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*updated Nov 2021
Best Cricut to Buy for Beginners
Let’s talk about the best Cricut machine for beginners. You see all of the cool stuff being made and you literally can’t wait to get started. But which Cricut is best for you?
You’re in the right place.
We’ll take a look at what each Cricut machine does and how difficult it is for beginners to get the hang of. Then you’ll be ready to make the best decision for buying your first Cricut.
One thing to keep in mind is the current Cricut Machines all work in the same manner. It’s the features of each Cricut machine that sets them apart.
Let’s take a look at what Cricut has in common.
Cricut Design Space
Each Cricut machine uses the free software called Design Space. You can go ahead and download Design Space and start playing around with it before you buy your Cricut.
Every cutting machine company has its own software. And the software is going to be the most difficult thing to learn with any cutting machine. Out of all of them I’ve tried, Cricut is the most straightforward and easiest to use.
There’s still a learning curve for sure. That’s why I recommend you go ahead and start playing around with it now. By the time my first Cricut arrived in the mail I had a good handle on Design Space and I was able to start making things right away.
TIP- To help you get started I recommend getting a step-by-step guidebook with pictures like Conquer Your Cricut that you can find here – http://conqueryourcricut.com/
Cricut Cutting Mats
All of the Cricut Machines use cutting mats. They come in 12″x12″ or 12″x24″ for Cricut Maker and Explore Machines. The Cricut Joy which has it’s own mats that are 4.5″ wide. The new Maker 3 and Explore 3 can cut without mats using Cricut’s smart materials. More on that later…..
There are four different cut mats
- Light Grip (Blue)
- Standard Grip (Green)
- Strong Grip (Purple)
- Fabric (Pink)
So you will stick the material you want to cut onto the mat and load it into the Cricut machine. All of the Cricut machines have the same flashing arrow button you press to load the mat.
The Cricut will then cut your design. After it’s cut you push the same button to unload the cutting mat and remove your project from it.
Cricut Machine Control Buttons and Dial
Cricut Machines have the same power button, load mat button and start button. Older Cricut Explore machines also have a dial to select materials. The Maker, Joy, and Explore 3 use Design Space to set the materials. In the picture below you will see the button to load and unload the cutting mats.
Then you have the ‘C’ button which you will press when your mat is loaded and you’re ready for the Cricut Machine to start cutting.
The pause button will pause the machine mid-cut if needed for any reason.
And the dial allows you to select what materials you will be cutting on the Cricut Explore series. Cricut automatically adjusts the blade pressure based on the material selected.
Cricut Maker machines don’t have the dial to select material, rather you select the material within Design Space
Best Cricut to Buy
Now we’ll take a look at the different Cricut Machines and determine which one is best for beginners.
But what you should really be asking is what do you want to make with your Cricut? Each machine has slightly different features.
We’ll start with the current top of the line.
The Cricut Maker 3
The Cricut Maker 3 is one of the latest machines to be released. It made its debut in June of 2021. It’s the most expensive, you can check the current Cricut Maker prices here
The best thing about the Maker 3 is that you can cut vinyl without a cut mat using Cricut Smart Materials. This allows you to cut longer projects than the 23.5″ that a standard Maker will cut. The width of cutting still maxes out at 11.5″
The Cricut Maker 3 can also use the rotary cutter for fabrics and crepe paper and a knife blade for cutting things like wood, foam board, and thicker materials. The standard Maker can also cut these materials.
It comes with the rotary cutter however you will have to purchase the knife blade separately.
To switch out the different cutting tools simply undo the clamp on side ‘B’. Pull out the current blade housing and drop the one you want to use in its place and close the clamp.
So the Cricut Maker 3 is as easy to use as any other Cricut but you can cut longer projects with Smart Materials
Plus they keep coming out with new tools for it to make it even better. The latest is the scoring wheel that will give you the ability to make intricate score lines for embossing.
