What Is A Cricut Machine & What Can I Do With It?

Maybe you received a Cricut machine for Christmas or a birthday, but it’s still sitting in its box. Or maybe you’re an avid crafter looking for a simple tool to make crafting easier. Or maybe you’ve seen tons of cool project images on Pinterest and wondered “How the heck do they cut those intricate designs? I wanna do that!” Or maybe you’ve heard of Cricut, but you’re asking “What is a Cricut machine, and what can you do with it?” Well, you’re in the right place; today I’m going to introduce you to the Cricut Explore Air machine and tell you about all the cool things it can do!

What is a Cricut machine and what can you do with it?

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I first used a Cricut way back in college. I was an RA and our resident staff department had a Cricut machine and a few cartridges that we used for cutting out letters and shapes to make fun signs and party decorations. I remember thinking that thing was SO COOL. But Cricut machines have grown up a lot since I’ve been in college, and they are even cooler now!

There are no more cartridges; everything is done digitally so that you can use any font or shape that’s on your computer. And most of the Cricut machines work over wifi or bluetooth, so you can design from your iPhone or iPad, as well as from your computer! The Cricut machines are easy to use, totally versatile, and only limited by your own creativity!

What is a Cricut machine and what can you do with it?

(I have a Cricut Explore Air so that’s what I’ll be talking about in this post. There is a newer model out called the Cricut Explore Air 2 which has all the same features as the original Explore Air, except that it can also cut at 2x speed!)

What Is A Cricut Machine?

The Cricut Explore Air is a die-cutting machine (aka craft plotter or cutting machine). You can think of it like a printer; you create an image or design on your computer and then send it to the machine. Except that instead of printing your design, the Cricut machine cuts it out of whatever material you want! The Cricut Explore Air can cut paper, vinyl, fabric, craft foam, sticker paper, faux leather, and more!

What is a Cricut machine and what can you do with it?

In fact, if you want to use a Cricut like a printer, it can do that too! There is an accessory slot in the machine and you can load a marker in there and then have the Cricut “draw” your design for you. It’s perfect for getting a gorgeous handwritten look if your handwriting isn’t all that great. 🙂

What is a Cricut machine and what can you do with it?

The Explore series of Cricut machines allows you to access a huge digital library of “cartridges” instead of using physical cartridges, like I did in college. This means that you can use Cricut Design Space (their online design software) to take any text or shape from the library and send it to your Cricut to be cut out. You can even upload your own designs if you want!

The Cricut Explore Air can cut materials up to 12″ wide and has a small cutting blade mounted inside the machine. When you’re ready to cut something out, you load the material onto a sticky mat and load the mat into the machine. The mat holds the material in place while the Cricut blade passes over the material and cuts it. When it finishes, you unload the mat from the machine, peel your project off the sticky mat, and you’re ready to go!

What is a Cricut machine and what can you do with it?

With a Cricut machine, the possibilities are endless! All you need is a Cricut machine, Design Space, something to cut, and your own creativity!

What Can I Do With A Cricut Machine?

There are TONS of things you can do with a Cricut machine! There’s no way I could even list all the possibilities, but here are a few popular types of projects to give you an idea of what the machine can do.

  • Cut out fun shapes and letters for scrapbooking
  • Make custom, handmade cards for any special occasion (here’s an example)
  • Design a onesie or a t-shirt (here’s an example)
  • Make a leather bracelet
  • Make buntings and other party decorations
  • Create your own stencils for painting (here’s an example)
  • Make a vinyl sticker for your car window
  • Label stuff in your pantry, or in a playroom
  • Make monogram pillows
  • Create your own Christmas ornaments (here’s an example)
  • Address an envelope
  • Decorate a mug, cup, or tumbler (here’s an example)
  • Etch glass at home (here’s an example)
  • Create your own wall decals
  • Make a painted wooden sign
  • Make your own window clings
  • Cut appliqués or quilt squares
  • Create decals for a stand mixer

…and tons of other projects that are too numerous to list!

