***Updated May 2020 to include the Cricut Maker!
I have not added the new Cricut Joy Machine to this post yet. Also, some links have been removed because the machines are no longer available for purchase.***
So, you want to buy a Cricut. But, you’re looking online and there are so many options! They all look the same, but they have different names like Air, One, Air 2 and Maker. What’s the difference between all these machines, and which machine is the best option?
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One of the first questions that people ask me about the Cricut is – “Which Cricut Explore should I buy?”
There are a few factors to consider when you are choosing which Cricut Explore machine to buy. And now, there’s even a new type of machine that’s one step above the “Explore” family — the Cricut Maker. The Cricut Maker isn’t technically a Cricut Explore machine, but I consider it very similar so I’ll be grouping them all together in the question “which Cricut should I buy?”
Today I wanted to go over the similarities and differences between each of the machines and hopefully help answer this very popular question.
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Let’s first talk about the features of the Cricut Explore and Cricut Maker that ALL of the machines have in common. No matter which machine you decide on, they all have the ability to do the following:
Cut, Write, and Score
All machines have the ability to Cut, Write, and Score. The difference is that some machines do this all in one step, while others do this in two steps. We will get into that later. The main idea is that all Cricut Explores and the Cricut Maker allow you to Cut out projects and Write on them or Score them.
Cut Many Different Materials
All machines allow you to cut a variety of different materials. On the Cricut Explore machines, there is a Smart Dial where you can select the material that you want to cut. There is also a custom setting, which allows you to choose from a variety of different materials on your computer to cut.
The Cricut Maker doesn’t have a Smart Dial. Instead, you select all materials for cutting from your computer.
All machines work with Cricut Design Space.
Cricut Design Space is an online software tool that allows you to design projects to cut out using your Cricut Explore.
Recently, Cricut has updated their Cricut Design Space software to version 3. The new version is a lot faster and I think it’s more intuitive than before.
Above: Cricut Design Space Version 2
Below: Cricut Design Space Version 3
Upload Your own Images for Free
All machines allow you to upload your own images into Cricut Design Space and cut them out for free!
- Related: How to Upload SVG Images in Cricut Design Space
- Related: Cricut Projects and Ideas
- Related: Crafting Blanks for your Cricut Explore projects
Print then Cut
All machines have the ability to create Print then Cut designs.
These are designs that can be printed out using your home printer and then cut out using the Cricut Explore or Cricut Maker.
Now let’s talk about what makes these machines different and what that means for you when deciding which one to purchase.
Wireless cutting using Bluetooth
Some of the machines have the ability to connect to Cricut Design Space on your computer or iPad wirelessly using Bluetooth.
The Cricut Explore Air, Cricut Explore Air 2, and the Cricut Maker all have this ability. The Cricut Explore Original and the Cricut Explore One do not have this ability built into the machine. However, you can buy a separate Bluetooth Adapter for these two machines that will give them the wireless cutting ability.
This isn’t as much of an issue anymore since the original machines are hard to find. They are not manufactured anymore, and you can only find them used.
One feature of some machines is the dual adapter that allows for both a blade housing and an accessory housing to be attached at the same time.
With this dual adapter, the machine is able to both Cut and Write or Score in the same step with no intervention from you.
The Cricut Explore One is the only machine without a dual adapter – it has a single adapter.
The Cricut Explore One does not come with the accessory adapter, so if you want to use that you will need to purchase it separately.
When you’re using the Cricut Explore One for cutting and writing or scoring, when it’s finished cutting and moves on to either writing or scoring, it will stop and prompt you to change out the blade housing for the accessory housing.
Fast Mode only works with cardstock, vinyl, and iron-on vinyl, but it allows you to finish your projects in almost half the time when you are using those materials. When you are using other materials, the cutting time is the same as the other Cricut Explore models.
Adaptive Tool System
With the addition of the newest Cricut machine, the Cricut Maker, a new housing was introduced for machine accessories. It’s called the Adaptive Tool System!
This system has the ability to lift and turn the blade during the cutting process. It does this based on the type of material you are cutting and the type of blade you are using. This system is only available with the Cricut Maker machine.
That means that the Adaptive Tool System has the ability to control the exact pressure and speed needed to accurately cut even the trickiest materials. From thin tissue paper to thick fabrics like wool and leather – the Cricut Maker can handle them all!
This is different from the Cricut Explore machines, where the blade drags along the material as the mat moves through the machine.
The Cricut Maker blades move on their own using a gear system instead of just being dragged through materials.
Update – they have added more tools. You can see those here!
So, as new tools come out, you won’t need to update your machine. Instead, your machine capabilities will grow as you add more tools that all work with the Adaptive Tool System.
Note: I keep trying to update this post to add more colors as they become available. But they keep adding so many colors in all the different stores. It’s hard to keep up. But I’m doing my best to keep the list below updated. 🙂 Thanks for understanding.
This is not really a functional feature of the machine, but sometimes the color of the machine is something people have strong opinions on. Each machine has a different range of colors that it comes in.
There are standard colors for each machine model and then they are also alternate and special exclusive colors that have been released. The exclusive colors can only be found at certain retailers.
