Crafts

What is a Cricut Machine and What You Can Do With One: Ultimate Guide

As Cricut machines have skyrocketed in popularity, artists and crafters worldwide have become increasingly curious about what they have to offer.The problem is, Cricut machines are remarkably flexible devices…they’ve got so much to offer that people quickly get lost and confused!

Here, we’ll dispel some of the curiosity and questions surrounding Cricut machines, their advantages, nuances, and various potential uses!

Contents

What is a Cricut?

The Cricut machine is an all-in-one easy-to-use arts and crafts cutting machine.

The current models are the Cricut Maker, Cricut Explore Air 2, and Cricut Joy.

They work very similarly to printers in that you send them an image or design via USB or Bluetooth (for some models).

But, instead of printing the design, they cut it out. The concept is simple but the possibilities are almost endless.

Cricut machines can cut loads of different materials including paper, vinyl, fabric, t-shirt transfers, craft foam, sticker paper, wood, and faux or real leather. You can use them to cut out lettering or patterns, stickers and t-shirt transfer designs, wooden components, and foldable card or foam to create 3D objects.

The cutting capability of a Cricut machine does vary between models. The current top-spec Cricut machine is the Cricut Maker which can cut all of the above materials.

Cricut are deceptively simple. They’re pretty sophisticated machines and they can get confusing, or at least, people tend to have a lot of questions when it comes to Cricuts.To help answer the puzzlement and confusion that surrounds Cricut machines, we’ve compiled this epic list of Cricut questions and answers.

Let’s get stuck in!

50+ Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Cricut

The purpose of this article is to answer all of your Cricut-related questions.

It’s the ultimate Cricut FAQ!

Section 1 – Choosing a Cricut machine

Q1: Do I Really Need a Cricut? Will it Be Useful for Me?

Cutting is a fundamental process for arts and crafts of various kinds.

If you find yourself cutting a lot, then you’ll benefit from a Cricut machine. Cutting complex shapes and patterns manually with scissors is painstaking and achieving a professional cut can be very tricky.

Cricut machines simplify the whole ordeal, which doesn’t just save time, but also ensures professional and accurate results. Of course, Cricut machines can also cut things out which wouldn’t be possible by hand.

Cricut machines aren’t just useful for crafters and artists of all types, but they’re also useful for a variety of other creative enterprises or small businesses that need to create personalized labeling, stickers, or other branded content.

If you fit into any of these categories then a Cricut machine would be great for you.

Q2. Are There Cricut Alternatives?

A Cricut is a die-cutting machine, and yes, there are other die-cutting machines available.

Cricut is the most popular brand of cutting machines and have generally stellar reviews. They do take some getting-to-grips with as there are so many possibilities, but once you’ve got your set-up dialed in, Cricut machines are simple to use.

Alternatives come in the form of die-cutting machines from Silhouette America and Brother.

Q3. How do Cricut machines Compare to Other Brands

The standards of die-cutting machines are very high. This is reflected in the Amazon reviews of various die-cutting machines.

Whilst you will always find negative ratings, some of these seem linked to a misunderstanding of how to use the product and/or load/send designs to the machine.

With some patience and perseverance, there is no doubt that Cricuts are great quality machines that will serve you for years to come.

Whilst the standards amongst other brands are also high, Cricut machines are probably the leaders of the commercial die-cutter market.

Q4. Why Choose Cricut Machines Over Other Brands?

Cricut machines are flexible devices that can be used for much more than just cutting.

Cricuts have the ability to cut stickers and transfers as well as wood, card, foam, and all other major craft materials.

Some Cricut machines, like the Cricut maker, can also engrave materials including metal and acrylic plastic.

Not all other brand cutting machines have these features, thus making the Cricut brand a very solid one for eclectic artists and crafters as well as small business owners.

And then there’s the fact that Cricut machines are the most popular die cutters. You can find parts for them – like spare blades – at most major crafts shops. This makes them one of the more convenient die-cutters to run because they’re very well supported.

Q5. Why Did I Buy a Cricut Machine?

Because you want to cut awesome things!

Maybe you’re an artist, maybe you’re a crafter, maybe you just like to create your own cards and want to step this up to a new level.

You might own or run a small business and need a solution for labeling, branded items, or even marketing collateral.

Or, you might be a graphic designer that wants to get some of their designs cut out precisely and accurately.

There are loads of reasons to buy a Cricut machine!

Q6. What Cricut Machines Are There?

There are currently 3 Cricut models:

  • The Cricut Maker is the most advanced (and expensive) Cricut machine. It can cut the most materials and is capable of high-quality engraving.
  • The Cricut Explore series (currently the Explore Air 2) is the intermediate model. It can cut most of the same materials as the Maker but has much less cutting force, so it’s really only suitable for soft materials such as card, paper, and vinyl. Doesn’t have embossing or engraving functionality, but can score.
  • The budget cutter, the Cricut Joy, is the simplest of the trio and is designed for cutting soft materials only. Still great for cutting card and paper.

The Cricut Maker is the flagship model right now. If you want to cut through the maximum amount of materials including wood and plastics, and you want to deboss or engrave too, then the Maker is the best shout.

Q7. Are Cricut machines Expensive?

As far as arts and crafts technology goes, Cricut machines are not massively expensive.

If you compare them to all the power tools and accessories you might need to perform a similar job then they start to look great value.

Of course, the upfront investment for a Cricut machine doesn’t include material costs. But, the materials you feed into Cricut machines are generally pretty cheap.

If you run an arts and crafts business then you’d probably see a return from your Cricut machine investment almost immediately.

They are also competitively priced compared to other brands.

Q8. What is the Best Cricut Machine?

The Cricut Maker is currently the best Cricut machine available. It’s their flagship model and has around 10x the cutting force of the Cricut Explore series. This means it will make light work of soft materials but can also cut much thicker, stronger materials.

The Maker also allows crafters to deboss and engrave everything from plastic to soft metal.

Q9. Is Getting a Cricut Worth It?

If you find yourself cutting out a lot of intricate shapes then yes, a Cricut machine will benefit you almost immediately.

Arts and crafts can be painstakingly time-consuming – Cricut cutting machines allow you to automate some of that work so you can concentrate on the creative side of things.

Q10. Which Cricut Machine Should I Buy?

It depends on your needs.

If you want to cut paper, card, and vinyl, or other softer materials then you’ll be fine with the Explore Air 2 or Joy.

The Joy has a max material width size of 5.5” whereas the Maker and Explore Air 2 have a max material width of 12”.

The Cricut Explore Air 2 can cut 100 or more materials but is limited when it comes to cutting thicker materials. It can score, but can’t deboss or engrave.

Q11. Can I Use a Cricut for My Business?

Many people purchase Cricut machines for business use.

Cricut machines can help further a budding arts and crafts business, enabling you to upscale your offerings to serve more customers at greater volume.

You can also use a Cricut machine to create promotional items for your business, such as packaging inserts and stickers. Creating fun, effective, and memorable marketing collateral and other promo materials is simple with a Cricut machine.

There are many examples of sellers and influencers across Etsy, Instagram, and YouTube that have used Cricut machines to establish successful businesses.

Section 2 – Using a Cricut machine

A Cricut machine cutting a vinyl sticker

Q1. What Materials Can I Cut with a Cricut?

Cricut machines can cut a wide variety of standard arts and crafts materials ranging from ultra-thin paper to card and wood.

The exact material compatible with Cricut machines varies between each model:

Cricut Joy:

  • Most types of paper and cardboard including artboard
  • Iron-on transfers
  • Paper-thin faux leather
  • Vinyl
  • Acetate film

Cricut Explore Air 2:

  • Everything above but in thicker formats, and
  • Foil
  • Sticker paper
  • Felt and many other fabrics
  • Wood (basswood and balsa wood)
  • Gauss

Cricut Maker:

  • Cuts everything above much more easily
  • deboss and engrave a range of materials

Q2. Where Can I Get Cricut Materials?

Materials for use with your Cricut machine are usually cheap and easy to buy from all crafts shops as well as stationery shops and even garden centers or hardware stores.

You can also cut a range of standard household materials like card and paper.

More specific materials can be purchased online or from specialist art stores.

Cricut accessories are readily available online. There are loads of awesome accessories for Cricut machines, enabling users to create everything from vinyl transfers to debossed designs.

Q3. Are Cricut Materials Expensive?

It depends on the material. Some, like metallic foil, fabric, and basswood can be pretty expensive. But card and paper are generally very cheap.

If you’re working on smaller projects then the material cost of a Cricut is likely quite small. If your work mostly uses paper and card then running a Cricut is really cheap.

