Which Cricut Should I Buy? All 3 Cricut Machines Compared

Wondering which Cricut machine is best? Here’s a detailed comparison of the Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore Air 2, and Cricut Maker, including pros and cons of each and a “bottom line” to give you a quick idea of which machine is best for your crafting needs!


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One of the most common questions I’m asked is “Which Cricut machine should I buy?” or “Which is the best Cricut machine for beginners?” The good news is that all 3 Cricut machines currently available share the same basic features: they are all digital die cutting machines that can cut out and write one a wide variety of materials. But there are some key differences between the specific features and price points of the machines.

This post explains the differences between the 3 current machines (the Cricut Maker, Cricut Explore Air 2, and the Cricut Joy) to help you decide which Cricut machine is best for you!

Which Cricut Machine Should I Buy?

Introduction

Which Cricut machine should you buy? The answer depends on what types of projects you want to do with your machine, how often you plan to use the machine, and how much you want to spend on a new machine.

In the article below I’ll discuss the common features and key differences across all 3 Cricut models, and then go into detail about each machine individually. For each machine I give an overview of the machine, list the pros and cons, and give you my “bottom line” opinion on who will get the most out of that machine!

Machine Similarities

All Cricut machines have some capabilities that are the same across all machines. No matter which Cricut model you buy, you will be able to do all of the following things.

Cut and Write

Every Cricut machine can cut and write (or draw.) No matter which machine you buy, it will come with the standard Fine-Point Blade for cutting a wide variety of popular crafting materials, and all of the machines are compatible with Cricut pens and markers.

Which cricut model is best

Cut a Variety of Materials

All Cricut machines can cut SO MANY materials; the only real limit is your imagination! Cricut’s website lists hundreds of different materials that can be cut with the Fine-Point Blade that comes standard in all machines. And those are just the ones that are actually written down!

However, some of the machines have the ability to use alternate blades or tools, which allow you to cut even more materials like fabric, leather, wood, etc.

Cricut Design Space Software

All of the Cricut machines use Design Space software to allow you to design and create projects to make with your machine. Design Space is free for anyone to use and can be used on a Windows or Mac computer, or as an iOS or Android app. No matter which machine you have, Design Space works the same way, and you always use it to send projects to your machine for cutting or writing.

Finding Pre-Made Images or Uploading Your Own Images

Within Cricut Design Space is a GIANT library of pre-made images, fonts, and graphics that you can use for your projects. Or you can upload your own image to use with your Cricut machine. It doesn’t matter which machine you have; finding images through Design Space or uploading your own will be the exact same process for all of them.

Wireless Cutting Using Bluetooth

When you first set up a new Cricut machine (especially if you are setting it up via your computer instead of a tablet or mobile device) you may be asked to plug it into your computer using a USB cable. But after the initial setup, all of the Cricut machines can be used wirelessly so you don’t have to be tethered to the machine with a cable.

Machine Differences

Next up: a quick overview of the key areas where the machines differ.

Machine Size

The Cricut Maker and the Cricut Explore Air 2 are desktop machines; they are about 2 feet across and 8″ to 10″ tall and 8″ to 10″ deep. The Maker is about 24 pounds and the Explore Air 2 is about 16 pounds, so they’re really designed to be set up and stationary on a desk or table somewhere.

The Cricut Joy is much smaller and designed to be portable. It’s 8 inches across and 4″ tall and 4″ deep, and it weighs less than 4 pounds. You can easily pick it up, move it around, and create anywhere you want; no craft room required!

Cutting Mats vs. Mat-less Cutting

The Maker and Explore Air 2 both require the use of a cutting mat. Currently there are four different cutting mats available for these machines: the LightGrip mat for delicate materials like tissue paper, the StandardGrip mat for regular materials like paper and vinyl, the StrongGrip mat for thicker materials like leather, and the FabricGrip mat for fabric. Each of the four mats is available in 12″x12″ or 12″x24″.

