Cricut Maker: Everything You Need To Know Before Buying!

Everything you need to know about the Cricut Maker! I’m answering all the common questions about the Cricut Maker plus a quick and easy tutorial to get you started with it!

Thinking about buying a Cricut Maker, but you’re not 100% sure yet? Maybe you’re wondering if you’ll use the machine enough to justify the price, or you’re wondering how hard it will be to learn the software to design your own projects. Well, I’m here to answer all your questions! If you’ve been thinking of buying a Cricut Maker but still have some questions, this post is for you! (And if this post doesn’t answer all of your questions, shoot me an email with your question and I’ll do my best to answer it!)

Common Questions About the Cricut Maker

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Should I Buy A Cricut Maker?

Well, first things first…here’s a little background on the Cricut Maker. The Cricut Maker is an electronic cutting machine (also called a craft plotter or die-cutting machine). You can think of it like a printer; you create an image or design on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, and then send it to the machine. Except that instead of printing your design, the Maker cuts it out of whatever material you want! (The Maker can cut over 100 different materials! Here’s a list of 100+ materials that a Cricut Maker can cut.)

The Cricut Maker is great for crafters, quilters, sewers, DIYers, and anyone else with a creative streak! It has an adaptive tool system that allows you to switch between blades and accessories so you can do any type of project. Want to cut sewing patterns and fabric? Switch to the rotary blade. Want to cut balsa wood or leather? Switch to the knife blade. Want to draw something, or add scoring lines to your project? The Cricut pen and scoring wheel are perfect! No matter what type of project you want to do, the Cricut Maker can handle it!

And to show you just how easy it is to make awesome things with a Cricut Maker, I have a super simple leather bow project tutorial at the end of this post. It’ll take you less than 10 minutes! I also made a quick video that walks you through the entire initial setup your Maker machine, including making your first project: a cute greeting card. Check it out to see just how easy it is to use the machine!

Your cricut maker questions answered

Will I use the machine enough to justify the price?

This is the question I hear most often, and it’s totally understandable! The Cricut Maker is normally $399.99 (though you can usually find it on sale), which is certainly an investment. No one wants to spend that kind of cash on something that will get used every day for a month and then just sit around gathering dust!

But I wouldn’t worry about that with the Cricut Maker; there are SO MANY different things you can do with it I don’t think you’ll ever get bored. I’ve had my Cricut machines for years now and I still use them almost every day! If you’re looking for project ideas, I have a Pinterest board filled with Cricut projects, and here’s a list of over 100 craft and DIY projects you can make with a Cricut machine.

What add-ons do I need to use the machine, and how expensive will it be?

The Cricut Maker comes with absolutely everything you need to use the machine right in the box! It even has sample materials so you can make your very first project right away!

That said, one of the coolest things about the Maker is that is has an adaptive tool system which allows you to switch out the blades and tools to do different types of projects. The Maker comes with a fine-point blade (the standard blade for everything from paper to card stock), a fine-point pen for drawing, and a rotary blade for cutting fabric. It also comes with a LightGrip mat (for paper etc.) and a FabricGrip mat for cutting fabric with the rotary blade. Between those two blades and those two mats, you can cut just about anything you want. You could use your Maker every single day with just the things that come in the box for forever and you’d never get bored!

But of course, there are accessories and add-ons you can buy for your machine if you want. Cricut is always coming out with new tools and blades, but the most popular add-ons for a Maker are:

  • The knife blade (about $45, unless you find it on sale): allows you to cut thicker materials like balsa wood or leather
  • The scoring wheels (about $40, unless you find them on sale): allows you create crisp, clean score lines in your projects
  • Additional pens or markers (about $12 for a 5-pack, unless you find them on sale): comes in tons of colors and thicknesses, including metallics, glitters, fine point, and calligraphy pens

The other place you could spend additional money if you want to is in the Cricut image and fonts library. It is free to use Cricut Design Space (their online design software) and they have tons of images and fonts that you can use for free. And of course, you can always upload your own images and use those.

