Cricut Maker overview: Extraordinarily versatile machine that wants software program innovation

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The king of the craft world, the Cricut Maker, might help convey your paper, card, and sticker-based tasks to life, however with software program limitations and at a hefty price.

Cricut has come a good distance from the mid-2000s. It’s possible you’ll keep in mind the primary Cricut commercials that includes chipper ladies inserting clunky cartridges into one thing that regarded like a mix of a fax machine and a toaster oven.

Within the fifteen years since its launch, Cricut has expanded its capabilities significantly and added a number of new machines to its lineup.

One such machine is the Cricut Maker. It is designed to take your crafting to the following stage by including within the skill to chop materials, chipboards, leather-based, and extra.

Setup

Earlier than your Cricut even arrives, it’s best to in all probability go forward and register for a Cricut account and obtain the Design Area app onto no matter units you propose on utilizing your Cricut with. Design Area works with Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, and Android units.

As soon as your machine arrives, you may use Design Area to set it up, which solely takes a matter of seconds to do. I used to be pleasantly stunned that inside 5 minutes of unboxing the Cricut, I used to be already reducing my first check undertaking.

But, earlier than we go into precise tasks, let’s talk about what you are actually moving into whenever you purchase one thing just like the Cricut Maker.

In for a penny, in for a pound

Some of the necessary issues it’s essential to notice earlier than buying any craft reducing machine — be it one from the Cricut lineup or from Silhouette or Brother — is that it is hardly an affordable interest.

The Cricut Maker is not a cheap device by any means.

That is essential so that you can perceive earlier than continuing ahead. Not solely is the machine an funding in itself, however all the things you utilize with it’s an added expense.

I scored my Cricut Maker on a steep sale — $279 for the Cricut Maker The whole lot bundle — and I’ve nonetheless managed to spend $70 on different issues for it. To make issues worse, I am not that removed from dropping one other $80 on further reducing blades.

That is the place a big portion of your bills will come from. While you buy a Cricut Maker, you get the machine, the Rotary Blade (for reducing material), the Fantastic Level blade (For reducing paper and cardstock), a Mild Grip mat, a FabricGrip mat, a positive level pen, and that is it.

Nonetheless, the Cricut Maker is suitable with 13 instruments, together with the Scoring Stylus, the Scoring Wheels, Foil Switch Instruments, the Debossing software, the Engraving Instrument, and the Perforation Blade — and that is not even all of them.

Many of those instruments are usually not solely useful however required for tasks.

For instance, I wished to make some playing cards to provide to relations for upcoming holidays. I figured, maybe considerably naively, that I might be capable to make do with the Scoring Stylus and the Fantastic-Level blade. Because it seems, not a lot.

The Scoring Stylus, in my view, is actually ineffective. It could not even rating 80-pound cardstock, which meant I had to return and manually rating my playing cards with a blade by hand. Positive, it is not the top of the world, however discovering out that my machine included a ineffective software in a bundle I paid for was lower than supreme.

Moreover, the all the things bundle additionally consists of foil poster board, which I assumed — once more, possibly a bit naively — might be minimize with the Fantastic-Level Blade as a result of it was included in a bundle with my Cricut Maker. The blade did okay on among the cuts, however some extra detailed cuts tore out. Because it seems, many Cricut customers notice that it’s best to solely use the Deep-Level blade.

The Scoring Blades and Deep-Level blades are round $30 every. In truth, most of Cricut’s proprietary blades can be found at $30 apiece — so the prices can add up shortly.

Fortuitously, on the subject of issues you possibly can minimize, you are not locked into Cricut’s line of supplies. As an alternative, you possibly can head to just about any craft retailer, to Amazon, and even your native Greenback Tree and be met with a good quantity of supplies designed for use with craft reducing machines.

Should you’re not sure if the Cricut can minimize a selected materials, simply Google it. Somebody on the web has in all probability already tried to chop no matter you have an interest in. Cricut’s web site has a useful listing, nevertheless it’s hardly exhaustive, together with 300+ objects.

After all, with it being a hefty funding, there are quite a lot of issues you are able to do with a Cricut Maker.

