Considering a Cricut machine? These handy devices are a crafter’s best friend. The cutting machines act like a printer but can cut, score, or write on the materials you feed through them. These DIY appliances will work with your original creations or designs you download from the internet. Among their many capabilities is printing iron-on transfers. Cricut heat transfer machines are the perfect companion for applying your iron-on designs to the apparel or fabric of your choice. Cricut machines are attractive, user-friendly devices that help you take your crafting project from bright idea to finished product. This guide will help you choose the best one for your upcoming projects.
- BEST OVERALL: Cricut Easy Press 2
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Cricut Joy
- BEST CUTTING POWER: Cricut Maker
- BEST MINI: Cricut Easy Press Mini
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cricut Machine
The best Cricut machine for you depends on the projects you’re planning. Consider the materials you plan to use; the speed you expect from the device; the features you’ll need, such as cutting and scoring or heat press; and whether you need a wireless machine.
Cutting Machines and Heat-Press Machines
Cricut is best known for its cutting machines. These devices cut, score, and draw on various materials, such as card stock, vinyl, foil, balsa wood, and fabric, in the design of your choice.
Cricut also makes heat-press machines to transfer designs onto apparel, bags, and other fabrics. A traditional clothing iron hasn’t got anything on these devices. They distribute heat evenly at a temperature that you control completely.
Cricut cutting machines cut a huge variety of materials. Depending on the model, these machines can handle from 50 to 300 different materials. The majority cut paper, card stock, and vinyl. Some also cut cork, foil, and fabric. Others can manage those as well as leather and wood. If you don’t know exactly how you’ll use your cutter, but you just can’t stop thinking about buying yourself one, choose a machine that cuts a wide range of materials, but don’t splurge on one with the greatest cutting power right off the bat.
Cricut heat-press machines work with iron-on transfers. If you’re in the market for one of these, the size of the transfers and garments you plan to use will be your main consideration.
If cutting speed is important to you, it may be worth it to go with a professional-level Cricut machine rather than a beginners’ model. Some can cut up to two times faster with an optional fast-mode setting on the machine. Some Cricut machines can quickly switch tools while the machine works. These are professional-level features that don’t come standard on every machine. Think about how you plan to use your machine before you invest in these options.
Auto Depth, Pressure, and Temperature Control
A cutting machine may cut too deep or may not cut deep enough for the material you’re using. This depends on the depth and pressure settings on your machine.
Some Cricut cutting machines automatically adjust the cut depth and pressure of the blade based on your design and material. But they aren’t all this intuitive. Depending on the model you choose, you may need to adjust the pressure yourself to ensure a precise cut.
As for a Cricut heat-transfer machine, you want to look for one that offers the temperature controls you need for your project.
Most Cricut cutting machines offer scoring, except for smaller models that have more limited capabilities. Cricut’s Scoring Stylus tool scores paper that’s meant to be folded. If scoring is important for your projects, consider a Cricut machine that works with the Scoring Stylus.
If scoring is critical to your projects, you might consider a pro-level machine that performs professional scoring techniques. The machines produce solid scoring lines rather than dashes that can perforate the paper and interrupt the design.
All Cricut cutting machines offer a writing tool. Cricut makes its own pens in different colors and thicknesses, which you can easily insert into the machine to produce calligraphy and other elaborate fonts.
If you want to write on thicker materials, such as wood, go for a pro-level model that uses Cricut’s knife blade to engrave heavier materials.
All Cricut machines will connect to your computer, smartphone, or tablet wirelessly via Bluetooth. But not every machine has the option of a wired connection. If that’s important to you, make sure you choose a model that offers it. The higher-level machines include this feature. Those that do include USB ports will charge your mobile device, too.
Compatible Accessories & Software
All Cricut machines come with Cricut’s own Design Space software for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Cricut is also compatible with some third-party software, so you’re not limited to Cricut’s software.
Cricut machines are also compatible with Cricut accessories, including mats, tools, and pens. Some third-party accessories are Cricut-compatible, too. There are travel bags, tool organizers, and covers for almost any Cricut machine. However, if having an organizer for your specific tool set is important to you, be sure you check both Cricut’s accessories and third-party options before purchasing.
Before you purchase a Cricut machine, make sure you’ll be able to use it safely. Consider these safety precautions:
- You should always operate your Cricut machine on a dry, flat surface.
- Change the blades with the utmost care.
