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By published 7 January 22
Make precise cuts in material, and print your designs on mugs, T-shirts and more, with the best Cricut machines available today.
Buying the best Cricut machine is a great way to start the new year in style. Whether your 2022 resolution involves starting a new hobby or challenge, or you’re already a seasoned crafter who wants to raise their game, these popular, sophisticated and affordable machines can help bring your projects to the next level.
The best-known Cricut machines are for cutting material – such as paper, vinyl, card, felt, fabric, leather and matboard – and look a little like upmarket printers. You prepare your design on a computer and then the machine automatically cuts it out. That way, you get precision accuracy, in a way you simply couldn’t achieve by cutting manually. It’s a lot easier too, plus it saves on waste and expense.
However, Cricut is about more than cutting. Some of the best Cricut machines focus on other tasks, such as transferring your designs to mugs, clothes, and other items. In this article, we’ve carefully curated the best Cricut machines available today. We explain what each one does, and give you the information you need to choose the best model for you.
Meanwhile if you want learn more about Cricut, skip ahead to our common questions about Cricut. If you don’t have a laptop yet, check our guide to the best laptop for Cricut makers. Bear in mind that Cricut isn’t the only brand working in this space, and if you want to check out rival brands, see our selection of the best Cricut alternatives. If you already have a Cricut machine and are in need of more crafty kit, then don’t miss our list of the best Cricut accessories.
In general, the Cricut Maker is the best cutting machine from Cricut for most people. The exception is if you want to work with smart materials, in which case skip to the next product on our list. Otherwise, if you’re looking for the best Cricut machine for vinyl, the best Cricut machine for fabric, indeed the best Cricut machine for most purposes, this is the one for you.
The Cricut Maker enables you to precision-cut more than 300 materials, including everything from delicate fabric and paper to tough materials such as matboard and leather. You get 13 tools that allow you to cut, score, write, deboss, engrave, or add other decorative effects with precision.
These include a rotary blade for cutting fabrics, a knife blade for thicker materials of up to 2.4mm, scoring wheels to create creases and folds, and a foil transfer tool for foil embellishments. So while this isn’t the cheapest Cricut machine, it is the best value overall.
If you want to work with smart materials, then the recently released Cricut Maker 3 is the one to go for. (Just in case you’re wondering, there’s no Cricut Maker 2; the company simply skipped a version.)
The Cricut Maker 3 is pretty similar to the Cricut Maker (first on our list). The biggest difference is that it can cut smart materials without a mat, which means you can make cuts of up to 12 ft (3.6 m) in one go.
The Cricut Maker 3 is also twice as fast as the Cricut Maker when working with smart materials. On top of that, you get two extra accessories in the form of a larger portable trimmer and a roll holder, which can help you feed your smart materials into the machine. So while it’s quite a bit more expensive than the Cricut Maker, if you’re working on big craft projects the extra cost will be well worth it.
New to machine cutting? Then we recommend the Cricut Explore Air 2. It’s not quite as versatile and powerful as the first two Cricut machines on our list. But for a newbie, that’s a good thing, as it makes the software easier to follow. And it still offers pretty much all the features that a beginner will want.
To get specific, the Cricut Explore Air 2 will cut more than 100 different types of material, including premium vinyl, iron-on and HTV vinyl, cardstock, faux leather, adhesive foils, specialty paper and poster board, and you get five tools for cutting, writing and scoring.
This is a great choice for home-based, small-scale craft projects, such as making custom stickers, greeting cards, personalised decor and bespoke gifts. So while it’s not suitable for commercial cutting, it’s the best Cricut machine for anyone at the start of their Cricut journey.
The Cricut Explore 3 is the recently released successor to the Cricut Explore Air 2 (see above). The main difference between them is that the Cricut Explore 3 allows you to work with smart materials. You also get a larger portable trimmer and a roll holder.
This means that, like with the Cricut Maker 3 (number one on our list), you can make cuts up to 12 ft (3.6 m) long in one go. The main advantage it has over that model is that it’s cheaper. So if you want to use smart materials but you don’t need professional features, this is the best Cricut machine for your needs.
Want to craft on your travels? Then your best bet is the Cricut Joy, which is beautifully compact and portable.
With diminutive dimesions of 21.4 x 13.8 x 10.8cm, it’s significantly smaller than other models, and with a light weight of 1.75kg, it’s easy to store and carry from place to place. This makes it the ideal choice for smaller crafting tasks. So for example, we’d suggest this is the best Cricut machine for labels, the best Cricut machine for stickers, and the best Cricut machine for greetings cards.
That said, the Cricut Joy is still capable of bigger things. In fact, you can use the Cricut Joy for continuous cuts without a cutting mat, up to 20 feet long and four inches wide. More generally, it can be used to cut over 50 types of material, including iron-on, cardstock, vinyl, paper, and smart materials. Note, though, that while you can connect this machine to your computer via Bluetooth, it doesn’t have a USB connection (unlike the devices listed so far).