If you don’t want to use your own images, the library has over 50,000 images, hundreds of fonts, tons of ready-to-make projects, licensed characters, etc. that you can use for your projects. And really, a LOT of it is free! But for some things, you have to purchase the image or fonts before you can use them in your projects. You can buy images individually (usually about $0.99) or in cartridges or “sets” (usually about $5 to $30), and once you’ve bought them you can use them in an unlimited number of projects.

You can also sign up for Cricut Access, which is their monthly subscription which gives you access to over 50,000 images and 400 fonts, plus a 10% discount on any other Cricut products! Cricut Access subscriptions are $7.99/month or $9.99/month for their Premium membership, which gives you free shipping and up to 50% off licensed fonts, images, and ready-to-make projects (the licensed stuff like Disney characters etc. isn’t included in the 50,000 free images because, well, it’s licensed!)

Cricut maker adaptive tool system

What materials can I cut?

Just about anything you want! The Cricut Maker can cut materials up to 2.4mm thick, and it can cut stuff as thin and delicate as tissue paper. Here’s a list of 100+ materials that a Cricut Maker can cut.

What types of fabric can I cut, and do I need a backer?

Yes, I just shared a list of 100+ materials a Cricut can cut, but fabric is kind of special and gets its own separate section!

One of the coolest things about the Maker is that it allows you to cut fabric without a backer when you use the rotary blade! Previous versions of the Cricut machines were able to cut fabric with the regular fine-point blade, but you had to stiffen it up first by putting interfacing on the back of the fabric. That’s fine and all, but sometimes you don’t want interfacing on the back of your project, which is why the rotary blade is awesome. (And besides, the fine-point blade is certainly able to cut fabric, but the edges of the cuts aren’t necessarily super clean and crisp…the rotary blade does a MUCH better job!)

The Maker can cut pretty much any fabric, from delicate fabrics like tulle and lace to heavy fabrics like denim, sailcloth, and burlap. It can also cut “specialty” fabrics like sequined fabrics, fabric with glitter on it, leather, faux fur, and even quilt batting. When you use the rotary blade to cut fabric, you don’t need a backer; you can put the fabric directly onto the FabricGrip mat and cut it by itself. Or, if you want a backing on your fabric, feel free to attach the backing before you cut; the rotary blade can handle both layers with no issue! In fact, the Maker can cut up to three layers of fabric at the same time, which is awesome for things like quilt making or fabric projects with multiple pieces in the same shape.

(Look at how crisp and clean the edges are when you use a rotary blade to cut fabric!)

Fabric and interfacing for matching family christmas pajamas cut out with a cricut maker and rotary blade

Will it be easy for me to learn the software and use it to design my own project or make ready-to-make projects?

Yep, I think so! I actually think that Cricut Design Space is pretty intuitive, even if you’re not really tech-savvy. Cricut has a little walkthrough tutorial that you go through when you first set up your machine, and it does a pretty good job of showing you the basics of Design Space (at least, enough to make any of the ready-to-make projects in the Cricut library). And if you want to design your own projects, I have a bunch of step by step tutorials on how to use a Cricut that you can check out.

If you’re still a little nervous, I made a video that walks you through the entire initial setup of your Cricut Maker, including making your very first project! It shows you how to use the basic functions of Design Space to make a simple greeting card.

What kinds of crafts and DIY projects can I make?

The only limit here is your imagination! You can make pretty much anything from greeting cards and paper projects to home decor to wedding/party/event decorations to clothing and quilts. There are so many different things you can make that I’d never be able to list them all. But here is a list of 100+ crafts and DIY projects you can make with a Cricut, and here is my Pinterest board full of Cricut project ideas; those will at least get you started!

Can I use my old cartridges?

The original Cricut machines used physical plastic cartridges that you could insert into the machine itself to access image content. The physical cartridges have been retired and now Cricut has digital cartridges (basically an “image set” of related images available in the Cricut library).

But don’t worry! If you have physical cartridges from a previous Cricut machine, you can totally still use those images! You can link your physical cartridge to the digital version in Cricut Design Space, and then you can use the digital version of all of your images whenever you want.

Can I upload my own images?

