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Cricut Maker Overview – What Makes the Cricut Maker So Special?

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Welcome to the fun and creative world of the Cricut Maker!

A little over a year ago I purchased my Cricut Maker. I had been on the fence for a while about upgrading from my Cricut Explore. I just wasn’t sure if it worth the extra money. After doing a lot of research and drooling over the amazing Cricut Maker projects I saw, I finally took the plunge and ordered one.

And now that I’ve had it for over a year I can honestly say that I’m so glad I did! There are so many projects you can do with the Maker that aren’t possible with previous versions of Cricut cutting machines.

If you’re considering upgrading to the Maker or if you’re brand-new to the world of Cricut and are trying to decide which machine to purchase, I’m going to attempt to answer the biggest questions you probably have.

Ready? Let’s get started!

What is a Cricut Maker and How Is It Different?

Cricut Maker, along with Cricut Explore, are die-cutting machines that you can use to design and cut beautiful craft projects. I’m consistently amazed at the precision with which Cricut machines can cut. If you can dream it, Cricut can cut it! 

There are several things that set the Cricut Maker apart from the Explore and Joy. For one, the Maker has 10 TIMES the cutting power of the Explore. That’s a lot and what it means is that the Maker will cut through thicker materials a lot more easily. 

The increased cutting power is achieved through the Adaptive Tool System, which is commercial-level technology that powers the blade and controls the pressure so that you can get a precise cut on over 300 different materials.

The Maker also has an expanded line of tools for cutting, engraving, scoring, and more that are designed to work with the Adaptive Tool System. You can tell it’s a tool for the Maker only if it has a little brass gear at the top.

QuickSwap housing

The gear fits into the matching gear in the tool slot on the machine and will spin as it cuts. Another awesome thing about the new toolset is the QuickSwap feature. The Adaptive Tool System requires the tool to be encased in the QuickSwap housing so that the gears can work together. But you can remove each tool from the housing with the touch of a button and pop on another one! This means you don’t have to buy the housing for every tool you want which saves you money! 

To swap out the tips, press the button on the top of the housing and remove the tip.

Changing the Tip on the QuickSwap Housing

To put a new one on, push the button on the top again and push the tip on.

Overall, the Maker is a more professional level machine than the Explore. The types of crafts or projects you intend to do with a cutting machine should be the deciding factor in which one is right for you.

Design Space

Like the Explore and Joy machines, the Cricut Maker also uses the free Design Space software. Within Design Space you’ll find 100’s of ready-to-make projects, images, and sewing patterns. If you opt for Cricut Access membership, there will be tons of projects, fonts, and patterns included. If you don’t have the Access membership, you’ll still be able to find free projects and images. You can also purchase most things including fonts for under $10.

The biggest difference you’ll notice when using Design Space with a Maker is that extra tool options become available when you select Maker as your machine type. Otherwise, Design Space works the same way.

What Materials Can the Cricut Maker Cut?

There are over 300 different materials that the Cricut Maker can cut. For the full list of materials plus the correct blade and settings, Cricut has a pretty comprehensive materials list on their help site.

It’s impossible to list them all out here but I’ll list a few of the most commonly asked questions about which materials can be cut with a Maker.

Can Cricut Maker cut:

Vinyl and Paper – Yes! Everything the Explore can cut, the Maker can cut too. The Maker is designed to be compatible with all Cricut blades including those used in the Explore.

Fabric – Yes! The rotary blade makes cutting fabric easier because you don’t need a backing material. This is a real game-changer if you need to cut out pattern pieces for sewing projects.

Metal – Yes! The knife blade can cut materials up to 2.4mm so you can cut something like thin sheet metal with a 1/16″ inch thickness. 

Wood – Yes! You can use the knife blade to cut thin wood like balsa or basswood sheets. 

Acrylic – Yes! The knife blade will be able to cut acrylic sheets. It seems to work best with acrylic sheets that are around 1mm in thickness.

Felt – Absolutely yes! I had zero luck trying to cut felt with my Explore, even with the deep point blade. But the rotary blade cuts felt with ease.

Magnet sheets – Yes! You can cut magnetic sheets up to 0.6mm with the deep-point blade and up to 2.4mm with the knife blade.

Foam board – Yes! The knife blade will cut craft foam boards up to 2.4mm.

Fondant – Yes but…the Cricut Maker isn’t designed for cutting food. You’d have to thoroughly clean it before and after cutting fondant if you plan to use it for other projects. I would not risk ruining my machine by trying this but that’s just my opinion.

Overview of the Cricut Maker

Cricut Maker

The Maker is similar in appearance to the Explore series but there are a few upgrades that are really nice. They’ve added a slot on the top of the machine for your phone or tablet. And there’s also a USB port on the side of the machine so you can charge your device while you’re working.

Cricut Maker with lid open

Cricut added a 2nd area for storage on the machine itself. More storage is always appreciated! The back storage area is deep enough to store taller items like pens or weeding tools and I use the smaller front compartment to store my most-used blades.

Built-in Storage for Tools and Accessories

I really like that Cricut made the Maker compatible with all versions of the blades. I have the fine point blade loaded in Clamp B which I previously used with my Explore. 

