Which is the best Cricut for beginners? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the question as each person crafts differently. Instead, I am going to help you decide on the right Cricut cutting machine for you. I will give you my overall best pick and the details on the currently available Cricut cutting machines. By the end, you will be able to make a decision about which machine is right for you and your needs.
This is not a paid or sponsored post. All products mentioned in this post were paid for by Michelle Moncrief. This is an independent review and assessment. Maker’s Corner Crafts is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more here.
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Cricut currently has five cutting machines available for purchase: The Cricut Maker 3, Maker, Explore 3, Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Joy. The Cricut Maker 3 and Maker comprise the Maker Series, and Maker 3 is the latest release in that series (June 2021). The Cricut Explore 3 and Explore Air 2 make up the Explore Series, and the Explore 3 is the latest release in that series (June 2021). The Cricut Joy was released in March 2020.
Cricut Cutting Machine Similarities
There are a few consistencies across all of Cricut’s currently available cutting machines. First, each one can use Bluetooth to connect to your Mac or Windows PC, laptop, phone or tablet (Android and iOS) wirelessly. All but the Cricut Joy can also be connected directly to the computer or PC by a USB cord. Second, all Cricut Machines use Cricut Design Space for design and cutting. Cricut Design Space is a free, user-friendly application available for your Mac or Windows laptop, computer, phone and tablet (Android and iOS). Third, you have unlimited space to upload images in Cricut Design Space.
If you are new to graphics design applications, I think you will like Cricut Design Space. It’s not as complex as professional graphics applications (Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw), and there are tons of tutorials on craft blogs and YouTube. I had almost no experience with graphics applications before I owned a Cricut. I had not worked with Cricut Design Space. I took Jennifer Maker’s Design to Shine course on how to use Cricut Design Space. I cannot recommend that class enough. If you can swing the whole course, it’s worth it.
All of the Cricut cutting machines are easy to learn. A beginner can be happy with a Cricut Maker 3 or a Cricut Joy. The decision is really about materials, speed and cost.
If you’re not sure what a Cricut cutting machine or die-cutting is, check out the Frequently Asked Questions at the end of the post.
Overall Best Cricut for Beginners
My overall pick for best Cricut for beginners is the Explore Air 2. You can purchase it for a reasonable price even when not on sale, which leaves room in the budget for accessories and materials. It can cut more than 100 materials. It’s a tried and true workhorse for hobbyists.
I love mine, and use it more frequently over my other machines. It cuts beautifully, and it’s my favorite machine. If, however, you are looking for a machine that can cut thicker materials, you’re looking for portability, you’re going to cut fabric, or you’re going to use your machine commercially, you will probably want to choose a different machine. Read on to learn about what each machine can provide and how it can fulfill your needs.
What do I own? Which did I choose for my first Cricut machine?
I own a Cricut Maker 3, a Maker, an Explore Air 2 and a Joy. I have purchased all of my cutting machines (none have been provided to me for free by Cricut). I didn’t start out with Cricut, though. My very first machine was a Silhouette Cameo. When I explored Silhouette Studio, its application, I felt completely overwhelmed by the concepts and terminology that I was trying to learn in addition to using the machine. I felt defeated so quickly because I was trying to learn a new machine, its software and general graphics concepts at the same time. I put it away and didn’t pull it out for another two years.
Eventually I would give myself permission to get a Cricut and try Cricut Design Space. With that permission and Jennifer Maker’s class, I purchased a Cricut Maker and overcame all of my fears and frustrations that caused me to put my Silhouette Cameo away. Now I understand the graphics concepts, can use Cricut Design Space as an expert, and even use Adobe Illustrator to create many of my own graphics.
I am not knocking Silhouette. They make a great machine, and I do use mine from time to time now. I just found the software too complex for my beginner knowledge and abilities when I started, and needed something more user-friendly that didn’t make me feel insecure. Cricut fits that bill and makes a great machine too, so it was the answer for me.
I purchased my Cricut Maker 3, Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Joy afterward because I think it is important to demonstrate and teach on different Cricut machines. You will see me rotate around the machines I own in posts and videos. Even though my first purchase was the Maker, it’s not my favorite. My favorite is the Explore Air 2.
