Inside: How to use the Cricut Maker: Cricut setup, what Cricut Maker can cut, and what to create with a Cricut Maker electronic cutting machine.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.
Imagine if you never had to buy stickers again. Or cut out intricate printables without using those tiny scissors that make your hand cramp. Or get 100s of felt shapes to make a wreath without cranking the handle of a manual die cutting machine. These are the reasons I am so excited to try the Cricut Maker, because it can do all this and more!
Which Electronic Cutter Should You Buy?
All of the options, brands, and types of electronic cutters can be overwhelming and confusing. If you are looking to buy an electronic cutter, you're in the right place! With 12 years experience using electronic cutters of ALL brands, I have some keen insights about why the Cricut Maker is the best Cricut machine for you.
Why I Don't Use My Old Electronic Cutter Anymore (that's NOT a Cricut)
Electronic cutters have come a LONG way since I first my bought one. Back in the day, electronic cutters:
- only cut very thin materials like paper and vinyl
- struggled to cut basic shapes from textured cardstock
- software was difficult to use
- took hours of installing computer software and downloading updates to set up
I got into crafting to use my hands, not be a computer tech!
For last few years, my electronic cutter has been collecting dust. It's easier to buy stickers than to mess around with all the cords and tech just to make a scrapbook page title.
If you have an electronic cutter that is more than 5 years old, you might be experiencing similar issues.
It's time to replace that old broke machine and get yourself a Cricut Maker.
Is the Cricut Maker Easier to Use Than Older Machines?
When Cricut asked me if I wanted to try the Cricut Maker, I was intrigued. I'd heard a lot about the Maker … but was it really easier, bigger, better, and faster than what I already had?
I decided to put the Maker to the test and brought the Maker to a scrapbook crop without ever having opened the box.
Did it pass muster?
In this post I share:
- How a Cricut machine works (in case you've never seen one before)
- List of materials Cricut Maker can cut
- How to set up the Cricut Maker
- What you need to get started with the Cricut Maker
- What actually happened when I used the Cricut Maker for the first time
- My first Cricut Maker project
- How to avoid common mistakes with fonts using Cricut Maker
- Can the Cricut Maker cut felt?
- What's the difference between Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore Air 2?
Click any of the links above to jump to that part of this post.
How Does A Cricut Work?
Cricut electronic cutting machines cut, score, and draw shapes, letters, and other designs onto flat materials.
This is how a Cricut works:
Every electronic cutter has two main components: the cutting machine and the software to power the machine.
How an electronic cutter works:
- Open the software to design the shapes or text you want cut, drawn, or scored
- Load the machine with the materials you want the machine to cut, draw, or score
- Send the design to the machine using the software
- The machine follows the commands from the software to cut, draw, or score the design
Cricut's software is called Design Space. To use Design Space with the Cricut Maker, you'll need to install the software onto a device, such as a computer, tablet, or mobile phone.
These operating systems are compatible with Cricut Design Space:
- Windows computer
- Mac computer
- iOS app (and iPad)
- Android app
I'm currently using Design Space on my laptop, desktop, iPad Pro, and Android phone.
Cricut Design Space has different features depending on the operating system you've installed it on. Check the full list and comparison of Design Space features here.
You can use the Cricut Design Space app with the Cricut Maker from your device using a cord or via Bluetooth® wireless technology.
What can a Cricut cut?
Every Cricut machine has a unique set of materials it can cut. Most Cricut machines can cut paper, vellum, vinyl, and other thin materials.
The Cricut Maker can cut over 100 different materials, including chipboard, felt, fabric, and faux leather.
Check out this adorable makeup bag I made in an hour with Cricut Maker!
Since all materials are not the same thickness and hardness, Cricut offers a variety of blades you can use with your Cricut to cut these different materials.
