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The best Cricut machines in 2021

best Cricut machine
(Image credit: Cricut)

The best Cricut machines are a great investment for any crafter to make, whether you're using one for a hobby or working professionally. 

Cricut is mostly widely known for its cutting machines, which look a bit like upmarket printers. Create a design on a computer, and the Cricut machine will automatically cut it out of your required material, whether that be paper, vinyl, card, felt, fabric, leather or matboard, with precision accuracy. It's much faster and easier, and probably a lot more accurate than cutting by hand.

But that's not all. Cricut also creates a variety of other machines for specific tasks such as printing designs on to clothes, mugs and more.

How to choose a Cricut machine

So what should you be looking for? Well, if you're after a cutting machine, the most obvious factor will be which materials you want to cut. The more expensive models are capable of cutting a huge variety of materials: the first two on our list, for example, can each tackle more than 300 materials.

However, if you just want to cut a few simple light materials, such as paper, card and felt, that may be overkill, and you may prefer a lighter and cheaper model.

Some Cricut machines are also capable of cutting smart materials, which are basically special materials you can cut without a cutting mat. This means you can load large pieces into your machine and cut them in one go, which is very useful for large projects. Commonly used smart materials include Smart Vinyl, Smart Iron-On, Smart Label Writable Paper, and Smart Label Writable Vinyl.

Not interested in cutting, but want to print custom designs onto items instead? Then scroll down to the 6, 7 and 8 on our list, where you'll find the best Cricut machines for those purposes.

The best Cricut machines in 2021

Cricut Maker

(Image credit: Cricut)

01. Cricut Maker

The best Cricut machine overall

Specifications
Purpose: Cuts 300+ materials
Best for: Professionals
Size: 17.8 x 53.8 x 15.1cm
Weight: 4.8kg
Reasons to buy
+Good for pro use+Cut 300 materials+13 tools
Reasons to avoid
-Unsuitable for smart materials

Unless you’re working with smart materials, The Cricut Maker is the standout Cricut machine you can buy today. So if you’re looking for the best Cricut machine for vinyl, the best Cricut machine for fabric, indeed the best Cricut machine for most purposes, you’ll find it here. 

This impressive machine allows you to precision-cut more than 300 materials, from delicate fabric and paper to tough materials such as like matboard and leather. You have the choice of 13 tools to cut, score, write, deboss, engrave, or add other decorative effects with precision. These include a rotary blade for cutting fabrics, a knife blade for thicker materials up to 2.4mm, scoring wheels to create creases and folds, and a foil transfer tool for foil embellishments.

In short, this is the Rolls Royce of Cricut machines. And while it isn’t the cheapest model you can buy, it’s hugely versatile and represents excellent value overall.

Cricut Maker 3

(Image credit: Cricut)

02. Cricut Maker 3

The best Cricut machine for large projects

Specifications
Purpose: Cuts 300+ materials
Best for: Professionals
Size: 56 x 18 x 15.7cm
Weight: 6.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Good for pro use+Cut smart materials without mat+Two extra accessories
Reasons to avoid
-Overkill for standard projects

If you want to work with smart materials, then the recently released Cricut Maker 3 is the one to go for. Note that there’s no Cricut Maker 2, the company just skipped a version for some unexplained reason.

Despite being significantly more expensive than the Cricut Maker, the Cricut Maker 3 is pretty similar in most respects. The one big difference is the ability to cut smart materials without a mat, which means you can make cuts of up to 12 ft (3.6 m) in one go. 

It’s also twice as fast as the Cricut Maker when working with smart materials. Plus you get two extra accessories in the form of a larger portable trimmer and a roll holder, to help you feed your smart materials into the machine.

Cricut Explore Air 2

(Image credit: Cricut)

03. Cricut Explore Air 2

The best Cricut machine for beginners

Specifications
Purpose: Cuts 100+ materials
Best for: Novices
Size: 60.96 x 24.13 x 24.13cm
Weight: 6.35kg
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+100 types of material+Five tools
Reasons to avoid
-Not for pro use

If you’re just getting started with machine cutting, then check out the Cricut Explore Air 2. It’s not quite as versatile and powerful as the first two models on our list. But by that token, that makes the software easier to follow when you’re a total beginner. And it’s still a very capable machine. 

The Cricut Explore Air 2 will cut more than 100 different types of material, including premium vinyl, iron-on and HTV vinyl, cardstock, faux leather, adhesive foils, specialty paper and poster board, and you get five tools for cutting, writing and scoring. So it’s great for everything from making everything from custom stickers and greeting cards to personalised home decor and home-made gifts.

We wouldn’t recommend this for anyone doing commercial cutting, but it’s certainly the best Cricut machine for anyone at the start of their journey. 

Cricut Explore 3

(Image credit: Cricut)

04. Cricut Explore 3

Affordable choice for working with smart materials

Specifications
Purpose: Cuts 100+ materials
Best for: Hobbyists
Size: ‎65.5 x 27 x 26.9cm
Weight: 9.86kg
Reasons to buy
+Work with smart materials+Larger portable trimmer & roll holder+Cheaper than Cricut Maker 3
Reasons to avoid
-Not as feature-rich as Cricut Maker 3

The Cricut Explore 3 is the recently released successor to the Cricut Explore Air 2 (see above). There’s not a huge amount of difference between them. The main benefit of buying the Cricut Explore 3 is the ability to work with smart materials. You also get a larger portable trimmer and a roll holder.