Q4. How Does a Cricut machine Work?

A Cricut machine is a digital cutting machine. It links to Cricut Design Space on your PC, Mac, or smartphone.

You load designs into Cricut Design Space, arrange them, and then cut them out of your chosen materials.

Cricut Design Space is free. Cricut Access is a subscription-based platform that grants you access to thousands of projects.

You can load your own designs/designs you download into Cricut Design Space.

Q5. How Does the Cricut Adaptive Tool System Work?

The Cricut Maker has an adaptive tool system that makes changing tools or blades really easy.

Instead of dismantling the device to change tools, it has a quick-release housing that lets you swap out tools safely and easily.

It also self-moderates the cutting pressure to account for inconsistencies in materials.

Q6. Does a Cricut Draw?

Yes, you can draw with a Cricut machine using the Cricut Draw feature.

This works in the same way as cutting, except instead of cutting, the machine will draw your design. A range of high-quality pens is available for the Cricut Draw feature.

This is excellent for when you want to outline a design for painting or coloring.

Q7. Does a Cricut Work as a Laminator?

The current series of Cricuts have no lamination features. But that doesn’t mean that this won’t be a feature in the future.

Q8. Does a Cricut Emboss?

Technically, no, a Cricut does not emboss. Embossing pushes material out so it ‘pops up’ from the design.

But, instead of embossing, the Cricut Maker does have a deboss tool that does the opposite of embossing, by depressing the material downwards. This has the same effect in emphasizing the debossed design in much the same way as embossing.

There are tons of workarounds for getting emboss effects with the Cricut. This Cricut embossing tutorial is a good one.

Q9. Does a Cricut Sew?

The Cricut Maker can perforate, which can be very useful for sewing projects. But no, the Cricut cannot sew in its own right.

Q10. Can a Cricut Machine Cut Fabric?

Yes, but the Explore series can only cut fabric when bonded to backing paper.

Backing papers stabilize the fabric to allow the blade to cut through it without catching or pulling the fabric.

The Cricut Maker, on the other hand, can cut fabric without a backing sheet.

If you’re looking to primarily cut fabric then the Maker is by far the best option.

Q11. Does a Cricut Cut Wood?

The Cricut Maker is the only Cricut machine with enough cutting pressure to cut wood.

You’re limited to basswood and balsa wood – but that’s still pretty much all you’ll need for 90% of craft projects.

To cut wood, you’ll need the Knife Blade attachment.

Q12. What Sort of Projects Can I Do With a Cricut?

There are TONS of awesome Cricut projects online. Check out YouTube and Pinterest for near-limitless tutorials on various projects.

Some project ideas include:

  • Home decor including signs, labels, and decorations
  • Greeting cards and tags
  • Iron-on T-shirts using transfers
  • Stickers
  • 3D items such as fold-up houses, origami, or other 3D objects
  • Cut fabric for sewing and fashion design
  • Modeling and 3D design
  • Paper flowers

Read our article 100+ Ideas for What You Can Make with a Cricut Machine for more inspiration.

Q13. Where Can I Download Projects and Files?

There are numerous ways to download Cricut project files. The main file type you’ll be using is the SVG file type – there are loads of SVG cutting files available online for use with Cricut machines.

You can also download a huge volume of projects through the Cricut software Design Space.

There are projects covering pretty much every genre or type of cutting project.

A simple online search will point you to hundreds of free SVG files for Cricut cutting machines.

Q14. What Are Cricut Infusible Ink Sheets?

Cricut Infusible Ink sheets are colored sheets that you can load into your Cricut machine for cutting transfers for clothes design.

The sheets themselves come in a range of different colors and patterns. You cut your design out of the sheet and use the sheet with a transfer machine to press it onto t-shirts or other blanks.

Infusible ink is highly durable, vivid, and wear-resistant. It offers a professional way to make DIY transfers that you can use to design your own clothing and other items.

To use Cricut Infusible ink, you’ll need both a Cricut cutting machine and a heat press like the Cricut EasyPress.

Q15. What are Cricut Mats?

Cricut mats are the bed, or mat, upon which you’ll mount your materials for cutting.