Here are the Cricut machines I discussed in this article; click the images below to find out more about each machine. And if you’re looking to buy an awesome crafting tool, I highly recommend the Cricut Explore machines! I use mine pretty much every day, and it rocks!

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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 I am IN LOVE with my Cricut and I use it pretty much every day; 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. Courtney says

    3 days ago

    I am looking to be able to cut some sort of wood to be able to make words/ names out of. would this machine work for this of craft?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 days ago

      The Cricut Maker can cut thin pieces of wood, like basswood or balsa wood. But it can’t cut anything thicker than 2.4mm, which is thicker than 1/16″ of an inch, but not quite as thick as 1/8″. If you want to cut thicker pieces of wood you’re better off with a band saw or scroll saw.

  2. Rave says

    1 week ago

    I cannot figure out how to control the cookies from your website. Every time I click the cookies tab it just reopens the same page. There is nothing contained that allows for a selection of choice. Please inform me on how to control the info as I do not want my email used without my express permission.

  3. Susan says

    2 months ago

    I just read that they start Fires if left plugged in is this true looking for something like this but saw the damage it does to a persons home

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      2 months ago

      Oh wow, I haven’t heard anything like that, but that would be scary! I have three Cricut machines and leave all of them plugged in in my craft room and haven’t had any issues.

  4. Tia says

    6 months ago

    I have an older model and today I plugged it in and no power at all…the power cord works my other machine so wondering if there is something I can do to get it working again…thank you…I did not know where to start so I thought here first…

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 months ago

      Oh no, bummer! If the power cord works with other machines but not this one, I’d say it’s an issue with this machine. Your best bet is to contact Cricut’s support desk. They’re kinda busy these days but they will be able to help you troubleshoot it!

  5. Joanne Labre says

    9 months ago

    Hello,

    Can I make small gift boxes with a Cricut?

    Thank you.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 months ago

      Yep, there are tons of cool gift boxes you can make! If you search inside of the Cricut library for gift boxes you’ll find a ton, or you can just do a Google search for “gift box svg” and find some pre-designed ones that you can upload into Design Space and cut out with a Cricut.

  6. Lois Wilson says

    11 months ago

    I would like to make an outdoor sign for my cottage. Would it be best to cut the letters separately? Is there a product suitable for outdoor use? What cricut machine would be suitable? (I would be buying it new.)

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 months ago

      I’ve made a bunch of outdoor signs using outdoor/permanent adhesive vinyl, and it works great! Sometimes it’s called outdoor vinyl and sometimes permanent vinyl, but they’re the same thing. It sticks well to wood, and then I just put a clear sealant coat over the whole top to be extra careful. 🙂

  7. Christina says

    11 months ago

    Wow thanks for the informative post! I actually stumbled across a new Cricut Create at a garage sale and been wondering what the heck it was. I’ve always been super crafty and did intricate cuts using an exacto blade knife & careful eye. Thank God these exist. Is the create an older model? Can it do the same as your model? Id like to try to make dangling snowflakes for my daughters 1st bday party , it’s a Winter ONEderland theme. Please let me know what are your recommendations. Thank you kindly!!!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 months ago

      Aren’t they awesome! I used to do it with an exacto knife too, but this is so much easier! The Create is what’s considered a “legacy machine”, which means it uses physical cartridges to create its designs. It’s not compatible with the Design Space software, so you will need to purchase cartridges that contain different images and fonts in order to cut stuff out with a Create. My personal preference is to use the newer machines so that you can use the Design Space software, but I know budget is a concern too. The Explore, Maker, and Joy are the three current models and they are all compatible with the Design Space software so that you can design anything you want without being limited by what’s on a cartridge. You can learn more about them here: https://www.practicallyfunctional.com/best-cricut-machine-compare-cricut-models/ But also, the legacy machines are still quality machines, and if you can find some cartridges to go with them, buying one from a garage sale is a great way to get started with a Cricut machine! If you do a lot of crafting, I think you might start to feel pretty limited after a while, but for occasional use it’s a great way to go!

