You have done your due diligence, and have decided that you must have a Cricut machine, but you cannot decide which would be the better purchase for you. Should you get the Cricut Explore or Cricut Maker. You want one of these machines because they allow you to use your huge collection of Cricut Cartridges with the Online Cricut Design Space software. Third party software can be used to create your own designs to cut, and import them into Cricut Design Space to cut on one of these cutters. Import images, and the software will create cutting lines for you. What does one do that the other cannot do? We will take a close look at the differences to help with this tough decision.
All of the models of Cricut Explore and Cricut Maker use the same free software, Cricut Design Space™ . The prices for these machine vary greatly. Depending on the package or bundle that you select, you may purchase a Cricut Explore for as low as $149.99 plus tax or a Cricut Maker for as low as $399.99 plus tax. The price difference is about $250.00. Are the extra features available on the Cricut Maker worth the price difference for you?
Cricut Machine Basic Features
The original Explore machine was produced with dual tool holders, a single speed, and no built in wireless. The Explore Air machines boasted of the added wireless feature. A lower priced version, the Explore Air One had only a single tool holder, plus the wireless feature. Next the Explore Air Two came out, with its dual tool holders, built-in wireless, and a new dual speed option. All of these different versions of the Explore machines were sold in a variety of “bundles” and colors. But they are all basically the same machine with the same cutting ability. You can see a comparison chart for the available Explore and Maker models here.
Cricut Maker Features
The Cricut Maker, the newest of the Cricut machines, has the added ability to use two new tools. The Rotary Tool shipped with the original Cricut Maker.
The new Knife Blade tool is a separate purchase. These two new tools can only be used with the Cricut Maker. They cannot be used with the Cricut Explore machines.
Material Settings for Cricut Explore
All of the Cricut Explore machines cut with up to 350 grams of pressure. Pressure settings may be adjusted in the software, when Cricut Explore machine is chosen, and the dial on the machine is set to Custom. Here are some instructions for using Custom Settings with the Cricut Explore. See the Cut settings for the Cricut Explore machines here.
Material Settings for Cricut Maker
The Cricut Maker can cut all of the same materials as the Cricut Explore machines, plus many, many more. When using the Cricut Maker with Cricut Design Space, a much longer list of Material Settings is available. The Cricut Maker can use the same standard and deep cut blades used by the Explore machines to cut similar media. The pressure settings for those materials may be adjusted up to 350 grams of pressure. Settings for materials requiring use of the Rotary Blade may be edited for pressures up to 4,000 grams! Settings for materials requiring use of the Knife blade may NOT be edited. The heaviest built in pressure for use with the Knife blade is 750 grams. The advantage of using the Knife blade is the length and thickness of the blade itself. Tough materials are managed by the software using a combination of multiple passes and pressure settings.
Material Settings for Cricut “Legacy Machines
The older Cricut “Legacy” machines, Personal, Create, Expression I, Cake, Cake Mini, Expression II, and Imagine, were able to cut heavier media to a certain extent. See the Legacy Settings Chart for Cricut machines, for use on the older Cricut machines.
The “Legacy” Cricut machines primarily used cartridges. Your cartridges could be linked to your Cricut account by signing in to Cricut Craftroom, and linking your cartridges to your account. All cartridges that have been linked with the Cricut Craftroom automatically become available for your use with your account in Cricut Design Space. However, the Cricut Craftroom is soon to be shut down. While it is still open, you can use it If you have cartridges still not linked to your account at Cricut.com.
Using Cartridges with Cricut Explore or Cricut Maker
The Explore machines include a port on the top left side of the machine. Use that for linking cartridges to Cricut Design Space. To use it, go here , Login, and click on Home in the upper left corner of the screen. Select Link Cartridge, and this window opens.
Select the green Link Cartridge button. Then the cartridge will automatically be linked to your Cricut account for use with either Cricut Explore or Cricut Maker machines.
However, Cricut Maker does NOT have a port for linking cartridges to your account. You can purchase an optional Cartridge Adapter for linking your cartridges to your account. The process for using this adapter will be the same as Linking a Cartridge on the Explore, except you will plug the adapter into the small USB port on the side of the Cricut Maker, and plug the cartridge into the adapter.
If you have the Cricut Maker, but do not have the Cartridge Adapter, you can take photographs of the front and back sides of your cartridges, contact Cricut Support. Send these photographs to them, and they will manually link your cartridge to your account. Then you can use the cartridge content with your Cricut Design Space account on your Cricut Explore or Cricut Maker without charge.
Will Your Choice be Cricut Explore or Cricut Maker?
Think carefully about what you want to cut. If you want to cut some of the materials that only the Cricut Maker can cut, consider saving your money to get that machine. But if you want to get started cutting right away, and have a limited budget, you could purchase the Cricut Explore now. Then later you can upgrade to the Cricut Maker.
For example, I have always wanted to cut tissue paper, crepe paper, and inexpensive construction paper on my cutters. But the Cricut Maker is the only machine in my collection that will cut these very light weight papers without some kind of stabilizer. Cricut Explore can cut through felt and fabric, but you will need to stiffen them or use a backing of some kind. But the Cricut Maker cuts all of these very nicely without needing a backing or stabilizer. Cricut Explore cannot cut through basswood, but Cricut Maker does an excellent job cutting through Basswood that is up to 1/16″. The Maker’s knife blade cuts through thicker and tougher media better than blades in other machines.
What Will You Cut First?
Once you make your choice, get ready for a great new cutting adventure! Check out some of the resources available to you in our FREE Resource Library. Whichever machine you choose, these posts will help you get ready.
I would love to see a photo of your first project! You can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Read my full disclosure policy.
Get the password for the Free Library with free SVG files by filling out this form: