Today we’re going to talk about which Cricut machine is right for you. Whether you’re thinking about getting your first Cricut or maybe upgrading from the Cricut you have, hopefully, this video will help you make that decision. This post is NOT at all sponsored by Cricut. The holiday season is coming up, and maybe you’re shopping for a Cricut machine for yourself, or to give as a gift, but which one do you choose? There are now five options on the market. It’s getting even more confusing about which Cricut machine might be the right purchase. Let me help!
Which Cricut Machine is Right for You?
I do want to point out at the very beginning that you can’t go wrong with any of these Cricut machines. They all work. They’re all amazing. I use them all in my crafting. It’s just going to depend on what type of crafter you are, and which machine is best for the way you craft or your space. Learn about all of the machines and then make a decision for yourself. If you get to the end of the video and you still can’t decide, drop down in the comment section and tell me what you like to make, what you’re going to use your Cricut machine for, what you see yourself crafting in the future, and I’ll give you my recommendations to help you decide.
Can’t watch the video or missed some of the information? Keep reading to get all of the details!
Cricut Machine Comparison
I am going to compare the following machines as far as features and things you need to know before purchasing.
- Maker (both the original Cricut Maker and Cricut Maker 3)
- Explore (both the Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Explore 3)
- Cricut Joy
REMEMBER you can use code ANGIE10 to get 10% off and free shipping on any Cricut machine on the Cricut website between now and the end of 2021. The code can also be used on the EasyPress and Mug Press machines if you are in the market for those.
I’m going to start with the simplest Cricut machine and that’s the Cricut Joy. Then I’m going to step my way up through the Explore series and then the Maker series. We’re going to start simple and work our way up. I’m going to go over each machine, what it does, and what the differences are between it and the other machines.
The Joy is the smallest Cricut machine. If you are limited on space at all, or if you’re going to travel with your Cricut machine, the Joy is hands down the machine I recommend. Because of its size, there are some things it can NOT do.
The first thing it can NOT do is print then cut. A lot of people like to make stickers with their Cricut machine, print them out with their printer, and then cut around them – the Joy can not do that. You can eliminate the Joy if you want to make anything with print then cut.
The Joy also only has a fine-point blade. That limits the materials you can cut. You can basically cut really thin materials like cardstock, vinyl, iron-on, and that type of thickness. Want to see everything I have cut with my Joy? Try this post for more details.
You can add foil lines with the Cricut Joy with the foiling tool. The Cricut Joy foiling tool is different from the one for the Explore and the Maker series. However, all of the machines now add foiling lines to your projects. You can see more about it here.
You are limited on size with the Joy as well. It’s about a 4 1/2 inch wide cut. If you use the smart vinyl or smart iron-on, you can cut up to 12 feet in length. It does do long cuts as long as you use the Cricut Smart Vinyl. You need the smart vinyl that is intended for the Joy for this machine. There are smart vinyls for the newest Explore and Maker as well, so make sure you get the one for the Joy.
When we’re talking about making cards, Cricut Joy has a card mat that cuts pre-folded cards. Now, why did they make that only for the Cricut Joy? Well, the Cricut Joy is so small in size that you couldn’t fit a card that is completely laid out flat, so they had to come up with a way for you to make cards easily. On the Explore or the Maker series, you can just make the cards flat on the mat. It’s not really a requirement for you to have the card mat. It’s not a drawback, but it is an extra feature that makes card making super easy. You can see more about that here.
All Cricut machines can draw with pens. The Cricut Joy takes a different pen size and type than the other machines. If you move up to the Explore or the Maker series at a later date, the Joy pens will not fit. Just in case you are thinking about purchasing the Joy and you get a bunch of those pens and then can’t use them later.
Cricut Explore Series
The latest machines on the market in this series are the Cricut Explore Air 2 and Explore 3. First of all, if you are shopping for a machine in a cute color, the Explore Air 2 is the only one that currently comes in those options. So, if you are looking for a machine to match your craft room, the Explore Air 2 might be for you.