  8. Sisi says

    11 months ago

    i am looking to buy my first cricut machine. I am very undecided about which one to get. I don’t saw but I make paper flowers and cards. Can you please guide me in the right direction? I have read multiple articles and they all point me into buying the explorer air 2 but am I making a mistake and I tras I should buy the maker even thouyi do t saw?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 months ago

      The Explore Air 2 can do most of the things the Maker can do, but the Maker is definitely better suited for cutting fabric, leather, and thicker materials like wood. Here’s an article explaining in more detail the differences between the machines: https://www.practicallyfunctional.com/best-cricut-machine-compare-cricut-models/ Personally, I really like using the Maker; I think the adaptive tool system that the Maker has makes it really worthwhile because it can do different types of actions like engraving, debossing, scoring, etc. The Explore Air 2 can cut hundreds of materials, and it can score using the scoring stylus, but it can’t engrave or deboss. The Explore Air 2 is a great machine and definitely not a mistake for doing paper flowers and cards, but if you think you might want to cut fabric, leather, or wood, or do more things like engrave or deboss, and if it fits in your budget, you should consider getting the Maker.

  9. Shelley says

    12 months ago

    Hi I was wondering I know the cricut personal is outdated now but I didn’t know this when I bought it. Are there any tutorials for that coming? Xx

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 months ago

      I don’t own a Cricut Personal, so I can’t create anything with step by step photos to share. 🙁 But many of the projects on this site that I did with the newer machines can be modified to work with the older machines; it’s just the Cricut Design Space software that isn’t applicable. If you can find similar shapes or designs on the physical cartridges, the tips and tricks about how to load materials on the mat and into the machine, mirroring before cutting, using heat transfer vinyl, etc. all still work no matter which machine you have.

  10. Kate says

    12 months ago

    Hello, I like your site it seems much more friendly then all the searches I’ve been doing. I am wondering if the machine (any type since I haven’t purchased it yet) will cut into the canvas panels (they are 8×8 canvas covered cardboard about .25 cm in thickness). I used to hand write all my art on them but it’s pretty small writing and pretty intricate. Then I leaned how to do it digitally using Designer and transferred it to canvas panels. I am thinking this machine might save me a few steps? Would the machine work like a printer and print onto the panels? Thank you.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 months ago

      The Cricut machines are similar to a printer in that they take a digital design from your computer and do physical work with it on a material loaded into the machine. But they are mostly for cutting materials, though they can also draw using markers and pens. They don’t really print the way a printer does by applying ink to the material; there is a blade that drags across the surface of the material to cut, or you can replace the blade with pens and markers, but you won’t be able to specify details like light grey and darker black areas the way a printer can just by adding more or less ink.

      As for the canvas, the thickest material that can fit under the rollers of the Maker is 2.4mm (.24cm) and for the Explore machines, the thickest is 2.0mm (.2cm), so that might work if they are on the thinner side.

      If you paint your canvas, you can use a Cricut to cut a stencil out of vinyl, then apply that to the canvas and paint over it. But if you use pens and markers and ink, the Cricut can “write” and “draw” line drawings, but nothing detailed like a sketch with varying shades.

