BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Pro-level cutting speed and force powers through projects. Cuts over 300 varieties of materials, including vinyl. Handles sizes up to 13 inches wide and up to 12 feet long. Compatible with 13 specialized tools including embossing and debossing. Connects via Bluetooth and USB.
The machine technically works best with Cricut-branded materials.
Easy to use. Works well on everything from tissue paper to thin leather. Highly portable and compact. Great at embossing. Price is hard to beat if you want a simple, no-frills machine. Ideal for speedy decal work, making it a popular accessory for small businesses.
Doesn't always cut all the way through on intricate designs or thick materials. Not the best option for serious crafters.
Upload your own images, or access a good selection from Cricut's free library. Cuts through foils, leather, vinyl, and many other materials. Fast Mode cuts time in half, which is a big help for high-volume projects. Comes in five colors.
Access to the extended graphics and font library requires a pay-per-image fee. Some users had problems with the software.
Up to two times faster than the Explore 2 model. Compatible with Cricut smart materials for long precise cuts without machine mats. Compatible with six specialized cutting and embellishment tools. Handles materials up to 12 feet long and 13 inches wide. Bluetooth and USB connections.
Not compatible with 12-inch materials without a mat.
Highly versatile. Quilters can cut fabric without using heat and bond. Also works with delicate fabrics like lace. Can use customized designs. Designed with a new rotary blade for fabrics that glides and slices through most materials. Convenient dock holds tablets or smartphones while browsing.
Some owners are frustrated by the software, saying it is not as user-friendly as they would like.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Cricut cutting machines — often called just Cricuts for short — resemble computer inkjet or stylus printers, but instead of ink, they wield a cutting blade or other tool to slice or mark the material they’ve been fed. Cutting paper, card stock, and vinyl is a given, but the top Cricuts can cut fabric too and emboss leather or specially backed metallic foils, or even slice through wood. Cricut blades are replaceable and swappable, some being better for paper, and some for fabric. You also have tooling and embossing heads as well as variously colored pens for writing and graphics.
Past models of Cricut machines used design cartridges and built-in control pads to create designs, but currently, shipping models use Cricut’s Design Space cloud app and connect to a smartphone, tablet, or computer via Bluetooth or USB.
We’ve looked over the various Cricut models available to examine their features and the kinds of projects and users they suit best, as well as accessories and supplies from Cricut designed to maximize the results of their cutting machines. We’ve also tested a Cricut cutting machine to find out just what its strengths and weaknesses may be. Whether you want to make a simple personalized label, a heartfelt card, a one-of-a-kind mug or shirt, or complex artwork from specialized materials, there’s a Cricut machine that fits your needs.
Cricut makes three main product lines for their cutting machines, each one tailored for a certain type of user. Cricut also makes accessories for crafting, such as heat presses, mug presses, and crafting lamps, and its own line of specialized mat-free materials called Smart Materials.
The Cricut Maker 3 is Cricut’s top machine, aimed at dedicated makers and artisans, especially those who want to run a crafting business. Outwardly it resembles the Explore line, 22.1 x 7.1 x 6.2 inches, in a professional blue-gray color, and won’t take up more space at your work table. But the Maker 3 can bring to bear 4000 grams, 4 kilograms, of cutting force, 10 times the cutting force of the Explore 3, allowing you to cut through wood, leather, and fabric up to 2.3 mm thick, and do it fast. The Maker 3 can handle over 300 materials and boasts the same dual tool-clamp setup as the Explore, so you can use a pen and blade or other tool together. It offers a similar space for your smartphone or tablet as the Explore, slightly bigger utility cups, and undertray tool storage.
The Cricut Joy is Cricut’s entry-level cutting machine, ideal for anyone who wants to make personalized cards, labels, and banners, without a lot of investment in time or money. Measuring only 8 x 5.4 x 4.3 inches and weighing 3.7 pounds, it’s about the size and shape of a clock radio, and comes in a shade of baby blue. It ships with a cutting blade and can also use the foil transfer tool and any of the Cricut pens and markers. Although limited to materials 5.5 inches in width, the Joy can accept Cricut’s Smart Materials up to 20 feet in length, with single cuts as long as 4 feet, making it ideal for banners and simple signs. The Joy accepts a total of 50 different kinds of materials, including sticker paper, vinyl, and pre-scored card stock. It runs off a rechargeable battery and connects wirelessly via Bluetooth.
The Cricut Explore Air 2, released in 2016, might be Cricut’s most popular machine and is still available from both Cricut’s own website and various retailers. As part of the Explore line, it’s aimed squarely at the mainstream of crafters and hobbyists, those who want to explore the possibilities of using a cutting machine without necessarily depending on it for a business. Like the Explore 3, it can use six different tools and has a dual-tool head, but unlike the Explore 3, it must use a mat (it comes with one) and can’t use Smart Materials. It’s also slower, although in practical terms that might not matter too much. The Explore Air 2 also has a manual thickness adjustment dial, which the Explore 3 does in software. It comes in three different tasteful colors and typically retails for significantly less than the comparable Explore 3.
