An Introduction to Cricut Design Space
If you were lucky enough to be gifted a Cricut Explore or Maker for Christmas, or if you have treated yourself to one in the sales - congratulations!
If you haven't bought one yet and are wondering what your options are then it would be worth you starting with this blog post first - An introduction to Cricut and digital cutting machines.
First things first, if you haven't already, you'll need to create an account for yourself with Cricut. This will allow you to use their online software to create, upload and edit designs, which can then be cut on your machine. You can do this at Cricut.com.
When you first log into Cricut Design Space you'll see lots of different projects you can try. There will also be a ‘New Project’ button to start your own from scratch. If you click this option it will bring up a blank canvas for you to begin creating your masterpiece, but if you're anything like me, then you'll probably get to this point and think 'What next?' as you stare at all the buttons and options before you.
It can definitely be a little daunting, overwhelming and confusing to get to grips with the functionality that is on offer. These machines are fantastic and they have so much potential, but when you're first starting out all the buttons, terminology and options can seem a bit too much to take in. That's definitely how I felt at first!
In this blog post I'm going to walk you through the functionality of the Cricut online Design Space. I'll go through each of the buttons, what they do, and why you might want to use them. Hopefully you'll feel more confident and will be ready to begin playing with your new toy!
Left Hand Toolbar
New +. This is a shortcut which easily allows you to create a new project
Templates. This will bring up a range of different items which you might want to decorate using your projects. Simply select your item and a template will appear on your canvas background to help you with sizing your design. These outlines are only for reference and won’t be saved or printed as part of your project.
Images. This button gives you access to Cricut’s collection of files. Some are free, others are available for purchase or can be used as part of the Cricut Access subscription. Even if you don’t use these images it’s always a nice option to explore if you’re in need of some inspiration.
Text. Use this button to add writing. A text box will appear where you can input your text. A toolbar will then appear underneath the top toolbar where you can alter the font, font style, font size, letter and line spacing and alter the alignment and add a curve to the words.
You will have access to fonts which are already installed on your device. There are also a number of different fonts available for purchase through the Design Space software. Alternatively you can download fonts either for free or by purchasing them. If you install these locally on your computer, then the Design Space software will automatically pick them up for use. You can filter between all fonts available and those which are available via your computer by selecting the ‘System’ tab.
Shapes. This will add various image shapes. These are handy for backgrounds, particularly if you’re working with print and cut files. They can also be used and cut or combined to create your own designs within the Design Space software.
Upload. This allows you to add your own images and SVG design files. You can get files from a variety of different locations but I’d recommend looking on the following websites for freebies and purchasable items as a starter: Etsy, Lovesvg.com, Svgandme.com, Creativefabrica.com, hellosvg.com, and 3dsvg.com. You can also undertake wider searches on Google which can bring up other sources too. Most sites and downloads will come with a licence for personal use. If you are looking to make items to sell, you’ll need a commercial licence. This might be included as standard or you may need to pay a slightly larger fee for the privilege.
Tip: To exit a window you’re opened if you decide you no longer want to add a shape, image etc just click on the option within the left hand toolbar again.
At the bottom of the left hand toolbar is a comment bubble where you can provide feedback to Cricut on your experience if you wish.
Undo and Redo arrow buttons. These can be a little slow, particularly on the web browser version of Design Space, so have patience with them. This is the only way you’ll be able to undo some actions in the software, such as a ‘Weld’ (we’ll get to that shortly!).
Linetype. When you have an item selected you can use this function to tell the software what to do. For example do you want the Cricut to cut out this shape, draw it using the pen function or score the lines using the scoring stylus addition?
For the draw and cut linetype options there is a colour box next to the drop down menu. This allows you to alter the outline or fill on your item. The Cricut software will group items of the same colour during a cut and so altering this section can allow you to cut your items as a single cut or across several mats. For more complex designs which are made up of different colours, your Cricut will automatically spread these colours across different mats when you progress to the cutting stage.
Fill. This options allows you to specify whether you want the Cricut to cut out all parts of a pattern or whether you want it to use the ‘Print and cut’ option. With the print and cut option you will send your design to a printer and then the Cricut will cut out the outline.
Select all. Simply clicking this button will select all items in your canvas. This can be really helpful for quickly resizing your whole project.
Edit. This drop down menu simply allows you to cut, copy and paste selected objects within your Design Space project.
Align. When you have multiple items selected you can use this option to move the items in relation to one another. This might be to evenly space them apart, to line them up horizontally or vertically, or to move them all to the centre.
Arrange. This tool simply allows you to alter the order of items in design space. If you are looking to overlay multiple shapes you may wish to move a layer backwards or forwards to make it more visible in relation to the other layers. This tool works if you have single and multiple items selected at once.
Flip. Simply allows you to flip an item either horizontally or vertically.
Size. These are the dimensions of your item. They can be altered by dragging the arrow in the bottom right corner of your item or by typing numbers into the boxes. The padlock will constrain proportions if it is in the locked position so when you edit one dimension the other adjusts to keep the ratio the same. When you unlock the padlock function (by clicking on it) only the dimension you change will alter.
