Hi! Bride-to-be who loves TikTok, here. So, naturally, I’m in the market for a Cricut.
As someone who is quickly realizing that there’s no secret formula to save money on a wedding (they really just do cost that much if you do the whole, traditional thing), everytime I go to Target I find myself staring longingly at the Cricut machines, knowing that my table number DIY dreams are waiting just on the other side of the barcode. On an initial search, though, I found that a Cricut is…an investment.
Not only must you purchase the physical machine, of which there are three versions (the Joy, the Explore and the Maker), but you must also purchase any of the accompanying accessories needed to get your project done. That can be anything from pens to draw to scrapers to apply your vinyl, and it all runs a pretty penny. You can get a lot of these materials elsewhere, which is fine, but to really understand your Cricut purchase, you must first understand all the moving parts.
So, what the heck is a Cricut, anyway?
Essentially, a Cricut is a craft tool that allows you to write, print, engrave or transfer any digital design you can think of. It’s become a particularly attractive purchase for wedding-planning couples who are into the DIY thing. Maybe you can’t write calligraphy, but your Cricut can!
The Cricut syncs up to your phone or laptop via an app, USB port and/or Bluetooth, so you can send any design to it (like a wireless printer, you know?), choose the material you want it to print on, and voila – you have a professional-grade T-shirt decal, wedding welcome sign, wall print, you name it. The limit of what you can make with a Cricut truly does not exist.
What’s hard to distinguish, though, is just what each version of the Cricut offers, and if you really need to succumb to the steep price tag of its most complex iteration.
*Let me note now that Cricuts are available at many places, including, but not limited to, Target and Michaels, both of which run sales, like, all the time. Keep your eye out and for the love of your wallet, don’t buy on a whim!
Let’s start with the machines themselves.
The Cricut Joy is going to be your most economically-sound purchase. It’s smaller than its counterparts and retails at $160 on the Cricut website. According to the site, the Cricut Joy is suitable for smaller projects like cards, decals and labels due to its more compact size (it’s only 5 ½ in. wide). But if you spend enough time on TikTok, you’ll find that there’s a lot more you can do with the Joy than you’d initially think – it just takes a bit of craftiness, like printing out one word per sheet, for example.
The downfall of the Joy is its limitations on the materials you can use in it. Because of its small size, it doesn’t come with the same cutting power as the Explore and Maker, and as a result can only handle certain things. That said, it’s a decent-sized list for beginner crafters: Besides paper and cardstock, you can use foil, vinyl, iron-on, glitter iron-on and adhesive-backed paper, to name a few. If you’re not planning on making anything too huge or substantial with your Cricut, you’re not missing much!
Now, Cricut Explore 3 will run you $300, and while it’s double the price of the joy, it does at least double the work, if not more. Whereas you can only use a handful of tools and materials with the Joy (pens, markers, your basic blade), the Explore 3 can work with more tools and over 100 materials, like bonded fabric and permanent vinyl, plus Cricut’s Smart Materials, aka those that feed directly into the machine and can be used without a cutting mat. (Does this mean you don’t need to buy a cutting mat? Probably not, but we’ll get into that.)
The Explore 3 is also equipped with two tool clamps, so instead of loading the writing, scoring and/or cutting tools in two different steps, it’ll write and cut at the same time. Nifty!
The Cricut Maker 3 is the company’s hotshot machine, and at $400, it does pretty much anything you could think of or want. As far as size, the Maker 3 is similar to the Explore 3: It’s 13 inches wide and can cut up to 12 feet. Where the two machines differ, though, is what kind of material they can handle. The Maker is compatible with over 300 materials (I can’t even name more than, like, 10 materials, so you’re definitely covered). You could make a jacket with this thing, if you wanted to.
It also comes with all the tools of the Explore 3, plus some: four additional blades, scoring wheels, and engraving and embossing tools. Its cut force is 10x that of the Explore, but also requires an additional system to reach certain levels.
Now, onto accessories.
Remember all those tools I mentioned? Most (read: all but a starter blade) are sold separately, at around $15-$45 a piece. Materials are also sold separately, though you can likely get most of what you’re looking for from your local craft store.
Plus, no matter what kind of Cricut you get or what kind of project you’re completing, you’ll likely need some kind of cutting mat, the offered options of which vary in size and material compatibility. This is basically an extra piece that you lay under your material to hold it in place so that the Cricut doesn’t scuff itself (or your dining table) up. Is this something that should absolutely just come connected to the machine? Yes, but we didn’t say this company was reasonable.
There’s lots more you can add on to your Cricut, and while most are likely not necessary, I imagine it’s a slippery slope once you get started.
What else should I know?
It only goes up from here – sorry ‘bout it. If you want to decal mugs, you’ll need the Mug Press ($200). If you’re planning on printing T-shirts or tote bags, you’ll probably want an EasyPress (ranging from $70 - $240, depending on size and sales), Cricut’s heat transfer appliance.
Something to note, though, is that Cricuts are kind of like iPhones in the sense that as new models come out, the older ones go into retirement. Therefore, the leftovers are usually cheaper. The Explore Air 2, for example, is still available to purchase for about $50 off its original price; it’s not compatible with Smart Materials and has a (much) smaller cut length, but those are about the only differences. Likewise, the Maker is the Maker 3’s little brother, and though it carries the same limitations, it also comes with the same price drop.