5 Little Monsters: Which Cricut Machine is Right for You?

Which Cricut Machine is Right for You?

-This post sponsored by Cricut, all ideas and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.-

 I love using my Cricut to make lots of different kinds of projects, it is one of my favorite things in my craft room. There is so much you can do with a Cricut machine, and one of the most common questions I get asked by crafters looking at getting a Cricut is, how do I know which machine to get?

First, let's talk about the different machines. There are 3 machines in the current Cricut lineup: Cricut Maker, Cricut Explore Air 2, and Cricut Joy

All of them are pretty amazing, but each machine has things that make it unique and therefore a better fit for some people. I own one of each and have experience working with each one so I am going to share some of the things that I think are important to consider when deciding which machine to purchase.

I think there are a few things that are important to consider when deciding on a machine. The main ones I can think of are what you want to use the machine for, your budget, and the space you have to put your machine. 

So, now let's talk about each machine and how it fits with those different criteria. 


Cricut Maker

This is the top of the line machine, it can do the most, has the most power, can cut and work with the most materials. There isn't a lot you can't do with a Cricut Maker. But, does that mean it is the right machine for everyone, not necessarily. 

The Cricut Maker can work with a huge variety of materials. It can cut paper, vinyl, and iron on, but it also has special blades to cut delicate materials like fabric and crepe paper, and heavier materials like chipboard, leather, and basswood, it can engrave and deboss a variety of materials, and so much more. 

It can cut materials up to 12" wide and 2' long (actually 11.5"x 23.5" because it leaves a .25" margin 
around all sides)

The Maker has the ability to work with your home printer to do print and cut projects. It also can draw or write with compatible pens and markers.

The Maker connects to your computer, tablet, or phone via Bluetooth or USB.

It is also the most expensive at $399.99.

I love my Cricut Maker and honestly, it is the one I use the most but that is partially just because with the set up I have in my craft room it is the easiest to get to and use, and since I can do the most with it it is the one I leave set up and ready to use at all times. 



The Explore Air 2 is a great machine for anyone wanting to get started with Cricut crafting, especially if you are mostly wanting to cut materials like vinyl, iron on, and cardstock. It doesn't have as many bells and whistles as the Maker but it still does a lot. 

The Explore Air 2 can still cut a wide variety of materials, Cricut's website list 100+ materials that it can cut, so chances are it will cut a lot of what you need but not quite as much as the 300+ that the Maker can cut. But, if you aren't planning on cutting fabric or wood, but instead want a Cricut to be able to cut out vinyl and iron on the extras of the Maker may be more than you need and the Explore Air 2 may be a better fit. 

Like the Maker the Explore Air 2 can cut 12" x 2' (with the same .25" margin as the maker).

The Explore Air 2 can also work with your printer to do print and cut projects. It can write and draw with compatible pens and markers. It also has the ability to score with the compatible scoring tool. 

Also like the Maker, the Explore Air 2 has the ability to connect via Bluetooth or USB. 

This is the mid price machine at $249.99.

Cricut Joy


Last but not least, although it is the smallest, we have the Joy. This is the smallest and least expensive machine, but it has some pretty cool features. 

The Cricut Joy is much smaller than the other two machines, which makes it great for people who are limited on space, want a machine they can easily get out when they need it and put away when they are done (as opposed to leaving it out on a craft table all the time), or who want something portable that they can bring with them places. 

The Joy can cut quite a few materials but still less than the other machines. The Cricut website lists 50+ materials for the Cricut Joy. It can still cut your standard things like iron on, vinyl, and cardstock, as well as a few other specialty materials like adhesive backed paper and labels, basically anything that just uses the standard fine point blade. 

Because of the Joy's small size it can not cut as wide as the other machines, it is limited to about 5". However, one thing that makes the Joy stand out is that depending on the material you are using and the design you can cut up to 20 feet! 

One of the things that allows the Joy to cut such long lengths is the fact that there are matless Smart materials available for use without a mat. You can still use a mat for cutting other materials and then you are limited by the size of the mat, but when using the Smart Iron On, Vinyl, or Labels, you are able to cut designs that are considerably longer than what you can cut on either of the other machines. 