Cut these materials with each blade type offered for the Cricut Maker:
Fine-Point Blade (included with Cricut Maker):
- Adhesive Foil
- Adhesive Foil, Matte
- Adhesive Sheet, Double-Sided
- Birch, Permanent Adhesive
- Carbon Fiber
- Cardstock (for intricate cuts)
- Cardstock, Adhesive-Backed
- Chalkboard Vinyl
- Clear Printable Sticker Paper
- Colored Duct Tape
- Construction Paper
- Copy Paper – 20 lb
- Corrugated Cardboard
- Cutting Mat Protector
- Deluxe Paper
- Dry Erase Vinyl
- Duct Tape Sheet
- Embossed Foil Paper
- Faux Leather (Paper Thin)
- Faux Suede
- Felt, Stiff
- Felt, Wool Bonded
- Flat Cardboard
- Flocked Iron-On
- Flocked Paper
- Foil Acetate
- Foil Iron-On
- Foil Paper – 0.36mm
- Foil Poster Board
- Freezer Paper
- Glitter Cardstock
- Glitter Craft Foam
- Glitter Duct Tape
- Glitter Iron-On
- Glitter Vinyl
- Grocery Bag
- Heat Transfer
- Heavy Patterned Paper
- Heavy Watercolor Paper – 140 lb
- Holographic Cardstock
- Holographic Heat Transfer
- Holographic Sparkle Vinyl
- Holographic Vinyl
- Iron-On, Holographic Sparkle – 0.1mm
- Kraft Board
- Kraft Cardstock
- Light Cardstock – 60 lb
- Light Chipboard – 0.37mm
- Light Patterned Paper
- Magnetic Sheet – 0.5mm
- Matte Vinyl
- Medium Cardstock – 80 lb
- Metal – 40 gauge thin
- Metallic Poster Board
- Metallic Vinyl
- Mulberry Foil Paper
- Notebook Paper
- Paint Chip
- Paper, Adhesive-Backed
- Parchment Paper
- Party Foil
- Patterned Glitter Cardstock
- Patterned Iron-On
- Pearl Paper
- Photo Paper
- Plastic Packaging
- Poster Board
- Poster Board
- Premium Outdoor Vinyl
- Premium Vinyl
- Printable Fabric
- Printable Foil
- Printable Iron-On, Dark
- Printable Iron-On, Light
- Printable Magnetic Sheet
- Printable Vinyl
- Shimmer Leather – 1mm
- Shimmer Paper
- Sparkle Paper
- SportFlex Iron-On
- Stencil Film – 0.4mm
- Stencil Vinyl
- Sticker Paper
- Sticker Paper, Removable
- Sticky Note
- Tattoo Paper
- Transfer Foil
- Transfer Sheet
- Washi Sheet
- Wax Paper
- Window Cling
- Wrapping Paper
Rotary Blade (included with Cricut Maker):
- 2-3 oz. Tooling Leather
- Bamboo Fabric
- Burn-Out Velvet
- Chantilly Lace
- Charmeuse Satin
- Crepe Charmeuse
- Crepe de Chine
- Crepe Paper
- Crepe-back Satin
- Delicate Fabrics (like Tulle)
- Dotted Swiss
- Double Cloth
- Double Knit
- Duck Cloth
- Dupioni Silk
- Extra Heavy Fabrics (like Burlap)
- Faux Fur
- Faux Suede
- Felt, Acrylic Fabric
- Felt, Glitter Bonded
- Felt, Wool Fabric
- Flex Foam
- Fusible Fleece
- Fusible Interfacing
- Grois Point
- Handmade Paper
- Heavy Fabrics (like Denim)
- Homespun Fabric
- Insulbrite Batting
- Interlock Knit
- La Coste
- Light Cotton
- Light Fabrics (like Silk)
- Medium Fabrics (like Cotton)
- Melton Wool
- Monk's Cloth
- Mulberry Paper
- Panne Velvet
- Peau de Soie
- Pima Cotton
- Pique Cotton
- Quilt Batting
- Raschel Knit
- Rayon Lyocell
- Rib Knit
- Rip-Stop Nylon
- Satin Silk
- Shantung Santeen
- Silk China
- Slinky Knit
- Terry Cloth
- Tissue Paper
- Ultra Firm Stabilizer
- Velvet Upholstery
- Waffle Cloth
- Wool Crepe
- 2-3 oz. Garment Leather
- 4-5 oz. Garment Leather
- 4-5 oz. Tooling Leather
- 6-7 oz. Tooling Leather (2.4mm)
- Balsa – 1/16 in.
- Balsa – 3/32 in.
- Basswood – 1/16 in.
- Basswood – 1/32 in.
- Heavy Chipboard – 2.0mm
- Matboard 4 Ply
- Aluminum Foil
- Cereal Box
- Corrugated Paper
- Craft Foam
- EVA Foam
- Gel Sheet
- Genuine Leather
- Magnetic Sheet – 0.6mm
- Metallic Leather
- Plastic Canvas
- Rice Paper
- Sandblast Stencil
Bonded Fabric Blade:
- Cotton, Bonded
- Felt, Craft Bonded
- Heavy Fabrics (like Denim), Bonded
- Light Fabrics (like Silk), Bonded
- Linen, Bonded
- Medium Fabrics (like Cotton), Bonded
- Oil Cloth, Bonded
- Outdoor Vinyl, Bonded
- Polyester, Bonded
- Silk, Bonded
I know that list is crazy long! I put it here so you can get the true feel and understanding for how versatile the Cricut Maker is … it cuts all the things.
