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Introduction

Reads as cry-cut, sounds like cricket. Cricut brand electronic cutting machines can be life-changing, let me tell you! What might start out as a fun pastime of cutting vinyl decals, creating cards, customizing shirts, and making custom labels around your home can quickly become a passionate hobby or can turn into a small business. My point being, a Cricut machine and its possibilities can be whatever you want it to be. Get creative, explore your machine and the software, and let’s get making!

WHAT IS CRICUT?

There are several Cricut models to choose from. The No. 1 question I am asked is, “Which machine should I buy?” My answer is, “If you could dream up what you would like to create in the next several months to a year, what would you include?” Check out the machines listed below to help narrow down your choice.

CRICUT JOY The smallest of the Cricut cutting machines. This little cutie is a whiz when it comes to making custom cards, but the Joy can do so much more. This machine can cut a wide variety of materials including cardstock, vinyl, iron-on, sticker paper, cardboard, and faux leather; and it can even cut lengths up to 20 feet long (of a repeated cut/pattern) when using Cricut Smart Materials. The Joy can also electronically write, which is a great option for making labels, cards, envelopes, and more. However, there are limits to Joy’s capabilities. The compatible materials list for the Cricut Joy is shorter than the other machines and there is no option for Print Then Cut, which is important to know if you plan on making stickers. Cricut Joy Smart Vinyl is 5.5” wide and the maximum cut width is 4.5” if using a Cricut Joy Mat.

CRICUT EXPLORE (AIR) SERIES These machines are full size and can cut more than 100 different types of materials. The Explore Air machines are a great option if you want to mainly work with cardstock, stickers, leather, vinyl, and iron-on materials. There is a blade for bonded fabric as well as a Deep-Point Blade that is compatible with this machine. The Explore machines have a dual tool holder, which means your machine can hold a Fine-Point Blade and a Scoring Tool or a pen at the same time. This machine can cut material up to 2mm thick. The dial on the Air and Air 2 machines only mentions some of the materials you can cut with these machines, but you can select the Custom option from the dial and it opens up a list with many more options when it comes time to Make It. The Air 3 model does not have a dial, but you will select your material from a list within Cricut Design Space. Unlike the first two versions of the Explore machines, the Air 3 is capable of cutting Smart Vinyl without a mat for cuts/designs larger than 11.5” x 23.5”, which is the maximum size of the previous Explore machines.

CRICUT MAKER This machine is the cream of the crop! It has all the features of the other machines and more. My favorite things about this machine that the others don’t have are the blades and specialty tools for cutting more than 300 types of materials. Many of these tools are used for the projects within this book, like the Rotary Blade for cutting felt and the Knife Blade for cutting craft foam. While the Explore Air 2 has blades that will work for felt and foam, I’ve found the Maker delivers the smoothest results (more on that when we get to those projects). Other than the blades and tools that are exclusive to the Maker, you can even cut wood with this machine. Balsa wood and basswood are two of the most common types of wood you can use in your Maker, up to 3/32” thick. Like the Explore machines, the Maker machines have a dual tool holder, which means your machine can hold a blade and a pen at the same time. The Maker 3 is capable of cutting Smart Vinyl without a mat for cuts/ designs larger than 11.5” x 23.5”, which is the maximum cut size of the original Maker machine.

HEAT PRESSES

Let’s chat about heat presses. A heat press is a machine that uses heat and pressure to bond materials. Heat presses are commonly used with iron-on material and garment customization, but can be used for so much more. You can even use a heat press on canvas, socks, shoes, wood, and the list goes on. I use two different presses in the projects that follow: a handheld EasyPress Mini and a 9” x 9” EasyPress 2. These aren’t the only options for presses though. We’ll start small.

HANDHELD PRESSES The EasyPress Mini or mini-iron is exactly what you need for those tiny personalized projects. The small size of these presses helps to monitor and manage the amount of heat you are applying to delicate projects.