Unlike the larger machines, the Cricut Joy can cut with a mat or without a mat. The Joy has a narrower cutting base, so the LightGrip and StandardGrip mats also come in a smaller size that works with the Joy machines (4.5″x6.5″ and 4.5″x12″.)

The Cricut Joy can also cut Smart materials, which are rolls of material designed to be fed directly into the machine and cut without a mat. Currently Cricut makes Smart Vinyl, Smart Iron-On, and Smart Labels (a writable vinyl.)

Cutting Size

Because the Maker and Explore Air 2 require a cutting mat, the largest single piece of material they can cut is 12″ x 24″ (the longest cutting mat available is 24″ long.)

When cutting without a mat, the Cricut Joy can cut unique designs on material that is 4.5″ wide and up to 4 feet long, or it can cut a repeating pattern on rolls of material up to 20 feet long! (When cutting with a mat the Joy can cut materials up to 4.5″ x 12″.)

Single vs. Double Tool Holder

When you open the lid of a Cricut machine you’ll see the main tool holder on a carriage that moves back and forth. The Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore Air 2 both have a double tool holder, meaning there is a clamp to hold the blade and a second clamp for holding accessories like pens or the scoring stylus. This allows the machine to write and cut all in one step! The Cricut Joy has a single tool holder, which means if you want to write on your project and cut it out, you will have to switch out the blade for a pen halfway through the process.

Adaptive Tool System

The Adaptive Tool System is a new innovation that is only available on the Cricut Maker.

The tool holder carriage on the Explore and Joy machines can only move up and down. That means the carriage is either “down” and touching the material on the mat below it, or it is “up” so the entire carriage can move to a new position before going “down” again to cut.

The Adaptive Tool System is different in 4 ways:

  1. It delivers much more power, with up to 4 kg of cutting force – 10x more than the other machines.
  2. It uses a steering system to rotate and turn the blade so that it is actively controlling the direction of the blade at all times.
  3. It automatically adjusts the pressure of the blade with each cut pass to get a clean cut even through tough materials.
  4. It allows the machine to use a whole new suite of tools and accessories (like the Rotary Blade, Knife Blade, Debossing Tool, Engraving Tool, etc.) so you can work with hundreds of new materials.

Overall, the Adaptive Tool System provides much more control over the tools, allowing for much more intricate cuts, cutting through thicker materials, the ability to expand and use new types of tools, and clean, crisp cuts every time.

Compare cricut machines to see which model is best

Insert Cards With The Card Mat

Another feature that is unique to the Cricut Joy is the ability to personalize Insert Cards with the use of the Card Mat. Normally when making cards with a Cricut you would load a flat sheet of material into the machine to cut it down to card size, then you would fold the cut card to fit it inside an envelope. With the Card Mat you can load a pre-folded card onto the mat to allow the Joy to cut out just the front of the card, even though it is folded! This means you can personalize greeting cards even with a small machine where a flattened out card would normally not fit through the machine.

Print Then Cut

The Maker and the Explore Air 2 have the ability to use Print Then Cut, which allows you to add multi-colored images or photos to your projects. Design Space will send the image to your home printer, and then you can load the printed image into your Cricut to have it cut out; no scissors required! The Cricut Joy machine does not have the “eye” sensor that reads the registration marks to help the machine line up the cuts on your printed design, so it cannot use the Print Then Cut feature.

Fast Cutting Mode

When writing or cutting standard materials like paper, cardstock, iron on, and vinyl, the Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore Air 2 can use “fast mode” which allows the machine to cut and write up to twice as fast! This is especially useful when you’re making a lot of copies of something, like cards or party favors. The Cricut Joy doesn’t have the “fast mode” option.

Linking Physical Cartridges

The original Cricut machine models (like the Cricut Expression, Cricut Personal, and the Cricut Create) used physical cartridges that plugged into the machine and contained digital files for cuttable images, graphics, and fonts. The current suite of Cricut machines uses images and fonts from the digital Design Space library instead of from physical cartridges.

But if you do have cartridges that you purchased for an older Cricut model, don’t worry! There are still ways to use those images and fonts even if your machine is not compatible.