  11. Kris says

    12 months ago

    Can you tell me … I took a scrapbook hiatus and now am wondering what do I do with all my cartridges? To use design space are all the fonts and shapes free?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 months ago

      The Design Space software is free, and you can use it to design projects with basic shapes, any font that is on your computer, and any image you upload yourself. There is also the Cricut library which contains over 100,000 images and designs: some of those are free and some of them are paid. The paid ones usually cost about 99 cents and once you buy an image you can use it as many times as you’d like, in as many projects as you’d like. But there is a lot of stuff you can do for free, especially if you find free SVG files from other designers. If you find there are a lot of paid images that you like in the Cricut library, they also offer a subscription option that costs usually $9.99 per month and gives you access to all of the images and fonts in the Cricut library for free. So if you buy more than 10 images a month, it probably is worth it to just get the subscription and get everything for free. 🙂

  12. Debra Quirk says

    1 year ago

    OKay this all seems so complicated to me. Not the greatest with apps computers etc. But would love to make the vinyl sticks ons etc. Should I invest

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 months ago

      There is a definite learning curve to learning the software/app, but there are also tons of “ready-to-make” projects that are as simple as clicking a button and loading materials into your machine! It certainly depends on your budget and how much use you think you’ll get out of it, but I’ve helped a lot of people figure out how to use their machines, even though they aren’t normally tech-savvy. I think you can always learn how to use the software, so it just depends if you’ll use it often enough to make the price worth it!

  13. Carol Kurczak. says

    1 year ago

    Can a cricut be used to print wedding invitations and programs and more? This is what my daughter just commented to me.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 months ago

      Sort of! It depends on what you mean by “print”. It isn’t actually a printer, like a normal printer that prints with ink. But it can cut out printed images on paper or cardstock, so if you print wedding invitations on your home printer, then load them into the Cricut, the machine can cut out the outer border, or intricate lace details, or other fancy things like that. The Cricut machines can also Draw using pens and markers loaded into the machine, so you can use them to address envelopes if you’d like.

  14. Keirta says

    1 year ago

    I’m wanting to make a stencil but it’s writing and some of the lines are a bit thin. Will the circut still cut it properly?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      Yep, it can cut very detailed stuff! The only issue with detailed cuts is whether the material will hold together when the pieces are that thin, but you can definitely adjust the settings on the machine to go slowly and carefully to handle intricate cuts.

  15. Marie says

    1 year ago

    They gave me a circuit expression model CREX001 but it doesn’t have anything with it no wires,also the little square is missing in the front .. do you think is better to buy a new one or buy all that it needs I just want to use it to make t shirts for my grandson .. thank you

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      The Expression is an older model that is no longer supported, and it uses cartridges which are no longer in production. If you have the budget to buy a new one I would suggest that; having access to the Cricut support line for troubleshooting and being able to design your projects online using any of the 90k+ images in the library is definitely awesome! The older machine will work just fine, but you may have issues finding cartridges for it and you won’t be able to get help from Cricut if anything goes wrong.

  16. PATTY RIGSBY says

    1 year ago

    I WAS TRYING TO MAKE A TABLE SCARF I BOUGHT RIPSTOP AND JOANN’S BRAND STICK ON VINYL
    I ASKED A JOANN’S CLERK IF THES WOULD WORK AND SHE SAID YES
    I CUT MY LETTERS ON MY CRICUT MACHINE THEY LOOKED GREAT
    BUT….. THE LETTERS WOULD NOT STAY ON THE RIP STOP.
    JOANNS TOLD ME TO TALK TO TH CRICUT PERSON , WHO WAS NOT THERE AT THE TIME .
    I LEFT MY NAME AND PHONE # I CALLED A COUPLE MORE TIMES AND WAS TOLD SHE WAS NOT IN AND COULD ONLY CALL WHEN SHE WAS AT WORK. THEY COULD NOT TELL ME WHEN SHE WOULD BE IN .
    I WANT MY TABLE SIGN TO BE GOOD .
    WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE THIS WORK? IT NEEDS TO BE WATER RESISTANT
    HELP PLEASE
    THANKS PATTY

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      Adhesive vinyl doesn’t really stick on fabric well, but you could use iron on vinyl and that would work perfectly! Joann’s should have iron on vinyl (sometimes also called heat transfer vinyl); you can cut that with your Cricut and then iron it on to the ripstop according to the directions on the vinyl package. It will definitely be water resistant, you can even wash it in the washing machine as long as you wash it on a delicate cycle and don’t dry it with heat.