The Explore Air 2 has a fine-point and deep-point blade. That means you can go a little bit thicker than the Joy. This means cutting magnet sheets, cork, some leathers, felt, etc. You’re stepping up just a little bit in what materials you can cut when you go to the Explore. It also steps up in width. You can go up to 11 1/2 inches wide x 23 1/2 inches long with the longer mat.
The Explore Air 2 has a dial where you can choose your material, but you can always flip the dial to custom. This is the last machine with the dial option. The Explore Air 2 is also the last machine that has a cartridge slot. If you have those old cartridges from former machines, you need to sync them with Cricut Design Space. The Explore Air 2 is the last machine to have the cartridge slot to do that. You can still link them with the newer machines, you just have to call Cricut to do so. If that is super important to you, you might want to consider the Cricut Explore Air 2.
I mentioned the Cricut Joy doesn’t do print then cut, the rest of the Cricut machines have this feature. However, the Explore Air 2 is the only one that has the old version of the print then cut sensor. What does that mean? That means the Explore Air 2 can only do print then cut on white paper. If you’re foreseeing yourself doing a lot of print then cut, and you want to do it on different colors of paper, I would skip the Explore Air 2 and at least move up to the Explore 3.
The next thing when you move up from the Joy to the Explore series is you add scoring. The Explore series uses a scoring stylist, which goes in the pen holder and you can then score your paper and make those fold lines super easily. You can fold right on the line with precision, which I really love, especially for cards.
What’s the difference between the Explore Air 2 and the Explore 3? There are not a ton of differences. We already talked about how the Explore 3 has the upgraded print then cut sensor. The Explore 3 will allow you to do print then cut on different colors of paper. The Explore 3 is faster, especially when you’re cutting smart materials. It accepts smart vinyl and smart iron-on, as well as smart sticker paper cardstock. When you cut those materials with no mat, the maximum width moves to 11.75 inches but the length goes to 20 feet.
With the Explore 3, you can get an optional accessory, which is a holder for rolls. This helps to feed those Smart Materials into your Explore 3, and cut your material right on a roll. I have a post all about the Explore 3 here that will help you decide between the two.
Cricut Maker Series
For the Maker, you have two options – the Cricut Maker or the Maker 3. Wait a minute, did we skip a number? The Maker was the original release of the Maker machine. When they released the Explore 3 and the Maker 3 at the same time, they went ahead and skipped a number to keep things consistent.
First of all, when you upgrade from the Explore to the Maker series, what else do you get? You get quite a bit. The Maker has a lot more cutting force than the Explore or the Joy. You are stepping up in cutting force with each of these. The Joy has less cutting force than the Explore, the Explore has less than the Maker. The Maker is a powerful machine. You add all kinds of capabilities and materials. There are so many materials that you can cut with your Maker. I could never make a video on all of them.
You add quite a few blades as well. Everything the Explore can do the Maker can do. Everything that the Joy can do, the Explore can do and the Maker can do. So, the Maker is the ultimate machine, right? It can do it all.
Let’s talk about the blades. It still takes the fine-point blade, the deep-point blade, and the foil tool, just like the Explore series. You can also use your scoring stylist in the Maker, but there’s also a scoring wheel with this machine to make single and double scoring lines. If you’ve worked with paper a lot and you had a lot of trouble with cracking on your fold lines on foil paper, double scoring is definitely for you and you can do that in the Maker.
The Maker has this adaptive tool system that’s really amazing and unique. It has a rotary blade, which is the first blade we’re going to talk about. The rotary blade opens up a ton of fabric cutting options. If you’ve ever used a handheld rotary cutter for fabric, it’s like that but in mini size. There are so many fabric options that you can cut with the Maker. If you’ve ever wanted to cut shapes and designs out of fabric, the Maker is definitely for you. The Explore and Joy will cut fabric if it has interfacing on the back to make it stiff. I grab my Maker every time I want to cut any fabric at all (interfacing or not.) It’s hands down a way better way to cut fabric and fabric-like materials.