Adaptive Tool System and tool clamps

One other difference between the Explore and the Maker is the lack of a dial. You select your base material in Design Space by searching for it from the materials list. This works the same way as if you had set your dial to Custom with the Explore. I find that I prefer selecting my material from Design Space because I can’t count how many times I forgot to switch the dial to the material I was cutting when I was using the Explore!

There’s also a feature to select certain materials as favorites which is really nice if you tend to work with the same things like vinyl, paper, or iron-on a lot. Any material you’ve favorited will always show on the screen so it’s easy to select what you need without searching for it.

Cricut Maker Control buttons - no dial

What Comes with the Cricut Maker?

If you purchase just the machine you’ll get some handy accessories to go along with it.

Typically this is what comes with Cricut Maker boxes:

  • Rotary Blade and drive housing (used for cutting fabric)
  • Fine point blade and housing (not part of the adaptive tools and will work in both the Maker and Explore machines)
  • Black Fine Point Pen (this is also is not specific to the Maker and will work in either machine)
  • Pink FabricGrip mat
  • Light Blue LightGrip mat
  • Power adapter
  • 50 free projects!
  • Practice project and materials

If you’re brand-new to Cricut cutting machines, I encourage you to go through the practice project. It will give you a chance to get familiar with the machine, Design Space, and working with materials and mats.

Purchasing a Bundle

Another option is to purchase a bundle, which is the machine plus material samplers and tools. There are 2 bundles available – Essentials and Everything. The type and amount of materials and tools you get will depend on the bundle you purchase. 

Each bundle contains the tools basic set, a cutting mat variety pack (StandardGrip, LightGrip, and StrongGrip), True Control Knife, Portable Trimmer, Transfer Tape, Removable Vinyl Sampler, and Iron-On Sampler.

The Essentials bundle comes with an iron-on protective sheet which the Everything bundle does not include. Weird.

The Everything bundle additionally comes with a foil iron-on sampler, adhesive foil sampler, dry erase vinyl, stencil vinyl, foil poster board sampler, glitter cardstock, regular cardstock, a classic pen set, and a scoring stylus.

Since I owned a Cricut Explore, I had many of the tools already so it wasn’t worth it to me to get the bundle.

If this is your first machine and you want to hit the ground running and start making stuff right away, a bundle is a good choice. You’ll spend far more buying everything individually. And the Everything bundle is only $10 more than the Essentials so it’s well worth the money considering how much you get with it.

Where Can I Buy the Cricut Maker?

You can buy the Cricut Maker, other Cricut cutting machines, and products directly from Cricut’s shop on their site. They often run sales and promotions so it’s possible to score a really great deal buying directly from Cricut. I have to say the biggest issues with buying direct are the inventory and the shipping. They’re often out of stock on a lot of items and only offer free shipping on orders over $99. It can take some time to receive your order and it’s likely it will arrive a bit at a time, not all at once. 

I know both of these are related to Covid since more people are shopping online during this time but it’s still something to be aware of.

All the major craft retailers like Joann, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby also sell Cricut Makers and accessories. The downside to buying from a retail craft store is that storewide sales and discounts don’t apply to Cricut products. There will be separate promotions for specifically for Cricut. So if you have a 25% off everything coupon from Joann, it won’t work on a new Cricut Maker.  That’s not to say that there won’t ever be great deals on Cricut machines and other Cricut products like tools and vinyl but you do have to keep an eye out, especially around Black Friday since the best deals seem to happen then. That’s when I bought my EasyPress for 40% off!

Amazon also has a Cricut store. Or I should say that Cricut has a store on Amazon where you can purchase machines and other products. The prices are consistent with what’s available from Cricut directly. But if you’re a Prime member the advantage of buying on Amazon is the super-fast free shipping.

What Colors Does the Cricut Maker Come In?

If you’re going to spend the money on a Cricut Maker, it should also be aesthetically pleasing too, right? The Cricut Maker comes in five colors and has a really pretty metallic finish, which is an upgrade from the Explore. These are the colors that the Maker comes in:


Cricut Maker Blue | Photo: Cricut
Cricut Maker Champagne | Photo: Cricut
Cricut Maker Mint | Photo: Cricut
Cricut Maker Rose | Photo: Cricut
Cricut Maker Lilac | Photo: Cricut

I had a mint Explore and because I am a creature of habit, I purchased a mint Maker too. It looks very fancy sitting in my craft room.

What Blades and Tools Are Available?

The good news is that all Cricut blades and tools will work in the Maker. If you already own an Explore, then all your blades will be compatible Even better, the new foil transfer kit is designed to work with both machines too.

I cover all the individual tools below in more detail in my post Cricut Maker Tools Explained – Your Ultimate Guide for Tools and Blades.