Additional ways to use a Cricut:
You can do so much more with Cricut that cut alone.
- Draw with a Cricut by replacing the blade with a pen using a special pen holder attachment.
- Print images on a printer using the Cricut design software for your specific Cricut machine. Then use the software to cut out the printed images with your Cricut machine.
I recently made some movie themed bottlecap necklaces, printing the free printable on photo paper and cutting out the circles with Cricut Maker.
You can also cut out photos, clip art, and other images you can print, all using Cricut Maker.
Which Cricut Cutting Mat Should You Use with Cricut Maker?
The Cricut Maker can cut many different types of materials with various textures, nap, and thickness. Each of these materials requires a specific mat to hold the material in place while cutting.
Cricut offers 3 mat types that can be used for specific materials:
- Cricut LightGrip Cutting Mat works with Cricut Explore and Cricut Maker Machines. Use for:
- White Printer Paper
- Light Cardstock
- Thin Scrapbook Paper
- Washi Tape Sheets
- Wrapping Paper
- Cricut StandardGrip Cutting Mat works with Cricut Explore and Cricut Maker Machines. Use for:
- Textured Paper
- Embossed Cardstock
- Iron-On Vinyl
- Cricut StrongGrip Cutting Mat works withCricut Explore and Cricut Maker Machines. Use for:
- Thick Cardstock
- Glitter Cardstock
- Magnet Material
- Poster Board
- Fabric with Stiffener
- Corrugated Cardboard
- Faux Leather
- Faux Suede
- Cricut FabricGrip Cutting Mat works with the Cricut Maker together with the Rotary Blade or Bonded-Fabric Blade only. Use for:
- Fabric with or without stabilizer
Cricut mats are available in two sizes:
- 12″ x 12″
- 12″ x 24″ for larger projects
Mats will need to be replaced once you start getting cuts that aren't perfect. Purchase mats one by one as you need them. Mat bundles are the best value, each pack including several types of mats in one package for a discounted price.
What Images Can I Cut with Cricut Maker and Design Space?
Create with the following in Cricut Design Space:
- Clip art
- Images you scan (with another device, like your all-in-one printer)
- SVG files
- jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .svg, and .dxf file types
- Images and vectors you design in other programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop
- Cricut Access™ library of designs
I cut this heat transfer vinyl design from a clip art design I bought on a stock photo site.
Cricut Access™ is Cricut's subscription program to access their entire library of shapes, projects, and designs. The Cricut Access library has over 60,000 designs available to subscribers. You'll never run out of project ideas! Cricut Access™ membership includes special perks and exclusive discounts on Cricut supplies, like mats and blades. Check out Cricut Access™ membership plans here.
How Easy Is the Cricut Setup?
Setting up the Cricut is easy as pie. Like I mentioned earlier, I put the Cricut Maker to the test by bringing it to a scrapbook crop with me the first time I used it!
- I had never used the Cricut Maker before
- I had never opened the Cricut Maker box before I got to the store
- I had not downloaded the Design Space software to my laptop
Here's my Cricut Maker making it's first cuts at the scrapbook crop:
I used the store's wi-fi to download the Cricut Design Space app. Then I was up and cutting in minutes!
If you don't have any supplies with you, the Cricut Maker also includes sample materials, like paper and a piece of fabric, for you to cut for your first project.
What you Need to Get Started with Cricut Maker
For the Cricut Maker to work, you'll need:
- Cricut Design Space app (Software) – an internet connection is needed to download or access online
- Device to run the software – Android phone or iPhone, iPad, Laptop, or Desktop Computer
If you're planning to use your Maker away from home, I recommend downloading the app or software needed for your device at home where the internet connection is stable.
Unboxing the Cricut Maker
When you open the Cricut Maker, you'll first see a quick start guide. Follow these directions for setting up the machine.
Inside the box you'll also find:
- a smaller box with additional accessories
- a USB cord
- a power cord
- rotary blade
- the Cricut Maker machine
- sample materials for cutting
Check to make sure all of the parts are complete in your Cricut Maker box before using it.
Setting Up the Cricut Maker
Follow the quick start guide that comes right in the Cricut Maker box. I got the Cricut set up and ready to go in under 10 minutes.
If you've never used a Cricut before, it's a good idea to watch the tutorial videos on the Cricut website.