SPECIALTY PRESSES Hats, mugs, and tumblers, oh my! Some full-size heat presses come with attachments that can be used to create a variety of projects. If you have a particular passion, it may be a wise investment to focus on one specific type of press. Cricut has a mug and a hat press, both of which are fun and user friendly.

EASYPRESS COLLECTION These come in a variety of sizes and colors. These handheld presses are a great option if you prefer a more portable heat press. They are available in 9” x 9” and 12” x 10” sizes. (Note that the 6” x 7” EasyPress is no longer available.) The 9” x 9” EasyPress is great for tote bags and other medium-sized projects, while the 12” x 10” is perfect for larger designs on shirts or canvases.

FULL-SIZE HEAT PRESS This is the way to go when you need more pressure or a larger heat plate. There are many options available across the Internet and in craft stores. Cricut also offers the Autopress machine, which is aimed toward professionals who produce batches of shirts or other goods. Full-size heat presses provide a great amount of space to make adult shirts and other items that need to be mass produced.

The above covers some essential points about each of the Cricut machines and tools. For more detailed information, check out help.cricut.com.

YOU’VE GOT YOUR CRICUT, NOW WHAT?

The first thing you’ll want to do is get that beauty out of the box. Next, go to design.cricut.com or the App Store on your handheld device and download Cricut Design Space to install the necessary software. At first glance, Design Space can be confusing as there are so many tools, features, and options. I will introduce you to each of these functions in the pages and projects ahead to build your confidence to create any vision you may have.

I’ll share images from Design Space from my computer, and please know the functions are the same whether you are using a tablet, phone, or other device.

When you sign into Design Space, you’ll want to set up your machine. If you are not immediately prompted to do so when signing in, start by clicking on the three small horizontal lines in the upperleft corner to open the main menu, which looks like the image below. This is the menu to go to when you hit a snag. If you want to make stickers, I suggest starting with Calibration. This will ensure your Print Then Cut settings are precise (you may need to repeat this process every so often).

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This is a great place to dig deeper into what your Cricut can do. Check out the Manage Custom Materials and you will discover all the different materials your machine can cut. Cricut Access is a subscription-based plan that gives you discounts on Cricut products as well as access to fonts, images, and features throughout Design Space. Cricut has a number of free images, shapes, and fonts, and their free offerings change regularly. The images used in this book are available through Cricut Access and many are also free.

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Within the Settings option you can choose how you want to set up your Design Space save options, grids, mat selection, and more. You can personalize Design Space to what works best with your design flow.

The large workspace in the center of your screen is called your canvas. This is where you will design and create, this is where the magic happens.

Now, let’s take a tour down the options in the left column. Templates are fun to use to help you size a project or play around with simple mock-up designs. Take note that Templates are not available in the Design Space app on handheld devices.

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Projects are where you’ll find Ready to Make projects that can be searched by category. Cricut has many projects available, including free projects, community projects, and featured projects, which can all be accessed through the Projects tab.

The Shapes tab is where you’ll find a variety of basic shapes to add to your canvas. In the projects to follow we will reference these shapes often.

The Images tab is where you’ll find access to over 250,000 images within the Design Space database. The search function allows you to find ready-to-use images for nearly any project you may be working on. There are also categories to access free, popular, recently added and featured images here. This is where you’ll go to search for the images listed within the projects of this book. When searching for a specific image, you’ll need to include the number symbol (#) followed by the letters and numbers.

The Text tab is where you’ll go to add text to your canvas. This will bring up a text box and from there you can use the font drop down menu that comes up right above the canvas. With these options you can customize your text to the size, shape and specifications needed for your project. We’ll dig into a few projects that use text within this book to get you more familiar with this feature.

The Phrases tab is much like the Images tab, but specifically for phrases. You can use the search function to see if Cricut has a phrase that fits your project needs.

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You’ll want to get comfortable with the Upload function, especially if you like to create your own designs that you’ll cut with your Cricut machine. You can also upload your own Pattern Fills in this tab. This tool is used in the Stickers for Goodie Bags project, found in the Let’s Party chapter. When uploading your image or pattern fill, follow the prompts and make sure you upload a compatible format. If your image has a transparent background PNG or a SVG file, you can upload it without any modifications. If your image has a simple background, you can easily remove the background with the Background Remover tool, or manually select each section you’d like to remove with the wand tool. Then save your image as a Cut image or a Print Then Cut image. See the images here for before and after references of removing the white parts of the design with the wand tool.

