I love the pixel trace that he upgraded so that we can do different types of traces, since I had so many png files that I have collected over the years.
    I love that he is so responsive to us...he is here on the forum and teaches us through the webinars.
    I love that we can use so many different types of files and import/trace into MTC and that we can use it with so many different types of cutters.
    I love that we don't ever have to pay for any upgrades.
    Shall I go on?

  17. Jin just the support and the webinars by brian makes the software worth buying is what I think makes mtc so special along with the great features it has without all the excess we dont need. Cajun

  18. My Favorites List:

    1. The things we like he integrates for us even if it isn't his favorite (i.e. being able to see the typeface of the font in the selection list)
    2. Uninstalled fonts (TTF, OTF and Open Paths) can be used easily
    3. Never pay for an upgrade (believe me, Andy's updates are wonderful!!!)
    4. Sharing files with hundreds of other people using different machines!
    5. Ability to quickly and easily use SVG files
    6. Lettering Delights integration. I love that I can cut favorites or shop for new designs!

  19. i just recently got my Cameo after having a Cricut for a long time. I have had my eye on Make the Cut for over a year now waiting for a Mac version for the Cricut. Then provocraft put a stop to that. They have been saying for quite some time that they are making a Mac version but I have yet to see anything. :( I am sure that when I finally breakdown and put the Silhouette Designer Edition, it will be available for the Mac. Oh well.

    I am loving your blog and the fun creations you have made! I found your blog by doing a search for youtube videos on how to use the cameo. Thanks for the videos and I plan to check your blog to see what you are creating! :-)

  20. I am just getting ready to buy a die cutting machine and software!! MTH sounds like the way to go. I'm just slightly concerned about it not doing good PNCuts!Also, I am leaning toward the Cameo but then started researching the Sizzix Eclips because it can cut more (heavier) paper. Any thoughts on the two machines??? Does the Cameo score paper (such as making gift boxes) If I do decide to go with the Cameo I think you can get them with the basic Silhouette software. Can those pictures be imported into MTC?? or would that not be necessary?? (sorry if it is a stupid ques. I am still swimming through all this "crafty" stuff!!!) I am concerned that I will not get the hang of the MTC. Is the learning curve steep?? I once downloaded a free trial of Photoshop and didn't get anywhere on my own!!! Thanks for any tips or advice.

  21. I already have MTC ON MY cricut and am now waiting for my cameo to be delivered yay
    barbara walton

  22. I have been battling with myself over whether or not it is a good idea to buy SSDE, I own make the cut and love it. That is why i have been trying to convince myself that I don't need both products(see I have a money spending problem). Thank you for this article.

    1. Crystal, I have both programs and as I have said in the article, there are pros and cons to each software. If you are still thinking of buying SSDE, there is a really great deal going on now at Plum District. See this post for details: Great SSDE deal

    2. always love your reviews jin! i hopped online today to purchase the SSDE software mostly coz i was getting not being able to use svgs and the long winded way of converting them was not getting good results for me. And then i stumbled across your MTC review, and downloaded it to try it out, and i've only played with it a little and am pretty convinced that i should buy it instead but i wanted to clarify a few things before i do...

      I mostly am planning on creating my own images... and draw them in photoshop. i understand the pixel trace options etc should be able to help me cut them with the mtc, but can i save them cut an as cut it files and add them to my SS library?

      what i miss with the SS is the ability to cut an object as a line instead of splitting or creating a wedge in the wholness of the shape.... this is believe is a designer edition feature. would the MTc have sth like that too. greater welding properties.

      i see links in MTC to LD and MTC galleries, are they all free for personal use?

      being a PS user myself i do see the benefits of layer saving properties...but could i also use templates for boxes etc that are saved as pdf directly into mtc, without having to retrace or draw them over in my SS?

      thanks for your time!

  23. Jin, thanks for your reviews.

    I am currently deciding between the two products. Would you be able to explain why you don't use MTC to do your print n cuts with your Cameo? That is something I am going to be doing often. Thanks again!

  24. You have just made the decision for me. I too just bought the Silhouette Cameo (2 days ago) thanks to Jin's reviews, and I am totally hooked, but frustrated by limitations, particularly the tracing. Your reviews are so incredibly practical and wrote about details I would never have thought about prior to purchase without your help, but would have maddened me after purchase!

    Like Lisa Barrie I am an avid Photoshop fan. ENORMOUS thanks to Jin for this comparison as I didn't know there was any alternative available to the SSDE designer software, and the points you make. The tracing shortcomings of Silhouette and wrapping objects particularly appeal to me with MTC.

  25. Can you download MTC on a Mac? I see in the free DL section there is a windows and a Mac version so I DLed the Mac version and it does open and seems to run, however the Silhouette plug-in does not work (there is no mac vs windows link so the one I DLed opens as a document). The MTC FAQs says it doesn't support Mac.... Any thoughts? Thanks!

  26. Can I have both software and one cumputer?