The Ultimate Guide: How to Use Cricut Maker for Beginners

The Ultimate Guide: How to Use Cricut Maker for Beginners main article image
Posted on July 11, 2021 by Carrie Christenson
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Hello everyone! Consider this guide Cricut Maker 101 for all of you new to this magical world of electronic cutting. It might seem like it’s complicated and too hard to learn so you might be tempted to leave that machine in the box, please don’t do that!! We all start somewhere and this guide is here to help you take those first steps and start making!

Let’s start at the very beginning:

What is Cricut Maker?  

Let’s hear from Cricut themselves on how they describe the machine:

“Introducing the ultimate smart cutting machine. With its expandable suite of tools and advanced Rotary and Knife blades, Circuit Maker gives you the freedom to make virtually any DIY project. Cricut Maker cuts hundreds of materials, from the most delicate fabric and paper to matboard and leather. It’s professional-level cutting performance, accessible to everyone. Compatible with Knife Blade for thicker materials up to 2.4 mm (sold separately). Compatible with Scoring Wheel for razor-sharp creases in cardstock, poster board, and more (sold separately). Compatible with Washable Fabric Pen for marking pattern pieces (sold separately)”

To sum it up for you, it will basically cut any type of material up to 2.4 mm thick as long as you are using the proper blade. The main perk is being able to cut fabric without the use of a backer while using the rotary blade. This is a game-changer for people who sew!

There are now 2 different versions of the machine, the Cricut Maker and they recently introduced Cricut Maker 3. I personally have the original machine and have no plans on upgrading anytime soon because it does everything I need. Yes, for those curious they skipped over 2, it confused me as well, LOL!

What’s the difference between the original Maker and the new Maker 3?

The new Maker 3 does everything the original Maker can do, but faster (2 times faster to be exact) and now you can use their new line of Smart Materials that don’t require the use of a cutting mat. The main bonus of not needing a cutting mat is that you can now cut up to 12’ long. If you are going to cut an entire roll at once, you are wise to invest in the roll feeder that is sold separately.

Luckily, all of the blades and pens for the original Maker are compatible with the Maker 3 so you’re not stuck buying all new sets of tools. The only thing not compatible is the power cord because the new machine uses a much more powerful power adapter.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter…

How much do these machines cost?

The Maker 3 retails for $399.00 and it looks like the original Maker is now on sale for $369.00 and you can probably find better deals on amazon.  If you’re buying new I would probably just bite the bullet and get the latest and greatest model. Why not enjoy all of the new features and faster cutting speeds?

Is the Cricut Maker right for me?

There are so many different electronic cutting machines out in the market right now, how is one to decide which to pick?

If you’re deciding between the various types of Cricut machines then I would recommend just buying the Maker vs the Cricut Explore machines unless price is the only determining factor.  You’ll save money buying a Cricut Explore, about $100 to be exact.

If you want the full breakdown of all of the differences, head here to see their side-by-side comparison. 

Essentially, they both do the same thing with the same software, but the Maker can do so much more, over double the tools and 200+ more materials able to be cut.

Do you need a computer to use the Cricut Maker?

Yes and No. They do have an app that works with iOS and Android devices called Design Space but the catch is you are limited on what you can do within that app.

If you simply want to open a pre-made design and cut it with no modifications, your app on your phone or tablet can do that. This is why Cricut is great for beginners, you simply click on the design you want to make and follow the screen prompts for how to cut it. The software will do all of the work for you and you are mainly responsible for loading the correct materials and hitting go on the machine. The catch is you will have to have access or pay for the files used, which can add up quickly.

To fully utilize all of the customizable features of their Cricut Design Space software you’ll need a computer. I would recommend using your computer as often as possible because it’s so much easier to navigate. Plus you probably have all of your amazing Creative Fabrica fonts loaded on your computer vs your phone or tablet and you definitely want to be using those!  Especially the free fonts and free craft files too!