The Cricut Maker 3
- Cuts twice as fast as the original Maker
- Can cut without a cut mat using smart materials up to 12 feet long
- Can cut 300+ materials like wood and fabric
- Comes with access to fabric designs
- Can do intricate scoring for embossing
- Bluetooth enabled
- Rotary Cutter
- Knife Blade (sold separately)
- Scoring Wheel (sold separately)
- Must use Cricut Smart Materials to cut without a mat
- It’s quite a bit more expensive than the standard Maker
The good news about the release of the Cricut Maker 3, it that the Original Cricut Makers are starting to come down in price. Check current prices on Amazon here – https://amzn.to/3cPfGC4
The Cricut Maker can do everything the Maker 3 can do EXCEPT cut those longer projects with the Smart Materials. There are still ways around cutting bigger projects with the regular maker, like making two cuts and piecing together your materials on the project.
For most crafters, the Cricut Maker will do everything you need and is the machine I most recommend. Grab one now – https://amzn.to/3cPfGC4
Cricut Explore 3
The Cricut Explore 3 is the newest in the Explore series. Like the Maker three it cuts twice as fast as the Explore 2 and can cut without a mat using Cricut Smart Materials. Cutting without a mat means you could cut up to 12 feet continuously compared to 23.5″ that you can cut on the other Explore machines.
As a new release in 2021 it’s still pretty pricey. Check current prices here – https://amzn.to/3CXvnSr
The Explore machines are a step down from the Maker Machines. You can’t use the knife blade or rotary tool to cut things like fabric and wood. However they still cut over 100+ materials.
The Run Down
- Cuts Cicut Smart Materials up to 12 feet long
- Cuts 100+ materials
- Can not cut wood or standard fabrics (It will cut bonded fabric)
Buy the Cricut Explore 3 Here – https://amzn.to/3CXvnSr
Cricut Explore Air 2
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is just a step down from the Explore 3 You can still cut hundreds of materials with the Cricut Explore Air 2. Here is the full list of materials you can cut from Cricut.
But it’s still not compatible with the rotary cutter that cuts fabric or the knife blade that cuts wood.
That said it’s also significantly cheaper than the Cricut Maker, often times less than half of the price. Making this the most economical choice for a Cricut. You can check current prices for the Cricut Explore Air 2 here.
What makes it better than the Explore Air 1 is that it cuts twice as fast. So there is a bit of time savings when making your projects. But it doesn’t cut as fast as the Explore 3 and you must use a cut mat for your materials giving you a maximum cut length of 23.5″
Cricut Explore Air
The Cricut Explore Air can do everything that the Explore Air 2 can do. The only difference is it cuts slower, so projects will take you more time.
And at the time of writing this post, the price is the same as the Explore Air 2. You can check current prices for the Cricut Explore Air here.
Based on the fact that there is little to no price difference, I would at least go with the Cricut Explore Air 2
The Explore Air is quite an upgrade over the Cricut Explore One though. It’s the first Cricut that has Bluetooth embedded for wireless connection. This allows you to use the Cricut Apps for Apple and Android and eliminates the need to have a computer.
It’s also the first Cricut that has a dual carriage that allows you to score or use Cricut Pens and cut at the same time.
Cricut Explore One
That brings us to the Cricut Explore One. This is the first Cricut Machine that stopped using cartridges and went to the internet based Design Space.
You can still insert Cartridges into any Cricut machine. However, it’s easier to link your Cartridges to your Design Space account.
One big drawback of the Explore One is that it doesn’t have Bluetooth embedded. So you will need to connect a computer directly to it.
Also, it only has one carriage for holding tools. So if you needed to score paper you would have to remove your blade and add the scoring tool. And then switch it back again.
It will still cut everything that the rest of Cricut Explores will cut though.
And again I’m not seeing a significant amount of savings to make the Explore One worth buying. You can check current prices for the Cricut Explore One here.
Many Cricut beginners decide to start with the Cricut Joy as it is the cheapest investment. However, crafters soon get frustrated with the small cutting area. There are some things the Joy is good for though
If you love to make cards, the Cricut Joy can zip them out pretty quickly. They even have a special card-making mat that makes it a breeze.
