Electronics
Review: The Cricut Explore Is Not Just for Scrapbookers
Cricut Explore Screenshot 1

Screenshot by Jackie Reeve. All images and screenshots in this post by Jackie Reeve.

Man, I fought the label of “scrapbooker.” It just called up so many images of die-cut paper embellishments, instantly-dated family photos set on thematic paper, and ladies in mom jeans sitting around a kitchen table with mountains of shaped hole punches around them.

I was so wrong.

I didn’t realize right away when I was becoming a scrapbooker. Sure, my husband raised his eyebrows when I started amassing shelves full of decorative papers (“I need these for my school bulletin boards!”). And I was in denial when the craft store shelves of hole punches and scalloped scissors called out to me.

It wasn’t until I bought my first Cricut, the original model hot off the presses, that I finally had to admit what I was. A lover of paper crafts. A collector of scrapbook supplies. A die-cut addict. I may have told people that I needed these supplies for my teaching job, but I knew the truth. When I was pregnant and planning my daughter’s baby book (Project Life for the win!), stocking up on Cricut cartridges with coupons, I could hide it no longer.

I. Am. A. Scrapbooker.

So when the chance came to try out the new Cricut Explore, I jumped on it. And I will state here emphatically and for the record that the Cricut Explore is amazing.

It’s also not just for scrapbookers.

I used one of the prefab projects to make thank you cards for my daughter’s birthday party.

Cricut Explore thank yous

Cricut Explore thank yous

The Explore has space for a blade and a marker, side by side, so you can have the machine write something and/or cut something without swapping out the blade for a marker. Just remember to put the cap back on the marker for storage.

New blades specifically for the Explore will be available July 1st. Any blades will work in the machine, and the deep-cut blades in particular have not been changed for this new model.

Explore cutting

Explore cutting

The most impressive new feature of the Cricut Explore is the Cricut Design Space software. Since retiring the Cricut Design Studio software last year, there hasn’t really been a way to customize and design Cricut projects using up-to-date cartridges and images. Access to Cricut Design Space is free and included with the purchase of the Cricut Explore, and it’s a web space rather than a download or disc install to your computer (thank goodness).

All Cricut images are available digitally now, and with a slight learning curve (and some tutorials), you can use the software to layout images, select colors and materials, and send those images straight to your Cricut Explore for cutting.

Design Space screenshot

Cricut Design Space

The Design Space still doesn’t allow you to draw and create digital images directly, but you can upload any image (within certain file formats), clean it up in Cricut Design Space, and cut it out. The GeekMom logo in the image at the top? This is what it looked like when I translated to the Cricut Design Space.

GeekMom logo Cricut

I could have fiddled around more with the dual colors in the logo, maybe cutting one side out and using the letters with negative space for the other side. But for the sake of a single, usable cutout, I decided that this got the message across. And then I put it on my iPad mini.

GeekMom iPad decal

GeekMom iPad decal

The Explore can cut images up to 12″ by 24″. The mat that comes with the machine is 12″ x 12″ (there are always those extras to buy, right?). But it is incredibly cool to think so much bigger than the 6″ x 12″ cutting size of the original Cricut (or the Cricut Mini). I know the cutting size was updated with later models, but if you’re anything like me you don’t spring for every upgrade. I have been cutting tiny all these years, and now it’s like I’m a new person.

The cutting process has also been streamlined. Rather than figuring out how to set your Cricut blade based on the material you’re using, the Explore has an easy dial with preset materials (paper, vinyl, cardstock, fabric, etc.).

You no longer need to use the clunky, expensive cartridges, either. In fact, with cartridge linking you can plug in your cartridges, sync them with your Cricut Design Space library, and then forget them. You’ll have access to those images digitally, forever. 

You can also choose to subscribe to the entire image library (25,000 images) for $9.99 a month, or you can buy single images for $.99. This is amazing to me, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought an entire cartridge for one or two images that I really needed (okay fine, wanted).

Cricut Explore cutting

Cricut Explore cutting

It’s a small detail, but I loved that the vinyl setting knew to cut my silver vinyl (one of a handful of materials that comes in the box to try out) without cutting through the backing paper for the vinyl. So you peel the entire sheet of vinyl off of the cutting mat, and then you can peel the cutout off of the backing paper (same with t-shirt transfers and any other adhesive material).

Explore vinyl cutout

Explore vinyl cutout

I’ve destroyed so many delicate cutouts by scraping them off of the cutting mat, that I did a happy dance when I realized how this worked. I decorated my iPad mini.

Explore iPad mini decals

Explore iPad mini decals

And I decided that the Cricut Explore itself needed a little something extra.

Explore decal

Explore decal

I will be ordering other colors of vinyl (my silver laptop looks so bare now) and playing around with all of the customizable goodies. There are so many project possibilities that I haven’t even used it for scrapbooking yet.

This is definitely a luxury item for crafters. The machine is pricey at $300, but it packs a big, crafty punch.

GeekMom received a Cricut Explore for review purposes. 

Jackie Reeve

Jackie Reeve is a Senior Editor on the Content Team at GeekMom. She is a librarian, a writer, and a quilter. She's wife to an Englishman and mom to a little geek girl, and she blogs about life and crafts at The Orange Room. She is obsessed with cardigans and thinks Die Hard is the best Christmas movie there is.

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