The Cricut Explore Air 2 has a slot in the machine where you can plug a cartridge in. Then you can “link” that physical cartridge to your digital Design Space account so that you can still access your cartridge graphics. The Cricut Maker and Cricut Joy do not have slots for physical cartridges, so if you want to use cartridge content with your Maker or Joy, you will have to purchase a separate USB cartridge adapter for your computer to allow you to link your cartridge to your Design Space account.

Styles, Bundles, & Price

The other major difference between machines is the colors they come in, whether the machine is bundled with additional materials and accessories, and the price.

Prices vary from retailer to retailer (especially if someone is having a sale) but in general the Cricut Maker is the most expensive and the Joy is the least expensive, with the Cricut Explore Air 2 somewhere in between.

The machine bundles are great for those just starting out because you can get some additional accessories for your machine, plus cutting materials at a discount, all in one go. There are tons of different bundle options available, so just see what looks good to you when you’re ready to buy a machine!

As far as color goes, Cricut is always coming out with new colors for their machines, and some of those colors are specific to certain retailers or certain limited edition models. But once you’ve decided which Cricut machine is right for you, you can browse through the available colors online before purchasing.

Which is the best cricut cutting machine

Machine Overviews

This section has detailed reviews on each of the 3 available Cricut machine models, so you can decide for yourself which one best fits your needs!

Cricut Joy

MSRP: $179.99

Overview

The Cricut Joy is Cricut’s newest machine. Cricut calls it a smart little cutting and writing machine that makes it easy to personalize almost anything, and I can’t help but agree. It is a quality digital die cutting machine at a super affordable price, which makes it a great entry-level option for people just getting started. It can cut 50+ materials from simple paper or cardstock to vinyl, iron-on, and more.

The Cricut Joy currently has just two tool capabilities: the fine-point blade and Cricut Joy pens and markers. But the amount of projects that can be done just with cutting and writing is practically endless! For quick and simple projects, cards, and personalization, the Cricut Joy can do everything you need.

Pros

  • Cuts and writes automatically. No need to do any of it by hand; this machine can do it all!
  • Cuts over 50 materials. The standard Fine-Point blade makes clean, crisp cuts in a wide variety of materials.
  • Mat-less cutting. The Cricut Joy can cut Smart materials, which come in long rolls that auto-feed into the machine for long, continuous cuts without needing a mat.
  • Card Mat. The card mat allows for quick custom cards that can be cut out and personalized, even while folded.
  • Compact size. The Cricut Joy is cute and compact, so it’s very portable, and easy to leave out in a cubby or on a bookshelf for easy access.
  • Affordable. The Cricut Joy is a fully functional digital die-cutting machine at an entry-level price.
  • Built-in bluetooth. Connect wirelessly to your machine for easy cutting.
  • Free Design Space software. Access to over 100,000 cuttable graphics and fonts plus thousands of ready-to-make projects, or easily design your own project.
  • Use your own images. Easily upload your own images and Design Space will automatically convert them into cuttable images.

Cons

  • Max material width. The Joy has a max material width of 4.5 inches. If you want to do large or complex projects, you’re better off with one of the larger machines.
  • Single tool holder. If you want to write and cut with a Cricut Joy, you have to manually switch out the blade and the pen halfway through the cut.
  • No fancy tools. This machine only works with the Cricut Joy fine-point blade and Cricut Joy pens and markers; you can’t score, engrave, perforate, etc. like you can with the larger machines.
  • No Print Then Cut. The Cricut Joy doesn’t have the sensor “eye” required to read the printed registration marks for a Print Then Cut project.
  • Can’t cut fabric. The Cricut Joy isn’t designed to cut fabric.
  • No built-in cartridge slot. You must purchase a separate adapter to link your physical cartridges to your Design Space account.

The Bottom Line

The Cricut Joy is perfect for people who want to be able to do quick and easy projects without a lot of fuss. It sets up in seconds, and its compact size means you can set it up anywhere; no craft room required!