What to Consider When Choosing a Cricut Machine for Beginners
As you research which is the best Cricut for beginners and for you, you will want to keep a few things in mind.
- What types of crafts do you want to make? Are you interested in adhesive vinyl, HTV/Iron-On, and cardstock crafts? Or do you think you might want to venture into projects that use wood, cardboard, foam and other thicker and sturdier materials?
- How often will you craft? Are you a hobbyist exclusively? Do you want to make and sell your crafts? Is it possible you will want to sell crafts down the road?
- What is your budget? Don’t forget you will need tools, accessories and materials to work with. Will you be working with HTV/Iron-On and need a heat press? Or will your iron suffice for awhile? Are you planning on doing any sublimation, and will you need a printer for that?
- Is space limited? Do you have space for a full size machine (about 22″) or do you need something smaller and more portable?
- Will your PC, laptop, phone or tablet support Cricut Design Space? Or will you need to upgrade? Check out the system requirements.
- Will you make most of the graphics you use, or will you need a subscription for your graphics, like Cricut Access?
- Will an electronic cutting machine make life better for you? Are you uncomfortable with technology? Or do you like the idea of learning Cricut Design Space? (I promise it’s fun and not difficult to learn.)
Cricut Maker Series
Cricut has two Maker series machines: the Cricut Maker and the Cricut Maker 3; there is no Maker 2. The Maker 3 is Cricut’s flagship product. With 13 tools and two tool holders, both the Maker and the Maker 3 cut the most number of materials (over 300), and can cut up to 2.4 MM thick (about 1/10″). You can cut materials like Balsa wood, Basswood, chipboard, cardboard and foam to name a few. Both also support Print Then Cut. The Maker Series machines are the heaviest of all the Cricut cutting machines at approximately 15 pounds. Check out a more complete list with Cricut.
The Maker series machines have professional grade components with 10 times the cutting power of the other Cricut machines. The Maker is twice as fast a the Explore Air 2 while the Maker 3 is twice as fast as the Maker. Also, in order to facilitate cutting 300+ materials and deeper cutting, Cricut has created a single housing that can hold a number of different blades in an adaptive tool system. These are called QuickSwap blades, and all of them fit into the QuickSwap housing. This is exclusive to the Maker Series, and the Explore Series and Joy machine can’t use these blades.
The Maker series machines also exclusively use the Rotary blade and Knife blade. The Rotary blade can be used to cut fabrics, among other things. It is different from the Bonded Fabric blade, as it is a circular blade that rotates. Because of how it’s designed, you most likely won’t need to stiffen fabrics before cutting like you might have to do when using the Fabric blade.
What sets the Maker 3 apart from the Maker is the ability to make long, continuous cuts up to 12 feet using Cricut-branded Smart Materials. This matless cutting removes the limitations of the 12″x12″ and 12″x24″ cutting mats. You will still need mats for certain materials, but not when using Cricut brand Smart Materials. Also, as mentioned before, the Maker 3 is twice as fast as the Maker.
So, which is the best Cricut cutting machine for beginners? Speed, materials and cost might factor into your choice of the Maker or Maker 3.
- Consider the Maker 3 for its speed and flexibility of materials if you plan on selling crafts. Also, if you want to make long, continuous cuts, the Maker 3 is a good choice.
- Consider the Maker if you won’t need to use Smart Materials and make long cuts, and you don’t need the absolutely fastest machine available.
- Consider the Maker if you aren’t sure what crafts you will eventually make with your cutting machine, but you know you might try to expand your interests.
- Consider either the Maker 3 or Maker if your focus is cutting fabric because of the Rotary blade.
Cricut Explore Series
Cricut has two Explore series machines: the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Explore 3. With 6 tools, both machines cut over 100 different lightweight materials like adhesive vinyl, HTV (heat transfer vinyl or iron-on), cardstock, and more. Both support Print Then Cut. They are lighter weight than the Cricut Maker Series machines at around 11 pounds. Check out more specifics about the Explore series machines.
What makes the Explore series different from the Maker series? The Explore series machines are not as fast, and they do not cut thicker materials. They also don’t use the adaptive tool system with QuickSwap housing and QuickSwap blades. They use the Scoring Stylus, while the Maker Series supports both the Scoring Stylus and the Scoring Wheel blade. Check out the differences in this comparison.