This means that, as with the Cricut Maker 3 (number one on our list) you can make cuts up to 12 ft (3.6 m) long in one go. The main reason to choose this model over that one is price. 

In other words, if you’re a hobbyist who wants to use smart materials, but doesn’t need the professional-level features of the Cricut Maker 3, this more affordable model is the one to go for.

Cricut Joy

(Image credit: Cricut)

05. Cricut Joy

The best Cricut machine for portability

Specifications
Purpose: Cuts 50+ materials
Best for: Hobbyists
Size: 21.4 x 13.8 x 10.8cm
Weight: 1.75kg
Reasons to buy
+Compact+Lightweight+Low price
Reasons to avoid
-No USB connection

The Cricut Joy is beautifully compact and portable. Measuring just 21.4 x 13.8 x 10.8cm, it’s significantly smaller than other models, and with a light weight of 1.75kg, it’s easy to store and carry from place to place. 

This means it’s the ideal choice for smaller crafting tasks. For instance, we’d argue it’s the best cricut machine for labels, the best cricut machine for stickers and the best cricut machine for greetings cards.

That doesn’t mean it’s not capable of bigger things, though. In fact, you can use the Cricut Joy for continuous cuts without a cutting mat, up to 20 feet long and four inches wide. More generally, it can be used to cut over 50 types of material, including iron-on, cardstock, vinyl, paper, and smart materials.

Note that while you can connect it to your computer via Bluetooth, there isn't a USB connection as with the other devices listed so far. However, on the whole if you’re crafting as a hobby, this is a great, low-cost choice, particularly if you want a machine that's light and portable.

Cricut Easypress 2

(Image credit: Cricut)

06. Cricut EasyPress 2

The best Cricut machine for making T-shirts

Specifications
Purpose: Transfer Iron-On or HTV designs to fabric
Best for: Professionals, hobbyists
Size: 22.5 x 22.5cm or 30 x 25cm
Weight: 2.3kg or 3.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Removes guesswork+Professional results
Reasons to avoid
-No good for small items

Cricut machines aren’t all about cutting. The company also manufactures iron-on machines for making custom-designed T-shirts, tote bags, pillows, aprons, sweatshirts, banners, blankets and more. And the best of these is the Cricut EasyPress 2. 

This device allows you to transfer Iron-On or HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl) designs to any piece of fabric. And it’s very easy to use in practice. 

Cricut’s online guide gives you the ideal heat settings for different projects. Then once you’ve programmed the correct settings, you apply the plate to your materials for the suggested time, using the timer function. This takes all the guesswork out of the process, making it much more likely your designs will be transferred successfully. 

The base plate of the EasyPress provides a consistent heat, making it better than a normal iron, where the core of the plate is hottest. There's also a larger surface area than most irons, so you can adhere the whole design in one go.

There are two sizes. The 9 x 9 inch (22.5  x 22.5cm) model is good for standard items, while the 12 x 10- nch (30 x 25cm) model is ideal for larger items. For smaller items, however, you'll want to look instead at the Cricut EasyPress Mini (see below).

Cricut EasyPress Mini

(Image credit: Cricut)

07. Cricut EasyPress Mini

The best Cricut machine for small items of clothing

Specifications
Purpose: Transfer Iron-On or HTV designs to fabric
Best for: Professionals, hobbyists
Size: 10 x 8.5 x 5.3cm
Weight: 0.35kg
Reasons to buy
+Good for small surfaces +Good for challenging surfaces+Compact and lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-No good for large items

Want to work on smaller projects, such as hats, caps, socks, shoes, headbands or small bags? Then you’ll want the The Cricut EasyPress Mini. 

This natty little 50W device essentially works in the same way as the Cricut EasyPress 2 (see above), but its tiny ceramic heat plate (which measures just 4.8 x 8.2cm) makes it ideal for unusually small or challenging surfaces, helping you curve around contours, work between buttons, and navigate seams. 

The device itself is beautifully compact, measuring just 10 x 8.5 x 5.3cm and weighing only 0.35kg, making it easy to store and transport. 

Cricut Mugpress

(Image credit: Cricut)

08. Cricut Mug Press

The best Cricut machine for mug printing

Specifications
Purpose: Transfer Cricut Infusible Ink designs to mugs
Best for: Professionals, hobbyists
Size: 27.49 x 16.5 x 15.74cm
Weight: 3.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Long lasting results+Dishwasher proof
Reasons to avoid
-Requires extra purchases

Another recent addition to the Cricut stable, this is – as the name suggests – the best Cricut machine for making custom mugs. Specifically it presses your design onto blank mugs. And it couldn’t be easier to use, as evidenced by the fact that it features just one button. 

However, be aware that you’ll also need a Cricut cutting machine to cut out your transfer, which needs to be on a Cricut Infusible Ink sheet (you can’t use normal vinyl). Once you’ve done that, you wrap your transfer around your mug, put it in the machine, press the button and the Mug Press does the rest.

It works very well in practice, giving professional looking results that stand the test of time, and are fine to put in the microwave and dishwasher. This approach is not cheap, especially if you don’t already have a Cricut cutting machine, but it is a solid, reliable and easy way to print customised mugs.

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Tom May

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design, photography and tech. He is author of Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books. He has previously been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine.