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Cricut Design Space Tutorial – Part 1 of 2!

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I put together a Cricut Design Space tutorial to teach you everything about Design Space – from downloading the software to what all the buttons are for – so you can start using Design Space with confidence and create amazing projects with your Cricut!

Design Space can seem overwhelming for new Cricut users. Heck, I’ve been using it for years and even I get confused sometimes! But understanding how to use Design Space is absolutely essential for using your Cricut. You have to use Design Space in order to get your machine to work!

This guide, or tutorial, or whatever you want to call it, is designed to give you an overview of Design Space. There is so much more about Design Space than I could cover in this one post, so I’m sticking to the basics here. That should give you a solid foundation to start using Design Space with confidence. I’m only going to talk about the desktop version in this post. I plan on doing more focused tutorials in the future so you have room to grow! 

When I first wrote this tutorial, it was a MONSTER. I decided to break it into 2 parts to make it a little easier to digest. đŸ™‚ In this first part, we’ll go over downloading and installing Design Space, navigating the Home page and menu, and the left navigation pane options. 

In the second part, we’ll cover all the toolbar options, the layers panel functions, and how to send your project to your Cricut machine! If you’d like to skip to Part 2, you can find it here.

Cricut Design Space Tutorial

Cricut Design Space is a software application that connects to your machine so you can design and make Cricut projects. You can also organize your projects, images, and fonts within Design Space too.

Let’s start by answering some of the most frequently asked questions about Design Space.

Q: Is Cricut Design Space required?

A: Yes! You cannot use a Cricut cutting machine without Design Space. It’s where you set up your designs, choose your tools, and send your projects to the machine for cutting.

Q: Is Design Space free?

A: Yes, Design Space software is free to download from Cricut’s site.

Q: Can you use Design Space offline?

A: Yes. In 2020, Cricut started rolling out the new desktop version of Design Space which gave you the ability to work offline. The previous web-based version has been decommissioned and the desktop version is now the only application available.

Q: Do you need an account to use Design Space?

A: Yes, you will be required to create an account and get a Cricut ID to use Design Space. But it’s free!

Q: Can you use Design Space without a subscription?

A: Yes. The core features of Design Space – uploading images, designing projects, making projects – are free to use without a subscription. There is a monthly or annual fee for the Cricut Access subscription which gives you access to thousands of images, fonts, and projects. But there are also free options available or you can purchase additional items for a fee right through Design Space.

Q: Is Cricut Design Space available for Mac, iOS, and Android?

A: Yes! There is a version of the desktop app available for Mac users, as well as mobile apps for iPhone and Android users.

How to Download and Install Design Space

Desktop Version

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to download Cricut Design Space and install it on your machine. For the desktop version, click this link to download the application files: https://design.cricut.com.

It should detect which operating system you’re using and will prompt you to download the correct version for either Windows or Mac.

The process is similar for both Windows and Mac users. Once the file has downloaded, locate it in your downloads folder and double-click it to launch the installer. You might get a window that pops up asking if you trust the application. Select yes and the installation process will run.

Once it’s complete, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Cricut ID and password. If you don’t already have an account, you can sign up here. After you’ve signed in, Design Space will launch and you’re on your way!

Mobile Version

Installing the mobile version is the same as installing any other app. For iOS, you’ll need to download Design Space from the App Store. For Android, you can find it in the Google Play Store. Once it’s installed, you’ll need to sign in with the same Cricut ID you use for the desktop version.

Design Space Main Interface

Home Page

When Design Space opens, the Home screen will open which should look similar to this:

Cricut Design Space Tutorial - Home Page

At the top, there are usually ads from Cricut. This is a great way to find out what sales and promotions are going on!

Beneath that, your most recent saved projects will be listed. Clicking on one of the projects will bring up a window giving you options to make it again, or customize it. If you choose to make it, it will immediately launch the Prepare Mats screen where you can set up your mats and make the project. If you choose to Customize, your project will open on the canvas and you can make any adjustments before you send it to the machine.

The Home screen also has how-to videos from Cricut plus a lot of projects that have been publicly shared. If you don’t have a Cricut Access membership, there might be a fee associated with the project that you’ll need to pay before you can make it. The price is listed so you’ll know how much it costs before you select it.

Menu

Cricut Design Space Menu

There are several different options in the Menu that you should be aware of.

If you’d like to upload a photo that will be included in any projects you share publicly, you can do it from the View Profile link. You can also copy your profile link and share it so people can find all your shared projects.

  1. When you need to return to the Home page, you can open the Menu and click Home.
  2. Clicking the Canvas button will take you to the Canvas area of your project. 
  3. To set up a new machine, click New Machine Setup. This will walk you through the setup process and let Design Space know which type of machine you have – Explore or Maker. There are certain options only available for Cricut Maker so specifying your machine type lets Design Space customize it for you.
  4. The Rotary Blade and the Knife Blade (Maker only) require calibration before you can use them. Click the tool you wish to calibrate and Design Space will guide you through the process. You can also calibrate Print Then Cut settings from this dialog box too. This is helpful so that your printer can correctly position the registration marks for your machine to detect.
  5. Design Space has default settings for cut pressure, multi-cut, and recommended blade types for all custom materials that have been loaded. Sometimes you may find that the default settings don’t work for your particular machine. If you need to adjust the settings, locate your material in the list and click Edit. You can increase/decrease the cutting pressure, change the number of multi-cut passes, or even change the blade type. You can also add a new material (scroll to the bottom of the window) and specify the default settings!
  6. If you think you’re missing an important software update, you can choose to Update Firmware from the menu. I’ve never had to do this because Design Space always automatically updates when I launch it.
  7. Account Details will launch a new browser window where you can verify your account settings like payment information, subscriptions, purchases, etc. If you choose to purchase an image or font from Design Space it will use the payment method you’ve set up in your Account Details.
  8. In the early days of Cricut machines, there were little plastic cartridges you would physically plug into your machine. The cartridges contained images and fonts centered around a particular theme that you could use in projects. Thankfully, technology has improved so these physical cartridges are no longer necessary! These cartridges can now be linked digitally to your account.
  9. You can manage your Cricut Access subscription through Design Space using the Cricut Access link.
  10. There are a few settings that you can change in Design Space. You can change the language, the type of grid that’s displayed on the canvas, the unit of measurement that’s used, whether projects are saved to the cloud or your computer, or choose the New Canvas Style (which has just been optimized for better performance).
  11. If you’re interested in the legal mumbo-jumbo regarding terms of use and all that, feel free to click on the Legal link and you can read through the policy.
  12. New features will list any new updates that have been recently released.
  13. You can change the default country. I don’t think this really has an impact on the function of Design Space, but rather it’s to give Cricut a better idea of their user demographics.
  14. If you need to troubleshoot an issue or want specific help for a topic, this link will take you to Cricut’s help site. There’s a ton of information and videos about pretty much everything Cricut.