How does the Explore 3 differ from the Explore Air 2? The Explore 3 is twice as fast as the Explore Air 2. The Explore 3 also supports long cuts up to 12 feet using Cricut brand Smart Materials.
The Explore series has two tool holders and uses the Fine Point blade, Deep point blade, Scoring Stylus, Foil Transfer tool, Bonded Fabric Blade and Cricut brand pens.
The Cricut Explore series machines are best for those who want to cut lightweight materials and don’t need or want to cut thicker materials. If you want to make t-shirts, cut adhesive vinyl, or are into scrapbooking with lots of cardstock, the Explore series is a good choice.
Which Explore series machine is the best Cricut for beginners? If you plan on cutting lightweight materials and don’t need the ability to make long cuts with Cricut Smart Materials, the Explore Air 2 is a great choice. If, however, you need extra speed and want those long cuts, choose the Explore 3.
The Cricut Joy is a lightweight, compact and portable cutting machine that is perfect for making cards, labels and so much more. It can cut more than 50 materials and is a little workhorse. It can also use Cricut Smart Materials created just for its size, which means it can make long, continuous cuts up to 4 feet. It has one tool holder and supports its own blade, foil tool and pens.
It has a couple of differences from the other machines besides its size. It can only connect to your PC, laptop, phone or tablet via Bluetooth; it doesn’t connect with a USB cord. That means that if you don’t have Bluetooth capabilities on your PC or laptop, you will need to get a Bluetooth adapter. Also, it doesn’t support Print Then Cut. So if you have your heart set on making stickers or cutting around things you print out, then you’ll need to choose either an Explore series or Maker series machine.
The joy is super lightweight at only 3.7 pounds, and you can get a carrying case for it to make it portable. Many find that they love having a Cricut Joy in addition to their larger cutting machine.
Is the Cricut Joy the best Cricut for beginners? It’s great for those who don’t have much space to craft in or have a smaller budget. If you’re into cutting cards and small designs only, or are an occasional crafter, this is the perfect machine for you.
Small Considerations for the Best Cricut for Beginners
A storage tray is available on the Cricut Maker 3, Maker, Explore 3 and Explore Air 2. The Joy does not have one.
The Maker 3 and Maker have an extra USB outlet that you can use to charge your mobile or tablet while it sits on the mobile device stand that also comes on these cutters.
The Explore 3 and Maker 3 have an optional roll holder that you can purchase to hold vinyl rolls while it cuts.
The Explore Air 2 uses a physical dial for some cut settings, and has a custom setting for most materials.
The Explore Air 2 comes in colors, the Maker has several color tops to choose from, the Maker 3 is Zen Blue and the Explore 3 is mint green.
Best Cricut for Beginners by Function
- For the crafter starting a business to sell crafts: Cricut Maker 3
- For scrapbooking: Either the Cricut Joy or Explore Air 2
- For the occasional crafter of lightweight materials: The Cricut Joy or Explore Air 2
- For the occasional crafter who like to do a little of everything: The Cricut Maker
- For the sewist: Either the Cricut Maker or Maker 3
- For someone making labels and cards: Cricut Joy
- For the hobby crafter who wants to make everything: Cricut Maker or Maker 3
Other Machines by Cricut
Legacy machines such as the Cuttlebug, Cricut Personal, Create, Expression and Expression 2, Mini, Cake, Cake Mini, and Imagine, Explore, Explore One, and Explore Air have been discontinued by Cricut. The cutting machines currently available for sale are the Cricut Maker 3, Maker, Explore 3, Explore Air 2 and Joy. The currently available machines, Explore, Explore One and Explore Air are the currently supported machines.
The heat press machines that Cricut currently sells are the Cricut EasyPress, Autopress, Mug Press and Hat Press.
Materials and Accessories
Earlier, I mentioned to keep in mind the materials and accessories you will need to purchase when considering your budget. If you are new to Cricut and this is your first purchase, you will need to get materials to cut such as HTV/Iron-on, cardstock, adhesive vinyl, etc. You will also need blanks like t-shirts, tumblers, mugs, wood, etc.) You will also need tools like the Essential toolkit, a scraper, a brayer and more. You may even want to get a roll holder if you will be using large rolls of vinyl (Maker 3 and Explore 3).
