What are the differences between the Cricut Machines? Which Cricut Machine should I buy? I’m sharing an overview of the 3 different machine types Cricut currently makes and the features of each to help you pick the machine that suits you best!
Over on YouTube, I have a series with my friend Alexis from Persia Lou that we call ‘Silhouette VS Cricut’. We usually take on different project types or functions of the machines and we each do a video for our team (I’m team Cricut, if you didn’t catch that by this title!) and she takes on Silhouette. Often, we get questions about WHICH machine you all should get to do certain things. It seemed like time to take on this question and give it a video (and blog post!) of it’s own. If you’d rather watch this in video form, I’ve embedded that video down below, but if you want to read, you know your girl typed it all out too :)
I do want to be totally transparent with you. All of these machines have been sent to me over the years that I’ve worked with Cricut for various projects. All of the links in this blog post are affiliate links which means that should you purchase, the website you purchase from would send me a small commission at no cost to you. This helps cover my material costs, costs to running this site and my time. Sound good? Let’s go!
So in this post, I’m chatting about the three different types of Cricut machines that Cricut currently sells and compare them based on their features and cutting abilities. Now, I’m ignoring older machines that are no longer available. This means no Cricut Expression, Cricut Create, Cricut Personal, Cricut Imagine and Cricut Mini. Why? Well, the older machines don’t work with Cricut Design Space, they work with cartridges. That meant that you had to buy a physical cartridge that had designs on it and use that set of designs with the cartridge plugged in. Kind of like old school nintendo… but for crafting.
Cricut Software vs Cartridges
Cricut now works exclusively with Cricut Design Space which is a software you can download and work in online or offline. You can use their free images, buy some of their images, use their subscription images and fonts (Cricut Access), use their fonts or shapes to create your own images, and even upload your own images and fonts to create your design. I have quite a few tutorials on Cricut Design Space, but am thinking of making a general intro one- if that’s something your interested in, drop your questions in the comments!
If you are upgrading your machine and have one of the older machines with cartridges you’d like to continue to use, it’s important to note that the Cricut Explore family of machines (Cricut Explore, Cricut Explore Air, and Cricut Explore Air 2) all have a cartridge slot so you can plug it in and use it still.
What about Cricut Max Cut Size + Mats?
Okay so the most obvious difference between the Cricut Joy and the other two machines is of course the size. It’s so cute and tiny! The Cricut Joy can only cut one image up to 4.5 inches wide BUT it can cut 4 feet long or repeated cuts up to 20 feet long. The Cricut Explore family and Cricut Maker can cut up to 12″ x 24″. So the larger machines are great for bigger projects, but can’t cut continuous like the Cricut Joy.
Why? The Cricut Explore Family and Cricut Maker need to have a mat to cut on. The mats max length are 24″ long. The Cricut Joy can cut specific materials (Cricut Smart Vinyl) without a mat. These rolls come in lengths of 20 feet.
What Materials can each Cricut Machine Cut?
This is honestly the deciding factor for me. Let’s talk about the tools that each machine can use. The Cricut Joy comes with a fine point blade and that can be swapped out for Cricut Joy specific pens. This means the Cricut Joy can cut materials like vinyls and paper and it can write as well.
The Cricut Explore family of machines has 2 different spaces for tools. You can use one blade and one writing tool in these. The blade the machine comes with is the standard Fine Point Blade. This, like the Cricut Joy, can cut different vinyls and papers. You can also swap the fine point blade out for their new foiling tip, scoring tool, bonded fabric blade or the deep point blade. The Deep Point Blade can be used for tougher materials like magnet, chipboard, foam board or felt sheets.
The Cricut Maker takes cutting materials a step further thanks to it’s Adaptive Tool System. It also has a second tool slot that works for Cricut markers and pens. This just means that in addition to the blades and tools that the Cricut Explore can use (the same tools are compatible with the Cricut Maker), you can also use a larger range of tools that have a gear type housing that will change the direction of the blade during the cut. This allows the machine to cut many more materials with the different adaptive tools. Since it changes the direction of the blade, it can cut very detailed cuts out of delicate fabrics and tough fabrics. It can cut wood and leather with the knife blade, it can cut so many different kinds of fabric with the rotary blade, it can score, perforate, deboss and engrave with specific tools as well… it has such a range of capabilities.
