How to use Cricut Smart Materials

A photo of a Cricut machine on a table illustrates how to use Cricut Smart Materials
(Image credit: Cricut)

Learning how to use Cricut Smart Materials will change the way you use your Cricut cutting and heat press machines. Cricut's Smart Materials make the whole process faster and easier, as well as being able to ditch the cutting mat and cut longer designs. This guide will share with you everything you need to know about Smart Materials and advice on how to get the best results whilst using them. 

Cricut offers a range of cutting machines that can cut, write, foil, score and much more. All Cricut machines can work with multiple materials, including vinyl, paper, card, fabrics such as leather and even more rigid materials like wood. Whether you’re a hobbyist or using your Cricut for professional reasons, there’s very little that you can’t do with one of their machines. If you can’t decide which Cricut machine will suit your needs check out our guide to the best Cricut machines

Smart Materials come in a range of styles and can be fed directly into your Cricut machine

Smart Materials were first designed to be used with the Cricut Joy. But due to the size of the Joy, this was limiting for larger projects. The good news is that Smart Materials can now be used with the Cricut Maker 3 and the Cricut Explore 3. Smart Materials come in a range of styles and can be fed directly into your Cricut machine as they have a backing built-in, meaning you don’t need to use a mat. This opens up the opportunity to cut images up to 12 feet in one go, so perfect if you’re cutting multiple images or creating items like banners or decals. 

Cricut Smart Materials also work well with a range of Cricut accessories, visit our best Cricut accessories guide for more information on what extras you should have in your Cricut kit. Now, keep reading to find out more about Smart Materials and also how to use them, making using your Cricut even more fun. 

How to use Cricut smart materials: what's new

A photo of Smart Materials on a white table, representing A photo of a Cricut machine on a table illustrates how to use Cricut Smart Materials

Using Smart Materials will speed up your cutting and extend the length and scale of your Cricut projects (Image credit: Cricut)

The collection of Smart Materials is growing all the time. You can buy these materials for either the Cricut Joy or the newer Maker 3 and Explore 3. If you're in the market for other Cricut materials, then don't forget to check out the best Cricut materials guide. In the meantime, here's a list of what Smart Materials are currently available. 

Smart vinyl
You can buy Smart Vinyl in both permanent or removable. Removable is best for wall decals or personalising items like notebooks or laptops. Permanent vinyl is excellent for outdoor projects or decorating items including glasses or mugs. You can get Smart vinyl in a range of different colours and patterns, and it also comes in two different lengths, 3ft and 12ft. I find this a really nice material to work with because it’s effortless to weed and applies well every time.

Smart Iron-On
If you’re looking to personalise clothing or other fabric items, then Smart iron-on vinyl is what you need. This stuff is impressive, and it comes in a variety of colours and effects. It also works really well when you want to layer colours for more intricate designs. You can machine wash your items that have been used with Smart iron-on and expect it to last for at least 50 washes, if not more. Smart iron-on comes in two lengths, 3ft and 9ft. 

Smart Paper Sticker Cardstock
If you love making stickers as much as I do or want to label your items, you must have a stash of Smart paper sticker cardstock in your craft supply. You can use it with the Print then Cut feature, and when you’re done with your design, you just have to cut it, peel it and stick it down. Smart paper sticker cardstock comes in white, black or mixed colour 13 x 13-inch sheets. If you want to learn more about making your own stickers, then head over to our how to make stickers with Cricut tutorial. 

01. Create a weeding box

(Image: © Cricut)

Because Smart Vinyl is thicker, it’s a lot easier to weed. However, you can make this process even easier again by creating a weeding box around your design in Cricut Design Space or using the best software for Cricut

The Cricut machine doesn’t cut all the way through the backing, so by creating a box around your work, you can just weed your design once it's cut. You won’t need to cut away any excess backing, so you can load the roll straight back in when you want to cut your next design. This will save you time and material, especially if you don’t have a mat. 

02. Burnish your vinyl before you start weeding

(Image: © Cricut)

Technically this is a tip that you should use when working with any type of vinyl. To burnish means to rub the design hard with your scraper tool. This will make sure the materials stick together and also highlight intricate parts that could be missed during the weeding process. 

