An introduction to Cricut and digital cutting machines
If you’re in the midst of planning a DIY wedding then you’ve probably heard the words ‘Cricut’ and ‘Vinyl’ so many times that you’ve lost count! Perhaps you’re new to the DIY world or maybe you’ve always enjoyed dabbling with different bits and bobs but have never classed yourself as a ‘serious crafter’ with all the gear and accessories. I follow countless wedding Instragram accounts, Facebook groups and online blogs and this is one thing that you just can’t avoid seeing across them all.
But what is all the fuss about? And does it really work out value for money and a worthy expense to invest in these things as part of your wedding planning? Or would you be better to source finished items or pre-cut vinyl/cardstock from third parties?
In this blog post I plan to take a look at what a Cricut is, what similar models there are on the market and what you can do with them for your wedding DIY.
Oh and before we get into those details I should add that it’s pronounced ‘Cricket’, not ‘Cri-cut’ which is how I pronounced it in my head every single time I read it! Someone please tell me I’m not the only person that does this?
Anyway, on to the interesting stuff!
What is a Cricut?
Cricut is the brand name for a machine which cuts a variety of materials including paper, card, vinyl and, if you have the advanced model, fabrics. It works with an online software called the Design Space where you can buy, upload or create your designs and the Cricut will cut it for you. It also has a ‘print and cut’ feature which allows you to print a design on a regular home printer and then insert it into the Cricut machine to be cut to size. In addition to cutting, you can also purchase additional tools which allow your Cricut to write in fancy calligraphy, score or perforate lines and emboss or engraving detailed patterns.
Are there different types of Cricut machine?
Yes. Like many digital devices there are older and newer options and standard and premium or more complex options. Below are the main options available today and a few of their pros and cons.
Cricut Explore One / Explore Air
The Explore One and the Explore Air are older Cricut models and have limited/no presence in high street and online stores. However, if you can source them (try direct on the Cricut website - or even eBay!), their age makes them a bit cheaper. They still have the functionality you’ll need for basic wedding DIY with paper and vinyl though. The main difference between these two models is that the newer Explore Air benefits from wireless technology.
Cricut Explore Air 2
Released in 2018, this is the newest model in the Explore family and it’s a bit more pricey to match. It’s marketed as suitable for ‘light commercial use’ and has a fast cutting speed among other features.
The Cricut Maker is the premium model (and has an even bigger price tag to match!). The Maker’s main selling point is that it has a rotary blade and can cut thicker materials including virtually any fabric. If you’re looking for a cutting machine that can do it all and that you’ll use beyond your wedding then this one might be the better investment.
Is Cricut the only machine of this sort?
No. While Cricut is very popular and visible in many high street retailers, it isn’t the only machine of its kind. The key competitor of the Cricut machine, in terms of popularity and home crafting, would probably be Silhouette. The Silhouette machines have much the same functionality as the Cricut equivalents, for example the Silhouette’s equivalent to Design Space is called Silhouette Studio. As with Cricut, there are many different Silhouette machines on the market. Below are the main Silhouette options and a few pros and cons of each.
The Cameo 2 could be likened to the Cricut Explore One. It’s an older version which has since been superceded by the Cameo 3, below. If you’re looking for a machine that’ll be good enough to complete your various wedding DIYs and isn’t too pricey, it might be a good option. Like the Explore One, the Cameo 2 does not have wireless capabilities.
The Cameo 3 is Silhouette’s rival to the Cricut Explore Air 2 with much the same functionality. This machine also benefits from wireless bluetooth capability.
The Silhouette Curio machine has cutting capability but, unlike the Cameo models, it also offers features including embossing, debossing, stippling and sketching. Although it has been marketed as a companion for the Cameo or Portrait machines, it works just as well as a standalone.
Portrait and Portrait 2
Silhouette have a third model in the Portrait and newer Portrait 2 machines. As with the Explore models the Portrait uses a wired connection and the Portrait 2 has bluetooth capability. The Portrait 2 can also use a deep cut blade for projects working with thicker materials. The Portrait models are smaller and a little more budget friendly but bear in mind that you do get what you pay for and don’t expect these cheaper models to pack as much punch as the larger Cameo or the Explore Air 2.
There are, of course, lots of other electronic cutting machines and manufacturers which I haven’t gone into detail with here but are still worthy of consideration, the Brother ScanNCut for example is another popular option.
So here’s the next question which I’m sure you’re asking yourself:
How much do these machines cost and is it worth investing when I could buy the pre-made vinyl products and pre-cut card I require from other sellers?
At the time of writing this post, a comparison of costs for each machine available on Amazon looks like this:
- Silhouette Portrait 2 - £150
- Silhouette Curio - £205.76
- Silhouette Cameo 3 - £253
- Cricut Explore Air 2 - £259
- Cricut Maker - £380
I’d recommend shopping around and keeping your eyes peeled on sites like eBay and Facebook marketplace too. There are many ‘like new’ options which could shave between £50-£100 off those costs and, although they won’t be in the original packaging and might have a few surface scratches, they’ll still be near perfect and suitable for crafting. Obviously, make sure you do your research and check the third party seller is reputable and the product is as described before you purchase!
My Cricut Explore Air 2 was a second hand purchase via Facebook and is virtually brand new. You could tell the box had been opened and the tools weren’t in their original packaging but I’m not sure that it had ever been used and if it had it must only have been used once or twice prior to sale.
You may also find bargain bundle deals with second hand purchases which might save you some of the expensive start up costs! If you can land a second hand machine slightly cheaper which functions as new and comes with a bundle of accessories and extras you’re definitely onto a winner in my book!
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and invest in a cutting machine the questions below might be useful to help focus on what type of machine would be the best investment for you.
What will you use it for?
All of the machines listed above have cutting capability but not all machines can do the extra such as embossing. Is this important to you? If it is consider the additional cost of purchasing the right tools with the Cricut Explore Air 2 vs the Silhouette Curio. Do you need wireless capabiltiy? I have the Explore Air 2 which is wireless but when I design on my laptop (90% of the time) I use the wired capability anyway.
Below are some wedding related DIY projects which you could make with your digital cutting machine:
- Save the Dates
- Order of Service
- RSVP cards
- Signs - This ceremony is unplugged, tag photos to this hashtag, sign our guestbook etc
- Place cards
- Table numbers
- Bucket list for the bride and groom
- Favours - labels, tags, stickers
- Thank you cards
- Bridal party gift boxes/bags
- Vinyl glasses
- Vinyl tops/ pyjamas/ robes
- Vinyl hangers
- Signs - Welcome to our wedding, seating plan/chart, pallet or wood order of service
Will you use your cutting machine beyond the wedding?
If the older models offer you all the functionality you need and you can snap up a second hand bargain online then there is probably no need to spend the extra £150-200 on the newer or premium models.
Will you want to sell it on after?
This might be a consideration with regard to what model you opt for and the question above. Whilst the more expensive models are a bigger outlay, they might also be marginally easier to sell in a year or two’s time when your wedding bits are done. An older, cheaper model which is superseded by a newer model during your wedding planning phase might have little to no resale value when you’re done with it.
What’s your budget?
This is probably the main consideration and should probably have been at the top of the list!
Remember that new isn’t always better. If all you want is a machine to cut card and vinyl text or shapes then consider second hand and/or older machines. Afterall, the art of cutting on these machines was perfected long before the release of the Silhouette Cameo 3 or the Cricut Maker!
What accessories and extra do I need with my digital cutting machine?
If you’ve never owned a cutting machine before then chances are you haven’t got any of the extras you’ll need to get started. Depending on the machine you buy and where you buy it from you might find some/all of these accessories are included but here’s a quick run down of the Cricut accessories and what I think are the must haves to get started.
Your material, whether its card, vinyl, paper etc, is placed on a cutting mat and the mat and material are fed into the machine. By adjusting a dial on the machine, you tell the Cricut what material is being used and it will automatically adjust the blade height to cut only the material, not the mat. The Cricut cutting mats are coloured to match highlight which materials they should be used with.
Blue Mat (Light grip) - This mat is ideal for light materials such as paper, vellum and light cardstock. It’s less grippy than other mats which ensures you can remove paper cuts without them tearing.
Green Mat (Standard grip) - This will likely be your staple mat and is the one that I’d recommend for your initial investment. It’s ideal for thicker paper products, cardstock and both adhesive and iron on vinyl.
Purple Mat (Strong grip) - This mat is great for thicker materials such as thick cardstock, glitter card and some fabrics such as faux leather and suede.
You will also need some tools. A lot of machine bundles come with a basic set of tools which comprise scissors, tweezers, a scraper, a spatula and a weeder. Of these tools I’d say the must haves are the weeder (looks a bit like a dentist’s tool), the scissors (although I expect you already own a pair of these) and the scraper. The scraper is particularly helpful if you buy vinyl which comes on a roll, not flat, and need to firmly press your piece to be cut onto your mat. The spatula may be useful if you intend to do quite a bit of paper based crafts and could need help easing the paper from the mat. There are other tools or variants of the basic tools which you could invest in at a later date but these are the main ones you’ll want to get you started.
Beyond its ability to cut, you can also purchase additional blades and add ons which can increase your Cricut’s crafting abilities. These include perforation, wavy, engraving, scoring and debossing/embossing tools to name a few. You’ll probably need to purchase an additional housing for the tool too. Particularly if you want two tools loaded at once. The housing and a new tool will set you back between £40-£50.
If you’re planning to do a lot of heat transfer vinyl projects you may also want to invest in an EasyPress. These heat devices operate similar to an iron but are designed with a large flat plate so they’re easier to press the whole project at once. The EasyPress comes in different sizes - 15cm x 17cm, 23cm x 23cm and 30cm x 25cm. Cricut has also just released the EasyPress Mini which is a small handheld version useful for smaller and potentially awkward projects like detail on pockets or shoes. The main EasyPress options range in price between £120-£240. I would personally recommend waiting a while before investing in one of these. I’ve always used an iron and it has worked well for me. I can imagine it would be a pain if you were running a small business and needed to produce items quickly but for small craft projects an iron works fine.
Other extras you’re likely to require are your materials and this will really depend on what you are hoping to do with your cutting machine. I bought large packs of different colour adhesive vinyl and heat transfer vinyl (HTV) and a roll of Cricut transfer tape from Amazon. You could also try Hobbycraft and Ebay for alternative vinyl options and shops like The Range, Country Baskets and Hobbycraft for paper and cardstock. Prices seem to vary quite a bit so it’s always worth a look around if you’re on a budget.
And there you have it, an introduction to crafting with a digital cutting machine.
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