Another cool feature of the Cricut Joy is the cards that you can make. There is a special card mat that allows you to cut cards while they are folded, then add an insert (they sell precut card and insert packs or you can make your own), and you can have a card for any occasion in a matter of minutes. The Joy is the only machine that uses this mat and has this feature. 

In addition to cutting the Joy also has the ability to write and draw with compatible pens. 

Cricut Joy connects via bluetooth to the computer, tablet, or phone that you are using. Because this is a more portable machine that lots of people use away from home the Joy also has its own app with projects that are specifically designed to work with the Joy like insert cards, quick labels, and more, as well as the ability to design your own projects. 

The Cricut Joy is the least expensive machine at $179.99.




So now for a bit of a recap:

Budget

If budget is a major factor in your decision here are some things you will want to consider:

Cricut Maker: most expensive at $399, may be worth it if you are wanting to cut materials that can only be cut on the Maker, otherwise you may want to pass on this and go for a less expensive machine.

Cricut Explore: mid range price at $249, this is a great choice if you are wanting a machine that can do pretty much everything with your basic materials like vinyl, iron on, and cardstock, can do print and cut, and give you the wider 12" cuts. 

Cricut Joy: least expensive at $179, smaller and much more compact than the others, you are more limited with what materials you can cut and the width of your cuts, but have the possibility of longer cuts depending on the materials you use. 



Materials/What You Want to Be Able to Make

In my opinion this is one of the most important areas to consider because although the others need to be taken into account, you want a machine that can do the things you want it to be able to do. You don't want to spend a couple hundred dollars only to be disappointed that you can't cut materials that you want to cut, or spend $400 and realize you could have saved $150 because you are never going to use the extra features. So let's do a little recap of the materials each can cut,  the tools they have, and what you can make with them. 

Cricut Joy

  • Only uses a fine point blade, so you can only cut materials that can be cut with that blade. 
    • vinyl
    • iron on
    • Infusible Ink
    • cardstock
    • adhesive backed paper
    • Smart Materials
    • and more
  • Draw and write with compatible markers and pens (different than the pens that work with the other machines)
  • Works with card mat and card inserts to make quick cards

Cricut Explore Air 2

  • Fine point blade and deep cut blade as well as a scoring tool
    • vinyl 
    • iron on
    • cardstock/paper
    • faux leather
    • Infusible Ink
    • bonded fabric
    • and more
  • Draw and write with compatible markers and pens
  • Use with your printer to print and cut

Cricut Maker

  • Fine point blade, deep cut blade, rotary blade, knife blade, scoring wheel, debossing tip, engraving tip, wavy blade, perforation blade
  • Cuts all the materials that the Explore Air 2 can cut, plus:
    • fabric 
    • chipboard
    • thin woods like basswood or balsa
    • felt
    • leather
    • and more
  • Draw and write with compatible markers and pens
  • Use with your printer to print and cut

Space


This factor I think really comes into play with the Joy. The other 2 machines are about the same size and will take up the same space. In my opinion they really work best if they can sit out somewhere rather than being in a closet where you have to take them out and set them up in order to use them, and then put them back away when you are done. I know people who do this and obviously you do what you have to do, but I know for myself I will avoid using it if that is the case, I feel the same about a sewing machine. If it is out and easily accessible I will use it all the time, but if not I won't. The Joy is so tiny it is easy to store and pull out when needed, or to just leave out on a shelf out of the way. Definitely a lot more compact and easy to store, and more portable than the others. So if space is a big issue for you, it may be a good idea to look into the Joy. 


After saying all of that my recommendations would be:

If you are looking for a machine that can do all of the basics, have the space for a full size machine or need to be able to cut the full 12" wide, but don't plan on working with any of the more specialty materials then my recommendation would be the Explore Air 2. It can do enough for most crafters without as many bells and whistles as the Maker, but also a lower price tag. 

If you need something small, or want a machine that is more portable, that you can take places with you then the Joy is the way to go. 

If you want a machine that can do everything, you have the budget, and you want to be able to cut fabric, wood, chipboard, felt, and more, then the Maker is the machine for you.