Best Cricut Machine: Reviews and all your questions answered (updated 2018)
There’s no doubt that a Cricut craft cutter is an exciting addition to your toolbox, but working out what is the best Cricut machine to buy can be an overwhelming task, particularly when you’re first starting out. This detailed guide is designed to answer all the questions you have, or never even thought to ask, and help you decide which Cricut machine is best for you.
The truth is, each Cricut machine has its merits, and sometimes the top-rated model is not actually the best Cricut to buy to meet your specific needs. Which Cricut is the best for you depends on so many factors, such as the projects you wish to use it for and your budget.
Please note: this page includes compensated links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click a link then make a purchase — but at no extra cost to you!
- 1 Best Cricut Machine: Reviews and all your questions answered (updated 2018)
- 1.1 What is a Cricut machine?
- 1.2 What does a Cricut machine do?
- 1.3 Cricut machine comparison table
- 1.4 What is the newest Cricut machine?
- 1.5 Cricut Reviews 2018
- 1.6 Best Cricut machine for beginners
- 1.7 Best Cricut machine for vinyl lettering
- 1.8 Best Cricut machine for cutting fabric
- 1.9 Best embossing machine for card making
- 1.10 How to use a Cricut
- 1.11 Types of Cricut machines
- 1.12 Where to buy a Cricut machine
- 1.13 How much is a Cricut machine?
- 1.14 Which Cricut should I buy?
What is a Cricut machine?
Firstly, Cricut make a few different types of machines (both electronic and manual), but their most popular products are their range of personal electronic cutters. It’s a little difficult to give an exact name to cutting machines like Cricut; however, they go by plenty of names, including:
- Personal cutting machine
- Electronic die cutting machine
- Electronic vinyl cutter
- Personal cutter
There are plenty of machines like Cricut available on the market, but Cricut is the most well-known brand and caters almost exclusively to the hobby and craft market.
In essence, a Cricut personal electronic cutter is driven by a computer in much the same way a printer is; however, instead of printing, a Cricut cutting machine uses a blade to cut a design into the material.
Of course, the different Cricut personal cutters have different capabilities, cutting forces, and versatility in exactly what they can do — hence this guide!
Although, if you’re looking for the best vinyl cutter, take a look at my detailed buying guide to vinyl cutting machines, as Cricut’s options may not be the best option for you, particularly if you’re starting up a small vinyl cutting business.
So, in a nutshell, I hope that answers your question of “What’s a Cricut machine?”. However, keep reading as the answer is a bit more complicated!
What does a Cricut machine do?
The possibilities are almost endless with a Cricut craft cutter. There are so many Cricut machine uses that go beyond basic shape cut-outs that it’s not even funny.
All Cricut cutters can cut paper, cardstock and heat transfer vinyl. And many Cricut models have the ability to score (rather than cut) materials, as well as draw or emboss.
For functions beyond using it a basic paper cutter, you will usually need to buy proprietary, specialised tools made by Cricut, such as their deep-cut blade or the rotary blade (which is only suitable for Cricut’s newest model, the Cricut Maker).
Cricut’s name certainly seems synonymous with keen scrapbookers — and it certainly comes into its own when cutting paper and cardstock.
A Cricut craft machine can:
- Cut materials such as paper, cardstock, heat transfer vinyl, and some even cut leather, fabric and balsa wood
- Be used as a vinyl cutter as well as a paper cutter
- Score fold lines on paper and card, perfect for making your own gift boxes
- Draw designs directly onto your project, using proprietary Cricut pens
- Be used to print and cut certain designs and projects also.
For more information about the design and cutting capabilities of each of the different Cricut models, please look at the Cricut reviews and comparisons in the next section.