Here are all the different colors that you can find for each machine model:
- Cricut Explore Original – It’s difficult to find this machine for sale anymore but you may be able to buy it on eBay or another resale site
- Wild Orchid – exclusive to HSN (limited edition)
- Cricut Explore Air
- Wild Orchid
- Cricut Explore One
- Navy Bloom
- Pink Poppy
- Cricut Explore Air 2
- Rose – exclusive to JOANN
- Blue – exclusive to Michaels
- Pearl — exclusive to Michaels (Martha Stewart edition)
- Ivory and Gold – exclusive to HSN
- Matte Black
- Flamingo Pearl
- Peacock – exclusive to Michaels
- Sunflower – exclusive to Michaels
- Boysenberry – exclusive to Michaels
- Periwinkle – exclusive to Michaels
- Coral – exclusive to Michaels
- Cobalt – exclusive to JOANN
- Wisteria – exclusive to JOANN
- Cricut Maker
- Dark Gray & Champagne
There is a slight pricing difference between all of the machines because of their different features. The top of the line machines are the Cricut Maker and the Cricut Explore Air 2. These machines offer the most feature and capabilities. Since the Cricut Maker is new, it is priced the highest.
The Cricut Explore Original model is no longer sold by Cricut. You can find it on Amazon occasionally and some other places, but usually, it will be around the same price as a Cricut Explore Air. It’s better the get the Cricut Explore Air and have the Bluetooth wireless built into the machine.
The budget-friendly option out of all the machines is the Cricut Explore One. It will normally run around $40-$50 less than the other machines because it only has the single adapter.
This model is also no longer available for purchase directly from Cricut.
This is a great option if you want a Cricut but don’t necessarily have the budget for the top of the line model. Or, if you are a casual crafter and don’t see yourself using the Cricut a ton, and maybe just want to have it as a tool for special crafting occasions. The Cricut Explore One is a great option for a lower-priced model.
If you think that you would be cutting out lots of details designs or things like multiple sheets of stickers, you may want to consider getting the Cricut Explore Air 2 because it has the ability to cut in fast mode.
In all the time that I have been using my Cricut Explore Original, I’ve never really been bothered by how long it takes the machine to cut out my project. Most of the time, it’s finished in a very short amount of time. I am not normally cutting projects with intricate details or tons of tiny cuts, so I don’t notice the speed being an issue.
The only project that I can think of that I make that would benefit from a faster cutting time is creating printable stickers. I try to pack as many stickers onto one sheet as possible, so there are lots of cuts and shapes for the Cricut Explore to trace.
Cutting a full sheet of stickers can take a lot of time and if I was going to be cutting sheet after sheet constantly, I would think of investing in the Cricut Explore Air 2.
The Fast Mode allows for 2x faster cutting when you have the smart dial set to cardstock, vinyl, or iron-on vinyl. It would definitely speed up the time it takes to cut out a full sheet of stickers.
If you want to use your Cricut to cut fabric or to help you with your sewing projects in general, you are going to want to invest in the Cricut Maker. The Cricut Maker is much better for cutting fabric than the Cricut Explore machines.
With the Cricut Explore machines, if you wanted to cut fabrics you needed to attach fusible web to the back of the fabrics to provide stability. Now with the Cricut Maker, the rotary blade will glide over the fabric and cut it without bunching or ripping! No backing needed.
The Cricut Maker can cut out all of your fabric and sewing designs. And, there are also tons of sewing patterns in Cricut Design Space to choose from so you can create just about any fabric project.
Which Machine Would I Buy?
The Cricut Explore Air is still an incredible machine, even though there are newer machines on the market. It is a great machine for someone just starting out with the Cricut and would make a great gift! And because there are now two newer machines, the price for this machine has become much more affordable. The Cricut Explore Air has all the bells and whistles to be the ultimate crafting and DIY tool.
Because I’m a huge Cricut fan, the Cricut Maker is definitely on my wish list. The Cricut Maker is a powerful machine and is the flagship of all the Cricut products. It can cut just about any material from tiny delicate papers to leather and even wood! And now with the Adaptive Tool System, the possibilities for materials are endless. Cricut will continue to add new tools that will all work with the Cricut Maker machine. It’s a DIYer’s dream tool!
I would love to upgrade my Cricut Explore Original to the Cricut Maker. Since I use my Cricut for tons of projects, I know I will love the new machine!
While the Cricut Maker is definitely impressive, it is the most expensive of any machines Cricut has ever released. And I don’t want to tell you to go out and buy the most expensive thing just because it’s expensive. I want you to buy the machine that’s right for you and your needs.
I think that the price for the Cricut Maker is only worth it if you are planning on using all the capabilities of this incredible machine. If you are already a Cricut Explore user and you are looking to upgrade to the next best thing — this machine is for you! Or if you are new to Cricut but you know you’ll be using this machine ALL the time for DIY projects, sewing projects, and tons more, than this is definitely the machine for you! Or if you love to sew and want a machine that will help you with cutting patterns and designs, the Cricut Maker is your best bet – hands down. It’s much better when it comes to cutting fabric than the Cricut Explore machines.
But, if you just want a Cricut because you are looking for an incredible cutting machine, I would stick with the Cricut Explore Air. If you are only planning on cutting out basic materials like paper, vinyl, iron-on, and other everyday project materials, you will be totally fine with the Cricut Explore Air. Or, if you know that you’ll never use your Cricut for cutting fabrics, the Cricut Explore Air is perfect for you!
The Cricut Maker would be overkill for you and you’d end up spending a ton of money on a machine that you aren’t using to its full capabilities. Basically, you’d be paying for a Cricut Maker but using it like a Cricut Explore Air. So why not just save money and buy the Cricut Explore Air?
Whichever model you decide to go with, they are all going to impress you! I know that I was going on and on about how amazing the new Cricut Maker is, but that doesn’t mean the other machines are ancient junky things. They are still incredible and high-quality cutting machines. All of the Cricut machines really are the best cutting machines on the market, in my opinion.
I hope that this helps you choose the best machine for your creative needs. Let me know in the comments which Cricut machine you have – or which one is on your wish list.