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 will help you decide on the right Cricut cutting machine for you. Keep reading to find out my overall best pick and the details on the currently available Cricut cutting machines.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Cricut Cutting Machine Similarities
- 2 Overall Best Cricut for Beginners
- 3 What do I own? Which did I choose for my first Cricut machine?
- 4 What to Consider When Choosing a Cricut Machine for Beginners
- 5 Cricut Maker Series
- 6 Cricut Explore Series
- 7 Cricut Joy Series
- 8 Small Considerations for the Best Cricut for Beginners
- 9 Best Cricut for Beginners by Function
- 10 Other Machines by Cricut
- 11 Materials and Accessories
- 12 Frequently Asked Questions
- 13 Can I use a Chromebook with Cricut Design Space?
- 14 Conclusion
Cricut currently has seven cutting machines available for purchase:
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 a Mac or Windows PC, laptop, phone or tablet (Android and iOS) wirelessly. All but the Cricut Joy Series 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 the best Cricut for beginners is the Explore Air 2, with the Cricut Joy Xtra a very close second. You can purchase both for a reasonable price even when they are not on sale, which leaves room in the budget for accessories and materials. The Explore Air 2 can cut more than 100 materials, and the Cricut Joy Xtra supports print-then-cut for stickers. Both are winners: the Explore Air 2 for being a workhorse and the Joy Xtra for functionality in a small package.
I use these two Cricut cutting machines more frequently than my other ones. They both cut beautifully. The Explore Air 2 is still my favorite machine of the two, though. 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
My very first machine was a Silhouette Cameo Plus.
When I explored Silhouette Studio and its application, I felt completely overwhelmed by the concepts and terminology I was trying to learn besides 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 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. When I started, I found the software too complex for my beginner knowledge and abilities 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
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 vinyl, 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. Will you be working with HTV/Iron-On and need a heat press? Or will your iron suffice for a while? 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? (Learn more about Cricut Access in my post, Cricut Access Subscription: Do You Need It?)
- 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
- Cuts over 300 different materials
- 13 tools
- Dual clamps
- Max depth cut is 2.4MM (about 1/10th of an inch)
- Supports Print Then Cut
You can cut a wide variety of materials like Balsa wood, Basswood, chipboard, cardboard, and foam, to name a few. Both Cricut Maker machines support Print Then Cut. Both cut intricate designs with ease and are great for larger projects. 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 Explore 3 is twice as fast as the Explore Air 2, and the Maker 3 is twice as fast as the Cricut Maker machine when using Smart Materials.
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 the 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. Learn more about blades in my article, The Guide to All Cricut Blades.
What sets these two different Cricut models apart from each other 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 between the Maker and the 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 Maker 3 or Maker if your focus is cutting fabric because of the Rotary blade.
Make more than you ever dreamed possible with Cricut Maker 3, the ultimate smart cutting machine. With the ability to cut more than 300 materials, and compatible with more than 13 tools to cut, score, write, deboss, engrave, and more. Includes 30 images in Design Space App - Smart Cutting Machine, 2X Faster & 10X Cutting Force.
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 types of 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 on Cricut’s website.
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 the Scoring Stylus and the Scoring Wheel blade. Check out the differences in this comparison on Cricut’s website.
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 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 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. However, if you need extra speed and want those long cuts, choose the Explore 3.
Cricut Joy Series
Cricut has two Joy series machines: the Cricut Joy and the Cricut Joy Xtra. Both the Cricut Joy and Cricut Joy Xtra are lightweight, compact, and portable cutting machines, which are perfect for making greeting cards, labels, and more. They can cut more than 50 materials and are little workhorses. They both can also use Cricut Smart Materials sized just for them and can make long, continuous cuts up to 4 feet. Both have one tool holder that supports the Cricut Joy blade, the Cricut Joy foil tool, and Joy pens.
They have a couple of differences from the other Cricut machines besides size. Both can only connect to your PC, laptop, phone, or tablet via Bluetooth; neither connects with a USB cord. You will need to get a Bluetooth adapter if you don’t have Bluetooth capabilities on your PC or laptop.
What is the main difference between the Cricut Joy and the Cricut Joy Xtra? The Cricut Joy Xtra supports Print Then Cut to make stickers and labels. Also, the Cricut Joy Xtra supports wider materials than the Cricut Joy, which means it uses cutting mats and materials sized just for it.