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Now let’s go over the tools you’ll find across the top menu of your canvas, the Edit Bar. To the far left, you’ll see there is an undo and redo button. Next is a drop-down menu labeled Operation. These tools are fun to play with when creating your own designs. We’ll use quite a few of these functions in the projects in this book to get you more familiar with what each of them can do. If you’ll be using the Print Then Cut operation, take note that the maximum printing space (at the time of writing) is 6.75” x 9.25”.

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In the next section you’ll find Select All, Edit and the Offset tool. Offset is a tool that Cricut crafters waited years to see show up in Design Space! It was worth the wait, and I use it in many of my projects. It makes creating layers for shaker cards, cake toppers, and stickers so much easier than using another program and uploading each element. The Offset tool works with a single layer or multiple layers. It creates an additional layer that can be used as a background or shadow layer.

Next, you’ll see Align, Arrange, and Flip. These functions are used to adjust your images. Use Align when you have more than one layer selected and you need to align them to one another. This is also where you’ll find the ability to evenly distribute the spacing between several selected layers/images.

The Arrange function is used when you want to move the layers forward or backward on your canvas. Arrange is used several times throughout the projects in this book, giving you a chance to see firsthand when and how to use this function.

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Let’s move over to the panel on the far right of the screen, which is where you’ll find your Layers and Color Sync tools. In the Layers panel, the Group function allows you to select multiple layers and resize or move them as one layer. In the image here you can see that I have grouped the two shapes on my canvas. While they will move on the canvas as one, when you get to the Make It screen, they will not cut as shown.

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The Color Sync tool is great to use when working with multiple layers of different colors. It can help to organize your cuts and make the cutting process easier. When you tap into the Color Sync tool, you’ll see this prompt, “This panel allows you to sync colors to use fewer materials. To change colors, drag and drop an object onto the layer of your desired color.”

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Speaking of color, see that little white box labeled Blank Canvas near the bottom of the Layers panel? If you click on that white box, you can change the color of your canvas. This is helpful if you’re trying to visualize what a project will look like with a specific background color. You can choose from any of the colors shown or tap the + icon and pick any custom color you need. This option is also helpful if you’re working with sticker sheets that are white and you want to see the edges of your design more clearly.

Back to the Layers panel, let’s go through the functions on the bottom row. Each of these tools and functions can be used in a variety of ways so my suggestion is to bring some shapes onto your canvas and play around with them. Keep in mind that what you see on your canvas might not be what you see on the Make It screen, unless you use the proper functions. Let’s dig into what each of these functions can do.

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The Slice tool takes two overlapping layers and creates cut paths where they intersect. This creates new layers, as shown in the images below. In the first image you can see that new layers have been created in the Layers panel. For the second image I’ve separated the shapes like puzzle pieces so you can see how it all fits together.

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The Weld tool is used when you want to convert many layers into a single new cut path. Also note, because you are transforming several layers into one new cut path, they will become the same color. The image here shows how the circle and heart have been welded together to create one shape. Sometimes it’s helpful to use this tool toward the end of your project when everything is just how you want it on your canvas. Keep in mind there is no unweld function, but if need be you can use the undo button. Once you save your project you cannot undo a Weld. I suggest using this function when working with script/connected text so your text flows as if it was handwritten smoothly.

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The Attach tool is used when you want to keep your images, text, and operations as they are on the canvas when you Make It. We’ll use this several times throughout the projects in this book, which will help you to further understand the many ways this tool can be used. In the images below you can see that on the canvas both layers are selected and Attached. Then in the next image you can see that they appear on the Make It screen in the exact layout. This tool is also needed when working with text layers (not script, see Weld). In order to get your text to be cut exactly as you see it on your canvas, you’ll want to select the text layer and then Attach. Also note that when layers are Attached, the button changes to a Detach tool, this can be used any time throughout the design process to separate any attached layers.