Cricut machine comparison table
|Cricut Maker||Explore Air 2||Explore Air||Explore One||Cuttlebug|
|Release date||August 2017||October 2016||February 2015||March 2014||October 2013|
|Maximum cutting pressure||4kg||400g||Not stated, but most likely around 250g||Not stated, but most likely around 250g||Not stated|
|Software||Cricut Design Space only - does not currently work with cartridges||Cricut Design Space, plus also accepts cartridges.||Cricut Design Space, plus also accepts cartridges.||Cricut Design Space, plus also accepts cartridges.||N/A - the Cuttlebug is a manual die cutter|
|Bluetooth wireless connectivity||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, but you need to purchase a bluetooth wireless adapter.||N/A|
|Number of cutting heads||Two||Two||Two||One||N/A - the Cuttlebug uses a flat bed and a hand crank|
|Maximum cutting dimensions||12" x 24"||12" x 24"||12" x 24"||12" x 24"||6" x 8"|
|Maximum cutting depth||2.4mm with knife blade||1.5mm with a standard blade|
2.0mm with a deep-cut blade
|1.5mm with a standard blade|
2.0mm with a deep-cut blade
|1.5mm with a standard blade|
2.0mm with a deep-cut blade
What is the newest Cricut machine?
The Cricut Maker is the newest addition to the Cricut electronic cutter family. It was released to much fan-fare in August 2017, and is a significant upgrade to the Cricut Explore Air 2. However, it also costs a lot more and is the most expensive personal cutter Cricut currently has available.
Cricut Reviews 2018
Cricut has a growing stable of cutting machines, with options ranging from budget models like the Cricut Explore One right through to their top of the range Cricut Maker.
They tend to release a new model every 12 to 18 months, sometimes with significant upgrades and enhanced functions. However, they also continue to stock a few of their older models, which is great for those of us wanting to dip our toes into the water without breaking the bank.
The older Cricut models are bit more basic compared to the latest models; however, they are terrific cutting machines with plenty of raving fans. So if you’re after a basic model, then an older, cheaper Cricut machine is definitely worth considering.
To determine which Cricut machine is best for you really depends on your intended use. If you’re wanting a versatile machine that can a wide variety of materials, then the Cricut Maker or the Cricut Explore Air 2 are going to be your best options.
If you’re a keen paper crafter and want to mostly cut cardstock and paper, then either the Explore One, Explore Air or even the Cuttlebug will be the best choice for you.
So, without further ado, let’s have a look at some Cricut cutter reviews.
Best Cricut machine for beginners
When you’re just starting out with craft cutting, it’s really easy to want the very latest, whizz-bang machine. However, as a beginner once myself, I definitely recommend testing the waters first before splurging on the greatest and newest cutting machine on the market.
There is quite literally HUNDREDS of dollars difference between the latest Cricut machine, the Cricut Maker, and earlier models such as the Cricut Explore One.
And yes, the Cricut Maker is the most versatile machine, making it the best Cricut machine currently available, but you will pay a premium for that. If you’re just starting out, and only want to do some basic cutting for scrapbooking projects or cut the occasional heat transfer vinyl for t-shirts, then I think you’re definitely better off considering an early Cricut model and save yourself some serious coin.
Here are my picks for the best Cricut machine for beginners.
Cricut Explore One
The Cricut Explore One was released almost 4 years ago now, but it’s still a really solid machine even if it is a little outdated now. The best thing about this machine is its price. It’s currently available on Cricut’s website for less than $150. Seriously, that’s crazy-good value and if that doesn’t float your boat, I’m not sure what will!
Cricut Explore Air
If you’re not keen on getting the oldest Cricut machine model available, then my next recommendation has to be the Cricut Explore Air. Unlike the older Explore One, there are plenty of bundle deals available, which include various useful items such as Cricut tools, Cricut pens, heat transfer vinyl, glitter vinyl, and project inspiration.
Best Cricut machine for vinyl lettering
If you’re looking for the best cricut machine for cutting vinyl, then the Cricut Explore Air 2 is the best choice for you.
Offering twice the cutting speed of its predecessors, along with very accurate and detailed cutting capabilities, the Cricut Explore Air 2 is a terrific option for cutting vinyl designs and lettering.
In comparison tests, the Explore Air 2 seems to make slightly neater and cleaner cuts than the Cricut Explore Air, but honestly, I don’t think there’s a huge difference.
The biggest difference between the Explore Air 2 and previous models is its vastly superior cutting speed. And if you’re cutting multiple copies and designs, then you’ll really appreciate this time-saving feature!
Cricut Explore Air 2
Along with its super-fast cutting speed, the Explore Air 2 can also cut a vast array of different materials. In fact, Cricut boast that all their electronic cutting models can cut over 100 different materials.
