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Which Cricut® Machine is Right for You?

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Wondering which Cricut Machine is right for you or maybe contemplating why you need a Cricut? Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore Air 2 or Cricut Maker

Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Cutting Machine

My Cricut Story

I remember what it was like when I bought my first Cricut machine and when I bought my Cricut Maker. I saw all the crafty things people were making with their Cricut machine and it made me very curious and envious.

But, my crafting passions are sewing and crochet. Did I really “need” a Cricut cutting machine?

I’ve never been that into paper crafting or memory book making, so I wasn’t sure a Cricut was an “essential” crafting tool for me. Since owning a Cricut Explore Air and now a Cricut Maker, I can tell you that it definitely fills a need and would leave a void if I didn’t have my Cricut machines.

My first Cricut

As fate would have it, as soon as I bought my Cricut Explore Air, Cricut came out with the Cricut Explore Air 2 – go figure! So, I held onto my Explore Air for probably longer than I should have before I upgraded to the Maker.

The Maker has made my crafting and sewing life so much easier and fun! But, there was nothing wrong with my Explore. Yes, it had been used a lot – I mean, a lot! And it was kind of showing some wear. But, it still worked perfectly.

My second Cricut

Then one day, a Cricut Maker showed up in an online auction. My hubby snagged it at an amazing price and I was the proud owner of a brand new champagne Cricut Maker.

Can you hear me sighing? I love this machine. I can’t wait to use it more and to really put it to the test. Maybe we can explore all the functionality of the Maker together?

Which Cricut Machine is Right for You?

Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Cutting Machine

At this point, you may very well be wondering just which Cricut cutting machine is right for you. Well, the good news is that there is no wrong answer. Here’s what I would encourage you to do:

  1. Learn about the features and functionality of each machine.
  2. Determine how you think you will use the machine.
  3. Set a realistic budget.
  4. Then learn everything you can about your Cricut.

Cricut Buying Guide

Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Cutting Machine

In order to help you determine which Cricut cutting machine is right for you or why you might even want a Cricut, I’ve put together this Cricut Buying Guide. I’ll attempt to address and help you answer each of the four questions above.

No matter what your DIY or creative passion, one of these cutting machines is sure to be your creative match!

Download the Cricut Buying Guide

Cricut cutting machine buying guide

I created this 16 page e-book that you can download for free. It contains all the information that is contained in this blog post in an easy to read format. To download your free e-book, simply subscribe below:

Once you confirm your subscription by clicking on the link in your confirmation email, you will be redirected to the download in the Subscribers Resource Library. The Library is really a shared Google Drive folder and is full of free printable documents, cut files, patterns and more that are available exclusively to subscribers – just like you!

As a subscriber, you’ll have access to not only this Cricut Cutting Machine Buying Guide, but to the entire Subscribers Resource Library. The Library has about 200 free printable documents: everything from gift tags, wall art and holiday prints to sewing patterns, crochet patterns and more!

Types of Cricut Cutting Machines

Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Cutting Machine

As of the writing of this blog post, Cricut has three cutting machines:

Older Machines

There are some older legacy and discontinued machines that were manufactured by Cricut. I’m only mentioning these machines so that you are aware of their existence and current status as far as support by Cricut. You may come across these machines in the used marketplace and I want you to be informed.

Legacy Machines

Cricut has been around for 15 years. Some of their legacy machines that are NOT being sold anymore include:

  • Cricut Gypsy
  • Cricut Cake
  • Cricut Personal
  • Cricut Expression
  • Cricut Express 2

NOTE: The above listed machines are no longer in production and no longer supported by Cricut.

Discontinued Machines

There are also three other members of the Cricut family that have been discontinued:

  • Cricut Explore
  • Cricut Explore One
  • Cricut Explore Air

Although you won’t find any of the above discontinued machines for sale by Cricut, they are still supported by Cricut and work with the current version of Cricut Design Space.

Again, this information is accurate as of the writing of this blog post. I’ll try to keep the information updated as things change and new products are added.

Now that we’ve talked about what machines NOT to buy (legacy or discontinued machines), let’s take a look at the features and functionality of each of the three Cricut machines.

Features & Functionality – Cricut Joy™

Cricut Joy cutting machine

The Cricut Joy™ is a cute, fun little cutting machine. And the newest member of the Cricut family. But, don’t let its size fool you.

This compact machine is less than half the size of the Cricut Explore or Maker. Although it is limited to a cut width of 4.5″ it does offer mat-free cutting (can cut up to 20′ of “smart vinyl” in a single time) and has a Card Mat (making it perfect for making cards).  It’s pared down a bit from the other Cricut machines, with a single blade and pen holder.

Note: When you’re cutting with a mat (blue or green), your design can’t be larger 4.25 x 6.25/11.75 in. And when using the Card Mat, your design can’t be larger than 4.25 x 6 in.

What’s included in the box with the Cricut Joy?

