A Guide to Selecting a Cricut Machine
Cricut is a manufacturer of computer-controlled cutting plotters for all sorts of crafts. A Cricut machine looks much like a printer–but, instead of printing, it will cut out designs in a wide number of materials. Their most versatile machine, the Cricut Maker, can cut intricate designs in over 300 different materials!
As we’ll see, you can also purchase lower-level Cricut cutting plotters that are simpler to operate. They work together with Cricut’s software and apps. And besides the actual cutting machines, they also make special proprietary craft materials and heat presses. You can prepare personalized T-shirts, mugs, and hats. You have the option of creating vinyl or foil decals or cutting out designs in fabric or in leather.
But, with all of this variety of project ideas, you may find it difficult to decide which is right for you. We’ll briefly describe the main Cricut machines on the market presently, and how you can get started preparing some absolutely breathtaking projects!
What is a Cricut machine?
A cricut machine is a machine that cuts out shapes from paper, vinyl, or other materials. You can make designs to personalize bags, books, T-shirts, and more.
Can I launder a Cricut T-shirt?
A Cricut ink or vinyl transfer to a T-shirt can last as many as 50 machine washings.
Types of Cricut Machines
There are three main types of Cricut machines, differing in their features and capabilities. (Note that you may still be able to purchase earlier versions of the Cricut Explore and Cricut Maker.)
Cricut Joy–This is a compact entry-level machine, which comes with 3 tools (a blade, a foil transfer tool, and pens), and can cut 50 different materials, including vinyl and construction paper. It measures only 8.4” x 4.3”, and essentially fits in the palm of your hand! It’s adequate for iron-ons, greeting cards, labels, and decals.
Cricut Explore 3– This device comes with 6 cutting tools (a fine-point blade, a deep-point blade, a scoring stylus, a foil transfer tool, a bonded fabric tool, and pens), and is capable of working with 100 different types of materials. It is the next product after the Cricut Explore Air 2, which you can get for around $50 less than the Cricut Explore 3.
Cricut Explore 3
Cricut Maker 3 - This device is more versatile than the Cricut Explore 3. Besides the tools of the Explore 3, it also has a rotary blade, a knife blade, a scoring wheel, an engraving tool, a debossing tool, a wavy blade, and a perforation blade. It can cut over 300 different materials, including leather, fabric, and balsa wood. You can also purchase a Cricut Maker Bundle, where you get 26 sheets of different-colored vinyl and practice materials.
Cricut Maker 3
Along with the Cricut machine, you can also purchase a Cricut press to iron on vinyl or ink decals. Presently, there are three categories of presses:
Cricut EasyPress: This press allows you to set a particular ironing temperature and ironing time, so that it’s best suited for the materials you are using. It’s adequate for T-shirts, tote bags, pillows, aprons, and more!
Cricut Autopress: For larger items, there is the Cricut Autopress which is a clamshell-style press. You also select the time and temperature of the ironing, and it auto-releases when the time is up.
For specialty items: There are also special Cricut presses for printing onto specialty items, such as hats or mugs. It’s a great option for starting a small business that prepares personalized items!
What reviewers say
Here are some impressions of customers regarding their choice of Cricut machine:
Membership fee: The Cricut software is free to download and install. But, to get access to all of the Cricut options on their website of different images, you can either pay a $9 monthly membership fee or pay for each image that you want to download separately.
Newer model runs twice as fast: Customers who compared the previous version of the Cricut Explore with the newer Cricut Explore 3 noticed that the newer version can get an iron-on completed in 4 minutes which would take 8 minutes on the older model. Also, the older model may use cartridges that are no longer available.
Here are some tips and important features to look for when selecting a Cricut machine:
Sample process of creating a project: Let’s step through the process of making a t-shirt with our Cricut:
After you download and install Cricut’s Design Space software on your computer, you then select a font for the message you wish to print.
Type in the text, and resize it to fit properly on the T-shirt. You want to print the iron-on decal in a “mirror image” if you’re printing with ink. The letters will be reversed when you iron the decal onto your shirt.
Select the material that you’re printing with, as well as the material upon which you will print.
Place the decal material onto the Cricut mat, and insert it into the Cricut cutter.
Remove the Cricut mat, and peel off the parts of the transfer tape that you don’t want to transfer onto the T-shirt.
Iron the transfer tape onto the T-shirt, let it cool, peel it off, and you’re done.
Cutting with and without a mat: Cricut makes “Smart Vinyl” and other adhesive materials. These allow you to cut the material without a special Cricut mat underneath. If you use typical iron-on vinyl, adhesive paper, or cardboard stock, you should use the Cricut mat underneath the media that you are cutting.
Bluetooth connectivity: Most Cricut devices are now Bluetooth enabled. This is a good alternative to hooking up the Cricut to your computer via a USB cable.
Accessories: Even if you order the Cricut Explore and don’t receive the full set of accessories, you can still order them separately from the Cricut website.
We went through some of the Cricut machines, as well as their accessories. Besides instruction on how to use the machine, it also comes with a booklet of project ideas. The variations of the types of crafts that you can prepare are literally endless! Whether you want to start a small business selling personalized items, preparing school projects, or just as a hobby, Cricut has the answers!