  17. Tiffany says

    1 year ago

    Can I use Silouhette sticker paper for a cricut machine

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      Yep, the brand of sticker paper doesn’t matter! Just make sure that you set the proper material setting (just search “sticker paper” in the material settings screen) and make sure that the material size is set correctly too. Sometimes the sticker paper is standard 8.5” x 11” but sometimes it’s 8” x 10” so just double check so your design doesn’t get cut off.

  18. Kim Spradlin says

    1 year ago

    What is the largest size letter I can cut? I’m in a library and I’d like to use a Cricut to cut letters that are about 10 – 20″ tall and several inches wide? Will this work?
    Also, can it cut full words or phrases out of poster board? For example the phrase “Happy Halloween.” Can it cut the words 10″ high and however many inches long it needs to be to get both words on the poster board?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      The cutting area of a Cricut machine is 12” x 24”; that is how big of a thing it can cut all in one go. So if the letters were cursive and attached, the entire finished word would have to fit within 12×24, but if you are cutting individual letters then each one could be as big as 12×24. And the machine can definitely cut poster board, as in, it has the ability to cut something that thick, but in order to even get the material into the machine for cutting it can’t be wider than 12”, so it couldn’t cut it out of a standard sized poster board without cutting the board down first.

  19. Patricia Barber says

    1 year ago

    Can you use old cricuit cartridges on this

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      Yep! The Explore family of machines has a cartridge slot in the machine that will allow you to transfer your cartridge images into your digital Design Space account. If you have the newer Maker machine it doesn’t have a cartridge slot, but Cricut makes a cartridge adapter that can plug your cartridges directly into your computer via USB so that you can transfer the images to your digital account that way.

  20. Daniel Parker says

    1 year ago

    I would like to make labels for my soaps that I make and other items that I make. I also would like to make metallic sticker stamps for my wood turned item as well. Can you point me in the right direction? I also would like to cut out my stamps stickers too.

  21. Mary says

    1 year ago

    How do you print images onto glass cups?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      I would use printable vinyl. If you have a Cricut you can do the Print Then Cut method where you load the sheet of printable adhesive vinyl into your home inkjet printer, print out the image you want, and then load it into the machine to have the Cricut cut it out for you. Or you could just cut it out by hand if you don’t have a Cricut.

  22. Tammy L Ball says

    2 years ago

    i am try to do a image that tell me that it can not make because i need to cut it out and i can not do it how do you do that thank tammy

  23. Davita says

    2 years ago

    Can this cut 1/8″ acrylic for keychains?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      No, unfortunately the Explore machines can only cut materials up to 2.0mm thick and the Maker can cut materials up to 2.4mm thick.

  24. Mariann Papadopoulos says

    2 years ago

    Question!

    I am a Middle School Theatre teacher. Would you say that this is an appropriate investment for a teacher? I love DIY craft things, especially when it comes to doing fun things for or with my students! Would this be a good investment for me, you think?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      I absolutely think it would be a great investment! I know tons of teachers who love their Cricut’s, and especially if you’re doing DIY craft things and making your own props or scenery; you would get a lot of use out of a Cricut!

  25. Miranda says

    2 years ago

    Does the Cricut require an internet connection?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      The machine itself doesn’t require an internet connection (it is connected to your computer, tablet, or mobile device via a USB cable or a Bluetooth connection) but the Design Space software is an online web app that requires an internet connection when used on a desktop or laptop computer. You have to be online to create new designs, but once a design is created you can save it for use in offline mode on the mobile app so that you can cut out your design without an internet connection. Also it is planned to have an offline version of Design Space for computers by the end of 2019, but it’s not yet available.

      • Michele Leal says

        1 year ago

        I’m so glad I came across this post. I’ve been seeing these around for a while now wondering what they were an what they did. Now I know, an now I want one. Thx again, it was very informative.