Inside the box, you’ll find everything you need to get started using your new Cricut Joy:

Mats for the Cricut Joy

With the Cricut Joy, materials labeled with the word “Smart” don’t need a Cricut mat. However, other materials like cardstock and vinyl need a mat to be cut. The Cricut Joy has threekinds of mats:

  • LightGrip Mat – Blue: Use for lightweight materials, including copy paper, light cardstock, vellum, adhesive vinyl, and iron-on.
    • reusable machine mat 4.5″ x 6.5″ (11.4 cm x 16.5 cm)
    •  reusable machine mat 4.5″ x 12″ (11.4 cm x 30.5 cm)
  • StrandardGrip Mat – Green: Use for medium weight materials including Adhesive-Backed Deluxe Paper, and Infusible Ink™ Transfer Sheets
    • reusable machine mat 4.5″ x 6.5″ (11.4 cm x 16.5 cm)
    • reusable machine mat 4.5″ x 12″ (11.4 cm x 30.5 cm)
  • Card Mat – Designed to work perfectly with all Cricut Joy cards, including Insert Cards (sold separately).
    • reusable machine mat 4.5″ x 6.25″ (11.4 cm x 15.9 cm)

Cricut Joy is perfect for all those basic crafts that you might complete, like iron-on vinyl, adhesive vinyl or cardstock.

What can you make with the Cricut Joy?

Cricut Joy is a simple, compact and efficient cutting machine. It has no buttons and is powered on simply when you plug it in. The cut width is only 4.5″ wide, compared to 11.5″ on Cricut Explore and Cricut Maker.

It has a single fine point blade. It does not use any of the specialty tools or blades. The housing can also use a pen, but you will need to switch between the blade and the pen.

Two features that are unique to the Cricut Joy are the Card Mat and mat-free (matless??) cutting with the use of the Smart Vinyl or Smart Iron On. These “smart” materials have a thicker backing so you don’t need a mat for cutting.

So, quick and easy projects are the forte of the Cricut Joy. You can easily and quickly make these small-ish projects:

  • labels for organizing your pantry, craft room, home office, etc.
  • adhesive vinyl decals for mugs, tumblers, phone cases, and more
  • wall decals and borders
  • iron on vinyl decals for shirts, bags and small objects
  • cardstock cards, banners, and party decorations

The Cricut Joy might be best for you if:

  • you have limited crafting space
  • you’ll be doing basic crafts
  • like to travel with your crafts
  • you want a companion to your Explore or Maker

Features & Functionality – Cricut Explore Air™ 2

Cricut Explore Air 2 machine

The Cricut Explore Air™ 2 is an amazing cutting machine. And, compared to the Cricut Maker, comes at a great price.

The Cricut Explore Air 2 can cut out pretty much anything you can imagine, including vinyl labels, decals for shirts, paper crafts, and more! It cuts more than 100 different materials and twice as fast as the predecessor Explore Air.

Plus, the Cricut Explore Air 2 comes in so many colors. You can easily color coordinate your machine to your craft room or personal preference.

What’s included in the box?

Inside the box, you’ll find everything you need to get started using your new Cricut Explore Air 2:

  • Cricut Explore Air 2 machine
  • Power Cord
  • USB Cord
  • Blade and housing (pre-installed)
  • Quick Start Guide
  • 12 x 12 StandardGrip [or] LightGrip cutting mat
  • Materials for the first project
  • Pen and accessory adapter (adapter pre-installed)

If you have purchased a machine bundle, the accessories included in that bundle will be different from what’s listed above.

Mats

The Cricut Explore Air 2 has four kinds of mats:

What can you make with the Cricut Explore Air 2?

The Cricut Explore Air 2 is an electronic cutting machine that sort of resembles a printer. And although you can write on paper using your Explore, it’s specialty is cutting. The Explore uses a precision blade to cut out pretty much anything you can imagine, including:

  • iron-on vinyl for t-shirts, tote bags, etc.
  • paper gift boxes
  • gift tags
  • stencils for wood signs
  • vinyl quotes and designs for coffee mugs
  • greeting cards
  • monogrammed water bottles, towels and more
  • paper flowers
  • pantry labels
  • Christmas ornaments
  • leather earrings

The Cricut Explore Air 2 might be best for you if:

  • you have space available for a bigger machine than the Cricut Joy
  • you’ll be doing more advanced crafts
  • you’ll be crafting a lot
  • you want to craft with more than the limited products available with the Cricut Joy
  • looking for a budget friendly option – but, yet is powerful and fast
  • you make and sell crafts

If you really plan to stick to cardstock paper projects, iron-on and vinyl, the Explore Air 2 is a great option for you.

Features & Functionality – Cricut Maker®

The Cricut Maker® is the top of the line Cricut cutting machine. Although it looks very similar to the Cricut Explore Air 2, it’s a completely different machine. It can do everything the Explore can do and more!

