Best Cricut Machine for Beginners

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

cricut maker 3 review

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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 ArtLittle difference Little difference, a bit faster if it’s an intricate project
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. I also have a recommendation is of generic non-Cricut branded materials I recommend which are great affordable alternative if you’re just getting started.

Cricut Maker 3 Review

At this point, I own the Cricut explorer 2, Cricut Joy, Cricut Maker (1) and Cricut Maker 3.

Cricut Maker 3 has a long list of feature upgrades but the few that stand out to me are matless cutting, super long projects and faster cutting. The big question is should you upgrade from a first or second generation Cricut to a third generation machine.

I’ll make it brief for everyone in a rush. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

In fact, I highly recommend getting the earlier versions of the machines if you are new to the Cricut because they are all on sale!

Don’t spend the extra money getting a new machine just for the sake of it being new. Yes, the Cricut Maker is a bit fast, maybe 30% faster. But they also changed the sequence of button-pushing and sliding in the mat and I find myself for 99% of my projects still taking the same amount of time net. (It’s so minor but the new Maker scans the mat for size first before you can hit the “go” or “cut” button so I have to sit there and wait for that to happen, like 20 seconds) as opposed to just hitting the feed then go button back to back for earlier generations.) Unless you are mass-producing mandala decals, I’m not sure that speed makes that big of a difference.

Regarding the matless cutting, I’m not a big fan of rolled vinyl anyways because it bubbles when flattened and that’s super annoying. I use sheet vinyl whenever possible which is about all the time.

This leaves the last major feature upgrade which is super long projects. I’m not sure about you but I’ve actually never felt the need to make a design that was so long and had to be done all at once. I can usually piece meal it to 12×12 blocks or worst case 12×24 inch blocks.

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. Maybe if it is on sale, go ahead and get the bundle. If not, don’t bother. They give you all this stuff I never use that just sits in the corner collecting dust.

Cricut Joy vs Cricut Explorer

While there is a lot of hype with the Cricut Joy, I would only recommend it for people looking for a travel sized cutting machine or if you want to make cards exclusively. Or maybe if you wanted a label maker but I find it to be a little overkill to buy it just to make labels.

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 to 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 have issues with the small real estate allotted with the Cricut Joy. Yes, you can just resize the template but some more intricate templates are too detailed as a smaller piece.

Even if you are only interested in making cards, I think you will find you will quickly graduate from Cricut Joy card making mostly because of the limitations on material size.

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:

Related Articles:

All Free Paper Flower Cut Files

All Free Cricut Card Templates

Cricut DIY Wedding Projects

Cricut joy review
cricut explorer vs maker vs joy
best cricut machine for beginners

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