- Design Space software will walk you through several guided tours when you first get started
- Go deeper by watching a series of 33 videos (about one hour total) from Cricut
What Happened the First Time Used the Cricut Maker
At the crop, I was working on scrapbooking our trip to Beaches Resorts Turks & Caicos last fall. My first project with Cricut Maker was cutting titles and arrows for the pocket style scrapbook pages I created for the trip.
Cricut Maker and textured cardstock
I have an unhealthy obsession with textured cardstock. Titles and decorations cut from textured cardstock have a rich look that makes the scrapbook page feel uber special. I use textured cardstock as much as possible to get this luxe effect on my papercrafts.
I've always been frustrated with how my previous cutters struggled to cut textured cardstock. Sometimes the edges of the shapes were fuzzy or feathered because the blade did not cut all the way through. Or the letters or shapes would not be cut out completely. I would have to finish the job with scissors.
I had high expectations for Cricut Maker. Could it make my cardstock woes go away?
Here's what happened when I cut textured cardstock with the Cricut Maker:
- Each letter was cut crisply and perfectly
- When I peeled the shapes off the paper, the paper remained flat
Do Cricut mats make your paper curl?
Mats for other digital cutters I've used always had too much tack. The mats were so sticky curl or rip the paper when removing from the mat after cutting. I'd try to minimize the rips and curls by sticking the mats to my t-shirt to get some lint on them before I used them.
You do NOT have to stick Cricut mats to your t-shirt before using! They work perfectly from the first time.
Cricut mats produce these results:
- no curling
- no ripping
- beautiful cuts with crisp edges every time
Look at the gorgeous crisp edges on this title!:
Cricut Maker beginner mistakes with fonts
Layered letters are a challenge to make with system fonts on Cricut Maker. I literally spent 4 hours online trying to find an easy way to make a shadow or layered letters using the fonts on my computer. Layers or shadows on fonts are one of the main advantages of using an electronic cutting system over a manual system with dies that have static designs.
Layered fonts – Here's what I figured out:
- Cricut Design Space recognizes two types of fonts:
- Multi-cut fonts, which include layers or shadows
- Single cut fonts, which include the font only
- All fonts on your computer (“system fonts”) are recognized as “single cut” fonts in Design Space
- You can get the layered alphabet or shadow effect by using an outside program like Adobe Illustrator to cut the layers, or
- By using Cricut's Multi-cut fonts in Design Space
As you can tell by my finished projects, I skipped the layers due to frustration. This is the one and only difficulty I have found with Cricut Design Space to date. I'm not gonna die without layers, but I certainly would love to see this featured added to the Design Space app.
Working with Script Fonts in Cricut Design Space
I've been using electronic cutters for 12 years now. But I still made this total noob mistake when cutting a script font with Cricut Maker.
When cutting script fonts, you'll want to reduce the kerning, or space between letters, to produce a single cut for the entire word. The letters will be linked together to form one shape, making it easier to glue down.
The outline of each letter is viewed by Design Space as a cut line. That means the machine will cut along that line. When the letters overlap, the cut lines overlap. If you cut the word in this way, you'll get this result:
The machine was just doing what we told it, cutting along ALL of the cut lines.
What we really want is for the cut lines to disappear where the letters overlap to form one shape. You can accomplish this with the “weld” button in Design Space.
How to weld letters with Cricut Design Space:
- Adjust the kerning (spacing between) of the letters until they overlapped exactly how you want them. You won't be able to adjust them after step 3.
- Select all of the letters.
- Click the “weld” button in DesignSpace. This converts all of the letters to one shape, essentially erasing those cut lines where the letters overlap.
- Cut out the word using Cricut Maker.
Cutting Fabric with Cricut Maker
When I heard the Cricut Maker could cut fabric, including felt, I was intrigued.
Other electronics cutters only cut fabric with:
- fusible web on the back
- stabilizer or an adhesive sheet on the back
This limits the projects you could make with the fabric shapes you cut. You wouldn't want a shirt with fusible web all over the inside … itch city!
The Cricut Maker can cut fabric with or without stabilizer or fusible web, which means you can make a lot more projects with the fabric it cuts.
Working with Felt
Felt is one of my favorite materials to work with. I had to know: could the Maker REALLY cut felt?
But First, how to cut felt … without Cricut Maker
Traditionally, the only way to cut felt was:
- by hand with scissors, or
- with a heavy manual steel rule die cutting system
Drawbacks of using steel rule dies to cut felt:
- static sizes – you need a die for each size shape you want to cut
- dies are expensive
- dies are bulky and difficult to store
- dies are heavy and difficult to work with
Now don't get me wrong, I love my steel rule dies for cutting felt for projects like this necklace I made a few years ago. But they're limited.