Cricut Explore Air 2

MSRP: $249.99

Overview

The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a full-sized cutting machine (12 inch max material width) at a reasonable price. It comes with the standard Fine-Point Blade which allows you to cut hundreds of materials, and it’s compatible with the Deep Point Blade and the Bonded Fabric Blade (sold separately) to allow you to cut even more materials. It also has Fast Mode, which allows the machine to cut and write up to 2x faster on standard materials like cardstock, vinyl, and iron-on. This is really helpful for people who make multiple copies of their projects (like teachers) or people who make things to sell who will appreciate the amount of time they save.

Unlike the Cricut Joy, the Cricut Explore Air 2 has a double tool holder, meaning it can hold both a blade and an additional accessory. The second clamp is compatible with accessories like the Scoring Stylus and Cricut Pens so you can cut and write or score all in one pass without having to switch tools in the middle. The Cricut Explore Air 2 also has built-in bluetooth capabilities so you can cut wirelessly.

Pros

  • Cuts, writes, & scores automatically. No need to do any of it by hand; this machine can do it all!
  • Double tool holder. Cut and write all in one pass without having to switch out tools.
  • Cut over 100 materials. The standard Fine-Point blade cuts a wide variety of materials. Compatible with the Deep Point Blade and Bonded Fabric Blade to cut additional materials.
  • Built-in bluetooth. Connect wirelessly to your machine for easy cutting.
  • Fast Mode. Cut and write up to 2x faster on cardstock, vinyl, and iron-on.
  • Free Design Space software. Access to over 100,000 cuttable graphics and fonts plus thousands of ready-to-make projects, or easily design your own project.
  • Print Then Cut. Easily incorporate printed photos or graphics into your projects.
  • Use your own images. Easily upload your own images and Design Space will automatically convert them into cuttable images.
  • Cartridge slot built-in. Link your physical cartridges to your Design Space account using your machine.

Cons

  • Not designed for cutting fabric. You have to stabilize the fabric with a backer fabric before cutting. Blade drags over fabric potentially causing tears and rips.
  • Not compatible with Adaptive Tool System accessories. Cannot use Rotary Blade, Knife Blade, Scoring Wheels, or any other future Adaptive Tool System accessories.
  • Not portable. The machine is too large to be easily portable.
  • Requires a cutting mat. You must put your material on a cutting mat before loading it into this machine.
  • Limited to 24″ cuts. Because this machine requires a cutting mat, it can’t cut material longer than 24″ long.
  • No Card Mat. Currently the Card Mat is only available for the Cricut Joy.

The Bottom Line

The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a good fit for people who make A LOT of stuff with their Cricut (teachers, business owners who sell their crafts, etc.) who will appreciate how much time Fast Mode saves them.

Cricut Maker

MSRP: $399.99

Overview

The Cricut Maker is Cricut’s professional-level machine. Cricut calls it the ultimate smart cutting machine, and I can’t help but agree. It is a top-of-the-line digital die cutting machine that delivers professional-quality results at a personal machine price. It can cut hundreds of materials, from the most delicate fabric and paper to matboard, balsa wood, and leather.

The Cricut Maker uses the brand new Adaptive Tool System, which allows for more precise control over the tools, including rotating, lifting, and varying pressure throughout the entire cut. The Adaptive Tool System also allows the machine to utilize new types of tools later on as Cricut expands their tool offerings.

Besides the Fine-Point Blade, Deep Cut Blade, and Bonded Fabric Blade that are compatible with all Cricut machines, the Maker can also use the following tools that are compatible with the Adaptive Tool System:

  • Rotary Blade – This lets you cut fabric with a Cricut Maker and it’s a huge improvement over using the standard Fine-Point blade. You can cut tough fabric like burlap or denim, and also delicate materials like crepe paper or satin. This blade lets you make intricate cuts on fabric without fraying or bunching (which is why you need a stabilizer backing when using the Fine-Point blade).
  • Knife Blade – This lets you easily slice through thicker and denser materials such as balsa wood, leather, matboard, and Cricut Chipboard. You can make some pretty intricate cuts without worrying that the blade will snap.
  • Scoring Wheels – These tools make crisp creases on thin, thick, and even coated paper materials. They allow you to make extra-deep score lines on any material that don’t crack when you fold it.
  • Engraving Tool – This tool lets you make intricately engraved dog tags (human or canine), name plates, inscribed art and decor, jewelry, monograms, keepsakes, and more.
  • Perforation Blade – This blade creates uniform, finely perforated lines that give you clean, even tears without needing to fold first. It’s perfect for tear-out booklet pages, raffle tickets, homemade journals, shapes with curves, or for any project that demands a clean tear.
  • Fine Debossing Tool – This tool allows you to create crisp, detailed debossed designs. The wide range of motion of the rolling ceramic ball gives you free reign to create your own custom decorative flourishes, patterns, monograms, logos, seals, and more.
  • Wavy Blade – This blade gives you a fun wavy edge on a variety of popular materials; use it on any material the Maker can cut!

The Explore Air 2 and the Joy cannot use these blades and tools because they rely on the Adaptive Tool System. The standard tool holder carriage in the other machines just doesn’t have the necessary precision or power.

As the name implies, the Adaptive Tool System is designed to easily switch between tools, adapting the drive system to whichever tool is loaded into it. This allows for TONS of new types of tools to be created in the future, to do new types of crafts with the machine that we never could before. I think the Adaptive Tool System is a HUGE benefit and I think it makes the Maker more “future-proof”; I suspect we’ll see a ton of cool new tools for the Adaptive Tool System soon!

Pros

  • Cuts, writes, & scores automatically. No need to do any of it by hand; this machine can do it all!
  • Adaptive Tool System. New drive technology allows the machine to have greater control over the tools. More pressure and more intricate cuts!
  • Expandable suite of tools. The Adaptive Tool System is built to allow for new types of crafting tools other than basic blades in the future.
  • Cut over 250 materials. The standard Fine-Point blade cuts a wide variety of materials, and the Rotary Blade and Knife Blade can cut even more!
  • Access to sewing patterns. Get access to hundreds of sewing patterns that are ready to cut using your machine.
  • Double tool holder. Cut and write all in one pass without having to switch out tools.
  • Built-in bluetooth. Connect wirelessly to your machine for easy cutting.
  • Fast Mode. Cut and write up to 2x faster on cardstock, vinyl, and iron-on.
  • Free Design Space software. Access to over 100,000 cuttable graphics and fonts plus thousands of ready-to-make projects, or easily design your own project.
  • Print then cut. Easily incorporate printed photos or graphics into your projects.
  • Use your own images. Easily upload your own images and Design Space will automatically convert them into cuttable images.

Cons

  • Price. MSRP is $399.99, the most expensive of any Cricut machine.
  • Not portable. The machine is too large to be easily portable.
  • Requires a cutting mat. You must put your material on a cutting mat before loading it into this machine.
  • Limited to 24″ cuts. Because this machine requires a cutting mat, it can’t cut material longer than 24″ long.
  • No Card Mat. Currently the Card Mat is only available for the Cricut Joy.
  • No built-in cartridge slot. You must purchase a separate adapter to link your physical cartridges to your Design Space account.

The Bottom Line

The Cricut Maker is perfect for people who want to be able to do everything with their machine (especially sewists, quilters, woodworkers, or anyone else who cuts a lot of fabric or thick materials), and who want to “future-proof” their purchase as much as possible.

Older Cricut Machines

These machines aren’t available from Cricut anymore, but they are sometimes available through private party sales like on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or Craigslist.

Cricut no longer supports these older models, so be careful if you want to purchase one from a private party. But that said, every Cricut machine I’ve ever used (since way back in 2006!) has been a quality machine that does pretty cool things. You obviously need to be careful when making private party purchases, but I think that it is possible to find a used Cricut that will work for the occasional crafter.

As of the time I last updated this article (date at the top of this post), the Cricut Design Space software still allows you to connect to your Design Space account and cut out projects using one of these older machines. But that could change at any time, so always be careful before buying an outdated model!