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The Flatten tool will be used when you want to Print Then Cut your project. In the image here you can see that the two shapes layers have now been turned into one Print Then Cut layer. Your Cricut will only cut around the outside of your flattened layer. If you’re creating stickers, this will be a well-used tool.

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The Contour tool is a fun tool with many uses. This tool can be used to eliminate small details within your image or to remove any cuts within your image that you don’t want in your final project. Here is a sample project of how we can change this MOM image into a version with the heart inside the O.

Start out by searching for this MOM image #M37DAC from the Images tab and this heart shape which can be found in the Shapes tab. The end goal is to eliminate the circle in the letter O and replace it with the heart shape.

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Click the Contour tool and a pop-up window will show you all the different cut lines in the right column. You can either hover your mouse and click on the section you’d like to remove (it will switch from light gray to dark gray when selected), or you can use the column on the right side to select which layers you’d like to remove.

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Exit out of that pop-up window and you’ll see that your image has changed on the canvas. It should look like the image here.

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Now you can click and drag the heart to move it into the middle of the O and then select both layers. Next, use the Slice tool. Once sliced you can see in the image here that the heart shape has been cut from the MOM image. The hearts have been moved above the image to show the different layers that have been created.

Now delete the two isolated hearts and you’re left with a new MOM image with a heart in the center. Super cute!

If your Design Space doesn’t look exactly like the images shown throughout this book, please know that Cricut updates their apps regularly; however, the tools and functions are still the same, even if the images look different. Also, the steps and design processes in this book are just one way of creating these projects. The fun thing about crafting with Cricut is there are several ways to achieve the same results. Have fun and find what works for you!

TOOLS & ACCESSORIES

There are a few tools you’ll need before you can get started crafting with your Cricut, let’s go over some must have items and useful tools of the trade.

Let’s go over hand tools first. In the image on the next page you’ll see a variety of tools that will be used in this book.

BRAYER This roller is one of my favorite hand tools. This tool was created to apply fabric smoothly to the Cricut mat; however, I’ve found that I use this on nearly all my materials when applying them to the Cricut mat. The brayer rolls out any air bubbles and ensures that your material is securely in place on your mat.

SCRAPER TOOLS These tools are not only great for applying your vinyl and transfer tapes, but also for cleaning your mats when there is paper left behind. Simply scrape all those scraps away and right into the trash. You can also use a handheld squeegee or a credit card as a substitute for a scraper tool.

WEEDING TOOLS You’ll need some sort of sharp weeding tool when working with vinyl or iron-on material. These tools are used to pick up and “weed out” any of the material that is not part of your final design. I’ve shown a few examples in the image and there are many more; as long as it is comfortable for you to use, and it works—use it.

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CRAFT KNIFE/BLADE This little blade comes in very handy whenever you need to cut something quickly. I recommend pairing it with a self-healing mat to make sure you’re protecting your workspace.

SCISSORS These Cricut scissors come with a sheath, which is great, because these scissors are SHARP!

TWEEZERS There are several types of tweezers here. Your standard tweezers with both a pointed and an angled tip, as well as a pair of reverse tweezers. Reverse tweezers are great for paper crafts; you can pick up the paper with the tweezers and hold them in place until you squeeze the tweezers to let them go.

SPATULA This is just like the spatula you’d find in your kitchen, but it’s smaller, cuter, and made for crafting. With the spatula you can easily remove your paper projects from the Cricut mat to prevent your paper from curling.

CRICUT MACHINE MATS

You’ll also need a mat to place your material on when using your Cricut unless you’re using the Cricut Explore Air 3 or Maker 3 machines, which have the capability of matless cutting. Cricut machine mats are available in a variety of colors and sizes, and each color has specific materials it is designed to work best with.

Let’s get into specifics about which mat to use and when. Remember to save the clear liners that come with your mats and reapply them after each project. This will keep them cleaner, which could extend the life of your mats.