The Explore Air 2’s ‘fast mode’ only works with paper, cardstock and vinyl though, so if you’re planning on cutting craft leather, or lightweight vellum, unfortunately you’ll have to be satisfied with its standard cutting speed.
Best Cricut machine for cutting fabric
Up until the Cricut Maker’s release, there were some significant drawbacks to using a Cricut electronic cutting machine to cut fabric. With the Cricut Explore range, it is necessary to bond the fabric to a stabiliser (such as Heat ‘n Bond) before cutting, and even then, some users have found this to be less-than-perfect.
However, the Cricut Maker takes care of all that and it’s now possible to cut plain, unbonded fabric using this specialised fabric rotary tool.
If you’re a keen sewing or patchwork enthusiast, then you’re most likely familiar with using handheld rotary blades to cut fabric. Cricut have taken this concept, and incorporated it into the Cricut Maker.
The Cricut Maker is a completely re-imagined machine and vastly different to their Explore Range.
For starters, they have a whole new suite of specialised tools including a new rotary blade for cutting fabric, a knife blade (which works like an X-acto blade but isn’t available yet) and a fine-point blade for detailed, accurate cuts on light- and medium-weight materials.
It also has a significantly upgraded cutting force of up to 4kg – which is seriously impressive in this class of craft cutters. It also has a built-in library of sewing patterns, making it far and away the best Cricut for cutting fabric.
Best embossing machine for card making
One thing that Cricut electronic craft cutters don’t do well is embossing. In case you didn’t already know, embossing creates a raised, textured design or pattern onto your material. It’s a technique used by scrapbookers and card makers, and adds a particularly nice touch to paper craft projects.
However, although Cricut’s range of electronic cutters don’t do embossing all that well, they do make the Cuttlebug, which handles these jobs with ease. The Cricut Cuttlebug is a super-cute, hand-cranked manual die cutter and embosser that is cheap as chips.
Cricut’s Cuttlebug is very different to their range of electronic craft cutters, and because it’s a manual die cutter and embosser, there’s no need to learn new software or hook it up to your computer to use. It’s super-simple and easy to use and has earned a place in many keen scrapbookers tool kit.
While it’s great to use an electronic gadget, sometimes there’s something super-satisfying about hand-cranking out new shapes and embossed cardstock — and the added bonus is, it doesn’t need electricity to work! So if you have a power-out, you can still keep going!
I particularly like the Cuttlebug’s price, which is well below $100 and you can always pick up a smashing deal via Amazon.
How to use a Cricut
Types of Cricut machines
Where to buy a Cricut machine
Cricut craft cutters are available from lots of specialty craft and hobby stores, such as Joann and Michaels; however, I’ve found Amazon is almost always the best place to buy a Cricut.
They’ve got a wider range of bundle deals, accessories and other Cricut loot, and free, fast shipping is a big plus in my book (thanks Amazon Prime 😉 ).
You can also buy a Cricut machine and tools directly from Cricut’s website, and sometimes I’ve found their older models are available for cheaper on Cricut’s own website than they are on Amazon.
How much is a Cricut machine?
Cricut has a wide range of cutters, ranging from the Cuttlebug, through their Explore range, and up to their top-of-the-range Maker, so there’s sure to be a machine that suits your budget.
The cheapest Cricut machine is their Cuttlebug, which sells for considerably less than $100. The Explore range of machines sell from about $150 to $250, and the best price on the older Cricut machines can usually be found on their website.
The Cricut Maker is considerably more expensive again, and is available for around $400.
Cricut have a smaller range of bundle deals on their website in comparison to Amazon though — so if you’re looking for the best deal on Cricut bundles, I recommend checking out Amazon.
Which Cricut should I buy?
Ultimately, which Cricut is best for you depends entirely on your needs and intended use. For what it’s worth though, I think the Explore Air 2 is a great option for most people. It’s a fast, accurate, and solid machine that is well-loved by thousands of happy Cricut fans.
Of course, the Cricut Maker is also a terrific machine if you’re willing to splash the extra money on a top rated Cricut.
Hopefully this comprehensive guide has helped you decide which Cricut is best for you!
Good luck and happy crafting!