Best Cricut Machine for Beginners

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Is a Cricut worth it? Let’s compare the Cricut Maker vs Cricut Air 2 vs Cricut Joy.

Quick Version of the best electronic cutting machine

I own the Cricut Maker, Cricut Explore and Cricut Joy. While I use mostly the Maker these days, 99% of my projects can be done with the Cricut Explore.

I recommend the Cricut Explore for all beginners.

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Comparing Cricut Machines by Project Type

The first thing to think about when deciding which Cricut to buy is what type of projects do you want to do?

Are you planning a a wedding and want to make your own invitations?
Are you and avid decorator and want to take on a bunch of home decor projects?
Are you looking to make a little side business selling crafts and handmade goods?

You will most likely find additional projects that interest you once you get your Cricut but for most people, there’s usually a started project category that drives them to make the purchase.

I’ve created a quick snapshot of my thoughts on each machine and how they perform for the most popular project categories.

Cricut Comparison Chart

Project TypeCricut ExploreCricut Maker
Iron-OnLittle difference Little difference
Paper CraftsLittle difference in cutting cardstockCan use the rotary scoring blades
Vinyl Art Little difference Little difference
Wood Signs Can only cut wood veneer More power and can cut thicker wood
Tumbler Decals Little difference Little difference
Sewing and feltCan’t use the rotary bladeEnables cutting of non-bonded fabrics and felt
Stencil Projects Little difference Little difference
Leather ProjectsCan only cut faux leather More power for real leather and can use the rotary blade for faux leather

So basically my conclusion from this comparison between machines is unless you need to cut a bunch of fabric or leather or score really intricate lines, just get the Cricut Explore.

Why upgrade to a Cricut Maker:

More Materials

If you are an avid sewer or love felt projects, then the Cricut Maker is a better choice. I was really impressed by the rotary blade cutting felt faux leather. It didn’t look like anything was happening but it makes super clean intricate cuts that would otherwise be really difficult to make with scissors. It also snags less with the rotary blade. While you can technically cut faux leather with a fine point or deep point blade, it snags for more intricate cuts and sharp turns.

I also like doing real leather projects with the Maker. There’s a little more power in the machine. There is also a knife blade that works only with the Rotary housing. This knife blade is great for thicker materials (greater than 2mm).

The rotary blade also enables some less common materials and experimental projects. I’ve cut polymer clay (wet), wafer paper, anything soft and stretchy…ironically, I get to explore more with the Maker.

In general, the Maker is incrementally faster but with all the overhead involved in setting up the SVG, working in Design Space, getting things on/off the mat, the percentage of time saves is negligible.

Which Cricut Bundle should I get?

I highly recommend just getting the basic Cricut Explorer or Cricut Maker directly from the manufacturer.

Unless you know exactly what type of materials you want to work with, I wouldn’t recommend any of the bundles with materials. Many of the accessories and starter materials you can get piecemeal for less.

Recommended Accessories for Cricut Beginners

One thing I want to clarify to everyone is you really don’t need all the accessories they promote with the Cricut.

Here are things I would recommend as a basic Cricut Beginner’s Starter Kit:

Mats: I could recommend getting both the green Standard Grip and blue Light Grip mats so you can try basically any type of project from the beginning.

Tools: I don’t have any of the dedicated tools. I just use my cast iron pan scraper and tweezers. A credit card works too.

  • Spatula Set – The spatula out of all the Cricut brand tools is the only one I actually like. Unfortunately, it only comes in a set with the scraper. The scraper is nice too but it is no different than other branded and non-branded scrapers. I mostly use this spatula to scrape stuff off the mat and peel vinyl.
  • Weeding Tools – I’ve tried all the Cricut weeding tools and find them a little clumsy. The balance is off or something. I actually find the Tweezerman Point tweezers to be the best at weeding and just an all-around general tool for everything. Some people like to put a needle in a mechanical pencil which is not bad but that only gets the peeling started. The Tweezerman Point tweezers have a sharp enough point to start the peel but then they are tweezers so you can pick as well.
  • Scraps collector – people like this ring for collecting scraps.

Materials: Cardstock, Glue, transfer paper, Vinyl and Iron On HTV covers 90% of all you might need.

Here are some of my favorite cardstock brands:

Favorite Faux Leather Sets

Favorite Glues for Cardmaking:

Favorite Glues for Papercrafts

There are just too many vinyl and HTV brands to choose from and I’d say most are fine.

If you are interested in saving making on supplies, check out my article on what generic brands to try for Cricut crafts.

Cricut Joy vs Cricut Explorer

While there is a lot of hype with the Cricut Joy, I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners.

It is the most affordable option but it’s not that much cheaper than the explorer. It has mostly dedicated accessories and materials and that alone can add up make the cost-benefit analysis not work in the Joy’s favor.

The projects that you can do are mostly limited to things with the fine point blade and pen (both of which are dedicated to only the Cricut Joy). However, the dimensions of the projects are extremely limited. I make a lot of cards and frequently venture of the small real estate allotted with the Cricut Joy.

Yes you can do projects without a mat but those materials are only made by Cricut and you are then limited to expensive materials with limited patterns, colors and finish.

There is also a dedicated Cricut Joy app but I really wouldn’t recommend it. The full Cricut Design Space App services the Cricut Joy as well and has a lot more functionality.

I would summarize the Cricut Joy as a really expensive fancy label maker. I gave mine to my son who then went on to label our entire pantry so I guess it was worth it for that project.

Just getting started with the Cricut?

If all of this seems overwhelming, check out my quick reference bundle Cracking the Cricut. It includes an image-filled ebook guide + a mini video-based e-course. I provide a comprehensive overview of Cricut Design Space for all devices:

Interested in related project SVG designs? Check out my SVG Membership:

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