There are 4 sizes available:

For the Cricut Joy: 4.5 × 6.5 in and 4.5 x 12in mats

For the Cricut Maker/Explore: 12 x 12in and 12 x 24in mats

For the Maker/Explore: there are 4 types of mat:

  • Light Grip (Blue)
  • Strong Grip (Purple)
  • Standard Grip (Green)
  • Fabric Grip (Pink)

More grippy mats are suitable for thicker materials. Most machines come with the standard grip and for the vast majority of materials, this will work fine.

When you choose new materials, make sure to check what mat you’ll need. There’s a fantastic guide on the Cricut site.

Q16. What Blades and Tools are Available for Cricut Machines?

The Cricut Joy uses just one all-purpose blade.

The following blades/tools are available for the Explore and Maker series:

  • Premium Fine-Point Blade – For medium and light standard materials such as card, paper, and vinyl
  • Deep Point Blade – For thicker card, foam, and thick cardstock
  • Bonded-Fabric Blade – For cutting bonded fabric
  • Foil Transfer Tool – For creating foil transfers
  • Scoring Stylus – For scoring projects with fold lines/designs

The Maker has the following tools that use the same QuickSwap housing:

  • Scoring Wheel – Efficient scoring
  • Double Scoring Wheel – More efficient doubled scoring
  • Debossing Tip – For debossing effects
  • Engraving Tip – For engraving a variety of materials (including soft metals)
  • Perforation Blade – For creating wavy edges
  • Wavy Blade – For creating wavy edges
  • Knife Blade – For cutting the thickest materials like wood
  • Rotary Blade – For cutting non-bonded fabric

Q17. When Do I Replace the Blade?

It’s difficult to say as it depends on how often you’re using your Cricut machine and what materials you’re cutting.

Thick materials like card, wood, and faux leather will blunt blades the quickest. If you find that your cuts are not so precise and clean as they usually are then consider changing the blade.

Q18. Do I Need Other Accessories for my Cricut?

It depends on what materials you plan on cutting.

Cricut offers their own accessories that include the following:

  • Tweezers: For removing designs and materials
  • Weeder: To separate cuts
  • Spatula: To remove cuts from the mat
  • Scraper: For moving transfers
  • Scissors: For cutting materials prior to loading into the machine
  • Trimmer: To measure and trim materials accurately
  • Scorer: To score materials

You can use these recommendations as a guide to finding/sourcing your own accessories – you might find that you can improvise, or you may already own some.

Section 3: Cricut EasyPress

Q1: What is the Cricut EasyPress?

The EasyPress is a heat press that allows you to accurately and efficiently transfer designs onto clothing or other blanks including tote bags, coasters, placemats, and more.

The EasyPress takes the place of the household iron for applying iron-on transfers. It’s much better than an iron as it disperses heat evenly and accurately over a surface which ensures an even print.

There are 4 sizes of EasyPress:

9 x 9in EasyPress – Ideal for most applications including printing onto adult-size t-shirts and other clothing.

12 x 10in EasyPress – The largest model, suitable for the biggest items. Perfect for towels, pillowcases, and bags.

EasyPress Mini – Very similar to other models but optimized for smaller clothing, e.g. children’s or baby clothing, as well as pockets, hats, and even shoes.

Q2. How Do You Use the EasyPress?

You can use the EasyPress with most iron-on transfer materials or Cricut Infusible Ink.

Cricut Infusible Ink provides the best results and though it can be pricey, it provides an excellent way to make pro-quality custom DIY clothing and other personalized items.

The difference is that Infusible Ink actually penetrates the fibers of the material whereas transfers simply adhere to it.

The general process is:

  • Create your transfer designs in Design Space
  • Use the Cricut Draw feature to draw onto the transfer sheet if necessary
  • Cut them out of a transfer sheet
  • Use the EasyPress to transfer the designs onto your blanks

Q3. What is the Cricut Mug Press?

If you want to press your own mugs then the Cricut Mug Press could be the solution you’re looking for.

Compatible with the Cricut ecosystem, the Cricut Mug Press uses Infusible Ink technology to print beautiful vibrant designs to compatible mugs.

It’s currently available in the US but will be available in the UK and Europe sometime in the second half of 2021.

Once you’ve purchased the mug press itself, the blank mugs for pressing are relatively expensive. The mug press is quick, easy, and safe to use. Perfect for home or business use.

Section 4: Miscellaneous

Q1. Do I Need to be Tech-Savvy to Use a Cricut machine?

The Cricut design process is digital, so you’ll need to be comfortable using the software.

