There are few crafting tools I use more than my Cricut. I have owned just about every version of the Cricut and I know it inside and out. I can honestly say I love this machine. I have pulled together all of the resources I have written on the subject in this guide to help anyone just starting out with this awesome too! This beginner’s Cricut guide will show you how to use your machine and upload your own images as well as some of my favorite tools!
What is the Cricut?
The Cricut is a versatile, fun crafting machine that allows you to create amazing projects through cutting, scoring and writing. It is the perfect way to get professional looking projects at home!
The Cricut works four main ways.
Cut– Probably the most well-known feature of the Cricut Explore Air, the Cut feature allows you cut out items that you have created on your computer or tablet. Use the already created images in the Cricut Design library, or upload your own to cut out letters, images, and designs. From material as thin as vellum to material as thick as leather, the Cricut can cut more than 100+ materials. Pretty much if you can fit it under the rollers, you can cut it! People love using the cut feature to cut vinyl for their walls, heat transfer for shirts and small embellishments for card making or scrapbooking.
Some of the popular items people cut with the machine are:
- Paper – Standard, Cardstock, Vellum, Poster Board
- Vinyl – Standard, Premium, Dry Erase, Chalkboard
- Iron-On – Heat-Transfer Vinyl (HTV)
- Craft Materials – Washi Tape, Craft Foam, Glitter Paper
- Upcycled Materials – Chipboard, Cereal Boxes, Aluminum Cans
- Fabric – Felt, Denim, Polyester, Burlap, Canvas
- Plastic – Stencil, Window Acetate, Silicone
- Thick Materials – Leather, Balsa Wood, Magnet Materials
You can find more about what the machine can cut here.
Print then Cut– With the print then cut feature on this machine, you can print something out on your home printer and then have your Cricut cut around it! This always you to get crisp lines around quotes and other designs you may want for your home. You can find more about Print Then Cut here.
Write– There is a pen holder built straight into the Explore machine, which means you can add a pen to your machine and have it draw your designs instead of cutting them. Cricut has an entire line of gorgeous pens or you can use one you have laying around. The Explore Air and Explore 2 have a double tool holder so you can write and cut all in one step!
Score- Instead of cutting all of the ways through, your machine can score your images making them easy to bend and fold. This is the perfect feature for making cards and fun printables.
What Comes With My Cricut?
That depends on which Cricut you get and what package you get with your machine, the Cricut website offers bundles that include everything from tools to heat transfer. Inside the basic kit for the Cricut Explore Air is:
• Cricut Explore Air™ machine
• USB cord and power cord
• German carbide premium blade
• 12″ x 12″ StandardGrip cutting mat
• Metallic silver pen
• Cardstock sample
• Iron-on sample
• Getting started guide
If you are looking at getting the basic Cricut Maker package you can expect to find:
•Cricut Maker machine
•Cricut Rotary Blade + Drive Housing
•Cricut Premium Fine Point Blade + Housing
•Fine Point Pen
•FabricGrip Mat 12″x12″
•LightGrip Mat 12″x12″
•Cricut Access free trial membership
•50 free ready-to-make projects, including 25 sewing patterns
•Materials for your first project
If you are looking for more information about the differences between the Cricut Maker and the Cricut Explore Air, head over here.
What Else Should I Have To Use My Cricut?
You can use your Cricut straight out of the box with your computer or tablet but it is nice to have a few extras to make crafting a little easier. Here are some of the things that I keep on hand.
A Tool Set– A basic tool set comes with everything you see in the photo above, minus the scoring stylus. The larger tool set comes with everything here, plus a paper trimmer, which is really helpful when you are trying to use up all of your vinyl and heat transfer scraps.
Scoring Stylus– This fun tool lets you score cards and projects using your Cricut. If you just want score lines instead of full cuts, this is your go-to tool!
Cricut Weeder– This little hook is hands down the tool I use the most. It is perfect for weeding tiny little cuts and tracking down little pieces that may have gotten away from you. It makes separating heat transfer so much easier. This is the tool I think everyone needs! I have multiple around my craft room to help out with different tasks!
You can find more about the individual tools here.
Extra Cricut Mats
It is so helpful to have extra mats of all kinds. I try to keep an extra standard mat, light grip mat, strong grip mat and fabric mat on hands at all time. I do cut all sorts of different materials, so if you are more focused on one kind of material, you may just want extras of the mats you use the most often. Take care of your mats and they will last quite awhile. I use my Cricut Weeder to gently pull debris left from cuts off of my mats. If your mat is reaching the end of its life, try washing it with soap and water. This always helps my mats last a little longer.
There are four mats and Cricut has color coded them to make them easy to tell apart.
Light Grip Mat – Blue- This is for thin materials. I use it for paper and tissue paper.
Standard Grip Mat- Green- This is the general mat that you will use for most cuts
Strong Grip Mat- Purple- This is for thick material. I use this for balsa wood and thick craft foam.
Fabric Grip Mat- Pink- This is made to go in the Cricut Maker and be used with Fabric.
Extra Blades and A Deep Cut Balde (see the next section for more on the Deep Cut Blade)
What different materials can I cut with the Cricut?
So many different things! Most people get their Cricut to cut paper, iron-on or vinyl. The Cricut Maker has added the ability to cut fabric and thicker items to the Cricut Family but a deep cut blade will allow you to do many things with your Cricut Explore too!