- Unplug the machine to change the blades or service the machine in any other way.
- Unplug heat-transfer machines when not in use.
- Let it cool completely before you put it away.
- Never leave a running machine unattended.
- Children should not use Cricut machines unless closely supervised.
Our Top Picks
The best Cricut machine for your project will turn your crafting plans into finished products. From mini machines to do-it-all professional devices, there’s a Cricut machine for every crafting need. The top picks include a selection of some of the best, one of which might be just the one you need.
The Cricut Easy Press 2 is an affordable, easy-to-use heat-transfer machine that makes T-shirts and other iron-on projects a snap. Simply choose your base material and your transfer material, and Cricut’s Heat Transfer Guide gives you the ideal settings for the best results. This handy device can heat up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit—far more heat than an iron can offer. The ceramic-coated plate evenly distributes heat for consistent results every time. Your heat transfers will hold up well even after many washes.
The Easy Press 2 comes in three sizes: 9 inch by 9 inch, 6 inch by 7 inch, and 12 inch by 10 inch.
The Cricut Joy is a great way to start learning your way around a Cricut machine. This device cuts about 50 different materials, including card stock, iron-on designs, and vinyl, up to 5.5 inches wide and 20 feet long. That gives the beginning “Cricutter” plenty of project options to start with.
For beginners who aren’t ready to commit to a full-size machine, this smaller option is easy to store and transport. But because it’s designed for portability, this device doesn’t offer a wired connection; you can work online only via Bluetooth.
The Cricut Maker has the most cutting power of all the Cricut machines. In addition to cutting the standard paper and card stock, it can cut some 300 other materials, including wood, leather, and fabric, up to 12 inches wide.
This device is also one of the most versatile. It has more than 12 capabilities for cutting, scoring, writing, and other advanced options. It comes with a rotary blade for cutting fabric and a knife blade for wood and thicker materials. You can add compatible tools, purchased separately, as you learn new skills.
Designed for professional crafters or the experienced Cricut user, this powerful device offers several advanced features. The machine easily swaps between multiple tools; it adapts to add up to 10 times the standard cutting force as needed; and it can work at twice its baseline speed in fast mode.
Love the idea of Cricut’s Easy Press but need something smaller and a bit more versatile for your projects? The Cricut Easy Press Mini could be the right Cricut machine for you. A smaller version of the Easy Press 2, it measures just under 2 inches by 3.25 inches. If you have heat-transfer projects that are too small to navigate with the traditional Easy Press, the Mini gives you added flexibility in an easy-to-grip device. You can use this handy little tool on small and awkward surfaces like the toe of a canvas shoe or the front of a ball cap.
This versatile device has three simple heat settings and extra protection around its base to guard your surfaces against heat. As an added safety feature, the device will shut off after 13 minutes without use. The Easy Press Mini is affordable, great for small spaces or challenging crafts, and easy to store and use.
FAQs About Cricut Machines
If you’re just getting into Cricut and looking for the best Cricut machine, here are some of the most frequently asked questions.
Q. What can I do with a Cricut machine?
Cricut cutting machines can cut iron-on decals, stickers, and cards; write calligraphy; create wall art, labels, signs, and ornaments; and so much more. Cricut heat-press machines complete your iron-on transfer projects.
Q. Do I need a computer to use a Cricut?
You’ll need to check your specific model, but most Cricut machines require some type of device to set up the software, whether it’s a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Some may require a computer for initial setup and then allow you to manage the software via a tablet or phone.
Q. Can you use a Cricut machine without the internet?
While you’ll need the internet to set up your Cricut machine, you won’t need to maintain an internet connection to use Design Space, Cricut’s design software. You can work offline.
Q. Can you use a Cricut machine to make T-shirts?
Yes. Cricut machines are excellent for making iron-on decal designs for T-shirts. The best part is that you won’t need an iron, glue gun, or sewing machine: Choose a Cricut cutting machine to create the iron-on transfer, and use Cricut’s Easy Press 2 or Easy Press Mini to press the design onto the shirt.
Q. Can you use your own images with Cricut machines?
Yes. You can upload your own designs to Cricut’s software or to third-party software to print or cut out.
Q. Can a Cricut machine draw?
Yes, but you’ll need to have your design ready in Cricut’s Design Space or another software program so the machine can print or cut it out, as the machine can’t draw freehand. You must have a design first, but you can use your own handwriting in Design Space.