This has got to be the most common question I get asked when I share my Cricut makes: “Which Cricut should I buy?” And after sharing my personal experiences and low-down with so many via my DMs I thought it was about time to get this down on my blog too!
So I’m working with Hobbycraft* to create a series of blog posts covering all things Cricut: from which machine to buy, the essential beginner tools and easy projects to get you started.
In today’s blog post I’m going to cover the three main ranges of machine (as are available Oct 2021). From how much they cost, what they can do, what they can’t do and most importantly, how to pick the machine that’s right for you.
Are you ready? Let’s dive into the wonderful world of Cricut and answer that all important question! “Which Cricut should I buy?”
Which Cricut Should I buy?
- What is a Cricut machine?
- Top three questions to ask yourself before you buy
- Cricut Joy
- Cricut Explore 3 (Explore Air 2)
- Cricut Maker (Maker 3)
- Try before you buy @Hobbycraft
This blog post is part of a sponsored collection of blog posts created in partnership with Hobbycraft* There are no affiliate links in this post.
What is a Cricut machine?
So we should probably start with the basics. What is a Cricut machine?
Pronounced ‘Cricket’ (like the bug), the Cricut machines are digital cutting machines which in really simple terms means it cuts things! From vinyl, paper, fabric and much more. Used to create unique gifts, home DIY and custom clothing, it is the ultimate customisation tool. But as you’ll see it does do more than just cutting.
There are three main ranges of machine: the Cricut Joy, Cricut Explore and the Cricut Maker. Each one sits in a different price bracket and each one has it’s own unique features. Personally I have the Cricut Maker, Joy and Explore 3** but I think they all bring something different to my craft game. If you are in the market for your first machine here are the three main questions I would ask yourself:
Top three questions to ask yourself
What is your budget?
Let’s not beat around the bush, Cricut machines are pricey- they’re not the kind of purchase you tend to make on a whim. That’s not to say they’re not worth the price- but I think it would be silly to ignore what is probably the biggest deciding factor when buying a machine. The cheapest machine starts at £179.99, whilst the most expensive is up at £399.99.
But it’s not just the machine you might want to consider when thinking about your budget- there are some ‘essentials’ you will need alongside the machine itself- materials for one thing, and cutting mats/basic tool set should also be included. And then depending on the machine you get you may want pens or different blades. It starts to add up. Of course, those are things you can add on as you go, but it might be worth factoring in. Having said that, Hobbycraft have bundles which can save you between £30-£60 so worth seeing what comes with these as it might save you some money.
You may also want to think about the software too. Design Space is the application you use to create all your makes. This is free to use with lots of free images and projects available too. However there is a monthly subscription called Cricut Access which gives you access to an incredible amount of Cricut projects, fonts and images. That’s not to say you need a Cricut Access account, but it is something to be aware of. There’s always lots of ways to DIY it!
How much storage space do you have?
As much as I would love my very own craft room, like a lot of people, most of my crafting happens around the dining table. This means my machines have to be stored away elsewhere. It’s only been in the last month that they’ve all found a home on a bookshelf- up until then they were fighting it out for space between my sewing things and under the bed! So have a think about how and where you’re going to store it. The larger ones are on the heavier side (just under 5kg) so you might need to think about that if you’re lifting it off a higher space. Whereas the Joy comes in at a nifty 1.75kg.
What do you plan to use it for?
The hardest of the three questions because I know my brain would be saying: “EVEEEEERYTHING”. But seriously- ask yourself, what are you honestly planning to use it for? For general labelling, card making, customising t-shirts and party decorations every now and then? Or maybe you’re quite the DIY-er and want to do more interiors or work with more unusual materials? Perhaps you’re a small business owner and are interested in unlocking a whole different side of your business?
I think being honest with this question is probably the biggest step to help you decide which machine to go for. Because if you’re tight on budget it might help you narrow it down, or perhaps if you’re thinking that in the future you might want to step into being a small business etc you may want to save up/spend a little more from the go so it’s a bit more future proof?