The deep cut blade is one of my very favorite features of my Cricut. Not only does it let you cut deeper but I also love having a separate blade for my tough to cut items so I don’t wear out my normal blade. This deep cut blade works on all Cricut machines, so it doesn’t matter which one you have. The blades have a steeper angle and are made of a more durable steel to make sure you get the perfect cut every time. Use the Deep Cut Blade for chipboard, magnet material, stiffened felt and foam sheets. I have used my blade it cut soda cans, cereal boxes and all sorts of other recycled items.
Some of the top materials you can cut with the Explore include:
- Poster Board
- Craft Foam
- Aluminum Foil
- Wax Paper
- Faux Suede
- Genuine Leather
- Paint Chips
- Posted Board and so much more
Some of the top things you can cut with the Maker include:
- Adhesive Foil
- Balsa wood
- Duct Tape
- Craft Foam
as well as all of the things the Explore can cut, plus so much more. Want to buy materials to cut from the Cricut site? Use the Code: ECLECTIC, which will give you 10% off and free shipping on cutting materials.
Can I upload my own images with Cricut? How easy is it to upload my own images with the Cricut?
You absolutely can! I am a huge Harry Potter fan and my husband is always making me Harry Potter images to put on shirts and such. Information on how to use your own images below. For a Step by Step, project go here.
First, hit the big Upload Images button on the left-hand menu in Cricut Design Space. The next image will pop up. Hit the Upload Image button on the left.
After you hit upload image, the browse screen will come up. Hit browse and find the image you want on your computer. This will let you upload any (.jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .svg or .dxf). I always search for images that I want to use in future projects and then save them to my computer so I can upload them. Some of the easiest shapes to trace are ones are silhouettes of something (such as a witch hat) or a line drawing.
After you select the image on your computer, you will be asked to select the image type. There are three different kinds of image types.
Simple Image– an image with high contrast colors with a monotone background.
Moderately Complex Image– an image with simple detail and colors with good contrast between subject and background
Complex Image– images with fine detail, blended colors or low contrast
An image like the Tardis I uploaded is a simple image because it has clean lines and a black shape on a white background.
After you select your image type, it is time to clean up the image. There are a few different tools to help you get the image you want.
Crop– This tool will let you crop out any unwanted portions.
Select & Erase- This took is like a little magic wand that will select entire sections. For instance, if you click on one of those little white boxes on the Tardis, it will delete the entire white box leaving a transparent background.
Erase– This is like the erasing tool in paint or other programs where you will physically need to draw over every part you want gone.
In most images, you want to erase the background and make it transparent so the Cricut knows what lines to cut. It is really easy to use the Select & Erase tool with this Tardis image. Select each of the boxes and zoom in to select the white lines as well.
Next name your image and select what kind of image you want Design Space to save it as. Do you want to be able to print the image or do you want to cut all of the details? We want to be able to cut it all out, so we select Save as a Cut Image. This is also a good place to make sure your image looks the way you want it to cut. The Cricut is going to cut everywhere is there is white, so double check in this stage to make sure you have white lines or boxes everywhere there should be one.
After you save your image, Design Space will take you back to the first Insert Image screen, but this time the image you uploaded will be in the library ready for you to insert it. Insert it into your project and now you can move it, resize it and add any text that you may want for your project.
To see more items you can make with your own images, check out these awesome Harry Potter Projects.
Will I be required to use cartridges with the Cricut?
Nope! Cricut now uses Cricut Design Space! I just walked you through how to use your own images or if you want to have access to all of Cricut’s images you can subscribe to Cricut Access. This is like owning almost every single cartridge back in the day! Look through the plans and see what works for you! Cricut has an extensive library of fonts that you can purchase but Cricut Design Space will also pull every single font that is on your computer for you to use. How cool is that?
Will I use the Cricut machine enough to justify the price?
This is a question that I get asked a lot. I say it all depends on you. Will you find enough projects to make with it if you want to? Absolutely! I make shirts, decor and even use it to organize!
What different kinds of DIY projects can I make with the Cricut? Check out a way I used my Cricut to organize here.
Will it be easy for me to learn the Cricut Design Space software to create my own custom projects?
Cricut Design Space is absolutely the easiest crafting software out there. It is really intuitive and every person I have ever recommended it to has been crafting in just a day.
Will it be easy for me to use the Cricut software to create Make it Now projects?
One of my absolute favorite things about owning a Cricut is their selection of Make It Now projects. They have an entire gallery of shirts, decor, and activities that you can choose from. Simply find a project you like, customize it (or don’t!) and hit go and you have a fun, gorgeous project fast. The best part? Most of them are completely free to make if you have Cricut Access.
When you first hit the new Cricut Design Space, simply scroll down to see some of the most current projects. You can scroll through the vinyl project, iron-on projects and even cards to make. Simply click through until you find one that you love. Find out more about the Make It Now projects here.
How is the Cricut different from competitive cutting machines?
I have owned and used just about every cutting machine on the market. I hands down recommend the Cricut every time. Why? I think it is the most user-friendly machine and I love its ability to cut teeny tiny cuts! Also, the added materials the Maker has added to the list of materials the Cricut can cut just blows the other machines out of the water. If you want to see a full list of why I originally switched from a Silhouette to A Cricut Explore Air, head here.
What did I miss? What other questions do you still have as a Cricut beginner? Let me know and I will add them to this post.
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Cricut Explore Air 2
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