BLUE LightGrip Machine Mat is used when cutting lightweight materials like light cardstock, copy paper, vellum, and other materials that might rip easily with a stronger grip mat.

GREEN StandardGrip Machine Mat is for medium-weight materials like vinyl, iron-on material, and heavier cardstock.

PURPLE StrongGrip Machine Mat is suggested for heavy-duty materials like cardboard, thick cardstock, glitter cardstock, wood, poster board, and magnet material.

PINK FabricGrip Machine Mat was created specifically for cutting fabrics with your Cricut machine.

When your mats start to lose their stickiness or become dirty, you can easily wash your mats and they will be almost as good as new. My favorite way to renew/clean my mats is to put them under running water and use a bristled scrub brush with a little bit of dish soap and scrub lightly all over the mat. When the debris has been gently scrubbed away, you can rinse your mat and hang to dry. Once the mat is dry, simply put the clear liner back on top of it and store it away for the next time you get crafty.

CRICUT BLADES

Depending on your machine and craft project, the instructions may call for a specific blade. Your new machine will always come with a Fine-Point Blade, which is called for in almost all the projects in this book. Each machine has a different housing (where you put the blades into the machine) and not all blades work with each machine.

The Cricut Joy has one slot, which can be used for the Fine-Point Blade it comes with, a pen/marker, or the Joy Foil Transfer Tool.

The Cricut Explore series has two slots in the carriage, labeled side A (left) and B (right). In the left side (A), you can use a Scoring Stylus/Tool or a pen/marker. On the right side (B), you can use the Fine-Point Blade or one of the other specialty blades made for this machine, as mentioned below.

DEEP-POINT BLADE This blade and housing is black. This blade is great for using with thicker materials like foam, cardboard, chipboard, and stiffened felt.

BONDED-FABRIC BLADE This blade and housing is pink and matches the FabricGrip mat. The Explore series can cut fabric, but it needs to be bonded or have an iron-on backer.

FOIL TRANSFER TOOL This tool is blue. This tool is used several times throughout this book to add foil detailing to both leather and cardstock. This tool comes with three tips: fine, medium, and bold.

The Maker machines are where Cricut really stepped up the blades and tools. Not only can you use all the tools that you can use with the Explore machines, but there’s something special about the carriage on the Maker machines. There is a gear hiding behind that Fine-Point Blade. This is used when working with the blades listed below.

ROTARY BLADE This little blade really packs a punch! Not only can you use it for delicate materials like tissue paper, but you can also use it for cutting thicker materials like denim and other fabrics. Cricut recommends keeping your images larger than 3/4” when using the Rotary Blade, as smaller images may damage your mat and/or blade.

KNIFE BLADE This tool is a game changer! This is the blade that allows your Cricut Maker to cut basswood, balsa wood, and other materials up to 3/32” (2.4mm) thick. Reminder: When cutting thicker materials, make sure to move the white star wheels on the silver roller bar to the side so you don’t leave imprints on your material.

The following tools are called QuickSwap Tools. They are only made for the Maker machines and can all be swapped out using the same housing.

SCORING WHEEL & DOUBLE SCORING WHEEL These tools provide 10x more pressure than the Scoring Stylus/Tool used in the Explore series. Creating score lines for cards and treat boxes has never been easier. Use the Double Scoring Wheel when scoring thicker materials like cardboard.

DEBOSSING TIP This tool creates depressions (indents) into a variety of impressionable materials. You can transform plain material into a patterned and textured creation to be used in your next craft, or as a standalone decoration in your home or office.

ENGRAVING TIP This tip can create engraved designs on metal, glass, leather, acrylic, and more!

PERFORATION BLADE This blade cuts perforated lines that can be used to create coupon books, raffle tickets, unique cards, and more! Making a peek-a-boo card with a tearable element is a great way to use this blade.

WAVY BLADE This blade creates a fun, wavy edge along your fancy or playful creations. You can create unique envelopes, cards, badges, gift tags … anything that you’d want to add a special edge to!

Now that you’ve got the rundown of Design Space, tools, and accessories, let’s start making!

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