Attending to know the Cricut

As I’ve already defined, the Cricut is a machine that you just use to — ostensibly — minimize issues. It is not dissimilar to a CNC machine, which you are undoubtedly aware of should you’ve ever fallen down the YouTube maker or woodworking rabbit gap.

To chop issues on a Cricut, no matter mannequin, you sometimes adhere the fabric you want to minimize (or draw, or rating, or deboss) on a sticky mat. Then, you snap your favourite instruments into the Adaptive Instrument System, load the mat into your machine, and observe the steps within the companion software program.

The unique Cricut Maker could make incisions as much as 12 inches broad and 24 inches lengthy. As said above, the producer estimates the Maker can minimize greater than 300 supplies, although which may be lowballing it. Just about, should you can minimize it with a craft knife or a field cutter, you possibly can minimize it with a Cricut Maker.

This is what it’s essential to learn about what makes your Cricut work.

Mats

The mats offered by Cricut vary in value from $3 to $18, relying on measurement, kind, and whether or not or not Cricut or the retailer is holding a sale.

That’s one thing to notice — Cricut objects are very continuously on sale. It could behoove you to check name-brand supplies and mats with third-party objects, as Cricut supplies are often equally priced.

Cricut mats, from left to right: FabricGrip, StandardGrip, StrongGrip, LightGrip

Cricut mats, from left to proper: FabricGrip, StandardGrip, StrongGrip, LightGrip

The Cricut mats are available in a number of differing kinds and sizes, and they’re rated by grip energy.

Some supplies, similar to balsa wooden, require you to make use of a StrongGrip mat to make sure the Cricut would not pull the fabric free whereas making use of further stress throughout cuts. Different supplies, similar to wrapping paper, require a LightGrip mat, guaranteeing that the fabric will not tear when eliminated.

The mats inevitably grow to be gunked up with bits of paper, fuzz, hair, glitter — making it much less efficient. Fortuitously, you’ve got obtained a number of choices.

For instance, if a StrongGrip mat loses a few of its bonding energy, many customers select to “downgrade” it and use it for extra delicate supplies. This follow is prevalent for individuals who use their Cricut as a part of their enterprise.

Others, like me, gently take away bigger items of particles — like paper bits and material by hand. Afterward, I throw it in my sink and wash it with heat water and somewhat little bit of hand cleaning soap. Washing the mat removes any remaining stray fuzz, hair, or microscopic bits of paper free from the adhesive.

As soon as dried, the mats return to their former glory, roughly.

Blades, instruments, and the Adaptive Instrument System

The Cricut Maker has two software slots it could use at any given time. Clamp A, which is plastic, is used primarily for Cricut pens and the scoring stylus. Clamp B, which is aluminum, is used with blades and scoring wheels.

There are quite a lot of instruments for the Cricut Maker. Whereas I am not going to delve into each software accessible, I’ll talk about how a number of of them work.

Cricuts Adaptive Tool System, aka, the tool clamps

Cricuts Adaptive Instrument System, aka, the software clamps

You will have to clamp within the appropriate software everytime you arrange a minimize in your Cricut. For many tasks, you are both going to make use of the Fantastic Level blade or the Deep Level blade. Each are analogous to craft blades. You will use these to make playing cards, minimize pleather, minimize sure material sorts, and most vinyl — they’re your workhorses.

The Rotary Blade, which comes with — and is unique to — the Cricut Maker, is used to chop material. Because it seems, the Cricut Maker maker has a reasonably large following within the quilting group. The rotary software permits artists to exactly minimize fiddly bits of material with out counting on stencils.

There’s additionally a Knife Blade, which can be utilized to chop thicker supplies, together with leather-based, balsa wooden, basswood, and chipboard.

Cricut’s line of non-cutting instruments

Like every good crafting large, Cricut additionally sells a good quantity of issues to go together with the Cricut to develop its capabilities.

Many of those are generally known as “weeding” instruments, which you may use to “weed out” bits of fabric out of your minimize design. Scrapers, weeders, and tweezers fall beneath this class.