Cricut machines aren’t all about cutting; you can also get iron-on machines for printing custom-designed T-shirts, tote bags, pillows, aprons, sweatshirts, banners, blankets and more. Our pick of these is the Cricut EasyPress 2, which lets you transfer Iron-On or HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl) designs to any piece of fabric.
As the name suggests, it’s easy to use in practice, with an online guide explaining the ideal heat settings to use for different projects. Once you’ve programmed your settings, you apply the plate to your materials for the suggested amount of time, and there’s a timer to help you stick to this.
The base plate of the EasyPress provides a consistent heat, making it better than an ordinary iron, where the core of the plate is typically hotter than other parts. It also boasts a larger surface area than a normal iron, making it easier to adhere the whole design in one go.
The Cricut EasyPress 2 machine comes in two sizes. The 9 x 9 inch (22.5 x 22.5cm) model is best for standard items, while the 12 x 10-inch (30 x 25cm) model is better for larger items. For items that are smaller than 9 x 9 inches, meanwhile, you’re best off with the Cricut EasyPress Mini (see below).
The best Cricut machine for printing onto smaller items, such as hats, caps, socks, shoes, headbands or small bags, is Cricut EasyPress Mini. This 50W device works in a similar way to the Cricut EasyPress 2 (number 6 on our list), but has a tiny ceramic heat plate (4.8 x 8.2cm) that’s easier to use on small or challenging surfaces. It’s particularly good for curving around contours, working between buttons, and navigating seams.
As you’d expect, the Cricut EasyPress Mini is nice and compact, measuring just 10 x 8.5 x 5.3cm and weighing just 0.35kg. This makes it very easy to store and transport, so it’s a great option for travel too.
As the name suggests, the Cricut Mug Press is the best Cricut machine for making custom mugs. It allows you to print your designs onto blank mugs, and couldn’t be easier to use. In fact, it has just one single button.
Just be aware that it won’t do much on its own. You’ll also need a Cricut cutting machine to cut out your transfer, which needs to be on a Cricut Infusible Ink sheet (you can’t use normal vinyl).
Once you’ve done that, you wrap your transfer around your mug, put it in the machine, press the button and the Cricut Mug Press does the rest. While that’s all it does, it works well in practice, creating professional-looking results that stand the test of time, and which are fully microwave and dishwasher-proof.
Cricut is an American brand of automated cutting machines for home crafters. They are typically used for cutting materials paper, felt, vinyl, fabric, leather, matboard, and wood, using pre-programmed designs. You use Cricut’s proprietary software, Design Space, to prepare your designs on a computer or phone. Then you feed your material into the machine, and it will cut out your design automatically. Cricut also makes machines for pressing custom designs onto clothing, mugs and other items.
You need either a PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet to use a Cricut machine. That’s because you need to prepare your designs on Cricut’s own app, Design Space.
Note that you cannot use a Cricut machine with a Chromebook, and that if you have a PC it must be running a full version of Windows, as opposed to Windows S mode.
If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, you can down the Cricut Design Space app from the Apple App Store. If you’re using an Android phone or tablet, you can find the Design Space app in the Google Play Store.
What should you be looking for when choosing the best Cricut machine for you? Well, if you’re after a cutting machine, the most obvious factor to consider is the types of materials you want to cut.
The more expensive Cricut models are capable of cutting a huge variety of materials: the first two on our list, for example, can each tackle more than 300 materials. However, if you just want to cut a few simple light materials, such as paper, card and felt, you may not need all that, and you may prefer a lighter, cheaper model.
Some Cricut machines are also capable of cutting smart materials. These are special materials you can cut without a cutting mat. This means you can load large pieces into your machine and cut them in one go, which is useful for big projects. Smart materials include Smart Vinyl, Smart Iron-On, Smart Label Writable Paper, and Smart Label Writable Vinyl.
If you have no need for cutting, and instead want to print custom designs onto items, take a look at numbers 6, 7 and 8 on our list above. These are the best Cricut machines for this purpose.
Many people see the word ‘Cricut’ and pronounce it “cry cut”. However, the correct pronunciation is using a weak ‘i’, like in ‘cricket’. The company have even featured a cricket in many of its logos to ram the point home. That’s unlikely to stop people pronouncing it wrongly, of course, as other brands like Nike, Adidas and Sony have historically found. But at least you know, and you can now correct other people and look smart.
The Cricut Maker allows you to precision-cut more than 300 materials. These include everything from delicate fabric and paper to tough materials such as denim, matboard and leather. And you’ve covered for virtually everything in between too, including metallic poster board, neoprene, oil cloth, bonded polyester, quilt batting, bonded silk, velour and washi sheet. For a full list of materials you can cut with a Cricut Maker, see this help page.
Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. He is author of Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books. He was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine.
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