This Cricut Joy review raised our expectations of what this tiny craft machine is capable of doing, and cemented what it can't do. While Cricut has built a reputation for delivering craft cutting machines that can do almost anything, from cloth to card to wooden projects, the Cricut Joy breaks with that tradition. This machine miniaturised the Cricut technology and focuses on card making, stickers and heat press designs.
We have a range of guides and reviews that help illustrate what Cricut machines are capable of; read our best Cricut machines feature for an overview of what the manufacturer offers and how Cricut Maker 3 review goes deeper into the American company's leading machine.
For this review we're focusing on what the Cricut Joy can do, as well as highlighting its limitations. We'll be making some projects as we go to test out this small cutter. We'll also be placing the Cricut Joy in context with other machines, as this craft machine is best seen in the broader family of gadgets, in particular the Cricut Mug Press.
Cricut Joy review: what's in the box
The principle behind the Cricut Joy is for a small machine that makes craft cutting easy and approachable. In this respect the machine, out of the box, works incredibly well. Lifting open the packaging reveals the little machine, and there's only the power cable to consider (both US and UK are supplied in our version).
The best thing is Cricut includes some sample card stock, Smart Materials and vinyl sticker sheets to experiment with. You can get up and crafting immediately. To help the package also includes the StandardGrip cutting mat (a small version of Cricut Maker's mat). You don't get the new CardMat, which is designed specifically for creating cards, and a must for Cricut Joy users.
Cutting tools out of the box are limited to the standard blade and a fine point black pen, the basis to get you up and running. Between these accessories you can begin creating intricate cards, but you will need to buy more extras, such as coloured pens and different blades, we outline these in our guide to the best Cricut accessories.
What's not in the box is a detailed instruction manual or guide to how to create the cards, stickers and projects. This is common with Cricut, as it expects you to jump online, into the Cricut Design Space software, or using the new Cricut Joy app to get the lowdown. Handily these days Cricut works with all devices, check our best laptops for Cricut and best tablets for Cricut guides to see what works.
Cricut Joy review: the set up process
Setting up the Cricut Joy for this review was very easy. First you need to download the Cricut Design Space app and login or create a new account. This app is used by all Cricut machines to control the size and project templates, you can set up your own or download pre-made projects.
Once done, you simply need to pair your mobile, tablet or laptop with the Cricut Joy over WiFi and Bluetooth. It takes seconds and is painless. Getting up to speed on making a project can take a little longer and this can be where Cricut's lean setup process stumbles, if you're new to these machines.
We've been using Cricut Maker for some years so feel at home in Cricut Joy's approach to craft cutting, but if you're new there are things you need to know that isn't obvious, for example the difference in the CardMat and StandardGrip mats and how to use them, and for which projects.
The Cricut Design Space software has gotten better at guiding you through your first project but the options for newcomers are hidden and need to be hunted for. The bespoke Cricut Joy app that was recently released and is designed for mobiles fairs better. This is a tiny gripe with, what is, a streamlined and approachable setup.
Cricut Joy review: design
The Cricut Joy is a compact and tidy device that enables you to craft anywhere. The small size – it's a neat 5.50 x 8.40 x 4.25 inches, around the size of a small digital radio – means you can drop it in a bag and pop around a friend's house for a good craft hour or three. It only weighs 1.75 kg, too.
The design matches the practicalities of the intended use. The Cricut Joy has the tactile smooth edges of the other Cricut craft machines, only here you can hold the gadget in your palms. There is a simple elegance to the Cricut Joy, its lack of ports (there's only a hidden power socket) ensures it feels uncluttered.
The practical gubbins of the Cricut Joy are all hidden away inside. The front door has a lovely smooth motion and clunks in place with a satisfying solidity – you know this won't spring open and be damaged on your travels.
Inside the Cricut Joy is a similar cutter and tool mount as the larger Cricut Maker machines (see above), only here it's smaller and so you can't use your existing blades and tools. It's actually kind of cute to see the same technology miniaturised and used in the Cricut Joy. On the rear of the machine is a long slot that enables card and Smart Materials to pass through and out the other side, small slots on either side hold the CardMar and StandGrip mats in place.
Overall the Cricut Joy is another beautifully designed machine from Cricut. It hides all of the business inside its curved shell and ensures the Cricut Joy is a neat plug and go craft machine.
Cricut Joy review: the user experience
As mentioned, if you're new to Cricut crafting then it can be tricky to find the instructions on how to use the Cricut Joy – they're in the apps but you need to hunt for them. That said, if you've used any craft cutting machine before, or are familiar with Cricut's Design Space, then using the Cricut Joy is, erm, a joy. It's even easier with the new Cricut Joy app, and we'd suggest trying the best software for Cricut when you get going.
Building on the idea that Cricut Joy is a mobile and approachable machine, there's a new Cricut Joy mobile app just for this tiny cutter. It's very easy to use. Simply choose the project from the list, we opt for a 'Mum' card, and follow the instructions. (Cricut Joy is also great for drawing designs onto cards, and you'll need the best Cricut pens.)
While there's a nice set of free projects you will need to buy the better ones, and we'd suggest in this case to subscribe to Cricut Access, Cricut's library of projects and templates, including some licensed Disney and Marvel designs. The app walks you through the process from which cardstock to use to how to load it and when to press cut.
We found there to be very few hiccups along the way, again this could be because we know how to best use the mats – the new CardMat used to make our card is slightly different from the traditional green StandardGrip mat. You need to lift off the protective plastic sheet and slot in the card, then fold it over. It's simple once you 'get it'.
Press cut and the Cricut Joy does all of the work for you. The card we choose is a very complex design, requiring many and multiple deft cuts, but it works through the project in a few minutes. It really is a quick and breezy cutter that makes swift work of even the trickiest designs.
What you will need to do is invest in the many accessories that are used to peel and pick the card details and the vinyl stickers from the mat. You'll need to buy the Starter Tool set – containing the Spatula, Weeder and Scraper – to make most of the projects the Cricut Joy is designed for.
Cricut Joy review: price
The Cricut Joy is priced $179.99 / £179.99, making it the entry-level cutting machine Cricut has by price. We would say if you're buying your first cutting machine then the more expensive Cricut Maker is the better option, read our Cricut Maker review for more details. But if you already have a craft cutter, or are simply looking for a machine to create cards, heat press designs and stickers on, then the Cricut Joy is a great option.
We'd advise you to buy a bundle, it may seem more costly but something like the Cricut Joy Essentials bundle prices $240 / £242 contains everything you need to get up and running; we regularly track the best Cricut Joy bundle deals.
Cricut Joy review: should I get one?
The answer to this question comes down to exactly what you want from a craft cutting machine. If you need to create many different and large projects then you'll want a full-scale craft cutting such as the Cricut Maker 3 or one of the Cricut alternatives.
If, however, you have a Cricut craft machine or are looking for a support cutter to create projects for the Cricut Mug Press or one of the best heat press machines, then the Cricut Joy is an ideal gadget to have.
It's limited to only creating small projects, particularly season cards, but it can easily make heat press and vinyl sticker projects – though the Cricut Mug press templates only support the smaller mug styles and not the large or standard mugs.
All in all, the Cricut Joy is a well built, nicely designed and portable cutting machine that while limited in scope beautifully does what it is designed to do – cut small-scale craft projects with accuracy and consistency.