Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3: which digital craft cutter is for you?

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3; two craft machines on a coloured background
(Image credit: Future)

When pitting Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3 I'm not exactly determining which machine is best, but rather which craft cutting machine is right for you. Both of these Cricut machines are excellent devices, and can cut, emboss and engrave many different types of materials, including fabrics, wood and vinyl.

Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Explore 3 are this brand's newest craft machines and released in 2022. You can find these machines and others in my guide to the best Cricut machines, and read our Cricut Maker 3 review and our Cricut Explore 3 review to see in detail what they can do. 

In this head-to-head I'll be looking at the overall performance of each machine, examining functions, price, design and more so you can get a better idea if you need to buy the expensive Cricut Maker 3 or the more budget-friendly Cricut Explore 3. 

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3: comparison

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3: overview

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3; a woman in a craft room using a Cricut machine and a laptop

Both machines are capable digital craft cutters, so which is best for you? (Image credit: Cricut)

Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Maker 3 are the two latest digital craft cutting machines from Cricut; each can cut, engrave, draw and emboss on a variety of materials from leather to card, vinyl to wood. 

Both machines come with a fine-point blade as standard and this is good for most projects, to do more you need to buy extra tools, including embossing and debossing tools, new blades and even gel pens. Read our guide to the best Cricut accessories for a good idea of what each machine can support.

The difference between Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Maker 3 is the number of tools and materials each machine supports. Cricut Explore 3 has six tools while Cricut Maker 3 has 13 accessories. Both support Cricut Smart Materials, which means neither machine needs a cutting mat and both can make use of a Cricut Roll Holder for extended lengths of material (4–75 ft (3 - 22.8 m).

Both machines make use of Cricut Design Space, this is the app used to access pre-made designs, create your own projects, and manage materials and accessories. To get more from Cricut Design Space you can create art using the The best software for Cricut, such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW. There are free SVG files for Cricut to use, too. 

The table below offers an easy comparison guide to each machine.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cricut Explore 2 vs Cricut Maker 3
Cricut Maker 3Cricut Explore 3
Price$429.99 / £429.99$319.99 / £299.99
Number of tools136
Materials supported300+ (fabric, felt, wood, etc)100 (fabric, felt, wood, etc)
Matless cuttingYesYes
Size22.1 x 7.1 x 6.2 inches22.2 x 7 x 5.9 inches
Weight23.3 Ibs / 6.9 kg16.12 Ibs / 6.9 kg
Standard cutting size12 x 24 inches12 x 24 inches
ScoringYesYes
Colour optionsMuted blueMint
Roll HolderYesYes

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3: design

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3; a close up of a craft machine's cutting tool

Both machines feature Cricut's QuickSwap click and change system for replacing tools and blades (Image credit: Cricut)

Cricut craft machines have digitised the older template cutting machines and enable you to create your own designs and projects. These are smartly designed machines that fit snugly into a craft room as much as a kitchen or living room.

The machine's curves and subtle colours catch the eye but its the ease of use that rewards crafters, as everything is controlled via an app, which means the new iPad / tablet holder on top of each machine is a smart new design choice.

Blades, tools and pens can be plugged onto the accessory holder easily, and Cricut has created a unique QuickSwap method that ensures you can replace tools without fuss and in safety. Cricut is always expanding its machines and Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Maker 3 make use of Cricut Smart Materials that can reach continuous cuts of up to 12ft, and the Roll Holder cuts 75 ft of vinyl – meaning you can now create wallpaper on a Cricut.

The Cricut Maker 3 is 22.1 x 7.1 x 6.2 inches in size, while the Cricut Explore 3 is 22.2 x 7 x 5.9 inches, so these are virtually the same size, which is why some tools and accessories work across both machines. It means you can start on Cricut Explore 3 and upgrade to Cricut Maker 3 and still use many of your tools and add-ons.

In terms of design both machines share common ground so there's really nothing between them, except colour. Cricut Explore 3 comes in a soft mint green while Cricut Maker 3 is an off-white pale blue.

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3: performance

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3; a close up of a craft machine's buttons

These Cricut machines are controlled from the Design Space app, with minimal buttons on the machines (Image credit: Cricut)

This is where the two machines diverge, as the Cricut Maker 3 is more powerful and faster than Cricut Explore 3. This means while Cricut Maker 3 can make use of over 300 materials while Cricut Explore 3 is limited to 100 materials. This is also reflected in the number of accessories, Explore 3 has six while Cricut Maker 3 supports 13.

In action both machines are quiet and quick, and are a set up from their respective earlier models, for example Explore 3 is twice as fast as Cricut Explore 2 while Maker 3 is far quieter than the older Cricut Maker.

The Cricut Explore 3 has a standard cutting pressure and can cut materials up to 2mm thick, while Cricut Maker 3 boasts ten times the pressure so can cut more materials and thicker – up to 2.4 mm. It's not just about a slightly deeper cut, Cricut Maker 3 has 4000 gf / 4kg of cutting pressure which means it can cut and engrave in one go where as Explore 3 will need to make two passes over the same material to get similar results – Cricut Maker 3 is quicker.

Overall Cricut Maker 3 is a more powerful and more versatile machine while Cricut Explore 3 is a decent craft machine that can do much of what you need, from making cards and gifts to keyrings, quilting and more, but its lesser power means it will be slower.

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3: price and choice

Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3; a maker 3 craft machine being fed paper

The Cricut Maker 3 is more versatile than Cricut Explore 3 and so it's more expensive (Image credit: Cricut)

Cricut Maker 3 is the brand's leading digital cutter and costs $429.99 / £429.99, while Cricut Explore 3 is viewed as the entry-level model, and is priced $319.99 / £299.99. While these are the RRP prices there are regular deals on both machines, and you can often find as much as $50 / £50 off each machine.

If you are considering buying a new Cricut machine then it's also worth mulling over the various Cricut Maker 3 bundle deals and the best Cricut Explore 3 bundle deals that are on offer, the brand tends to have regular bundles of each machine with materials and tools for specific uses, including a starter bundle or heat press bundle, for example.

The cost of each machine really comes down to what you need it to do and how much crafting you do. Both Cricut machines use the same app and process, so neither is easier or harder to use, so the difference is in how you will use it. 

If you're crafting daily or looking to make money from your projects and are a pro or semi-pro maker then the speed and versatility of  Cricut Maker 3 is for you. If you're a casual crafter or new to making, then Cricut Explore 3 is a good choice.

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Ian Dean is Digital Arts & Design Editor at Creative Bloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his love to bring the latest news on NFTs, video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Corel Painter, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5. He's also a keen Cricut user and laser cutter fan, and is currently crafting on Glowforge and xTools M1.