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Which Cricut Cutting Machine Is Right For You?

Updated on July 27, 2022
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As a professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to turn family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Information to help you select the Cricut Electronic Cutting machine that is right for you,
Information to help you select the Cricut Electronic Cutting machine that is right for you,

The Basics About The Cricut Electronic Cutting Machines

Provo Craft is the manufacturer and distributor of the Cricut line of electronic cutting machine. You have multiple options no matter what kind of crafts that you want to create.

You can design your own crafts or use the Cricut Design Space that provides you with everything you need to create greeting cards, paper crafts, scrapbook pages. And now, with the Cricut Maker, you can even create sewing projects.

You can also import projects from other platforms that will work with your personal cutting machine.

You have different options depending on the type of crafts that you want to make and the amount of money that you would like to invest. The choice is yours.

What All Machines Have In Common

  • All machines are designed and use the Cricut Design Space to create projects and run the machine. Cricut Design Space in basic form is free to use. It is available for desktops computers, tablets and smart phones
  • All machines connect to your computer or other device via Bluetooth for wireless cutting (an adapter may be needed)
  • All machines have a power cord to operate
  • All machines cut (with a blade) and writes (with pens)
  • All machines are compatible with vinyl, paper, iron on and infusible ink

Cricut Options

Who Is The Machine Best For
Cricut Explore One
Cuts, writes and scores, 100 materials
Crafters who want a simple machine to cut and write
Cricut Explore Air
Cuts, writes, and scores 100 materials. Bluetooth wireless technology, Double tool holder
Crafters who want additional options. Also who have old Cricut cartridges and want to load them on
Cricut Explore Air 2
Cuts, writes and scores 100 materials. Bluetooth wireless technology. Double tool holder, Two times faster cutting and writing.
Crafters who want a better speed and more options. Ease of use machine leaves you lots of options at a reasonable price.
Crciut Explore 3
Twice as fast as the Cricut Explore. Works with matless Smart materials. Cuts over 100 materials
Crafters who want more speed and features will find this machine meets their needs.
Cricut Maker
Cuts and scores hundreds of different products including fabric . More tools includinga deep scoring tool, rotary blade, muktiple cutting blades and more
This machine is for serious crafters. This machine offers tool options unavailable on any other machine
Cricut Maker 3
Cuts and scores over 300 materials. van be used with smart materials for matless cutting. Cuts 2 times faster than the Maker with 10 times the force
This is considered a serious pro machine. It cuts with smart materials without a mat. Has an optional roller to feed smart materials. Can cut projects up to 75 feet long.
Cricut Joy
The smallest cutting machine in the Cricut line. It draws and writes most of the designs in the Design Space program. It uses smart materials that are designed to be used without a mat. It also uses specially designed card makes that make greeting cards in minutes.
This machine is the perfect answer for anyone with a limited amount of space. Also good for anyone who likes making labels and organization materials. Also good for anyone who wants to make crafts simply and easily

Prices may vary, depending where you purchase your machine

The Cricut Foil Transfer Kit makes it easy to create a foiled project with tools that attach directly onto your Cricut cutting machine
The Cricut Foil Transfer Kit makes it easy to create a foiled project with tools that attach directly onto your Cricut cutting machine | Source

The Cricut Foil Transfer Kit

The Cricut Foil Transfer Kit is one of the newest tool additions to the Cricut system. You can use this system with any of the Cricut electronic cutting machines except the Cricut Joy. It has a separate foiling system adapted to it's size.

There is no heat involved with this system. It is a pressure system that applies foil to almost any project that you can think of.

There are three tips in the kit, plus the housing. You get fine, medium and a bold tip. which are all interchangeable, plus 12 sheets of foil within the package.

All you do is swap the housing, add the tip that you choose and follow the directions. This is an easy learn. Within minutes of opening the package, you can be foiling.

Learn more about the Cricut Foiling Transfer Kit here

Which Is The Right Cricut For You?

The Cricut Explore is a budget friendly basic machine for anyone
The Cricut Explore is a budget friendly basic machine for anyone

The Cricut Explore

The Cricut Explore has taken the craft world by storm. Everyone has been excited about the new innovations on this remarkable cutting machine. Why all the buzz? I was lucky to get one of the first machines when they came out and I have never looked back to my Cricut Expression since that first day! Did Provo Craft answer what crafters really wanted in a new machine. Well in my book they did, but people are still weighing in on the pros and cons. Here are some facts for you to consider if you are contemplating a new cutting machine, especially the Cricut Explore. We are inviting all crafters to participate with their Explore experiences.

Features Of The Cricut Explore

  • Requires mats for cutting. Two different files are available at the present time. The mats are 12" by 12" and 12" by 24".
  • Cuts over 100 materials including vinyl, paper, card stock, iron- Ons, and glitter paper.
  • Includes a double clamp system. Clamp A holds the fine point, deep cut and bonded fabric blades. Clamp B holds the Cricut pens and the scoring stylus.

While it does cut a lot of materials, it does not cut thicker materials like chipboard, wood or leather.

You have the ability to upload images and projects, use the free Cricut library or use the membership library at a reasonable fee.

What Is In The Box

  • Cricut Explore® 3 machine
  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing
  • Welcome card
  • USB cable
  • Power adapter
  • Free trial subscription to Cricut Access™ (for new subscribers)
  • 100 ready-to-make projects online
  • Material for a practice cut

What you get with the Explore may depend on where and what package you get. My Explore was ordered online. I received the Explore itself with all the connecting wires. I also received one cutting mat and one of the new writing pens. I also received one piece of cardstock, one piece if vinyl, and one piece of iron on.

Each package may be different, so make sure to look and see what is in yours before you purchase. There are many options and packages available. It is always smart to do some comparison shopping.

Cricut Explore 3

Cricut Explore 3

The Cricut Explore 3 is the next step up in the Cricut Explore line.

It is compatible with 6 tools for cutting, writing, foiling & more (sold separately

It has a fine-Point Blade for cutting a wide variety of popular craft materials

  • Works with Foil Transfer Tool adds pro-level foil embellishments2
  • Works with Scoring Stylus and Deep-Point Blade2
  • Bluetooth® wireless technology*
  • Docking slot for mobile devices & built-in storage

There is an optional roller holder that you can purchase. The roller holder holds your roll of vinyl for you — this is SO useful! There’s even a built-in trimmer on the roll holder so you can easily cut off the vinyl when your cut is finished. And the Explore 3 has built-in sensors that measure your material length for you, ensuring that you have enough material for your project before you even cut, which is a really nice benefit of using rolls of vinyl.

The Cricut Maker

The Cricut Maker is the newest design in the Cricut family of products. It will cut paper of course, but it goes way beyond that. It will cut hundreds of materials including leather and fabric. It will also cut the lightest materials like crepe paper. It has ten times the cutting power of the other machines in the same family. It is considered a pro level cutting machine.

It cuts over 300 types of materials including Smart Vinyl.

It can do more functions than the other machines including debossing, engraving, scoring, and more.

Connects via Bluetooth and USB

Cricut Maker Features

  • The machine has multiple options. There are two cutting blades. There are also available a rotary blade that helps you cut detailed patterns. Simplicity patterns are available in Cricut Design Space. A scoring wheel is also available that will help you make the perfect fold and score every time.
  • The adaptive tool system is unique to this model. The machine knows which tool you are using and applies the right pressure to use that tool. The tool system will grow as time goes on. In this clamp, the tools that are available include the fine point blade, deep cut blade, rotary blade, bonded fabric blade, knife blade, scoring wheel, engraving tip, embossing tip, debossing tip, wave blade and perforation blade.
  • Left sided clamp holds the pens
  • The Cricut Maker can cut thicker materials including balsa wood and chipboard. It can cut over 300 materials
  • There is a space on the machine to hold your i phone or i pad. You can plug it into the machine and charge it while you are cutting.
  • It features two cutting mats like the Explore. One mat is 12" by 12". The other mat is 12" by 24

Cricut Maker 3

The Cricut Maker 3 comes with a place to put your tablet or phone
The Cricut Maker 3 comes with a place to put your tablet or phone

The Cricut Maker 3

The Cricut Maker 3 brings even more options to your craft experience. It cuts over 300 materials. The cutting force on this machine is 10 times more than any other Cricut cutting machine making it a pro machine for serious and professional crafters. It also cuts two times faster than the original Maker

One of the exciting features of the Maker 3 is that it can cut materials up to 12 feet long,

Something else is new with the Maker 3. You can now print then cut with colored paper. This feature is a gamechanger. Before you could only use this feature on white paper,

The finish on the Maker 3 is a little different that the Maker. on the Explore 3, they swapped the glossy and matte finishes, so the machines stay cleaner with fewer fingerprints, and on the Maker 3, they gave the new machine itself color instead of it being mostly white!

There are 13 tools available for additional purchase for this machine:

  • Fine-Point Blade
  • Deep-Point Blade
  • Pens & Markers
  • Scoring Stylus
  • Foil Transfer tool
  • Bonded-Fabric Tool
  • Rotary Blade
  • Knife Blade
  • Scoring Wheels (Single & Double)
  • Engraving Tool
  • Debossing Tool
  • Wavy Blade
  • Perforation Blade

It is also compatible with smart materials 13 in wide, up to 75 ft (33 cm wide, up to 22.8 m)

Use with Design Space® app for iOS®, Android™, Windows®, and Mac®.*

What Is In The Box

  • Cricut Maker® 3 machine
  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing
  • Welcome card
  • USB cable
  • Power adapter
  • Free trial subscription to Cricut Access™ (for new subscribers)
  • 100 ready-to-make projects online
  • Material for a practice cut

Cricut Joy

The Joy is a powerful cutting machine for any crafter who needs a powerful machine that takes up small spaces
The Joy is a powerful cutting machine for any crafter who needs a powerful machine that takes up small spaces | Source

The Cricut Joy

The Cricut Joy is the smallest of the Cricut line (5" by 5" by 8"). It can cut and draw most of the designs in Cricut Design Space. You can cut 59 plus materials with this little beauty.

Cricut Joy has built-in Bluetooth and is ready to pair with your compatible mobile device or Bluetooth-enabled Windows or Mac computer. On computer, Cricut Joy must use Design Space; the Cricut Joy app is currently available only for iOS and Android mobile devices.

The compact size of Cricut Joy machines requires smaller accessories to fit the machine. When purchasing machine tools and accessories, look for Cricut Joy in the machine compatibility section.

However, while many Cricut materials are conveniently sized to fit on Cricut Joy cutting mats, you can also trim larger versions of these materials to fit on Cricut Joy mats.

The Smart Iron-On and Smart Vinyl come on rolls in varying lengths — anywhere from 3 feet to 75 feet long! There’s even new transfer tape that comes on rolls, too.

Dimensions: 5.50 in x 8.40 in x 4.25 in (139 mm x 214 mm x 108 mm)

Weight: 3.85 lbs. (1.75 kg)

Cricut Joy Features

  • The unique part of the Cricut Joy is its ability to use Smart Materials. These materials include paper, vinyl and iron on material that is designed to be used without a mat.
  • It also has a specialized card mat that does greeting cards within minutes.
  • Because of its size it can cut materials that are 4.5" wide and up to 48" long. This is the only machine able to do this. You can make banners in one step.
  • It has a single clamp. It has a fine point blade and its own collection of pens. (You cannot use other Cricut pens with this machine because of its size.

What Comes In The Box

  • Cricut Joy machine
  • Blade + Blade Housing (pre-installed in machine)
  • Fine Point Pen, Black (0.4 mm)
  • StandardGrip Mat, 4.5 in x 6.5 in (11.4 cm x 16.5 cm)
  • Welcome card
  • Power adapter
  • Free 30-day trial membership to Cricut Access (for new subscribers)
  • 50 ready-to-make projects online
  • Materials for a practice cut

The Cricut Adaptable Tool System

These new adaptable tools are only available in the Cricut Maker
These new adaptable tools are only available in the Cricut Maker

The Adaptive Tool System

The Cricut Maker and the Cricut Maker 3 boast an adaptive tool system that gives you more options for cutting and creating than any other machine on the market.

While one or two of the tools may come with your package, for the most part, these are additional purchases.

The nice thing about these tools is that you can purchase the tools that meet your needs

Here are the available tools to help you decide if these features make the Maker series of cutting machines the right choice for you.

The Knife Blade

The knife blade uses a drive housing that enables it to slice through thicker materials than other machines. You can cut through things like balsa wood, leather, mat board and chipboard.

You get the knife blade, the knife blade housing, and a blade changing instrucion sheet

Engraving Tip

Snap this tool onto the Quick Snap Housing to create personalized monograms or text. You can engrave on a variety of materials. The package includes the engraving tip as well as the Quick Swap Housing. This tip works with soft metal, leather, acrylic, plastic and more.

Rotary Blade

The Rotary Blade is used to cut material like cotton, silk, denim, burlap and more. No backing is necessary. You can also cut thin paper material like crepe paper and tissue paper.

Scoring Wheel Tip

The Scoring Wheel Tip snaps into the Quick Swap Drive Housing (sold separately).

It gives you extra deep scoring lines. This makes it easier to fold all of your paper projects. It helps you create flawless tags, gif boxes, 3 D paper projects, home decor and more. Get crisp creases in one pass. It has 10 times more pressure than a standard scoring stylus.

Wavy Blade

You get the Wavy Blade Tip (housing sold separately). You can create a decorative edge for your project in half the time. Just snap it into the housing and hit "go". It is that easy. You can use this blade on so many projects, you can create edges for all kinds of paper as well as other materials with this blade.

Cricut Accessories - Some Basic Tools You Will Need For Every Model

There are just a few tools that you will need to enhance your Cricut Experience. If you have some of the older tools, they will work also. There are a few that are new to this machine and your investment in these tools will have a big payoff in experience,

The tools now come in a variety of colors which will match the color of your machine.

Some packages will include some tools. Always read the description in the package you are buying so that you will not be disappointed.

  • Scrapper- This tool helps you to clean mats and burnish materials
  • Weeder- Helps you remove small bits of paper from your design
  • Tweezer-Lifts and secures delicate materials
  • Spatula-Lifts cuts off the mat

The Cricut Smart Dial

One of the first thing that I noticed was the new cutting setting on the Cricut Explore. Oh, how I absolutely love that knob ! On the old Cricuts you really had to think about cutting settings ! I really found it cumbersome to operate. Provo Craft really listened to crafters and came up with a system that makes crafting a whole lot more fun ! Now all you have to do is set your cutting settings to the type of material you are cutting ! This alone would probably have caused me to purchase this unit !

Note the dial has the exact settings for the materials that you will be cutting !

There is one button that is really something special ! It's the custom button ! Why a custom button you ask? It allows you to cut special materials like vellum, felt, polyester, leather, aluminum sheets, magnetic sheets, washi tape, and glitter cardstock. It features a drop down menu to get all your jobs done

The other buttons are easy ! From left to right....Feed paper, cut and discontinue project...totally easy to remember !

Cricut Writing And Drawing Feature

One of the most exciting features of the Cricut Explore is it's ability to write and draw on projects with pens that attach in a special accessory holder. This makes the machine very versatile. Using this feature is easy as the pen slips into a special holder designed to hold them as well as the stylus. Most of the Explore packages include one pen so that you can get your feet wet with this innovative feature.

Pens come in a variety of colors and pen tips which increases your ability to do more than ever possible.

Cricut Design Space

One of the things that Provo Craft offers is the Design Space software. Best of all, it's free to use for a limited period of time, usually with your explore package. There are over 25,000 images on Cricut Explore. After your trial period, you will have the option of either purchasing a monthly subscription, a yearly subscription or you can purchase individual images or sets. It's up to you ! You also have the option of importing svg files. It's not difficult to set up at all. In addition, one of my favorite things is that you can load your cartridges right into your craft room. You can also store your projects in a separate file for later use. One of the things that is exciting about the craft room is that you can select from a list of completed projects. The craft room will guide you along step by step. The projects include cards, complete scrapbook pages, home décor, party décor, and paper crafts. I personally took the yearly subscription with no hesitation. When I figured in the cards, the paper crafts and scrapbook pages that I could create, I was actually saving time and money.

Cricut Design Space is the computer platform that communicates with your Cricut Explore. It takes an image or project and "tells" your machine how to cut, write or score it. Not only can you use the images in the Cricut Access Program, but you also can upload images and fonts from other sources.

You can search for images and projects that are organized by category. You can also search for a specific item. The more specific you are, the more likely you will find what you need.

Every week there are free images that you can use for the week.

One thing to note is that while there are more images in the Cricut Access program that you can ever use, some will have an additional fee over and above the cost of the membership fee. These are licensed images that are "leased" to cricut. These are often things like Disney images. You can purchase an image with a discount if you are in an Access image member. Once you purchase it you own it for life

Access Membership Levels

  • Cricut Access Fonts-370 fonts plus some that are exclusive. $6.99 monthly or$59.88 yearly
  • Cricut Access Standard-370 fonts plus over 30,000 images and projects.Ten percent off digital images and products. $9.99 billed monthly or $95.88 yearly.
  • Cricut Access Premium-370 fonts, over 30,000 plus images, 50 % off digital images,10 % off Cricut projects. $119.88 billed yearly.

Features Of My Cricut Explore - My Favorite Craft And Scrapbook Tool

Click thumbnail to view full-size
It's easy to set the stylus and the pens in the Cricut Explore.Storage area for tools on the lid that lowers when openAnother storage area on top of my Cricut-perfect for tools and pensStorage area for extra cutting blades on lower lidPort to load your cartridges
It's easy to set the stylus and the pens in the Cricut Explore.
It's easy to set the stylus and the pens in the Cricut Explore.
Storage area for tools on the lid that lowers when open
Storage area for tools on the lid that lowers when open
Another storage area on top of my Cricut-perfect for tools and pens
Another storage area on top of my Cricut-perfect for tools and pens
Storage area for extra cutting blades on lower lid
Storage area for extra cutting blades on lower lid
Port to load your cartridges
Port to load your cartridges

Other pens that can be used with the Cricut Explore include Pilot Precise Extra Fine Tip, Recollection Pens, Crazart Classic Markers, And American Craft Slick Writers

What Is Your Favorite Cricut Machine? - Everyone has a different thought so weigh in !

Which Cricut machine is your personal favorite?

See results

There are two storage areas that are super handy on the Explore. One little cubby is on the top of the machine. Then on the lid is another handy storage area with a cover-perfect for your accessories

New Make It Now App For IPads Or Bluetooth Compatible Computers - Free I Pad App From Cricut

Now you can get a free Make It Now App for your IPad from Provocraft. Combined with the wireless adapter, you can now crate completely wireless. This is the first cutting machine with this ability.There is a port on the side of your cricut machine for your wireless adapter. You can also use it with any computer or Mac that is Bluetooth compatible.

If you have a wireless Internet service installed on your computer then you will be Bluetooth-compatible. The Bluetooth option will automatically load if you have wireless Internet installed.One way to check if you have wireless Internet, is by right-clicking on "My Computer" and selecting "Properties > Device Manager > Network Adapters." If you have wireless Internet it will be listed under this category. Although wireless internet comes standard with most versions of laptops, they are not as common with PC's.

You will get about 50 Make It Now Projects to use. If you have a subscription of course you will have use of your projects

Now A Wireless Adapter

Now available and the newest feature of the Cricut Explore is the wireless adapter ! You don't have to plug your unit into the computer which means that you have options where and how you use your unit ! And you can get a free app for your IPad, or any computer with blue tooth

Cricut Explore 3-D

Now You Can Make 3-D Projects With Cricut Explore And Autodesk

Recently released is the Cricut Explore 3-d projects. You can actually create 3-d projects with your Cricut Explore. To the best of my knowledge no other cutter can do this . So this makes Provo Craft at the cutting edge of the new projects that are available now in 3-D. You can find several available at the Make It Now Location on the Cricut Explore Craft Room. You get the Craft Rooom App free, but will need to take a subscription or purchase the individual projects.

Cricut Mat Basics

Which Mat To Use With Which Project

The Cricut Mats are the accessory that you must have for your Cricut Explore. The Explore is programed to use with the mats. A lot of times I see people who complain about the mats being too sticky. Most times it is because the wrong mat is being used with the wrong material !

Mats can be bought in variety packages which include one of each type. You can also purchase multi packs of a single type of mat.

There are three types of mats. These mats are in standard size of 12x 12 inches.They also come in 12 x 24 inches for larger projects

The Light Grip Mat -is for lighter papers like print paper, vellum, and light card stock.

The Standard Grip Mat- is what is included in most Explore packages. It is the mat that you will use most often with your machine. It's a general-purpose mat for medium weight materials.

The Strong Grip Mat-The strong grip mat is for heavy weight materials, like heavier cardstock, glitter cardstock, and chipboard.

The 2 by 2 mat-This is the newest mat that Cricut has offered. You can create up to 4 cards at the same time on one mat.

Using the right mat for the right project will cause a lot less frustration and your projects will turn out a lot better. If you have mats from your other Cricut machines, they can be used in the Explore if they are the 12 x 12

My Explore lets me use every shred of paper ! Once I cut out one image, I can then take the rest of the paper and keep cutting smaller images until I have nothing but little bits ! I never waste any paper !

More Cricut Explore Basics - A Library Of Cricut Explore Video Lessons

The Bottom Line

So, if you have the Cricut Explore and are considering adding the Cricut Maker to your craft space, the question is would you use the features on the Maker enough to justify the additional cost?

If you are in the position of starting out with Cricut, how much is in your budget to spend? Would you use the features on the Maker or do you want to just make simpler projects.

That is the question that only you can answer!

© 2014 Linda F Correa


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