Cricut pens, weeder tools, scrapers, and a Cricut-branded craft knife

Cricut pens, weeder instruments, scrapers, and a Cricut-branded craft knife

You completely don’t want to purchase these instruments — the one motive I personal them is as a result of they got here with the bundle. A buddy of mine identified that dental plaque scrapers are simply as efficient and infrequently price much less.

Moreover, the market is flooded with third-party sellers that you could find on nearly any promoting platform.

There are a number of different instruments that Cricut gives, together with Warmth Presses for iron-on vinyl transfers, a Brayer for serving to to position supplies on mats, and a complete line of markers you need to use with the Cricut.

Cricut Design Area — surprisingly respectable

Now that I’ve lined your Cricut’s bodily facets let’s check out the brains of the operation.

Provo Craft, the makers of Cricut, have executed a extremely good job of stopping any third-party software program from accessing the Cricut {hardware}. Sadly, meaning you may need to make the most of Cricut’s Design Area, on the very least, to chop your design.

Design Area is out there on Mac, Home windows, iPhone, iPad, and Android. I sometimes apply it to my iPad, which is superb as a result of the Cricut made a slot for holding your iPad on the machine itself.

The iPad app can also be implausible, and there is sufficient display actual property on my iPad Air 4 to effortlessly zip by the interface and do what you want.

I do, often, use the app on my iPhone, nevertheless it’s considerably extra cramped on the smaller display. I discover this to be completely positive for fast prints that do not require me to vary instruments.

I have not managed to attempt Design Area with my iMac but, as my Cricut is housed in a completely completely different room.

Nonetheless, I have been pleasantly stunned with Design Area. The interface is someplace between computer-aided drafting (CAD) software program and Adobe Illustrator, however nowhere close to as complicated.

Whereas it might look intimidating at first, it is fairly simple to determine easy methods to add design information, scale your picture, and alter software features with out specific route.

In truth, regardless that I am apparently totally averse to studying instructions of any sort, I have not hit that many snags. Those who I’ve run into have been both altogether solvable alone with somewhat little bit of trial and error or with a fast Google search.

For lots of informal Cricut customers, Design Area can be adequate. In spite of everything, the app lets you shortly buy ready-made designs, permitting you to finish a whole undertaking with out ever altering a design as soon as.

Nonetheless, for the extra bold customers, you are positively going to need to make use of different choices.

Designing your individual undertaking information

Whereas it is true that you would be able to’t entry the Cricut {hardware} with third-party packages, that does not imply you are restricted to utilizing Design Area on the subject of making undertaking information. In truth, you’ve got obtained just about limitless choices for creating designs that may be imported.

The one basic requirement for minimize information is that they should be within the appropriate format.

Design Area accepts a handful of various file codecs beneath two broad classes.

  • Raster: .JPG, .PNG, .BMP, .GIF
  • Vector: .SVG, .DXF

Should you’re simply doing a easy perform, like reducing out letters for signage or doing a print-then-cut (typical for stickers and labels, raster photographs are completely positive. These photographs are uploaded as a single file and can be utilized with a single operation.

Should you’re doing a fancy minimize, similar to a multi-step card that entails drawing, scoring, and reducing, you may completely have to make the most of a vector file.

I am not going to provide you a whole rundown on easy methods to use packages, however I’ll level you in the proper route on the place to search out them.

Packages that may make raster photographs run the gamut from costly to free and embrace packages like Adobe Photoshop, Affinity Picture, Pixelmator Professional, and Procreate. In truth, we have got a entire listing of Photoshop-like packages that you need to use to make and edit raster photographs. Many of those packages have each iOS and macOS variations, too.

Packages that may make vector photographs embrace Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, and Inkscape. We even have a listing of our favourite vector design packages that you would be able to try, too.

Should you already know easy methods to use CAD software program and your software program of alternative exports .DXF information, you may give {that a} go, too. Fusion360 is one choice, however I might guess that almost all CAD software program would work simply positive.

What you may make

Cricut usually highlights the hobbyist-meets-crafter facet of issues you are able to do along with your Cricut. This consists of making playing cards, reducing vinyl for wall decals and shirts, or designing labels for objects in your house.