The Cricut Maker, introduced in 2017, has become a mainstay of crafters, with a constellation of add-ons and an active community sharing tips and tricks. Compared with the Maker 3, the original Maker has the same 4 kg (4000 g) cutting force, number of materials, 12-tool compatibility, wireless and wired connectivity, and built-in storage. It isn’t compatible with Cricut’s Smart Materials, restricting the size and speed of its projects, but it does come with a 12 x 12-inch mat, which the Maker 3 doesn’t. Physically it’s closer in size to the Explore line and is lighter than the 15-pound Maker 3 too if portability is a factor. But unlike the Explore, it can cut leather and fabric, making it as versatile as the Maker 3. It comes in three colors compared to the Maker 3’s one.
If you’re more ambitious about the kinds of projects you want to tackle, and the Cricut Joy looks too constraining, you should consider the Cricut Explore 3. This is aimed at crafters who want to work with larger, more varied materials. It’s about the size and shape of a home printer, 22.2 x 7 x 5.9 inches and 11 pounds, and comes in a soft mint green color. It handles materials up to 15 inches in width and can make single cuts up to 12 feet long. It cuts over 100 different lightweight materials with up to 400 grams of force. It has a dual-clamp head, allowing you to write and cut at the same time, for example, and includes conveniences like built-in cups for scissors or pens, undertray storage for tips and tools, and a groove-stand combo to hold a smartphone or tablet, perfect for running the Design Space app.
Making heat transfer designs are among the most popular projects to do on a Cricut machine. While a household iron works fine for T-shirts and flat fabric, mugs and baseball caps are a little out of its league. Cricut’s line of heat presses makes the process easier with the Cricut Mug Press and the Cricut Hat Press. The Mug Press, introduced in 2021, works with 11- to 16-ounce straight-sided mugs either designed for heat sublimation or compatible with Cricut’s Infusible Ink. The Hat Press, released in 2022, boasts a curved heating surface and separate hat form for shape and support. Cricut also has three different flat presses, the EasyPress 3 in 9 x 9 inch and 10 x 12 inch sizes — big enough for an entire shirt front — and the EasyPress Mini for spot use. There’s also an Autopress machine that makes bulk transfer work easier.
Weeding vinyl projects — finding and removing errors and stubborn bits in cut vinyl — can be painstaking work. A good task lamp and lighting pad can make this detail work a bit easier. Cricut makes the BrightPad 360 series in both floor-standing and tabletop models, with broad, bright LED heads designed for a maximum brightness of 1500 lux, good for hobby projects, and a color accuracy of 95 CRI, allowing colors to show as close to true as possible. Cricut’s BrightPad series lighting pads provide illuminated work surfaces, such as drafters would have used for tracing, using LEDs for even lighting and a specialized surface that resists the scratches and scrapes of utility knives and other tools. The BrightPad runs on corded power, while the BrightPad Go is powered by a rechargeable battery.
If you’re wondering what Smart Materials are, they’re Cricut’s branded, specially constructed materials that, unlike ordinary materials, don't need a cutting mat. Cricut’s Smart Materials allow compatible cutting machines to work faster and cut longer than standard materials. Coming in rolls from 3 to 12 feet in length, they’re great for big projects, like wall decals or banners, and can bring out the full speed of your cutting machine. The Cricut Maker 3, Explore 3, and Joy are all compatible with Smart Materials, although the Joy uses a dedicated line due to its size. The original Cricut Maker and Explore Air 2 can’t take advantage of Smart Materials, with the exception of the vinyl transfer tape.
We evaluated how easy the original Cricut Maker was to set up the crafting machine and assessed what the learning curve may be like for someone with previous experience with cutting machines and for someone without any experience.
We tested the Cricut Maker’s ability to cut and slice, noting speed, pressure adjustment, and accuracy with materials like paper, card, fabric, and felt. We ran test project experiments with popular crafts like greeting cards, paper flowers, felt cut-outs, toys, shirts, and even quilts.
A. Cricut mats are used to place material during cutting and feature a light adhesive to keep it secure for precise results. Mats can be wiped clean and reused. In addition, they can be purchased separately if you need more for multiple projects.
A. Different machines come with different accessories, but all models include cables, a power cord, test cut materials, instructions, and a premium fine point blade, great for intro projects to get used to what the machine can do. The original Maker and Explore Air 2 come with a cutting mat, while the Joy, Explore 3, and Maker 3 don’t. The models themselves don’t come with a lot of specialized materials, but there are many bundles available that do. Blanks, like mugs, T-shirts, and so on, need to be bought separately.
A. The short answer is no. Wood thicker than 2.3 millimeters and some dense fabrics can’t be cut with a Cricut. However, with the right blade, the machine can cut most materials used to make crafts. If you are interested in working with different materials, it’s a good idea to purchase other blades offered by the company.
Get emails you’ll love.
Learn about the products you’re wondering if you should buy and get advice on using your latest purchases.