Imagine all of the cool projects you could make with an electronic cutter and felt?! The sky is the limit because you can resize and cut any shape you need!
How to cut felt with Cricut Maker
To cut felt with Cricut Maker, you ‘ll need:
- Cricut FabricGrip Cutting Mat
- Rotary Blade
Even though I could wrap my whole house in felt with the massive stash I have, I didn't want to wing cutting felt with the Cricut Maker. A quick online search brought up a video from my pal Tanner at A Little Craft In Your Day showing how to cut felt with the Cricut Maker:
Yes, it's seriously THAT EASY.
Here's how to cut felt with Cricut Maker:
- Add the felt to the Cricut FabricGrip Cutting Mat
- Load the mat into the Cricut machine
- Remove the existing blade and install the Rotary Blade
- Send your design to the Cricut Maker from Design Space
What I made from Felt with Cricut Maker
I scrolled through the projects in the Design Space app on my Android phone while watching Real Housewives. Seriously, I was in my living room designing and sending projects to be cut on the Cricut Maker in my craft room.
Technology is amazing.
After seeing some cute cactus crafts at Creativation this year, I decided to create a 3D cactus using felt.
- I put the felt on the mat
- Loaded the mat into the Cricut Maker
- Chose the material, “acrylic felt”, in Design Space
The Cricut Maker cut the cactus from the acrylic felt like a champ, with no strings to cut.
Next, I decided to cut an accent layer for the cactus using another color of felt.
Don't Make this Mistake with Cricut Maker and Felt
Not all felt is equal.
I accidentally loaded a piece of wool felt onto the mat. Then I sent the design to the Cricut from Design Space without changing the material setting.
The shape I chose had lots of intricate cuts. When I tried to pull the felt shape off the mat, all I got was a pile of fuzz. I realized my mistake right away.
It's super important to choose the correct material in Design Space when cutting with Cricut Maker. I now know to double check the material setting every time I cut.
DIY Felt Cactus with Cricut Maker
As an expert succulent killer, I love a good faux plant. You can make this felt cactus that will live forever, even if you have the blackest thumbs on the planet.
Felt Cactus Supplies:
- 9″ x 12″ sheet of acrylic felt
- Mod Podge Ultra spray decoupage medium
- Box or spray booth (I used a Clearsnap Color Catcher)
- Plastic bag or sheet of plastic wrap
- Hot glue gun and glue
- Pot with rocks
- Cricut Maker and accessories
- Computer or mobile device with Cricut Design Space software
- Cricut FabricGrip Cutting Mat
- Cricut Rotary Blade
The Cricut Maker has a slot on top to hold your mobile device while designing and cutting.
How to Make a Felt Cactus with the Cricut Maker:
- Place the piece of felt on the Cricut FabricGrip Cutting Mat
- Load mat into the Cricut Maker
- In Cricut Design Space, choose the Saguaro cactus from the Cactus Love Cartridge (get included with Cricut Access Standard)
- Delete the extra layers except for the base pieces
- Click “Make it”
- Next, choose the material size and number of copies, then click “continue”
- Choose the material type: “Acrylic Felt”
- Press the Cricut button on Cricut Maker to start cutting
- Remove the shapes from the mat
After cutting the felt into a cactus shape with the Cricut Maker, follow these steps:
- Lay the felt shapes in the spray booth or box
- Spray with Mod Podge Ultra until soaked
- Press the decoupage medium into the fibers of the felt with your fingers
- Lay the felt shapes onto a plastic bag and allow to dry overnight
- Next, peel the dry cactus pieces away from the plastic bag
- Arrange the pieces of the cactus to form a 4-sided 3D cactus
- Hot glue all the pieces together
- Fill a pot with rocks to make the cactus stand up
Here's the cactus project I made with the Cricut Maker:
What's the difference between Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore Air 2?
Next, let's dig into the differences between Cricut machines … there are 4 different machines available on the market today. You can use this chart to see the basic features and choose the machine best for your crafting needs:
A most common question about Cricut Maker is what makes it different from Cricut Explore Air 2.
I started looking for answers and found that Cori from Hey Let's Make Stuff does a great job explaining the difference between all 4 Cricut machines currently on the market in her post here: How to Compare Cricut Machines
In conclusion …
If you're in the market for a cutting machine, Cricut Maker is the best choice:
- Set up is incredibly easy
- You don't have to be text savvy to use the Design Studio software
- Thousands of designs are available for immediate download and use
- Ability to cut many types of materials to cover every craft and need you'll ever have
- The Cricut Design Studio software walks you through project creation step by step
Still have questions? Be sure to check out the Cricut Maker page on the official Cricut site.
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