Whether it be greetings cards, wooden models, or customized vinyl labels, arts and crafts projects can be a great way to relax and unwind.
That said they can also be very time-consuming, especially when making intricate designs that require you to carefully cut out tiny pieces of paper or fabric with a pair of scissors or a scalpel.
This is why some people use Cricut machines to save time on crafting projects that require a lot of cutting.
A Cricut machine is a device for cutting paper, cardstock, and lots of other materials to create detailed cut-out patterns and writing. They work by sticking your material of choice to an adhesive mat so it can’t slide around.
The material and mat are then fed into the Cricut machine so it can cut out your desired design using its inbuilt blade.
These machines are a dream come true for people who enjoy arts and crafts. However, if you have never used one before they can be somewhat intimidating.
Not only do you have to learn how to use the Cricut itself, but if you want to upload your own designs you will need to learn how to handle the software it uses as well.
There are plenty of pre-made designs online, but this won’t be very creatively fulfilling and there can be a steep learning curve to when it comes to mastering a Cricut machine.
If you are a complete beginner to these machines then it can be quite difficult to know where you should start. That’s why we’ve compiled five of the best Cricut machines that are easy to use and accessible for first-timers.
Afterward, we’ll go into a bit more detail about how these devices work and how you can pick the best machine for your personal needs.
OUR TOP PICK
The Explore Air 2 comes in three different colors and comes with everything you need to get started included in the box. With this machine, you can cut through over 100 different types of material, from paper and vinyl to leather and sheets of cork.
This is all done by the premium, fine point blade which is loaded into a dual carriage that has a second clamp for holding a pen. Thanks to this feature, you can cut out shapes and write customized messages without pausing to swap tools.
There is a storage bin on the side for holding all your crafting materials while you work. This helps to keep all your tools in one place, and there is a smaller, concealed storage compartment in the lid for holding your blades and other tools.
A dial is included on the other side of the machine which is used for selecting how hard the blade presses down. This allows the machine to cut through thicker, or thinner, materials without pushing too hard and damaging your mat.
This machine can use a USB cable or Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone, where you can tell it the specific cuts you want to make.
With the Cricut design space software that is free to access for all customers, you can easily make your own unique creations for crafting with your machine.
You also have the option of subscribing to Cricut access, an enormous database of projects and designs made by other crafters in the community.
- Dual cartridge for holding a blade and a marker at the same time.
- Storage bins for holding your crafting supplies.
- Can wirelessly connect to your smartphone or other portable devices.
- The software that comes with the machine can only be used online.
The Maker is very similar in design to the Explore air, with a double cartridge capable of holding two tools at once and a storage bin on the side for holding all your crafting equipment.
One of the main differences is the simplified controls which consist of only four buttons. This makes the Cricut Maker a versatile and user-friendly tool that is perfect for beginners and experienced crafters alike.
Another difference from the Explore air model is the selection of available tools. As well as a marker and standard Cricut blade, this package also includes a rolling blade and X-ACTO knife.
The rolling blade is perfect for slicing through light fabrics with exceptional speed and accuracy, without the use of any backing material This makes the Cricut Maker perfect for sewing projects as well as gift cards and wooden models.
The X-ACTO knife blade, on the other hand, is strong enough to score through stronger materials like matboard and thin sheets of wood.
With such a large selection of tools, the Cricut Maker is extremely versatile and will allow you to work with a wide variety of materials aside from just paper.
There is a helpful docking station on top of the machine for holding your phone or tablet while you are working.
- Can cut through a wide range of materials from fabric to chipboard.
- Simplified user-friendly controls.
- Comes with a wide range of accessories as well as Cricuts design space software.
- Docking station for phones and tablets.
- No controls for blade pressure.
The other machines we’ve looked at come with cutting mats for holding your material of choice while the Cricut is processing it.
The Explore 3 is compatible with Cricut’s patented smart materials, which can be loaded into the device without a mat. Cricut sells smart paper, vinyl, and HTV iron-on, all of which are incredibly convenient and easy to use.
This machine comes with 6 tools for writing and cutting, including a fine point blade. All of your tools can be kept safely away inside the storage compartment located in the door on the front of the machine.
As always there is a handy storage bin on the side of the unit as well for holding all of your other crafting equipment.
There is a docking station for holding a smartphone or tablet that can be connected to the machine via USB or Bluetooth. As well as free membership to Cricut’s design software, you will also get a free months subscription to Cricut access.
This online database offers over 1000 projects made by other members of the Cricut community, many of which may be useful for your own crafting endeavors.
- Compatible with Cricut smart material which can be used without a cutting mat.
- Docking station for holding a tablet or phone.
- Double cartridge for holding a pen and a blade at the same time.
- Limited selection of tools.
The Cricut Joy is a compact and portable crafting machine that is only 8.4in long by 4.3in wide. Despite its petite size, it is still capable of accurately cutting, scoring, and writing on a range of different materials.
It can even be used with Cricut’s smart materials which don’t need to be attached to a mat before they can be cut.
The machine can make continuous cuts of up to 4ft long which makes it more than suitable for most crating projects such as gift cards and paper modeling.
Since the cartridge only has one clamp, you will need to stop the machine and swap the fine point blade for a marker if you want to add writing to your project. A cutting mat is also included in the box for use with non-smart materials.
The pen is well suited for writing on vinyl labels so you can customize household objects with your own decals and monograms.
This unit is one of the only models compatible with a Cricut card mat, which is a special smaller cutting mat for making personalized greetings cards. There are no controls on the machine itself, as you can control all of its functions from your smartphone or tablet.