Cricut Maker cutting machine

The Cricut Maker has up to 10x the cutting pressure of the Explore. What does that mean for you? With the Maker you can cut thicker and denser materials more easily, including leather, chipboard, and wood up to 3/32″ thick.

The Cricut Maker can cut everything the Explore Air 2 can cut, PLUS it can cut fabric!

What’s included in the box?

Inside the box, you’ll find everything you need to get started using your new Cricut Maker:

Mats for the Cricut Maker

The Cricut Maker also has four kinds of mats and uses the same mats as the Explore Air 2:

Adaptive Tool System

Where the Cricut Maker really shines is in the new blades and its Adaptive Tool System™. The Cricut Maker uses a completely different technology from the Explore from its advanced mathematical algorithms and a system of intricate brass gears – all designed to improve cutting precision. The Adaptive Tool System allows Cricut to design new tools that can be added as they are invented.

The Adaptive Tool System can control your tools to cut from side-to-side, move up and down, and lift and turn, so you can cut more materials with more pressure than ever before. This is what makes it easy to cut through fabric without a backer (right off of the bolt) using the all-new Rotary Blade. Cricut Maker can cut hundreds of materials from delicate papers and fabrics to denser materials like leather, chipboard, balsa wood and more.

Currently, the Cricut Maker can use the following tools and blades:

What can you make with the Cricut Maker?

If you are a crafter, designer, sewer or creator, Cricut Maker gives you lots of possibilities to take on new projects that you only dreamed about being able to do (or couldn’t imagine you could do) from the comfort of home.

And, if you’re someone who loves the thrill of pushing the boundaries of what you can create, the Cricut Maker is the right choice for you. Here’s a list of just some of the fun and creative ways to use your Cricut Maker:

  • Cut monogram lets from basswood
  • Felt or crepe paper flowers
  • Fabric squares for quilting
  • Sewing patterns
  • Infusible ink projects
  • Foil wedding invitations
  • Custom water bottles and mugs
  • Lined fabric Christmas stockings
  • Stencils for wood signs
  • Fabric face masks

What can you make with the Cricut Maker?

If you are a crafter, designer, sewer or creator, Cricut Maker gives you lots of possibilities to take on new projects that you only dreamed about being able to do (or couldn’t imagine you could do) from the comfort of home.

And, if you’re someone who loves the thrill of pushing the boundaries of what you can create, the Cricut Maker is the right choice for you.

Here’s a list of just some of the fun and creative ways to use your Cricut Maker:

  • Cut monogram lets from basswood
  • Felt or crepe paper flowers
  • Fabric squares for quilting
  • Sewing patterns
  • Infusible ink projects
  • Foil wedding invitations
  • Custom water bottles and mugs
  • Lined fabric Christmas stockings
  • Stencils for wood signs
  • Fabric face masks

I am most excited about the ability to cut fabric, create designs from wood and leather and to do some engraving. The possibilities with the Maker are only limited by your imagination!

Which Cricut Machine is Right for You?

Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Cutting Machine

After reading this lengthy Cricut cutting machine comparison and buying guide, have you made a decision or concluded which machine is right for you?

Remember, the keys to selecting the Cricut Cutting Machine that’s right for you is for you to:

  1. Learn about the features and functionality of each machine.
  2. Determine how you think you will use the machine.
  3. Take your budget into consideration (Joy – $180, Explore – $250, Maker – $400)

Learn Everything You Can

Then, once you’ve made a selection, learn everything you can about your Cricut.

Choose Quality

I’d like to add one more thing. Although we have to take our budget into consideration, just like when you are selecting a sewing machine, you want to purchase the best quality machine that fits your needs that you can afford. The same holds true with the Cricut machines.

And don’t be intimidated by all the bells and whistles. There are a TON of Cricut training resources available.

Cricut Training Resources

Learn how to convert a PDF to PNG format so you can utilize the Print the Cut feature with Cricut Design Space. Get the full tutorial from The Birch Cottage!

Although (as of the writing of this post) I haven’t shared very many Cricut tutorials here on The Birch Cottage blog, you will find:

And here are a few of my favorite resources for Cricut tutorials, projects and training:

I put together an entire collection of Cricut tutorials that you will find in my Cricut YouTube Playlist.

Where to Buy Cricut Cutting Machines

Which cricut machine is right for you

Besides purchasing your Cricut Joy, Explore Air 2 or Maker directly from Cricut (www.cricut.com), you’ll also find Cricut machines sold by these companies:

** If you live in the Central Ohio area, I have seen Cricut machines and supplies up for auction on the Capital City Online Auctions website. You do have to pick up your auction items (they won’t ship them to you). And I also caution you to make sure you thoroughly checkout your machine before you leave the building. Auction items are non-refundable.

If you have questions about whether a Cricut cutting machine is for you or need help determining the best fit for your crafting needs, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Happy crafting!

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