Yep! Here is a step by step tutorial showing you how to upload your own images to Cricut Design Space. You can upload basic images like a jpeg or png, or you can upload a vector file if you have an image that has multiple layers. Design Space supports upload of the following file types:

  • jpg
  • gif
  • png
  • bmp
  • svg
  • dxf

If you have questions that weren’t answered in this post, feel free to email me and ask them! I’m always happy to help!

As promised, here is a quick tutorial on making leather bows with a Cricut Maker. This project requires a Cricut Maker, the knife blade, a StrongGrip mat, and a piece of leather.

Start by opening up this leather bow project in Cricut Design Space. If you click the green Make It button, the bow is already sized to be 1″ tall and about 2.5″ wide. If you want to change the size or make multiple copies, click the Customize button to open the project in Design Space.

Select “Garment Leather” in the materials section, and the software will tell you to load the knife blade in your Maker. Open Clamp B, remove the fine-point blade, and install the knife blade so that the gears on the blade meet with the gears in the machine. Close the clamp.

Place your leather on the StrongGrip mat, face up, then load the mat into the machine. Press the flashing Go button and the machine will start to cut! (If this is the first time you’ve used your knife blade, the software will walk you through calibrating the knife blade so you get precise cuts.)

After the machine finishes cutting it will ask you to check the cut to make sure it’s gone all the way through the material. Make sure you don’t unload the mat first! Just bend the mat a little right at the edge of a cut, and if you can see all the way through the material to the mat underneath, then you’re good to go. If it didn’t cut all the way through, press the Go button again to make it cut one more time.

Using the knife blade on the cricut maker

Peel your cut pieces off the mat and use a little bit of superglue to fold and stick the bow pieces together.

Cut leather with a cricut maker

Once the glue dries, you are all done! Stick the bow on a hair clip or a headband, and enjoy!

Leather bow made with the cricut maker and knife blade

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Disclosure: I received compensation from Cricut in exchange for my participation in this campaign, and my honest discussion of their products. But the Cricut Maker and, really, all Cricut products are seriously amazing and all opinions in this post are 100% my own. I would never write a post about something I didn’t think was useful or interesting for you guys, and Practically Functional will only publish sponsored posts for companies or products I love and believe in! 🙂

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut . The opinions and text are all mine.

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. Louann says

    4 years ago

    Your article was very helpful, and I will be checking out your videos. That being said, I got the Cricut Maker for Christmas last year, and wanted to begin immediately. I was extremely disappointed that there were no written, detailed, instructions. I went on Design Space and got totally confused: I felt like a total idiot! I’ve been crafting, sewing, crocheting, etc., for many many years, but this machine had me stumped. It has been back in the box since then. I found a class for newbies at a local craft shop, and will be going this evening. My fingers are crossed. Again, I will be checking out your videos, but we “older” girls like written patterns and instructions…lol.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      I hear you! It’s really frustrating that there isn’t a user manual or even like a Quick Start guide that comes with the new machines. 🙁 I do have a free five day email course that covers some of the basics; that might help get you up and running and at least familiar with the machine and software. If you want to sign up for that you can do that here:

  2. Jennifer says

    4 years ago

    Thank you so much for this article! I am considering the purchase of a Cricut machine, but have been overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. There are so many terms being used that I am not aware of. Your article has been very helpful and encouraging!

  3. Thea says

    4 years ago

    Great read!! Thank you so much for the thorough breakdown!

  4. D says

    4 years ago

    Is a subscription required for software and continued use? It was not clear. I have noticed newer models requires a subscription for software continued use after first month trial regardless of using any materials from the site or not.
    I am hoping youncane clarify this. Thank you for uour time.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      There is a subscription option but it is definitely not required. The new machines come with a free trial of the subscription, which is called Cricut Access. Cricut Access gives you unlimited access to over 100,000 images and fonts in the Cricut library for free. If you want to use your machine without a subscription, you totally can. You can always upload your own images or design your own graphics in the app for free. And if you find that there is an image or graphic in the Cricut library that you really love and want to use, you can buy it as a one time purchase (usually about $1) and then use that image as many times as you want and in as many different projects as you want. It’s just that if you tend to buy 10 or more images a month at $1 each, then the $9.99 a month subscription might be more worthwhile because you can use any image instead of just the ones you purchase.

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