Rotate. This rotates your item a specified number of degrees and can be either positive or negative numbers depending on which way you want it to turn. For example ‘90’ will turn your shape 90 degrees clockwise while ‘-90’ will turn your item 90 degrees anticlockwise. The Design Space software will then correct this to read 270 degrees.
Position. These are the X and Y coordinates where your item is located on the canvas. They can be edited manually using the arrows or by typing in the box, as with the width and height. They will also edit automatically if you drag your shape to another location on the canvas.
Note: These options will only be available when you have an object selected. Otherwise they will appear greyed out.
Right Hand Toolbar
This toolbar is predominantly a list of all the various items which are present within your project/canvas. They are listed in the order they are arranged. At the top of the list are items which will appear at the front. If you click on an item and drag it down the list it will automatically move backwards, behind items higher up the list.
You will also notice that each item has an eye symbol in the top right hand corner. This allows you to toggle the item on and off. When the eye symbol is in the off position these items become invisible and will not be taken forward to your cut. This tool is useful if sometimes you want to include layers and other times you don’t. It means you don’t need to delete and re-add your layers for each different variant of a cut.
Top Line of the Right Hand Toolbar
Group and Ungroup. These options allow you to group and ungroup items. Grouped items will show under a new ‘Group’ heading. All layers in a group can be minimised in a single action by using the eye symbol in the group heading. Items within a group will still be separate in terms of colour and cutting.
Duplicate. This tool works the same as the copy and paste options in the Edit function but allows you to undertake a single action. You simply need to select an item, or several items, that you want to duplicate and press the button.
Delete. This will permanently remove an item, or items if multiple are selected, from your project.
Bottom Line of the Right Hand Toolbar
Slice. This feature allows you to overlay two shapes and cut them where they overlap. The slices layers will appear as new items in the right hand toolbar. This tool only works if two ungrouped layers are selected.
Weld. This tool is used to join two or more shapes together to produce a single solid layer. Simply select your layers and then press the weld key. Note that welds cannot be undone once your project has been saved. You can however unweld an item immediately after you’ve welded by using the undo key. It does take a while though.
Attach. This function is similar to the group function but it combines the layers to be the same. For example two objects of different colours will attach to be the same colour. This is useful for text items which you might have ungrouped to rearrange but want them to be joined again so you are able to move them around your canvas. Unlike the weld function attached items can be detached.
Flatten. Multiple or single items can be flattened. This combines them and turns them into ‘print and cut’ file. Your Cricut will only cut around the edge of a flattened shape regardless of how many different items it is comprised of.
Contour. The contouring tool allows you to toggle off parts of a design which you don’t want the Cricut to cut. It’s useful for SVG files which you upload. The function can allow you to simplify complex designs or remove sections which you don’t want. For example if your design already has text on but you’d like it to say something else you can contour this off and then add your own either over the top or by slicing it into the design.
Other features to note
Zoom. In the bottom left corner of your canvas you can zoom in or out of your canvas. This doesn’t alter your design but how you are viewing it.
Above the top toolbar there are a number of key options.
By clicking on the three lines in the top left of the screen you will bring up a menu with numerous options and settings. Helpful ones when you starting out will include calibration for your knife blade, linking cartridges and machine setup. This is also where you will find the ‘Home’ button to return you to where you started.
My Projects. This will return you to a menu with all your projects on. These can also be accessed through the home screen.
Save. A niggle I have about Design Space is that it doesn’t auto-save. Make sure you periodically save your changes and always save your work before you leave! You can save a project over the top of itself or use the ‘Save As’ function to save a variation as a separate file.
Select your machine. If you’re lucky enough to own a Maker and an Explore you can toggle between the one you wish to use here.
Make It. This is the most important button in the Design Space software because it’s the one that allows you to connect to your Cricut and make your design!
Once you’ve clicked "Make It" you’ll be taken to a new screen that shows your design on the cutting mat/mats. An important feature in this screen to note is the ‘Mirror’ function. You’ll need to this if you’re planning to work with HTV as you need to cut these designs in reverse!
Note: If you’re printing and cutting then you’ll be taken to a page prior to this where you send your design to your printer.
On the next screen your Design Space will connect to your Cricut (make sure it’s turned on). You’ll need to turn the dial on your machine to the right setting - vinyl, iron on, cardstock etc. Design space will pick this up automatically.
Once you’ve done that you’re good to go and can just follow the instructions on the screen. First you’ll use the arrow button on your Cricut to feed in the cutting mat with your material on. Then you’ll press the Cricut button (looks like a C with alien ears) to begin the cut.
If you're new to digital cutting you may find my 'What Material?' blog post series useful to help you learn which materials are best to use for which projects. The series included An Introduction to Adhesive Vinyl, An Introduction to Heat Transfer Vinyl and An Introduction to Paper and Cardstock.
Happy Designing and Cutting!
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