The Cricut Joy is super lightweight at only 3.7 pounds, and you can get a carrying case for it to make it portable. The Cricut Joy Xtra is 6.03 pounds. Many find that they love having a Cricut Joy or Joy Xtra in addition to their larger cutting machine.
Which Cricut Joy series machine is the best Cricut for beginners? Both are more affordable and have a small footprint. Either is great for the occasional crafter. Buy the Cricut Joy If you like the idea of a compact machine that can sit easily on your desktop and want to use it for small designs, cards, and labels. Buy the Cricut Joy Xtra If you want all of that, plus Print Then Cut abilities to make stickers.
Our fits-in-any-space, looks-good-anywhere smart cutting machine. Cricut Joy Xtra™ cuts, writes, draws, and foils to make popular projects like full-color stickers, custom cards, T-shirts, vinyl decals & more. Works with free Design Space app.
Small Considerations for the Best Cricut for Beginners
A storage tray is available on the
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.
Although the Cricut Joy Xtra is a little bigger and heavier than the Cricut Joy, the Joy Xtra is the better choice for a compact, feature-rich machine as it includes Print Then Cut for stickers.
Best Cricut for Beginners by Function
- For the crafter starting a small business to sell crafts: Cricut Maker 3 or Cricut Venture.
- For scrapbooking: Either the Cricut Joy Xtra or Explore Air 2.
- For the occasional crafter of lightweight materials: Cricut Joy or Cricut Joy Xtra.
- For the occasional crafter who likes to do a little of everything: Cricut Maker.
- For the sewist: Cricut Maker.
- For crafters making labels, cards, and stickers: Cricut Joy Xtra.
- For the hobby crafter who wants to make everything: Maker 3.
Check out this comparison tool on Cricut.com to see a side-by-side comparison of the features and functionality of all Cricut cutting machines.
Other Machines by Cricut
Legacy machines such as the Cuttlebug, Cricut Personal, Create, Expression and Expression 2, Mini, Cake, Cake Mini, Imagine, Explore, Explore One, and Explore Air have been discontinued by Cricut. The cutting machines currently available for sale are the Cricut Venture,
The Cricut Venture was released in 2023 and is designed for commercial use and very large projects. There are some very good reviews available for the Cricut Venture. Cricut Venture is just one of many cutter brands available for commercial use.
The heat press machines that Cricut currently sells are the Cricut EasyPress, EasyPress Mini, Autopress, Mug Press, and Hat Press.
Materials and Accessories
Earlier, I mentioned keeping 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, an extra Fine-Point blade, 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).
Learn which Cricut accessories you need in my post, the Best Cricut Tools for Beginners.
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, EasyPress Mini, Autopress, Hat Press, and MugPress.
There are a variety of brands of adhesive vinyl and HTV/Iron-on other than Cricut, 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. Read my posts on The Best Permanent Vinyl for Cricut and The Different Types of Heat Transfer Vinyl.
If you’re interested in learning all about the different Cricut blades, check out my post, The Guide to All Cricut Blades. You can also learn about Cricut mats in my post, The Guide to Cricut Cutting Mats.
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.
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 into 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 exclusive material and general discounts, and more. Read my article Cricut Access Subscription: Do You Need It to learn all about it and 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 on Cricut.com.
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 cutting machine directly from Cricut 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. Cricut also now sells refurbished machines. Check them out on Cricut’s website.
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. The end of the year is a great time to consider buying one because of the holidays, and Cricut’s best sales are happening. If they aren’t on sale now, just wait a few weeks until they go on sale again.
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 with Rakuten, so if you use it, don’t forget to activate a shopping trip.
Read my article Cricut Access Subscription: Do You Need It to learn all about Cricut Access.
Why didn’t you talk about the Cricut EasyPress, AutoPress, Mug Press, Hat Press, and Venture?
This post focuses exclusively on Cricut’s personal cutting machines and which is the best Cricut for beginners. There is so much information to convey that it would be overwhelming if I included the heat press machines. The Cricut Venture is for commercial use and is not necessarily a beginner machine.
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 Series requires Bluetooth and doesn’t 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 PC or Apple Mac desktop and laptop, and iOS and Android phones and tablets.