Without a US port, you will have to rely on Bluetooth to connect to your machine but this will make it easier to set your machine up wherever there is a plug socket for the power adapter.
- Compatible with Cricut smart materials.
- User-friendly as the whole device is controlled solely from your phone or tablet.
- Compact and portable crafting machine.
- The cartridge can only hold one tool at a time.
This is the latest machine in Cricut’s range, so while you can expect to pay a premium price for it, you will receive the ultimate crafting companion in return.
The Maker 3 is capable of cutting at double the speed of the original Maker and can exert 10x more cutting force than the Explore Air 2.
This means that as well as being faster, this machine can handle thicker materials for projects made from thin wooden boards or bulkier fabric like leather.
You can load up to 13 different types of tools into the cartridge on this machine, including a rolling blade and an X-ACTO knife.
Unfortunately, all you receive in the box is a standard fine point blade and marker pen, so you will have to buy all the other optional tools as a separate bundle. This unit is compatible with smart materials for accurate cutting without a mat.
Just like the original Maker, the Maker 3 has only 4 buttons for controlling all of the machine’s functions. You can create your own designs using the free software, or pick from a huge library of projects that have been uploaded to Cricut access.
All the usual Cricut extras are included with this device such as the tool bin on the side, blade storage in the lid, and a docking station for holding your smartphone while you work.
- Works with up to 13 different tools for a more versatile crafting experience.
- 2x faster than the original Maker.
- Compatible with Cricut smart materials.
- Dual cartridge for writing and cutting at the same time.
- Blades have to be bought separately.
Most Cricut machines will look almost identical on the surface, but there are subtle differences between each model. Some models will work better with certain fabrics than others, and each will come with its own selection of accessories.
Here are some important things to consider when choosing a Cricut machine to help with your crafting projects.
Each Cricut machine comes with a selection of blades and other tools for loading into the cartridge. Most models will only include a fine point blade and marker pen, which means you will have to buy any other blades or accessories separately.
The original Maker model comes with a complete complement of tools including a rotary blade and an X-ACTO knife for cutting through sheets of wood.
If you just want to use your machine for paper crafts, then these accessories won’t be necessary. However, when working with chipboard and fabric, these tools will be practically essential.
Many Cricut machines will have four buttons that make up the primary controls. These controls are somewhat limiting and only allow you to start and pause the device as well as raise the arm for loading and unloading the mat.
Some users may prefer the selection wheel on the Explore Air 2. With this handy dial, you can select the material you are using and control how much pressure the blade exerts while cutting.
If you are looking for fewer controls rather than more, consider the Cricut Joy which only has a power button. All of its other functions can be controlled with your smartphone via Bluetooth which makes it probably one of the most user-friendly machines for complete Cricut beginners.
USB vs Bluetooth
Cricut machines take most of their instructions from your smartphone or tablet. This means that the way you connect your device to the machine will be very important for ensuring smooth operation.
Most machines are compatible with Bluetooth, which enables a quick, wire-free connection. However, if the Bluetooth reception on your smartphone or tablet isn’t the best, you may want to pick a machine that also has a USB port.
Using a USB cable will ensure that your machine doesn’t lose connection and will minimize the chance of any errors while it is cutting.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Cricut Machine?
A Cricut machine is a digital crafting device that is predominately used to cut out shapes and patterns for a variety of artistic projects.
The automated arm has a cartridge that houses the machine’s blade and can also be made to hold a pen for writing on materials as well as slicing through them.
These devices work with a range of different materials from fabrics, to paper to thin sheets of wood. They are commonly used for making greetings cards, custom labels, and models made from wood or paper.
Is Cricut’s Design Software Free?
When you buy a Cricut machine you will gain instant access to their free design app. This software allows you to create your own designs and personal projects with your machine.
As well as the design program, Cricut also has a database of projects created by other users called Cricut Access.
This database requires a monthly subscription of $10.00 a month to use but opens up a whole new world of crafting possibilities. Both the design software and Cricut access are online-only, which means you will need a stable internet connection to use them.
What Equipment Do You Need To Use A Cricut Machine?
Most Cricut machines are sold with everything you need to get started right there in the box. This includes cutting mats, a fine point blade, and a Cricut fine point marker for adding writing to your creations.
There are some other items that can be very useful for making the most of these devices. Scissors are always handy for cutting away stray pieces of material, and tweezers are great for picking up small pieces of paper or cardstock without damaging them.
The fine point blade that all machines come with is great for paper and light fabrics; however, for heavier materials, you may need something a little more heavy-duty.
Cricut sells a variety of different tools that can be loaded into the machine’s cartridge.
These include the rolling blade for accurately slicing through cotton or other items of clothing and the X-ACTO blade, which is a Cricut compatible scalpel for cutting through chipboard and other thin sheets of wood.
All of these extra blades are sold separately but before buying you should always check they will be compatible with your machine.
Do I Need A Cutting Mat?
Cricut sells various grades of cutting mats from the standard variety used with paper and cardstock to the StrongGrip ones for wood and vinyl. These mats come in a range of sizes depending on how long your selected piece of material is.
It is essential to use a mat with a Cricut machine to avoid your project slipping during the cutting process. All of these mats come with a layer of adhesive for sticking to your material of choice.
When using a brand new mat, always stick and unstick it to your clothes before use. This will remove the excess adhesive which will prevent your project from getting damaged upon removal.
Cricut also makes a range of smart materials which can be processed by the machine without the need for a mat. Only some units are compatible with these materials, but if you can use them then they will save a lot of time on your crafting projects.