The Cricut Joy also uses special Smart Materials that allow you to cut without a mat, meaning you can cut up to 20 feet continuously. BUT, its compact size means you can only cut up to 4″ wide. And that just doesn’t cut it for most projects.
The Joy is perfect though for card makers and scrap bookers. Plus the small size makes it easy to travel with and store.
Get the Cricut Joy HERE – https://amzn.to/3lbduJL
So Which is the Best Cricut to Buy for Beginners?
So as you can see all of the Cricut Machines use the same design software. All of the Cricuts also use the same cut mats and the same controls. If you get one of the 3 series machines you can cut without a cut mat. But The same basic procedure is used for cutting designs with each Cricut Machine.
It’s not that one Cricut machine is best for beginners over another, it comes down to what you want your Cricut to do.
For the price, my recommendation is the Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Air 2.
The Cricut Explore Air 2
- It cuts twice as fast as the previous Cricut cutting machines,
- You can cut many materials with it including vinyl, cardstock, posterboard, glitter paper +many more.
- It has Bluetooth embedded for wireless connection
- It has the dual carriage to both score and cut at the same time.
- It’s not that much more expensive than the Explore One or the Explore Air
- It’s about 1/2 the price of the Maker
The Cricut Maker
Has extra tools you can use that you can’t get with the explore
- The Knife Blade – cutting wood and thicker materials
- The Rotary Tool -cutting fabric and crepe paper
- The Debossing Tip
- Perforation Blade for cutting perforated lines
- Wavy Blade for making wavy designs
- Engraving Tool to engrave Materials
If you have the budget for it, the Cricut Maker can cut more materials and do more things. If you sew a lot it may just be worth it to have that rotary cutter. And how cool is it to have wood cutouts? Words cut in wood are super trendy right now. The other tools are a scrapbooker’s dream. And who knows how many more tools Cricut will come out with that will only work in the Maker.
So which Cricut is best for you? Leave a comment down below and let us know!
Best Place to Buy a Cricut
So now that you know what Cricut to buy, where’s the best place to buy it?
Amazon tops my list as the best place to buy a Cricut. They have some amazing good prices on bundles that you can find here.
The benefit of buying a bundle is you’ll get everything you’ll need or want to get started in one box. If you buy a Cricut by itself you’ll still need to purchase the tools and supplies like vinyl before you can make anything.
A bundle will give you a sampling of the different materials so you can get started crafting right away.
Of course if you can’t wait for shipping you can always go to stores like Walmart, Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s or Michaels.
I’m sure you know the craft stores have some amazing coupons. But don’t get too excited, they all exclude Cricut products, so you won’t get any additional price savings by going to the store.
Learn Cricut Design Space Tutorials
Be sure to check out these additional Tutorials on Design Space to help you get started:
- How to Upload Cut Files to Design Space on your iPad, iPhone, and PC
- Text Editing Tips for Design Space including making monograms, stencils, and more
- How to Make Knockout Designs in Design Space
And a guidebook is a must-have, that will save you hours of learning. – Grab Conquer your Cricut The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Cricut
Chris Butler has helped thousands of crafters learn how to use their Cricut machine without feeling overwhelmed. She is a best selling author and an up and coming designer. For fun Chris enjoys designing SVG Files, hanging out with her family (preferably at the lake), traveling, and volunteering at her church. She is a wife and mom of two crazy fun kids.
Excellent write-up. Thank you. I’m also interested in more hackery. For instance can I make my own designs instead of buying the readymade ones? How would I combine print color and cutting in one work?
Thank you so much for this post!! It was (BY FAR) the best description and comparison of the different machines, and an EXCELLENT tutorial of the basics of them. This post really helped me alot! Thank you!!
Chris Butler says
Thanks Jen! Glad you found it helpful!
Very nice. Sent a personal message And she send me the sleep that has all the information that I needed I’m very thankful I would love a cricket maker but I think I’m going to go with the air hotel Adler more and that means everything because I know nothing but I’m so thankful for the sharing of this post