Cricut Explore One

Overview

The Cricut Explore One was Cricut’s entry-level budget machine. It came with the standard Fine-Point Bladeis compatible with the Deep Point Blade and the Bonded Fabric Blade.

As its name implies, the Explore One has a single tool holder, so if you want to cut and write in the same project you will have to switch out the blade for a pen mid-way through the cut. It’s really easy to switch out the blade or accessory, and the Design Space software will pause the cut and walk you through it when it’s time, but if you do a lot of projects that combine cutting, writing, or scoring, it can get tiresome after a while.

And actually, the single tool holder is compatible with the standard sized blades (Fine-Point, Deep Point, and Bonded Fabric), but to use other tools and accessories like the Scoring Stylus or Cricut Pens in the Cricut Explore One, you’ll need to purchase a separate adapter to fit in the single tool holder.

The Explore One doesn’t have built-in bluetooth capabilities, so you have to plug the machine into your device with the USB cable provided. Or you can purchase a bluetooth adapter separately to allow the machine to cut wirelessly.

Pros

  • Cuts, writes, & scores automatically. No need to do any of it by hand; this machine can do it all!
  • Cut over 100 materials. The standard Fine-Point blade cuts a wide variety of materials.
  • Free Design Space software. Access to over 100,000 cuttable graphics and fonts plus thousands of ready-to-make projects, or easily design your own project.
  • Use your own images. Easily upload your own images and Design Space will automatically convert them into cuttable images.
  • Print then cut. Easily incorporate printed photos or graphics into your projects.
  • Cartridge slot built-in. Link your physical cartridges to your Design Space account using your machine.

Cons

  • NO LONGER SUPPORTED BY CRICUT! This machine is an out-dated version of a Cricut cutting machine, and since Cricut no longer sells this model, they also no longer support it.
  • Single tool holder. Have to manually switch the blade or accessory if cutting, writing, and scoring within the same project.
  • Bluetooth not built-in. You have to purchase a separate adapter to use this machine wirelessly.
  • Writing and scoring not built-in. You need to purchase a separate adapter to use the scoring stylus or Cricut pens.
  • Not designed for cutting fabric. You have to stabilize the fabric with a backer fabric before cutting. Blade drags over fabric potentially causing tears and rips.
  • Not compatible with Adaptive Tool System accessories. Cannot use Rotary Blade, Knife Blade, Scoring Wheels, or any other future Adaptive Tool System accessories.
  • Not portable. The machine is too large to be easily portable.
  • Requires a cutting mat. You must put your material on a cutting mat before loading it into this machine.
  • Limited to 24″ cuts. Because this machine requires a cutting mat, it can’t cut material longer than 24″ long.
  • No Card Mat. Currently the Card Mat is only available for the Cricut Joy.

The Bottom Line

The Cricut Explore One is still a workable version of a Cricut cutting machine if you can find an inexpensive one through a private party.

Cricut Explore Air

Overview

The Cricut Explore Air was the next step up from the Explore One. It also came with the standard Fine-Point Blade and is compatible with the Deep Point Blade and the Bonded Fabric Blade.

One big upgrade over the Explore One is that the Cricut Explore Air was the first model to have a double tool holder. The second clamp is already compatible with accessories like the Scoring Stylus, Cricut Pens, etc. so there’s no need to purchase an additional adapter.

The Cricut Explore Air also offers built-in bluetooth capabilities.

Pros

  • Cuts, writes, & scores automatically. No need to do any of it by hand; this machine can do it all!
  • Double tool holder. Cut and write all in one pass without having to switch out tools.
  • Built-in bluetooth. Connect wirelessly to your machine for easy cutting.
  • Cut over 100 materials. The standard Fine-Point blade cuts a wide variety of materials.
  • Free Design Space software. Access to over 100,000 cuttable graphics and fonts plus thousands of ready-to-make projects, or easily design your own project.
  • Print then cut. Easily incorporate printed photos or graphics into your projects.
  • Use your own images. Easily upload your own images and Design Space will automatically convert them into cuttable images.
  • Cartridge slot built-in. Link your physical cartridges to your Design Space account using your machine.