Top Options

Like many things, there is more than one way to accomplish common tasks. The top options visible from the Home page are a convenient way to access functions you’ll use a lot!

Design Space Top

From the Home page, there are a few other options for you. My Projects will take you directly to your library of saved projects. You can also access this from the Projects tabs on the Canvas.

If you have multiple Cricut machines, you can set your preference to the machine you’re currently working with. This customizes Design Space for the specific machine you’re using.

You can choose to start a New Project from this interface too. You can also launch a New Project from the New Project button in your projects library on the Home page. 

Cricut Design Space Canvas – Left Navigation Pane

Now we finally get to the heart of this Cricut Design Space tutorial! The canvas is where all the magic happens. It’s also the area where you can get really overwhelmed with all of the options.

If you’ve used graphic design programs like Adobe Illustrator or Canva, you might feel a little more comfortable with the canvas area. But if you’ve never worked with a program like that before, it can be hard to know where to start. We’ll walk through all the options and buttons so you know where to find the things you need to get started.

We’re going to start a New Project which will open a blank canvas. Let’s start on the left-hand side and work our way across.

New Project

If you ever want to start a new project from within the canvas area, click the New button with the plus sign at the top. If you already have objects on the canvas, you’ll get a warning that you have a project in progress and you’ll get the option to save your current project or replace it with a new one. Replacing without saving means you’ll lose whatever you had so be careful with this one!

Templates

Templates can be used to help visualize the layout of your design for whatever material or object you’ll be using. This is super helpful if you’re making t-shirts, putting a design on a glass, or even making a pattern to carve pumpkins! A template will help you correctly size your design and help you determine a layout before you even cut it.

There are a lot of pre-designed templates available for your use. Templates are not just for t-shirts, oh no. There are templates for stand mixers, crock pots, lockers, laptops, and more!

Templates are used for visual reference only – they won’t cut with your project. And you can toggle the visibility on and off at the bottom of the Layers panel:

Turn Templates off

Projects

The projects tab lists all the available projects for your use. A lot of the projects are included with the Cricut Access subscription but there are some free projects and projects available for purchase as well. 

Design Space Project Search

You can search for a project by category or keyword. If you only want to view the projects that are free, choose Free from the Categories drop-down. You can also set favorites by clicking the star next to the project name. To quickly find your favorites or saved projects, you can select those categories in the search box too.

Clicking on a project will bring up a screen that gives a description of the project, materials, and tools needed, as well as step-by-step instructions! You can customize it (change colors, fonts, etc) or go straight to cutting it from this screen.

Project Details Design Space

Images

There is a really large image library included with Design Space. Again, a lot of the images are included with Cricut Access but there are free images available too. Or you can purchase an image for use in your project. Prices vary but it’s usually around $1.99 per image.

Design Space Images Library

Just like with projects, you can search for a specific image using the available filters. You can search for a specific type of project like cut or print, by base material, brand,  or ownership (images you’ve uploaded, free, purchased). You can really narrow it down to what you’re looking for with filters and keywords.

Text

Text options are probably one of the features you’ll use the most in your projects. Click the text button to open a window where you can enter the text for your project. This will use the default font and formatting options but you can customize your text with the toolbar options, which we’ll cover in a bit.

Shapes

There are very basic shapes included with Design Space. You can combine shapes with text, other shapes, images, and more to create unique designs.

Shapes Available in Design Space

Upload

I cover uploading SVG’s in greater detail in How to Upload SVG Files to Cricut Design Space Like a Boss. But SVG’s aren’t the only type of image you can upload to Design Space. You can upload your own  jpg, gif, png, bmp, or dxf images too. For cut projects, SVG’s are the best type of file to use because it supports multiple layers. Multiple layers = multiple colors! Other image types tend to be better suited for print then cut projects. 

To upload an image, click the Upload button in the left navigation pane, then click the Upload Image button. Browse to where the image is stored on your computer or you can drag the file into the window. Once you’ve uploaded the file, it will show up in your recent uploads section. To view everything you’ve uploaded, click the view all link.

Upload Images to Design Space

The other option in this window is to upload a pattern. You can apply patterns to shapes and images in your projects for print then cut projects. I cover patterns in more detail here.

That covers all the options found in the left navigation pane.

End of the Cricut Design Space Tutorial Part One

In part two, we’re going to talk all about the toolbars and options, the layers panel, and getting your project ready to cut!

If you’d like to learn more about Cricut Design Space check out my other posts! I plan to add a lot more tutorials and projects so check back often for new stuff.

Cricut Design Space Tutorial Part 1

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