The second blade that I love for the Maker is the knife blade. Think of it as the craft knife or Xacto knife that you use for your craft projects, but for a cutting machine. It is simply amazing and allows you to cut wood, chipboard, and other super thick materials easily. I use it for leather a lot.
My third favorite blade is the engraving tip. There is one housing called the quick swap housing. It has several different tips and one of those is the engraving tip. I love, love, love, engraving metal with my Maker. It’s definitely the only way, in my opinion, to engrave metal.
Other tips you have include the deboss tip, perforated tip, and a wavy blade. Deboss is debossing into cardstock, perforated is making a perforated line, and then the wavy blade makes a wavy line. I use those three tips way less than I use the other ones.
Remember with the Explore, you can only use the fine-point blade, the deep-point blade, the foil tool, and they do make a fabric blade. Technically it’s the fine-point blade in a pink housing and it is for bonded fabric. When you move up to the Maker, you move up to all those other blades I talked about: the rotary blade, the knife blade, the engraving tip, and then those other tips, like the scoring and the deboss.
The Maker also has that upgraded print then cut sensor. You can print then cut on different colors of cardstock or paper or whatever, so it also has that functionality. The Maker has the same size restrictions as the Explore Air 2. It’s going to be 11 1/2 inches wide and 23 1/2 inches long with that long mat. When you move up to the Maker 3, that’s when it opens up length. Again, the width is 11.75 inches, but the length is 20 feet with Smart Materials similar to the Explore 3.
Again, the Maker 3 accepts that roll holder. You can cut rolls of material without a mat, and you will need to use the Cricut Smart Vinyl or Iron-On or Smart Paper Cardstock to cut without a mat on your Maker 3. It is faster when you cut those smart materials.
I do find that the Maker 3 and the Explore 3 are a bit quieter, as well as slightly faster when cutting other materials on a mat. The head moves a little faster, so I do think my cuts are a little faster with these machines. It’s way faster when you’re cutting smart vinyl or smart iron-on. The difference is very dramatic. Click here to get more information on the differences between the Maker and Maker 3 and actually see them in action cutting against one another. Then you can make a decision on which one is going to be right for you.
Which Cricut Machine Should You Choose?
That’s a ton of information. We talked about five total machines and there is tons of information to digest. Hopefully, that helps you at least begin to decide which Cricut machine might be right for you. You can go with the Joy and keep it simple. I do think the Joy is a great starter machine. If you are super intimidated by a Cricut machine, the Joy is a great place to start. It’s simple. It only has one blade plus the foil tip. It’s just easy and simple to use and is a great machine to start out on.
I will warn you: if you get the Joy, it’s sort of an introduction into the Cricut world, and once you get introduced to it, you will want to move up. I always find that people with the Cricut Joy always end up with one of the other machines. If you want to get started with crafting and are intimidated, the Cricut Joy is a great and affordable option and it’s super simple so it’s easy to get started. As you move up, the machines do get more complicated.
The Maker cuts way more materials than the Explore series. If you think that once you get a machine that you’re going to want to cut all the things, just get the Maker the first time right out of the gate. It is a more complicated machine, but you’re going to be happier in the long run that you don’t have to upgrade later on. I always recommend thinking about the crafter you are today and the crafter you are going to be in the future and seeing if you can afford it now.
Learning Your Cricut
Now that you have a new machine on the way, how do you learn how to use it? Try the links below to get started with Cricut crafting right away!
- Free 7 Day Cricut Class – Sign up when you get your machine, and start with day one and work through day seven. I think that will answer most of your questions.
- Cricut One Hour Crash Course – If you’re the type of person that doesn’t have seven days, I have a one hour crash course. I tried to fit all of the information I could into one hour.
- Cricut Materials Video – If you have any questions about any Cricut material and which machine cuts what, that’s the video for you.
Hopefully, this helped you decide which Cricut machine is for you and you have your machine on the way. I know you will love it and make amazing projects with your machine! Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you get even more ideas for using your machine!