Ok, so now we’ve got the heavy questions out of the way- let’s get onto the machines themselves!
Dimensions: 5.50 in x 8.40 in x 4.25 in (139 mm x 214 mm x 108 mm)
Weight: 3.85 lbs (1.75 kg)
Cuts 50+ materials, including iron-on, cardstock, vinyl, paper, and Smart Materials
Who is it for
Beginner/occasional crafter who might be short on space. Or as a second travel machine for an avid Cricut-er.
What can it do?
It can cut 50+ materials, draw and foil too (with a foil tool). It can also cut Smart Materials (which don’t need a cutting mat i.e you just load them on) and cut lengths up to 1.2m (4 ft) long or makes repeated cuts up to 6m (20 ft).
Best bit about it
The Cricut Joy is actually one of my favourite machines and probably the one I recommend to people the most. It’s small and nifty and at a great price point too so it doesn’t feel like a huge commitment.
The biggest plus is the size. It hardly takes up any space and if you get the carry case you can store nearly all the essentials in there. The small size also means it’s really easy to just pull out for quick crafts like a last minute birthday card.
It’s also great if you think you might want to travel with it- I’ve taken mine all over, including to work!
The other special thing to the Joy is the card mat. This allows you to make super quick ‘insert cards’, in fact there’s a whole section to Design Space for ‘Joy Cards’ and these keep getting updated with better and better designs (some are free and some will need a Cricut Access subscription.)
Things to consider
Although the best thing about the Joy is that it is small, the downside is that it isn’t as mighty as the other machines. This means you won’t be able to cut super thick materials or as many materials as the Explore or Maker ranges but to be honest, for most people this will cut plenty.
The smaller size machine also means you are limited to cutting a block design of less than 4.5inches (less than 10.7cm) wide. So, while it can cut long lengths, it can’t cut very wide. Having said that, you can be smart with the designs you cut and build up a larger design overall by piecing it together.
Lastly, the Joy tools e.g. the blade, foiling tool and pens are not compatible with the other machines. So, if you plan to buy another machine, or if you’re buying this as a second machine you won’t be able to use your existing tools.
I love this machine and wouldn’t be without it! But be warned, you may love it so much you want to upgrade to a bigger machine at some point!
Cricut Explore 3 (Explore Air 2)
Dimensions: 5.91 in x 22.17in x 7.01in (15.01cm x 56.31cm x 17.80cm)
Weight: 4.98 kg (10.98 lbs)
Cuts 100+ materials, including cardstock, vinyl to glitter paper & bonded fabric and Smart Materials
Has 6 tools for cutting/embellishing
Who is it for
A beginner or more established crafter who wants to be able to have a real Cricut experience, but might not want to go the full way to a Maker. Suited for someone with a small business.
What can it do?
It can cut 100+ materials, draw and foil too (with a foil tool). It can also cut Smart Materials (which don’t need a cutting mat i.e you just load them in) and cut lengths up to 3.6m (12 ft). But its biggest selling point is that it cuts FAST. It can also use 6 tools for cutting/embellishing etc.
Best bit about it
The Cricut Explore 3 is one of the newest machines to Cricut and to me! The Explore range is the one to go for if you want a ‘proper’ Cricut experience but don’t have the budget or need for the full works of the Maker. It’s their classic machine.
The biggest selling point to the Explore 3 is that it can cut and write fast- like really really fast. It can cut 2x faster than the Explore Air 2 when cutting on Smart Materials. We all know that every second counts, so if you’re a small business and want to make custom stickers/labels, this machine will save you some valuable time.
It can also cut super long lengths, so is great if you want to do more DIY home decor or if you’re a teacher and need to cut wall displays.
Things to consider
There are still two machines in the Explore range: the Explore Air 2 (£239.00) and the Explore 3 (£280). The Explore Air 2 comes in some really lovely colours, whereas the Explore 3 only comes in the matte finish pastel green.
