If you’ve been thinking about getting a Cricut machine but you’re not sure which one you should get, you’re in the right place! See the differences in each machine and which one is the best fit for you to begin your Cricut crafting journey.
This Cricut machine comparison is sponsored by Cricut. All opinions shared are my own.
When one of my friends, family members or readers are thinking about buying a Cricut, there are so many questions I hear…. which Cricut machine is the best? What’s the difference between a Cricut Maker, a Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Joy? Which Cricut is best for beginners? Which Cricut should I buy? What can you cut with a Cricut?
While I can’t give a blanket answer to those questions, I can (and am about to!) give you all of the factors to take into account that will help you determine which Cricut you should get.
Which Cricut is Best for Beginners?
Literally all 3. They are all easy to use due to Cricut Design Space being so intuitive and easy to navigate. The Cricut project itself is really what makes something best for beginners, not the machine. (You can find a ton of awesome beginner Cricut projects to try here).
Which Cricut is Best?
I definitely can’t answer this question. I mean, how do you pick a favorite child?! While there isn’t a BEST Cricut machine, there is a Cricut that’s best for you. How do you know which one it is? Well that depends solely on what you plan to use it for.
Each machine has its own special features and capabilities… I added some more info to the comparison chart that you can find on Cricut.com for a quick visual reference below.
Which Cricut Should I Buy?
Let’s get into some more detail about the features of each Cricut machine and find out which Cricut is right for you.
The Cricut Joy is the newest member of the Cricut family and it’s like the surprise kid you never knew you wanted. The Joy is pure instant crafting gratification… it is small, portable and completely bluetooth operated so you can design and make a project anywhere.
The Joy can cut 50+ materials. Of course the popular materials like vinyl, iron-on, Infusible Ink, stickers, labels, paper and cardstock that the other Cricut machines can cut, but it also has some special materials made exclusively for the Cricut Joy. Some of them you can even cut MAT-FREE! Any of the Smart materials (Smart Vinyl, Smart Iron-on, Smart Label, etc.) require NO MAT… it’s literally load and go.
Extra long cutting is another unique feature to only the Cricut Joy… since the smart materials don’t require a mat, you can cut up to a 5.5″ x 20’ with no need to switch out multiple mats.
For someone who loves making handmade cards, there is no better way to make them than with a Cricut Joy. There is a special card mat that makes it easy to make beautiful cards in about 5 minutes. I can’t tell you how many times I whipped up last minute cards last year thanks to my Cricut Joy Card Mat. You can see all about it here.
The Joy is controlled exclusively through bluetooth so there are no buttons or controls on the machine itself. Therefore it must be operated by either a bluetooth-enabled desktop/laptop or through the iOs or Android apps.
It can also write and draw like the other 2 machines, although there is just one tool holder so the Design Space app or Cricut Joy app will direct you when to switch out the Fine Point Blade for your Cricut Joy pen.
Since the tool holder is a smaller size, you cannot use any other tools such as a scoring stylus, foil transfer tip or any other tool besides the fine point blade and pens.
You can see some of my Cricut Joy projects here.
Cricut Explore Air 2
The Explore Air 2 is the best seller of all of the Cricut machines. It is super versatile and there are a huge range of projects types that you can make with it. It can cut 100+ materials. All of the standards that you expect like cardstock, vinyl, iron-on (HTV) and so many more… even bonded fabric (using the Cricut Bonded Fabric Blade) with precision (even fine, intricate and detailed cuts).
It can cut up to 12″ wide so considerably wider than the Cricut Joy can cut, although the longest it can cut is 24″ (shorter than what the Joy can cut).
There are several more tool options with the Cricut Explore Air than with the Cricut Joy, but not as many as with the Cricut Maker.
There is a “Fast Mode” that enables you to cut and write projects up to 2x’s faster… this feature has been a game changer for me when I’m mass producing gifts, especially at Christmas-time!
Like the other 2 machines, you can upload your own images, designs and fonts into Design Space to use for your projects.
The Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Maker also have the ability to Print then Cut. So you can print an image that you have designed or chosen from Design Space, print it on your printer and then your machine will cut it for you.
Unlike the Joy, the Explore Air 2 settings and operation are on the machine itself. You simply turn the dial to whatever material you’re cutting and the machine will know exactly what pressure to cut. If a material isn’t on the dial, you turn the dial to “Custom” and then from there you can select the material from a menu in Design Space.
It’s also fun that it comes in a rainbow of color choices!
For fun, you can check out my first ever Cricut project with my Cricut Explore Air here. 😉
The Maker is the true powerhouse crafting machine. It can cut everything the Explore Air 2 can cut, plus so much more. It can cut materials as delicate as crepe paper and thin fabrics to thick materials like heavy chipboard, genuine leather and even basswood.
Although the Maker can cut 300+ materials, it goes far beyond cutting with it’s incredible suite of tools. The capability to use so many tools is thanks to its Adaptive Tool System. In addition to the blades and foil transfer system that can also be used in the Cricut Explore Air 2, the Maker can also use the knife blade and rotary blade along with all of the tools that launched with the QuickSwap Housing system (Fine Debossing Tip, Engraving Tip, Scoring Wheel (single and double), Wavy Blade and the Basic Perforation Blade). This gives the Maker the capability to cut, engrave, deboss, engrave, perforate or score even more materials than the Explore Air 2 can.
The adaptive tool system means the Maker will be able to continue to add additional functionality in the future. Back when the Maker first launched, it only had the rotary blade and knife blade!
For a sewist, the Maker is the must-have machine without question. It cuts fabric (without bonding) flawlessly and there are tons of patterns available in Cricut Design Space which make easy work of sewing projects. There is even a fabric marker to mark the seams for patterns!
For anyone who is serious about crafting with a Cricut (and pretty much everyone is after getting one!), I will always recommend the Cricut Maker. Not only for everything that it can do now, but for all that it will continue to be able to do as the tool offerings continue to grow and evolve.
You can check out some reader favorite Cricut Maker projects here.
Which Cricut Machine is Right for Me?
I hope I was able to help you answer this question for yourself! If you have any other questions, please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I truly love hearing from you, and I love helping people learn about their Cricut machines and all that they can do with them!