You know you want to get a craft cutter, but which one should you get?
What not to get
First, let’s talk about the machines you shouldn’t get– even if they’re free. Do not, under any circumstance, get the Cricut Personal, Create, Expression, Expression 2, Mini, Cake, Cake Mini, or Imagine. Cricut no longer supports these machines, and the internet is full of people who got scammed for $100 for purchasing these machines which will probably never work again.
Other brands than Cricut
There are a number of electronic die cutters out there– made by not only Cricut, but also Brother, Silhouette, Gemini, and others. If you like to hand draw your designs, the Brother ScanNCut might be the product for you. As the name indicates, it has a scanner built right in. The Silhouette Cameo has some nice features (such as loading images from a USB drive), but it doesn’t do deep cuts, so you really are limited to just paper and vinyl. I think the biggest draw for the Silhouette machines is that their software doesn’t require internet and the Cricut Design Space does, so if you don’t have good internet, the Silhouette might be your best bet. Be warned though– their software is super advanced and can be exhausting for newbies to learn.
The Cricut brand has several current machines– the Maker and the Explore series. The Explore series starts with the Explore One at about $150 and gets more advanced in the Explore Air ($180) and then the Explore Air 2 ($250) before jumping to the Maker ($400). Only the Cricut Maker has the knife blade for cutting wood and the rotary blade for cutting fabrics, but a lot of people report success (with a lot of trial and error) in using the Explore Air 2 to cut leather and fabric. I’m not totally sure that the Maker is worth the $150 extra over the Cricut Explore Air 2, and I think most people would be completely happy with the Explore Air 2. However, this was a shared birthday purchase, so the Cricut Maker was in our price range.
If you’re the sort of person who is happy to drive a 10-year old car because it’s paid off, I’d say go with the Cricut Explore Air 2. It’s reliable, supported, and will still do most of the things that the Cricut Maker will do. If you’re the sort of person who really wants a shiny new car with all the gadgets, even if you’ll never use half of them, go with the Cricut Maker. Even if you never use the knife blade, you’ll have the option and you know you like that.
Bundles. When we were trying to pick out which Cricut Maker to buy, the bundles were nearly the end of me. There’s the Essentials bundle, the Everything bundle, the Cricut Anniversary bundle, and it seemed like every seller had different items in each bundle.
My advice is to stick to just the machine unless you know that you’d buy the exact items in the bundle and the bundled items are cheaper than buying individually. I was very tempted by the Everything bundle. It comes with all kinds of materials, which I did end up spending a lot of money on. The reason I chose not to get the Everything bundle is that a lot of reviews said the Cricut brand supplies were hard to work with and over priced.
Honestly, I agree. I really do prefer the Oracal brand vinyl and the Siser brand Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV). I have some rolls in the Cricut brand and the Silhouette brand that I felt I had to buy because it was the only brand with the color I wanted, and every time I get frustrated with my vinyl, it with one of those rolls. The Silhouette brand vinyl was so bad that I just threw away the black roll because my husband bought a 10 foot roll of the Oracal vinyl in black.
Accessories and materials
We spent three times more on accessories and materials in our first week of owning the Cricut Maker than we actually spent on the Cricut Maker, many of which were unnecessary or just wasted money because we overpaid.
My favorite purchases were actually a couple of Cricut branded sample packs– the foil poster board, shimmer paper, and kraftboard samplers to be specific. These three materials were so smooth and perfect for my Cricut Maker. The shimmer paper is thick like card stock, but it doesn’t leave any glitter on the blade, mat, or on fingers. The foil board just looks so fancy– like something a specialty shop would have. The kraftboard is like cereal box material, but it cuts like butter. I’ve had plenty of materials rip and tear, but the kraftboard hasn’t torn once, even when I did super intricate cuts. Also I bought some cheap contact paper that I used as transfer tape. It worked a million times better than the Cricut brand transfer tape.
The purchases that I regret are the Cricut and Silhouette brand vinyls, the Cricut brand weeding tools, and some Park Lane light card stock that keeps ripping during cuts. The Cricut brand weeding tools were just available locally, so that’s why I bought them. I wish I had gotten some cheaper ones off Amazon. There’s nothing wrong with the Cricut branded ones– they were just way over-priced. The Park Lane card stock is also tearing a lot for my mother-in-law so it makes me think the card stock isn’t great for the projects we are doing.
A list of items to get in your first week (or to give as a gift for a new Cricut owner)
- The machine– either a Maker or an Explore Air 2
- Extra mats (3 pack of light grip mats on Amazon for $20)
- Cricut Scoring Stylus (works in both the Explore Air 2 and the Maker)
- Various card stocks (Bazzill is my favorite brand)
- Sample pack of Oracal 651 (permanent) and/or 631 (removable) vinyl
- Sample pack of Sister Easyweed HTV
- Any weeding tool (even tweezers work)
- Any brand bone folder
- Organizer for all your materials
- Cheap, clear contact paper
- A 12″ paper trimmer (any brand)
- Glue dots, glue sticks, liquid glue, hot glue, and painters tape
- Heat Press (Optional, some people use irons with success)
A list of items to get in your second week
- Light box (for weeding intricate designs)
- Black and White rolls of vinyl at least 3 feet long
- New and replacement blades and housings
- Glitter canvas
- Faux vinyl
- Extra mats (different strengths and long mats)
- Quilling tool for making paper flowers
- Large scraper to help get projects off the mat (any brand)
- Sample pack of Cricut Kraftboard
- Sample pack of Cricut Shimmer Paper
- Sample pack of Cricut Foil Poster Board
A list of items to consider getting over the next few weeks
- Rolls of vinyl in various colors at least 3 feet long
- Cricut 30-pack of fine point pens in various colors (I haven’t found a good use for any of the thicker pens yet)
- Plan to go through two or three light grip mats every 6 weeks or so
- Embellishments such as themed buttons, faux pearl stickers, and rhinestones
- Vinyl blanks (my favorite brand is 3rddegreelaser) and epoxy to seal
- Tumblers, glitter, and epoxy to make glitter tumblers
- Shadow boxes
- Stretched Canvases or Canvas boards
- Various paints, fabric and acrylic with brushes
- Glass blanks with etching cream
- Additional organizers as needed
- Glitter vinyl
- Hats and shirts to customize