The blades and tools available for both Explore and Maker are:

  • Fine point blades – used for the most common materials like paper, cardstock, and vinyl
  • Deep point blades – recommended for thicker or more dense materials like chipboard
  • Bonded fabric blade – which is just a fine point blade with a pink housing used for cutting bonded fabric exclusively
  • Foil transfer kit – used with foil transfer sheets to add foil effect to materials
  • Scoring stylus – used to create score lines for folding on cards and other paper crafts
  • Pens – used for writing on papercraft projects

The blades and tools available for the Cricut Maker only are:

  • Rotary blade – used for cutting fabric or even tissue paper
  • Knife blade – used for cutting thicker or more dense materials such as balsa wood or metal
  • QuickSwap tools – easily swap tips into the QuickSwap housing
    • Scoring wheel and double scoring wheel – used for creating deeper creased score lines for paper projects. The double scoring wheel creates 2 parallel score lines for thicker materials
    • Debossing tip – used to create an indented or depressed design in materials
    • Engraving tip – used to engrave designs into materials such as metal or acrylic 
    • Perforation blade – used to create perforated tear lines in paper crafts 
    • Wavy blade – used to create a curved and decorative edge in paper crafts

And that’s just the currently available tools and blades. Cricut plans on adding even more tools in the future so stay tuned for that!

OK, But What Cricut Maker Tools Do I Need?

If you’re me, the answer to this question is ALL OF THEM. But keep in mind, I didn’t buy every single thing right away; I slowly added new items to my collection over time. 

As much as I love crafting with my Cricut Maker, I recognize that it’s not a cheap hobby. Besides the tools and blades, there is also the cost of materials such as adhesive and iron-vinyl to consider. 

If I had to pick which blades and tools to start with, these would be my choices:

  1. The rotary blade ships with new machines so that’s one you can cross off your list from the start.
  2. Engraving tip – I LOVE the engraving tip. I’m discovering all kinds of things to use this tool for. Most recently, I’ve fallen in love hard with engraving designs on acrylic and pairing it with an LED light base. They look very cool.
  3. Scoring wheel – the scoring stylus does OK at creating score lines on paper but the scoring wheel does a much better job. 
  4. Knife blade – I’m still exploring all the possible materials the knife blade can cut but I’ve had some success with creating some cool things from balsa wood and leather.

Other Accessories That Are Recommended

Besides the blades and tools, there are a few accessories and supplies I’d say are must-have:

  1. The basic set of tools – includes the weeding tool and a small scraper tool. You will use these 2 tools more than any other (besides mats)
  2. Extra mats  – Mats are the one thing you can’t live without and it doesn’t take long for them to lose some of their stickiness. You can clean them but it’s nice to have a back-up or a different type of grip (stickiness). There are 4 kinds of mats:
    • Fabric (pink)
    • StandardGrip (green) – most used
    • LightGrip (blue)
    • StrongGrip (purple)
  3. Transfer tape – You will use a lot of transfer tape when you’re working with adhesive vinyl to get the design from the paper backing onto the surface to which you’re adding the design. It’s possible to re-use transfer tape and in some cases, it’s better for it to be less sticky. But this is one thing I always keep around. It’s a real bummer to realize halfway into a project that you’re out of transfer tape.
  4. Vinyl (adhesive and iron-on) – If you want to start creating fun t-shirts or mugs right away, you’ll need vinyl. 
  5. Cardstock – If want to start making papercrafts, you’ll need a supply of cardstock in a variety of colors
  6. EasyPress or iron – Working with iron-on vinyl requires some kind of heat source to activate the adhesive and get it to stick to your material. An EasyPress isn’t a must-have – a household iron will work just fine if you set it to the highest heat setting and don’t use steam.

If you’re getting ready to purchase your first Cricut Maker, I’d really recommend you purchase a bundle because it includes pretty much everything you need to start making crafts right away! 

Is The Cricut Maker Worth the Money?

A lot of people ask this question and I can only give my honest opinion.

For me, yes, the Cricut Maker was worth the money I spent on the machine and all of the tools and materials. The deciding factor when I upgraded from the Explore was simply the extra things you can do with the Maker that you can’t do with the Explore. 

I also liked the improved technology and cutting pressure the Cricut Maker had because it allows for a little more complex designs and projects.

I mentioned before that the type of crafts you want to do should help you decide whether the Maker is right for you. If you really only want to make t-shirts, coffee mugs, or fun papercrafts and don’t see yourself wanting to do other types of projects in the future, then I would say the extra money you would spend on the Maker isn’t worth it. 

Another thing to consider is that Cricut will continue rolling out new products and tools. Some tools, like the foil transfer kit, will work in both the Explore and Maker. But it’s very likely Cricut will introduce new things that will be for the Maker only.

I hope this post answered your questions about the benefits of the Cricut Maker! It truly is a remarkable machine that is capable of making beautiful crafts for years to come!

Looking for more Cricut content? Here are some other posts you should read next!

Types of Vinyl for Cricut: The Complete Guide to Craft Vinyl

Cricut Design Space Tutorial – Part 1 of 2!

Cricut Design Space Tutorial Part 2 of 2!

Cricut Maker Tools Explained – Your Ultimate Guide for Tools and Blades

How to Clean Your Cricut Cutting Mats – It’s Easier Than You Think!

How To Upload SVG Files to Cricut Design Space Like a Boss

How To Use Iron On Vinyl (and Grab a Cut File)

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