You can see all the blades and tools that are compatible with the Cricut Maker right here, starred are the ones also compatible with the Explore:
- Fine Point Blade*
- Bonded Fabric Blade*
- Deep Point Blade*
- Foiling Tip*
- Knife Blade
- Rotary Blade
- Wavy Blade
- Perforation Blade
- Engraving Tip
- Debossing Tip
- Scoring Wheel Tip
- Double Scoring Wheel Tip
Cricut Machine Design + Buttons
Let’s talk about buttons. I know, that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but as a user… it is for me! The Cricut Joy actually has no buttons. You just plug it in to turn it on and when it’s ready to load, you’ll get a flashing light. Place your mat or material at the pick up and it will pick it up for you without pressing a load button. Easy peasy. You run your cut by pressing GO inside Cricut Design Space- this is VERY user friendly. As a mom with kids who love to help me craft, this is so nice not to have a stop or unload button for little fingers that are helping.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 has plenty of buttons. Actually, it only has a few but it does have one big dial. That dial is very visual so you can set your material from your machine BUT it’s super easy to forget. And wreck your project. Which I have done on numerous occasions- oops! This machine also has some storage built in for tools on top and in the machine close (for blades and pens).
The Cricut Maker has the same storage as the Cricut Explore family machines but it does away with the open button and the dial. You just open it by lifting the cover and you choose your material in Cricut Design Space. I love that I can’t wreck my project by forgetting this dial! It also has a space for your phone or iPad if you’re using Cricut Design Space on mobile for your cuts. This is handy, but honestly I don’t use it much.
What Cricut Machine is Best?
Alright, so taking that information into account, what machine is best? Well… it depends on what you want to make. Let’s overview.
The Cricut Joy is smaller and the price point reflects that. This makes it portable, easy to store, and still very capable. This machine can cut and draw and is excellent for custom labels, long decals (remember the 4 foot image cut ability!), and cards. It has a specific mat for making cards that will only cut through the front of the card. One thing that’s important to note is that it cannot perform print then cut projects. It’s really great at what it’s made for- small projects (like mugs, cards, labels etc).
The Cricut Explore family machines are still lower priced than the Cricut Maker but have really great capabilities as well. Why do I keep saying ‘family’? The Cricut Explore has had a few upgrades over the years, it came out as the Cricut Explore, then the Cricut Explore Air, and now available is the Cricut Explore Air 2. The biggest difference between the Cricut Explore (one) and the Airs is that it’s not bluetooth enabled which means that you need to run a cord to your computer. The Cricut Explore Air is the machine I have and demonstrate in the video, honestly there’s not too big of differences between the Air and the Air 2 that I could find to even report back to you. It’s faster- but if you’re looking used and find an Explore Air for a better deal than a used Explore Air 2, I wouldn’t hesitate, it’s been a great machine.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is the most popular machine and for good reason- it’s a reasonable price point and it cuts almost all the materials that crafters want to cut. From vinyl to iron on to cardstock and even the Cricut felt, it’s very capable and as a full sized machine, you can complete most sized projects on this machine (up to 12×24″).
The Cricut Maker is the deluxe machine, if you will. The price point is the highest but it has enough improvements on the Cricut Explore Air that I feel like can justify the price increase. This machine can do everything the Cricut Explore Air 2 can (except for use old cartridges), and more. It can cut over “300+ materials, from the most delicate fabric and paper to matboard and leather“. This makes it excellent for quilters, leather crafters, and small business owners. The other thing that’s important to note is the durability of the machine itself. The Cricut Maker has many more metal components than the Cricut Explore Air 2. This makes it heavier, but also makes it such a workhorse. It’s considered ‘professional level cutting performance’ and delivers 10x more pressure to tough cuts. If you’re going to making products to sell, especially using heavier materials- this machine might be a great option for you!
If I were to buy a machine today, I’d probably be buying the Cricut Maker. I use my Cricut a lot in my regular life- for party decorations, iron on designs for shirts for my kids, and ornaments. I also love to use it for home decor- which means cutting wood and leather. Now that I know how much I use it for these materials, I would want to have that capability. Really, the choice comes down to the type of materials you want to be cutting. If you don’t think you’ll ever cut fabric, wood or leather… you really don’t need the Maker. And if you only plan to make cards… the Joy is perfect for you! In using these machines regularly, I’ve had no issue with any of them.
If you want to see just the specs in a handy chart, Cricut has that on their site RIGHT HERE.
I hope that you found this article helpful- if you have specific questions about the differences between the machines, let me know and I can try my best to answer in the comments below!
Where can I buy the Cricut machines?
- I typically purchase my Cricut supplies from Cricut.com. It’s easy, it’s almost always in stock and they have frequent sales.
- You can also buy almost everything Cricut from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca! The prices vary and stock can be unpredictable but you can’t beat Prime shipping!
- Michaels and Walmart also both carry Cricut products and machines! If I am in a rush, I will head up there to grab them- Cricut products and machines are almost NEVER included in coupon sales though, just as a note.
- Last but not least, last year Coscto Canada got Cricuts! For a smokin’ deal! They don’t currently have them, but it’s worth keeping your eye out ;)