The guidance and instructions surrounding Cricut are very detailed and in-depth, and there are hundreds or thousands of guides out there to help you.

No matter what your project is, someone will have produced a guide to help you.

Downloading projects via Cricut Design Space is also really simple.

For those that don’t want to use a PC or laptop to organize their designs, there is a smartphone app for the Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore, available on both Google Play and iOS.

A separate app for the Cricut Joy is also currently available on both iOS and Google Play.

As far as die-cutting devices go, the Cricut range is the easiest to use.

This is partly why they’re so successful, because they’re accessible to anyone!

Q2. I’ve Heard of Cricut Mystery Boxes, What Are They?

Cricut used to periodically release a ‘Mystery Box’ filled with materials, usually centering around a theme.

For example, this Mystery Box (currently in stock as of early to mid-2021), is Disney-themed.

As you might have guessed, they don’t tell you what you get in the box, but you can be assured you’re getting great value. There may be exclusive accessories or materials that you can only find in that Mystery Box.

Well worth a look!

Q3. Can I Connect my Cricut via Bluetooth?

Yes, the Joy, Maker and Explore Air 3 (the 3 latest models), all allow you to connect via Bluetooth.

This means you can operate the Cricut from the sofa or chair and can tuck it away neatly in your house or office!

Q4. Can I Get Free Project Files for the Cricut?

Yes! There are loads of sites online that provide 100% free project files ready for loading and cutting with your Cricut.

3 great sites are Printable Cuttable Creatables, this excellent Pinterest board, and Design Bundles.

Q5. What is Cricut Access?

Cricut Access provides thousands of project files for one monthly subscription. It has 100,000 non-licensed images, many thousands of ready-to-make projects, and some 500+ fonts.

Cricut Access provides very good value at $7.99 per month and is ideal for beginners who want to experiment immediately with lots of different projects.

It’s also very easy to get started with and set up since it runs from directly within Cricut Design Space. You can easily save, cut, and access your designs in Access from Design Space.

Q6. What are Cricut Free Images of the Week?

Cricut releases free images and project files each week. There is a category in Design Space called ‘Free this Week’.

Q7. Do I Need an Internet Connection to Use a Cricut?

So long as you’ve downloaded Design Space and some projects then no, you don’t need to be connected to the internet to use a Cricut.

Q8. Are Cricuts Reliable?

Yes! Cricut has built an excellent reputation for the reliability of its cutting machines.

Also, since Cricuts are so popular, they’re backed by extensive replacement parts and accessories. Parts are well-stocked and readily available worldwide.

The only things you have to be aware of are changing the blades or tools when they get blunt and not pushing the machine with thick or tough materials.

Cricut has an extensive guide on how to set the proper cutting settings for your project. This can either be done manually with a dial on the Explore series or in Design Space with the Maker.

The Maker is compatible with more materials than the Explore so the selections are a little more in-depth. However, it’s very easy to dial in your cutting settings with any of the 3 current Cricut devices.

Q9. Can I Get Spare Parts for my Cricut?

Yes, most spare parts for Cricut are readily available for the Cricut cutting machines.

You can find them on the Cricut website, Amazon, eBay, or order them from your local craft store.

It’s worth mentioning that the only pats you’ll likely need to replace are the blades and tools, as they will inevitably wear out eventually.

Q9. I Have More Questions?

The Cricut website has a huge FAQ and how-to section covering pretty much everything there is to cover about any Cricut device or accessory.

Don’t forget to check out Cricut YouTube tutorials, of which there are thousands!

Summary

Cricut machines are cutting machines designed specifically for arts and crafters of all types and varieties.

These machines have taken the die-cutting world by storm and have become some of the most popular arts and crafts devices in the world.

Something so seemingly simple as cutting has been totally transformed by Cricut machines. Some Cricut projects are phenomenal and artists and crafters will probably never run out of new ideas for how to use the Cricut.

From clothes design to card making, modeling, and fine art, Cricut cutting machines are very adaptive and flexible.

The Cricut Design Space app and software add to the overall functionality of the Cricut brand. Everything is super easy to use and access. You don’t need to be a technological whizzkid to use Design Space either.

Richard Hammond

I am the founder of 9Mousai and am deeply interested in creativity and what inspires it. My main passions are writing, film and music but I have huge respect for all the arts. I'm also an animal lover and have a little cat called Winston and enjoy the occasional whiskey or two...

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