Cons

  • NO LONGER SUPPORTED BY CRICUT! This machine is an out-dated version of a Cricut cutting machine, and since Cricut no longer sells this model, they also no longer support it.
  • Not designed for cutting fabric. You have to stabilize the fabric with a backer fabric before cutting. Blade drags over fabric potentially causing tears and rips.
  • No fast mode. All cutting, writing, and scoring happens at standard speed.
  • Not compatible with Adaptive Tool System accessories. Cannot use Rotary Blade, Knife Blade, Scoring Wheels, or any other future Adaptive Tool System accessories.
  • Not portable. The machine is too large to be easily portable.
  • Requires a cutting mat. You must put your material on a cutting mat before loading it into this machine.
  • Limited to 24″ cuts. Because this machine requires a cutting mat, it can’t cut material longer than 24″ long.
  • No Card Mat. Currently the Card Mat is only available for the Cricut Joy.

The Bottom Line

The Cricut Explore Air is still a workable version of a Cricut cutting machine if you can find an inexpensive one through a private party.

The Final Verdict

Here’s the bottom line: In my opinion, any of these machines will work for the majority of people.

I know that’s not super helpful, but Cricut has such a wide variety of cutting machines that I really do think that everyone can find one that fits their needs perfectly.

The Cricut Joy is perfect for the occasional crafter, or people who want to do small quick projects without a lot of fuss. The affordable price makes it a great entry-level machine that packs a lot of power into such a small, portable body.

The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a great option for people who want to do full sized projects. It’s a great value and is the perfect machine for the casual crafter. As long as you don’t cut a lot of fabric and don’t need access to tools other than cutting, writing, and scoring, the Explore Air 2 will be a great machine for you!

For serious crafters, sewists, quilters, woodworkers, etc. (or if you get the chance to splurge a little!) I definitely recommend the Cricut Maker. The Cricut Maker is the top of the line machine and the only machine that can cut thick materials like leather and wood. Plus it can cut fabric with a rotary blade, meaning it can make crisp, clean, intricate cuts on fabric without needing a backer fabric. And the Adaptive Tool System helps make the machine more “future-proof” since new types of blades and tools can easily be added in the future and you won’t need to upgrade your machine in order to use them.

Your Turn!

If you have any questions, leave them in a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them!

And if you have a Cricut machine of your own, chime in with your opinions so everyone can benefit from your experience too!

Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Yasmin Hargrave says

    2 weeks ago

    I would like to start making T shirts, tumblers, hats and personalized party favors like the chip bags, candy bar wrappers, water bottle labels etc. As for the T shirts I saw a different machine in the store that looked like it was a part of the Cricut system. Is there some type of iron on machine within the Cricut system and which machine do you recommend to start my business doing the things listed above?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      2 weeks ago

      That sounds like a Cricut EasyPress; that’s their portable heat press option which does work great for t-shirts and tote bags etc. I would probably suggest the Cricut Air Explore 2; it’s a great machine and can cut vinyl, iron-on, cardstock, paper, and everything else it sounds like you want to cut. The Maker is also a great machine, but it is more expensive. If you don’t think you’ll want to cut a lot of fabric or thicker materials like leather or wood, and if you don’t mind not being able to engrave, deboss, perforate, etc. with the Maker-specific tools, then I think the Explore will work great for you. And I really like my EasyPress, but you may also want to consider an actual heat press. The EasyPress is probably the better way to get started, but you may want to upgrade later; you can get more pressure with a heat press, but it is more expensive.