Cricut Design Space has some free designs (very few to be honest) you can use but if you want to be able to use everything you see they want you to sign up for Cricut Access which will run you $9.99/month BUT they are all for personal use only.  If you are making things to sell, legally you need to have a commercial license for the files used. You can always sign up for a Creative Fabrica subscription and now you have access to fonts, SVG files, graphics, etc that include the commercial license already. They have different options so you only pay for the types of products you need.  You can also just buy a single SVG file as needed, no need to pay monthly if you aren’t constantly needing designs for your projects. The same goes for the fonts, you can only buy exactly what you need for a specific project like these popular scripts and handwritten fonts.

Setting up your Cricut Maker

If this is a brand new machine, you’ll start by unboxing the machine and everything included. You’ll plug the machine into a power source and will connect it to your computer or tablet via the USB cord or Bluetooth.  

The USB will instantly connect and will walk you through the steps on the screen. For the Bluetooth, you’ll need to go to your Bluetooth settings and connect the machine, it should auto-populate into your list and you’ll click it to connect your machine.

The software really will walk through the process step by step for you! They want to make it easy to get set up.

If the software doesn’t load automatically, you can go to design.cricut.com and follow the steps to download the software to your computer. You’ll need to sign up for a Cricut account with a valid email address. They recently moved from being an internet-based program to one installed on your computer.

There are lots of youtube tutorials if you need to watch someone walk you through the entire process.

First Cricut Maker Project

I’m just going to add a vinyl decal on top of a glass picture frame with some fun cardstock inside of the actual frame. Feel free to use any type of surface you want!

Now you’re ready to take the plunge and make your first project with your Cricut Maker! Let’s make a simple project together using a free SVG file from Creative Fabrica.

Step 1:  Download the file to your computer, making sure to unzip the files as needed.

screenshot showing download files

Step 2: Open your Cricut Design Space and sign in as needed. Click on the New Project rectangle on the home screen. That will open the grid screen and in the bottom left corner, you’ll see the option to upload a new file, click that.

Screenshot of Cricut Design Space home page

Cricut Design Space screenshot

Step 3:  Upload the SVG file we just downloaded, make sure you’re picking the .svg file, and click open.

screenshot of uploading design to cricut design space

Step 4:  Now it will come up asking what type of file you want to upload the image as. This is a cut file so that’s the only option but if you have a photo or graphic you can say it’s a print then cut file. Now click upload.

screenshot of uploaded design to cricut design space

Step 5:  Your design file should appear in the grid on the screen!  You can resize the image size using the toolboxes at the top of the screen or simply shrink/stretch by selecting the bottom right corner of the image.

screenshot of SVG design in Cricut Design Space

Step 6: I’m going to ask you to click the green Make It button in the top right-hand corner to so you one of the most basic errors most people will make when just starting out. 

You’ll see it pop up in the cutting mat window and all of the various parts and pieces are out of order on the mat. Don’t panic! The problem is you need to “attach” all of the parts together in the software first. Just hit the cancel button at the bottom.

screenshot of SVG design in Cricut Design Space

Step 7:  Let’s fix that error! On the right-hand side of the screen, you’ll see everything listed out, select everything by holding the shift key as you click on the files, and then hit the attach button at the bottom of the screen. I collapsed all of the groups so it was easier to select, click on the small arrow on the left to do that.

screenshot of SVG design in Cricut Design Space

Step 8:  Click that Make It button in the top corner again. Now you’ll see that it’s all together like you want it. Phew!  

screenshot of SVG design in Cricut Design Space

Step 9:  Go ahead and click the continue button in the lower right-hand corner and you’ll see that it will ask you to connect your machine (if it’s not already connected) and then you will let it know what material you’re going to be cutting. I’m doing vinyl for this demo. Select vinyl and then follow the screen prompts for making sure the right blade is attached to your Maker.

screenshot of SVG design in Cricut Design Space

Step 10:  Attach your vinyl to the cutting mat (or load your smart vinyl if you’re using that) and slide it into the tracks on the machine. There will be a flashing button asking you to hit it to load the material into the Maker.

photo of black vinyl on a cricut cutting mat

Step 11:  Now that you’re loaded properly, click the flashing C or Play button on the Maker and watch it work its magic!!  When the project is done cutting the load button will start flashing again, click it to unload the mat or material. Your screen will update you on the cutting progress as it works.

screenshot of SVG design in Cricut Design Space

Step 12:  Remove the vinyl from the mat, a trick to not have it curl up on you is to flip it over and have the vinyl against your work surface and slowly peel the mat away from the back.  

photo of peeling the cutting mat away from vinyl

Now you’re ready to weed the vinyl, trim off any extra vinyl with scissors first so you’re only working with the actual cut area. Using your hook tool or tweezers carefully remove the sections of vinyl that aren’t part of the design. Go slow and take your time, this part can be frustrating! You might need to use your fingers to hold sections down while weeding. If a letter comes off accidentally don’t panic. You can simply stick it back in the correct place when you’re all done, there’s an impression on the backing to help you line it back up.

Vinyl projects need to use transfer tape to move it from the backing paper to your desired surface. You’ll place a piece of transfer tape that’s slightly larger than your design over top of the weeded design and then use a firm credit card edge or vinyl application squeegee to adhere the tape to the vinyl.

photo of attaching transfer tape to vinyl

Step 14:  With the paper backing still on, place your design onto the surface of your project. Here’s another handy trick to make sure it’s lined up correctly before attaching it down. Grab a piece of painter’s tape or washi and attach it vertically down the center of the design. This is called “the hinge method”. Measure to make sure you have it centered perfectly onto your project surface and attach the ends of the washi tape to the top and bottom of the surface. This will hold it in place for you. 

photo showing how to apply the hinge method

Next, peel one side of the design up off the backing paper and cut the backing paper off. 

photo of cutting paper backing off design

Attach the vinyl to the project surface and press it down with your application tool then you can lift the other half up and remove the paper and finish attaching it down.

photo of attaching the vinyl to glass

Step 15:  Remove the transfer tape by slowly and carefully peeling back from a corner and lifting it off. Go slow and if any vinyl lifts off the surface use your finger or application tool to firmly press it back down on the surface before continuing with the transfer tape removal.

photo of vinyl on glass and removing transfer tape

That’s it!!  You’ve just cut your first project and made a custom creation to admire and show off to your friends and family.  Be proud of yourself!!  The more you play and practice, the better you will get. Don’t get discouraged when a project doesn’t go as planned. It happens to all of us, even those of us who have been doing this for years.  

photo of finished craft project

Here are some tips and tricks for beginners as well!

  • Try to make sure you have the project planned out fully before starting. 
  • Double-check to make sure you have all of the supplies needed as well before starting, this will save you time and frustration.
  • Watch YouTube videos or check Pinterest for tutorials before starting out for the first time. Sometimes simply watching someone do it first will help teach you best practices.
  • Clean your mat! It sounds simple but trust me, you don’t want anything possibly ruining your hard work.
  • Try out various materials. Go ahead and play around with leather, balsa wood, felt, fabric, etc. This is why you bought the Maker in the first place.
  • Add your designs into Cricut Design Space as you download them. Cricut gives you free storage so use it so you don’t forget about projects you have in mind.
  • Make sure any font you use is legible, seems silly but if it’s hard to read no one will understand your creation. Also, avoid super thin fonts when cutting vinyl because they will tear easily when weeding.
  • Don’t give up! Keep practicing even when things go wrong. You will probably learn more from your mistakes and will know what not to do in the future.

Good luck with your Maker and remember to have fun! That’s what this is really all about in the end. Crafting time is definitely one form of therapy for me and I hope it is for you too!

-Carrie Christenson


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