      • Melanie says

        11 months ago

        Is there a monthly subscription for the Design Space software or do you automatically get full access to it when you purchase the machine?

        • Jessi Wohlwend says

          4 months ago

          The Design Space software is totally free and you can create an account and use it for free to design your projects. The only piece that has a paid subscription option is Cricut Access, which is a monthly subscription that gives you access to over 100,000 images and fonts from the Cricut library for free. But if you don’t want a paid subscription you can still use the software to design your own projects, and you can still use images from the Cricut library, you will just have to make a one time purchase of any images you want to use from the library (usually $1 per image.) But it is always free to design your own projects inside of Design Space, and you can also upload your own images or use any font that is on your computer for free.

  26. Shannon says

    2 years ago

    Hi Jessi, Thanks SO much for the great run-down of this machine. I have seen them forever and had no idea of what they were used for. I have 2 crafty daughters and we often get together to work on projects so this might be on our Christmas list this year 😉 Wonderful explanation!

  27. Cynthia Dianovsky says

    2 years ago

    I have ornaments cross-stiched on plastic canvass and would like to apply a backing to them to hide the stitching, can the cricut cut out felt to match the shape of the ornament design

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      Yep it can! Cricut has a feature called SnapMat which is where you can use your phone camera to take a photo of material on a Cricut mat and load that photo into Design Space. It’s normally used to purposefully position your cuts over certain parts of patterned materials or if you’re trying to use up small scraps of material, but it would definitely work to get the exact shape and size of your ornaments to create a felt backing for them! You can learn more here: https://help.cricut.com/hc/en-us/articles/360009379934-SnapMat-FAQ

  28. Lois Lopez says

    2 years ago

    I would like to know IF I use a sticker paper ( where you peel off the paper ) like a stamp
    could you then stick this paper on fabric. AND could you print your own pattern on the paper
    and place words on it THEN peel off the back to place on the fabric.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      1 year ago

      If you want to put your own printed pattern on fabric with words on top of it, I would suggest using printable heat transfer vinyl. You can print any design onto it (including your own pattern background with words on top of it) and then your Cricut can cut out the shape and you can use an iron or heat press to transfer the design to your fabric.

  29. Kasia says

    2 years ago

    This is something I’ve never come across before. It’s amazing! And the possibilities are endless. Thanks ever so much for sharing Jessi! I’ll be looking into getting one of these in the near future 🙂

  30. john says

    3 years ago

    hey Jessi,
    I am doing some late christmas shopping but i am curious if the cricut has any way to cut around a regular photo, if I work on it a little bit, like a little custom… i dont know the word for this… like cropping to the max, not automatically of course but can i put a photo on the app, the select areas to cut? or does it extrapolate outlines or something near this?
    thank you,
    -john, bad boyfriend

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      3 years ago

      Oh man, John I am SO sorry for the late reply! Your comment got lost in my inbox somehow! 🙁 You can use a Cricut to cut custom shapes if you want! First you have to upload the photo (or a scanned copy of it) to the online Cricut software, then you can create custom cut lines around the parts of the photo you want to cut. Then you can load the photo into the Cricut and it will cut out whatever portions you want.

      • Kelly says

        1 year ago

        Hi,

        I have the same question, I think. I want to make bunting from book illustrations, but I would want to plan exactly where the edges of the cuts would be so that the shape would be of a certain section of illustration. The way to do this would be to scan each individual page, then work with it in the Cricut software, right?

        Thanks!

        • Jessi Wohlwend says

          3 months ago

          Yeah that’s pretty similar. So the best way to do this is with the Snap Mat feature, which is only available on the mobile app version of Design Space. Basically you put your material on a cutting mat like regular, then take a picture of it with your phone, then when you preview the mats before cutting out your design it will show your photo as the preview so you can move the cuts around on the mat to cut out just certain sections. You can learn more here: https://help.cricut.com/hc/en-us/articles/360009379934-SnapMat-FAQ

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