The Explore 3 is the updated version of the Explore Air 2 so apart from just improved cutting speed, it has small improvements overall. The other big difference is that the Explore Air 2 has the manual dial for selecting which material you’re cutting (i.e. the cutting pressure). The new generation of machines (from the Joy, Explore 3 and Maker) have you select the material type through the app. Personally I prefer this as it is just easier to search your material and click select.
While the Explore machines cut a lot of material types and have compatibility with some Maker tools e.g. the foil tool. It won’t be able to cut fabric unless it is bonded or do other fancy things like debossing or engraving. Again, these are things that are nice to have but not necessarily essentials and will depend on what you plan to use the machines for.
Cricut Maker (Maker 3)
Dimensions: 5.93 in x 22.18in x 6.99in (15.06cm x 53.8cm x 17.75cm)
Weight: 4.84 kg (10.68 lbs.)
Cuts 300+ materials, including cardstock, vinyl, fabric, matboard and leather.
The Maker 3 can also cut Smart Materials.
Has 13 tools for cutting, writing, scoring, foiling and embellishing
Who is it for
The ultimate craft machine, this is for someone who wants to be able to do it all. For an established crafter or business owner.
What can it do?
It can cut 300+ materials but not just that- it can draw, foil, deboss, engrave and so much more. It has 13 compatible tools to embellish all sorts of craft projects. The downwards pressure/force it can create is 10x more than the other machines meaning it can cut thicker materials (up to 2.4mm with the knife blade).
Best bit about it
What is there to say about the Maker apart from: it’s a beast!
This is the ultimate cutting machine and will give you the top level Cricut experience. The adaptive tool system is unique to the Cricut Maker and is really the biggest selling point for me. It has a gold gear-like top to it and means that you get super precise movement with the tool.
You can get a rotary blade (which cuts through all sorts of fabrics) and knife blade, but you can also get different tips which you can quickly change on the QuickSwap housing tool. At the moment you can get: scoring wheel (single/double) for super crisp folds, wavy blade, debossing tip, perforation blade, engraving tip, foil blade and the fine point blade.
So, if you want to be able to have the full range of cutting plus all the extras, from engraving metal to debossing leather- this is the machine to do it. I also love the rotary blade for cutting out fabric in small repetitive shapes e.g. for make-up wipes or zipper pouches. There’s no way I would be as accurate cutting out circles/quilting squares!
Things to consider
There are also two machines in the Maker range: the Maker (£305.00) and the Maker 3 (£399.00). Apart from the colours/finish it’s available in, the difference between these is again the new Smart Materials.
The Maker 3 can cut Smart Materials i.e. materials without a mat which means that on these materials it can cut 2x faster than even the Maker, plus it can cut huge cut lengths up to 12ft (3.65m)- but again on Smart Materials only. With Smart Materials you’ll also get an extra 1inch of cutting width (from 12in to 13in). These extra features are definitely something I would consider if you were a small business owner or planning to use the Cricut as a part of your business. But for everyone else, you should be fine with the Maker (unless you like having the newest version of something).
Still not sure which machine is for you
Phew, that’s a lot to take in. The biggest hurdle I think I faced being new to Cricut is not really understanding what the machine does/how it works. Yes, it cuts vinyl and paper etc- but until I actually used one I don’t think I really understood how the whole digital cutting machine thing worked. So my best and final piece of advice for you if you’re still not sure which machine you want to get- go try it out!
Hobbycraft have been decking out their stores with Custom Crafting areas so you can “try before you buy” which I would really recommend. You can often find me browsing their Cricut aisles seeing what’s new. (You can find your closest store here).
Plus they have a really handy section of their website which compares all of the machines side-by-side and blog posts to get you started.
So, what’s stopping you from jumping in? Let me know in the comments or keep posted (and hit subscribe) for my next post on ‘top tools’ to invest in to reach your Cricut A-game.
*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Hobbycraft. All views and opinions are my own.
**Full transparency I was gifted my machines as a Cricut UK Influencer but before that I had planned to buy the Cricut Maker myself- you can read more about how I got my first machine here.