Because Smart Materials have the backing built-in, it’s really important not to skip the burnishing step, trust me, once you start doing it this way, you won’t ever go back. You'll also need to burnish again when you apply your transfer tape.

03. Keep your scraps

(Image: © Cricut)

When you first start using Smart Materials, you may feel as though you’re wasting vital supplies. But you should always keep your scraps. That’s because you can use these pieces of leftover materials on a cutting mat. 

You can also use your scraps without a mat, but it is worth noting that they need to be at least four inches in length when using a Cricut Joy or at least six inches when using a Cricut Maker 3 or Cricut Explore 3. 

04. Make sure your edges are straight

(Image: © Cricut)

If you don’t want to use a box around your designs as per our first tip, then make sure that you cut it straight when you trim your Smart Vinyl. I’d recommend using a guillotine or even a craft knife alongside a ruler. 

This is really vital as when you line the material up in the machine, it will always try to straighten it, and the loading mechanism won’t work unless the sensors on both sides of the machine detect the same material. By not having your edges straight, your machine may reject your material. 

05. Leave extra room around your design

(Image: © Cricut)

Your Cricut machine works with both Smart Materials and a cutting mat. So when you feed your material into the machine, it is going to think you’re cutting on a mat therefore, you need to remember that you need to leave some extra room at the top of your design to mimic that. 

Also, be aware that you need to make sure your material is at least 12-inches in length, as when the sensors are determining the material, it may try to feed through the entire size of a regular cutting mat. 

06. Using iron-on? Don’t forget to mirror

(Image: © Cricut)

Probably one of the most frustrating parts of using iron-on vinyl is forgetting to mirror before you cut. Your Cricut machine will remind you, but only if you select the Smart Vinyl iron-on as your material in Design Space. Also, remember that your iron-on vinyl should be shiny side down. 

I would recommend that one of the first Smart Vinyl projects you make is a little reminder of this to stick on the inside lid of your machine so you never forget it. For best results use your Smart Vinyl iron-on material with an EasyPress 2

How to use Cricut Smart Materials: frequent questions

Can Smart Materials be used with Cricut Maker?

If you have an older machine such as the Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore 2, we don't recommend using Smart Materials. This is because Cricut Joy, Cricut Maker 3, and Cricut Explore 3 have all been designed specifically to have sensors that work with Smart Materials.
If you use Smart Materials without a mat when using older machines, then you won’t experience precise cutting, you’ll risk material jams, and quite frankly, you could damage your entire machine. 

Can you put Smart Vinyl on a mat?

Yes, you can use Smart Materials on a StandardGrip Mat. You shouldn’t experience any trouble but we’d recommend avoiding it altogether, as after all there's little to gain from it.

Is Smart Vinyl permanent?

Smart Vinyl is water and UV-resistant and will last up to three years (according to Cricut). This is a great material for outdoor signs, pots and even used on luggage. 

What can I make with Smart Vinyl?

Given Smart Materials can run to long lengths, there's limitless possibilities of things you can make. Here are our favourites:

1. Custom designed wallpaper
2. Car decals and custom stickers
3. Window designs and detailing
4. Outdoor signs and décor
5. Cricut shirt designs
6. Mug designs for your friends

What are Cricut Smart Materials?

Cricut has a number of types of Smart Materials – Smart Paper, Smart Iron-On, Smart Vinyl – and there are more being added all the time. These all work with Cricut Maker 3, Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Joy.

Are Cricut Smart Materials worth the price?

Cricut Smart Materials enable you to cut on a newer model Cricut machine without a mat, meaning the whole process is easier and quicker. You simply feed the Smart Materials directly into the Cricut machine. Smart Materials can cut long runs of material, which is great for complex projects or even creating custom wallpaper.

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Rachael Phillips

Craft writer Rachael Phillips has written for The Evening Standard, The Independent, Fit&Well, The Radar, T3, and TopTenReviews. She also writes on many other subjects, including lifestyle, travel, food, internet culture and eco-living for online and print publications. 

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