Cricut Pens: An Underutilized Friend
Most Cricut crafting machines come with a 0.4mm fine-point black pen to get you started but so many people are afraid to use it. This tiny single pen seems so daunting to new users. The Cricut Design Space not only makes using the drawing and writing features simple to use, but the results are truly beautiful. I want to walk through a simple guide to Cricut pens and how to use them with the Design Space interface.
Cricut makes dozens of pen types in a multitude of colors to use with Cricut machines. Explore Air and Maker machines have a pen housing in slot A that you can insert your pen directly into, leaving slot B to house the cutting blade. The Cricut Joy machine has only one housing, therefore you must remove your blade to insert a pen. Each pen type has a unique output to make your creations come to life. The following pens are available to buy from Cricut:
- 3 extra fine point pens
- 4 fine point pens
- 8 glitter gel pens
- 0 medium point markers
- 0 metallic markers
- 0 gel pens
- 0, 2.0. 2.5 calligraphy markers
- Fabric Markers
- Infusible Ink Markers
I feel that it is important to note that in addition to the Cricut pens that are available to use with the machine, there are also aftermarket adapters you can purchase to convert everyday pens and markers into a Cricut accessory. The pen housing in slot A that came with your Cricut machine is removable and would need to be ejected to accommodate the aftermarket housing. Once you insert the new housing, you can add the correct pen associated with that housing, as many of them are labeled based on pen size. Some popular pens to use with the Cricut write or draw features are Sharpies, Pilot Precise, Sakura Gelly Roll, Tombow Brush Pens, and Crayola Fine Line markers. I have not personally tried any aftermarket housings for pens. I have a 30-pack of 0.4mm fine line pens in assorted colors and a set of black pens that have an 0.8 glitter gel pen, 1.0 tip marker, and 2.0 calligraphy marker. That set gives me a good variety of widths for different applications.
Writing Versus Drawing
Cricut Design Space can do 2 things with a pen: write and draw. Depending on the project that you are working on, you can even have the machine write your letters, draw your image, and cut your project all on the same pass! I created a simple project showing this at the end of this article. Writing within Cricut Design Space consists of writing out letters, words, or sentences onto your project with a pen or marker. I often use this feature for journaling inside of a card or addressing the outside of envelopes. Drawing within Cricut Design Space consists of taking an image and drawing out the outlines of that image with a pen. This can give a project a very personalized, hand-drawn feel.
Writing Within Cricut Design Space
To effectively use the writing function in Design Space, you will first have to know the difference between a writing font and a traditional single or multi-layered font. A writing font is a single pass font that allows the machine to write the font with a pen without looking like it is hollow. A traditional single font is used on Design Space for the “cut” feature as the machine will cut the outline of your font, and the inside is filled in by the material you are cutting (cardstock, vinyl, fabric, et cetera). When you use a multi-layered font, it is designed to be used as a dual-colored cut. The front text will cut in color A, and the base will be cut in color B, and they will be layered once cut to create a multi-colored, multi-layered font. These are not useful fonts for writing within Design Space however. Writing fonts work best for this purpose but it can be tricky to find fonts that work well. In the photo below, I show some of my favorite fonts for use with the writing feature. The fonts are ones I have collected on my computer from Cricut Design Space, Dafont, 1001fonts and Creative Fabrica.
Most websites you visit to download fonts do not have a feature to allow you to isolate fonts that are “writing” fonts. Its not until you are in Design Space that you are able to see how the font looks as a written font and most of the time, it is not the design you had in mind. One thing I love about Cricut Design Space is that you can isolate your search to fonts that are writing fonts and find the one that works best for the look you are trying to evoke. Cricut has hundreds of writing fonts in Design Space. Almost all of them do require subscription or purchase to use.
Once a font is selected in Cricut design space for your wording, you need to make sure that it is set up correctly for writing. The “operation” must be changed from cut to draw and “style” needs to be changed from standard to writing. By changing from regular to writing in the style dropdown, this will change the font from a standard single font to a single-pass writing font. It eliminates the bubbled effect that you can get with a traditional font. If a font is not from Cricut Design Space and you are using it as a writing font, it may not give you the option to change the style to “writing”. It may only show “regular”, “bold”, “italic” and/or “bold italic”. Many fonts downloaded to your computer from other sites are not recognized as writing fonts with Design Space, therefore don’t prompt a writing option on the style dropdown.
Below is an example of a writing font called Lyrical Letter 2- Hayden Creek. It is a font offered in Design Space. You can see the differences in the font as the operation is changed from cut to draw and to writing. You can select whether you prefer “regular” or “writing” styles depending on the effect you are trying to create.
Drawing Within Cricut Design Space
Another underutilized feature that Cricut Design Space offers is a drawing tool. Drawing will use a pen in slot A to draw an image onto your project. Cricut offers thousands of draw or cut-and-draw images that you can select from to create interest and add dimension to your projects. You can search for these images easily on Design Space. Most people don’t even know they exist!
There are some free images and others that you can purchase. If you are looking for an image that you are not able to find on Design Space, you are also able to add your own SVG and turn it into a draw image by changing the operation from cut to cut-and-draw. I have done this for several projects and cards. It’s also a great tool to use if you have an image that you want to use to create a coloring page or coloring shirt!
Creating a Project
Now that you know what the features of drawing and writing are, lets make a project utilizing both features on the same project. I made a 4×6” birthday card using a cupcake image from Design Space and adding my own words “Happy Birthday” using the font Birthday Cakes. You can duplicate your image, contour to isolate any parts you want to change pen colors for, and make the image have more pizzazz with multiple colors. I do this for most of the cards that I make! I think it makes it look fun and special. I took the sprinkles and made them red and the cupcake wrapper and made it blue. I also rendered the words in multiple colors to make them stand out more. I have created this cupcake to be a draw, write, and cut design so that my machine will perform all the work that I need for this design on one mat, without me having to unload my mat from the machine. All I had to do is change out my pen colors when prompted to by the computer. Once it is created on my Cricut, I took the cupcake that has been cut and I attach it to a pre-made card. You can also use your machine to cut a card and envelope. I added a fun little design on the inside of my card as well to make it interesting. I also love decorating the envelopes with the names of the recipient for a customized look.
I hope this article gives you the courage or inspiration to try using pens with your machine to create new projects. Cards, coloring pages, invitations, stickers, gift tags, and even shirts are all great projects that can be used with the Cricut machine and the variety of pens available. So pick up your pen and paper and start crafting.