However the Cricut Maker can achieve this far more than that. A fast journey to Google will present you that tons of individuals on the market pushing the bounds of what has been executed with the machine.

I discovered myself most excited for sensible causes. Since getting the Cricut in February, I’ve made desk organizer bins utilizing cardstock, twine keepers utilizing pleather, and two software rolls.

A very small selection of things I've made with the Cricut

A really small number of issues I’ve made with the Cricut

Ultimately, I hope to snag some low cost acetate to clarify storage bins to assist preserve a few of my bigger craft bins extra organized.

The Cricut has grow to be an indispensable software for a lot of textile artists who make quilts, toys, and clothes utilizing the Cricut for precision reducing, significantly fiddly bits. As an apart — Cricut additionally sells a cloth pen, permitting customers to switch patterns to material shortly and precisely.

Shortcomings

Whereas the Cricut is a very highly effective machine in a comparatively pleasant package deal, there are some shortcomings I’ve seen. The most important difficulty I’ve discovered is that the Cricut “Print, Then Minimize” function just isn’t the best.

This function is designed for artists trying to do small-scale manufacturing of stickers, magnets, labels, and the like. It entails you printing your designs along with your printer, throwing it to the Cricut, after which the Cricut reads registration marks to — and I say this loosely — “precisely” minimize out your design.

In concept, that is fairly cool. It is a quick solution to make sticker sheets or do-it-yourself labels. It is a useful function for artists who aren’t able to decide to sending their artwork out for print by a third-party distributor.

Sadly, you continue to have to print your designs by Design Area, which implies you’ve got obtained no management over the DPI and minimal management over the print high quality.

Moreover, relying on the fabric you are reducing, the Cricut may not precisely minimize out Print, Then Minimize designs. To its credit score, Cricut warns customers about this, stating that metallic, ultra-glossy supplies or these with a sample may not work.

Sadly, most printable waterproof vinyl is shiny, so that you danger your designs not reducing appropriately since you wished to make stickers which have some longevity.

I proceed to routinely waste some pretty costly holographic printable vinyl I bought as a result of I’ve not discovered my lesson.

Moreover, suppose you print something with a darkish coloration too near the registration mark. In that case, it is extremely believable that your Cricut will assume the art work is the registration mark, which throws off the place it cuts.

The opposite notable downside is that you’re locked into utilizing Design Area. Whereas Design Area is respectable, it is actually not all it might be. As a result of Cricut’s core demographic tends to be crafters, it’s catered towards lighter, extra easy tasks.

That is nice should you’re somebody who owns an entry-level machine, just like the Cricut Pleasure or Cricut Specific Air. Nonetheless, should you’ve invested within the Cricut Maker line, you may really feel a bit hamstrung.

The Cricut Maker is a particularly highly effective software. If customers had entry to software program that allowed customers extra management, or a extra sturdy design area, it will open up the product to a good wider viewers.

Total

The Cricut Maker is a software that I am extremely impressed with, regardless that there are a number of hangups right here or there. Should you’re an individual who genuinely enjoys making issues, there are various methods to make use of it past simply making playing cards or shirts. Should you run your individual small enterprise, it is a good way to make your individual small batches of merchandise or stickers.

Simply bear in mind that the Cricut is hardly an affordable interest and that after you get began, it may be sort of laborious to cease.

  • Newbie pleasant
  • Wide selection of accessible instruments
  • Cuts greater than 300 supplies
  • App is dependable, simple to make use of on iPad, iPhone
  • Third celebration merchandise convey down value
  • Chopping blades are costly
  • Can solely use Design Area to carry out cuts
  • Print, then Minimize function is severely missing in choices

It is tough to precisely charge a undertaking that may be utilized in such all kinds of the way. Lots of the flaws I see with Cricut are solely relevant to a extra superior consumer, and a hobbyist might not see a difficulty with it in any way.

For basic objective: 4 out of 5

For superior customers: 3 out of 5

The place to purchase

You possibly can rating your individual Cricut Maker beginning at $229 from Amazon, with a little bit of variation relying on the colour.

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