If you are going to use a lot of HTV/Iron-on or plan on selling crafts that have HTV/Iron-on, consider getting some type of heat press. There are many out there, and Cricut has the EasyPress and Autopress. There are a variety of brands of adhesive vinyl and HTV/Iron-on other than Cricut brand, such as Oracal, Siser, HTVRont, Teckwrap and more. However, if you want to make matless long cuts, you will need to look at Cricut Smart Materials.
Check out my posts on The Best Permanent Vinyl for Cricut and The Different Types of Heat Transfer Vinyl. Also, I have a post that covers Cricut Accessories You Need and Ones That are Nice to Have.
Cricut sells bundle deals where you can purchase the machine and a set of materials to use with it. If you think you might want to purchase a Cricut bundle for your machine and materials, check out my post on the Best Cricut Bundle Deals 2022.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Cricut cutting machine?
Cricut cutting machines are electronic die cutting machines used to create hundreds of types of crafts. For example, you can use a Cricut machine to cut cardstock into shapes to create a gift box, or cut HTV/Iron-on intro various shapes and put them on a t-shirt.
What is die-cutting?
Die cutting is using a machine (manual or electronic) to cut out materials into shapes. For example, Cricut cutting machines are electronic die cutters. You use them to cut material into shapes that are used to make finished crafts.
What is Cricut Access?
Cricut Access is a subscription service provided by Cricut that includes fonts, graphics, sentiments, monograms, craft projects and more that are already designed and ready for your Cricut cutting machine to cut out. There are more than 130,000 images, thousands of projects and more than 500 fonts ready for you to use.
Additionally, Cricut Access members frequently get material discounts just for them, and you will get 10% discount on your purchases (up to $50 per item.) Learn more or Try Cricut Access free for 30 days before deciding if it’s right for you.
What Comes in the Box with the Cricut?
Check out what comes with each Cricut Machine here.
Should I buy that used Cricut I saw on marketplace?
Pre-owned Cricut cutting machines can be found online in many places. If you choose to buy one, you run a risk that it malfunctions and has been bricked (turned off for use by Cricut). You also run the risk of warranty invalidation. I recommend buying a new Cricut from either Cricut or Amazon so that this doesn’t happen to you, and if there are any problems within the warranty period, Cricut can take care of it for you.
When is the best time to buy a Cricut cutting machine?
Cricut cutting machines are on sale frequently throughout the year. Wait until they go on sale to buy one. Right now (November 2022) is a great time to consider buying one as it’s near the end of the year and Cricut’s best sales are happening. If they aren’t on sale, just wait a few weeks and they will usually have a sale.
How can I best save money when I buy a Cricut cutting machine?
You can get 10% discounts if you already have Cricut Access. This discount is great for products that are $50 or less each. Couple this with Cricut sales and enjoy deep discounts on materials, tools and more. Additionally, Cricut typically has a deal going with Rakuten, so if you use Rakuten, don’t forget to activate a shopping trip.
Why didn’t you talk about the Cricut EasyPress, AutoPress, MugPress and HatPress?
This post focuses exclusively on Cricut’s cutting machines and which is the best Cricut for beginners. There is so much information to convey that it would be overwhelming if I also include the heat press machines.
My computer doesn’t have Bluetooth. What do I do?
The Cricut Maker series and Explore series machines can be directly attached to your computer or laptop through USB cable. Only the Cricut Joy requires Bluetooth and does not directly connect with a cable.
If you don’t have Bluetooth on your PC or laptop and want or need to connect wirelessly to your Cricut machine, purchase a Bluetooth adapter for your computer.
Do I need an internet connection to use my Cricut?
You will need an internet connection initially to register your Cricut. After that, however, it can be used offline. But if you want to use Cricut Access or you’ve stored your projects online with Cricut, you will need an internet connection.
Can I use a Chromebook with Cricut Design Space?
Officially, Cricut Design Space is not supported on Chromebook. It also does not work on UNIX and Linux systems. It is supported on Windows or Mac PC and laptop, and iOS and Android phones and tablets.
I know this is a lot of information to try to digest at once. If I’ve missed something or there is a question I can answer for you, please be sure to leave a comment or email me. I enjoy helping y’all, and love it when you comment. Take care, and until then, happy, happy crafting!