  2. Adrienne hutchinson says

    1 month ago

    Hi. I have a love of tumblers and spend a lot of money having them personalized with Names and Monograms. Honestly that is all that I would need a machine for. I just have no idea which model would fit me best

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 month ago

      Any of the models would work for that! You can cut vinyl (which is what people usually use to personalize tumblers) with all three models, so then I think it’s just a question of budget and whatever else you might want to end up doing with the machine later. The Cricut Joy is definitely the most budget-friendly option, but it has a smaller cutting area, so if you decide later that you want to do larger projects, you might not be able to. If you want the larger 12″ x 12″ cutting area, I think the Cricut Explore Air 2 is the way to go. It can definitely cut vinyl for tumblers, but also if you decide to expand to other projects, like making cards etc. you will have the full-sized machine and be able to do so.

  3. Dulce says

    3 months ago

    Hello Jessi! I am so happy to have come across your blog! So much to read, so much to learn! I am interested in purchasing a cricut but currently researching to better understand the possibilities, options and what I can do with it. I am particularly interested in making wood board signs (what’s the best method for the inscription – cricut, stencil, paint, etc.) As well as tite bags (I saw your demo in it and thank you!) And last, my daughter wants to be able to make cards (I think we have an idea of this process). But more importantly, the wood aigna and the bags. Please share your insight in this. Thank you!

    Dulce

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 months ago

      You can definitely make wood signs and tote bags with a Cricut. My suggestion would be to use the Cricut to cut adhesive vinyl to use as a stencil, then paint over the stencil on the wood sign. For tote bags you can use Infusible Ink, which is like sublimation ink: an ink that is infused into the fabric when heat is applied. Or you can use heat transfer vinyl which is a vinyl that “melts” into the fabric and sits on top of it when heat is applied.

  4. maria says

    4 months ago

    I have owned a cricut for many years, from small personal cricut to the maker. I decided to give my old expression to my daughter. is there a software she can use, like Design Space or is this one just to old.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 months ago

      The Expression is considered a “legacy machine”, and it was created before the Design Space software. All of the legacy machines only work with the physical cartridges; they aren’t compatible with the Design Space software. 🙁 But if you have cartridges that you used with the Expression those will always still work!

  5. Patricia Graham says

    6 months ago

    I make multiple greeting cards with designs cut out and applied to the card for dimension; and also want to make sticker sheets and cut my own patterns from fabrics for small handbags. Will Cricut Explore do all those things?

  6. Katie Laycock says

    6 months ago

    Can you tell me where to get software for a cricut expression, my niece gave me hers

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 months ago

      The Cricut Expression is an older model (they call them “legacy machines”) so it is not compatible with the Design Space software. The legacy machines use the physical cartridges to create cool things instead of the Design Space app.

  7. Petra says

    6 months ago

    I am looking at purchasing a Maker, but was wondering what I needed to order to be able to start using the machine, essentially, what’s in the box when i purchase a new machine.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 months ago

      Great question! I have an article here that talks about the supplies and accessories I recommend for people just getting started: https://www.practicallyfunctional.com/cricut-accessories-supplies/ But the Maker comes with everything you need to make tons of projects in the box; the article is more a recommendation of the things you might want to buy to help you out, like weeding tools, etc. The Maker comes with the machine and power cord, the fine point blade is already installed in the machine, and it also comes with the rotary blade. The box also has a standard grip or light grip cutting mat plus a fabric grip cutting mat. So you have everything you need to be able to cut 90% of materials, plus fabric. If you want to cut thicker materials like leather or basswood, you might want to purchase the knife blade; if you want to engrave things you’ll need the engraving tool. But overall for cutting materials with your Maker, it comes with everything you need right in the box!

  8. Vickie Maloy says

    9 months ago

    Looking to purchase a Cricut Maker but I don’t know what this pro/con means” “No built-in cartridge slot.”

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 months ago

      The original Cricut machines used physical cartridges with designs and fonts contained within them; there was no Design Space software where you could design whatever you wanted. The Explore machines have a cartridge slot still so that you can use those older designs that can be found on the cartridges (which is great for people who had older Cricut machines and want to upgrade to a new machine without losing all of the designs they previously purchased), but the Maker does not have a slot for a physical cartridge. If you have physical cartridges that you want to use with a Maker you will have to purchase a small adapter that allows you to plug the cartridge into your computer via USB.

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