Congratulations on your decision to treat yourself to a Cricut die-cutting machine! If you’re unsure which model to purchase, this article will break down every perk and potential drawback of my two favorite models: The Cricut Maker and the Cricut Explore Air 2.
While both machines share many similarities, there are some notable differences you’ll want to consider before making your ultimate choice.
First and foremost, I’ll briefly highlight the features both models share. Later, I’ll cover each machine in detail before sharing my personal preference, helpful recommendations, and a few final thoughts to take into consideration before making your purchase.
As a Cricut enthusiast, I can say with certainty that you simply can’t go wrong with this remarkable brand. Either way you go, you’ll be making a great investment.
Cricut Features: What to Expect from Your New Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Air 2
Regardless of which machine you go with, you’ll be able to create to your heart’s content. Both the Cricut Maker and the Cricut Explore Air 2 offer the following features:
Top-notch quality: It’s obvious from Cricut’s packaging alone that the company has incredibly high quality standards. The attention to detail is stellar, and the machines are clearly built to last.
User-friendliness: Despite being high-tech, both machines are incredibly easy to use. Along with an easy-to-follow user manual—which you can view on Cricut’s website prior to making your purchase, there are many helpful tutorials with step-by-step set-up instructions and beginner-friendly tips online.
Versatility: Both machines can write, draw, print, score, and cut a wide variety of materials, including paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric, and faux or genuine leather. Cricut even includes a beginner-friendly project to help you get acquainted with your new machine. I should mention that both machines are incredibly addictive. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be crafting with everything in sight!
Warranty: Cricut offers limited warranties on both the Maker and the Explore Air 2, so you can create with confidence knowing the company stands behind its products. Check with individual retailers for return policy information.
Now that I’ve covered the machines’ shared features, let’s dive into the perks, capabilities, and potential drawbacks of both Cricut models.
Everything You Need to Know about the Cricut Maker
Known for its premium features and incredible crafting capabilities, the Cricut Maker is ideal for serious hobbyists and those who value creative versatility. It’s sleek, stylish, and utterly splurge-worthy. I’ve dubbed this particular maker the crafters’ dream machine.
What’s Included with the Cricut Maker?
It’s no wonder why the Cricut brand is so popular among the craft crowd… This Utah-based company leaves no stone unturned when it comes to its innovative designs. In addition to the machine itself, the Maker comes with the following:
- Rotary blade + housing
- Premium fine-point blade + housing
- Fine point pen
- Two 12×12” cutting mats
- Welcome booklet
- USB cable
- Built-in rubber-lined tool cups for safe storage of tips and blades
- Built-in convenient tool drawer, which is larger and deeper than previous models’ storage compartments
- Free trial membership to Cricut Access
- 50 free projects
- Everything you need to complete your first project
The machine also comes with a charging port, making it more portable than previous models.
What are the Cricut Maker’s Color Options?
Since I’m obsessed with all-things-pink, I truly appreciate the fact that the Cricut Maker comes in a variety of sophisticated colors (including my favorite: rose!). You can also opt for blue, champagne, lilac, or mint. All of the shades are simply gorgeous.
What Makes the Cricut Maker a Premium Cutting Machine?
First launched in summer 2017, the Cricut Maker took the crafting world by storm. This powerful machine includes an adaptive tool system that allows crafters to work with a variety of materials that other machines just won’t cut. In fact, the Maker will cut materials up to 2.44 mm thick, opening up a world of creative possibilities. Unlike previous models, which include a dial to select specific materials, the Maker is completely dial-free for added versatility.
I should note here that the machine comes with a rotary blade and a premium fine-point blade, but additional blades that are compatible with the adaptive tool system are sold separately. For optimal versatility, crafters can splurge on the following add-ons:
Two of my favorite seriously cool premium features? You can print designs on colored or printed paper, and the machine allows you to upload your own patterns to create projects that are uniquely yours. This model also has Bluetooth technology that’s easy to navigate.
Which Materials Does the Cricut Maker Cut?
Thanks to the adaptive tool system, the Cricut Maker cuts through any type of paper, as well as some heavy-duty materials, including heat transfer vinyl, fabric, leather, and even some types of wood. I particularly love that it cuts magnet sheets with ease, along with craft foam and corkboard. It’s especially amazing for novice and experienced sewists. I’m a sewing rookie, but this machine makes prepping my projects super easy.
What Can I Create with my Cricut Maker?
There are virtually endless project options with this craft-astic machine! I personally love creating puzzles, magnets, and ornaments. Since the Maker is compatible with 300+ materials, your creativity won’t be limited by the machine’s power or capabilities.
Project ideas include:
- Gift tags
- Handmade cards and invitations
- Journals and notebooks
- Bags and wallets
- Cake toppers
- Doll clothes
- Wall art
This is a non-exhaustive list. It would probably be easier to list what the Cricut Maker can’t do. This machine is nothing short of amazing.
What are the Cricut Maker’s Pitfalls?
There’s honestly not much negative to say about this premium cutting machine, aside from its top-of-the-line price point. Currently on Cricut’s website, the maker sells for anywhere from $370 for the basic kit to $450 for a bundle. I recommend treating yourself to a bundle, as it’s an amazing value and includes everything you could possibly need to dive into your dream projects.
Everything You Need to Know about the Cricut Explore Air 2
Now that you’ve gotten acquainted with the Cricut Maker and all it has to offer, let’s take an in-depth peek at the Cricut Explore Air 2. This machine is budget-friendly and ideal for makers of all skill levels. It’s wildly popular, thanks to its affordable price point and user-friendly features.
What’s Included with the Cricut Explore Air 2?
The Cricut Explore Air 2 isn’t too dissimilar from the Cricut Maker in terms of included items. Along with the machine, the company includes:
- One blade + housing
- Pen and accessory adaptor
- Power cord
- USB cord
- Quick Start Guide
- 12×12” cutting mat
- Everything you need to complete your first project
This machine also includes a handy dial to choose preset materials or customize your own.
What are the Color Options for the Cricut Explore Air 2?
Cricut’s vision when creating the Explore Air 2 clearly involved personal expression. This machine comes in loads of gorgeous shades, including mint, lilac, peacock, black, sunflower, blush, raspberry (my favorite!), peach kiss, coral, pistachio, blue, candy apple, denim, periwinkle, cobalt, and fuchsia. You truly won’t be disappointed with any of these stunning color choices.
Why Choose the Cricut Explore Air 2?
First introduced to the crafting world in autumn 2016, the Cricut Explore Air 2 quickly became the must-have machine among crafters, and its popularity continues to soar. It’s twice as fast as the original Explore Air, so if you’re looking to upgrade, you’ll definitely notice a difference with this machine!
As mentioned previously, the Cricut Explore Air 2 is the perfect pick for makers on a budget. It’s considerably less expensive than the Cricut Maker, yet the company packed loads of features into this mid-priced machine.
With Bluetooth technology and speedy cutting and writing, this model balances functionality with affordability. Cricut offers bundle options on their website for this machine, which allow you to get the most bang for your buck.
The Explore Air 2 is much lighter than the Maker, weighing in at just 16lbs. The Maker requires a bit more muscle, as it weighs a whopping 24lbs.
What Materials does the Cricut Explore Air 2 Cut?
This model has the capability of cutting more than 100 materials, including cardstock, paper, vinyl, fabric, and felt, plus faux and genuine leather. Since the machine can cut materials up to 2.0 mm thick, crafters can get creative with different fabrics, etc.
What Can I Create with my Cricut Explore Air 2?
You can let your imagination run wild when creating with your Cricut Explore Air 2. I recommend checking out online resources, such as Pinterest, for project ideas and inspiration.
A few fun creations you can whip up with your Explore Air 2 include:
- Personalized cards, announcements, and invitations
- Signs and banners
- Monogrammed tees and totes
- Photo magnets
- Monogrammed glasses, mugs, and trinket dishes
Despite being the proud owner of an Explore Air 2 since the machine was first introduced, I continue to dream up and create new projects on a regular basis.
What are the Downsides of Owning a Cricut Explore Air 2?
I’d be remiss not to mention a few obvious drawbacks regarding this particular machine:
Although the Cricut Explore Air 2 is certainly an advanced cutting machine, the cutting force is subpar when compared to the Cricut Maker. In fact, the Maker is 10x stronger than the company’s Explore models. Somehow, Cricut managed to equip the Maker with 4,000 grams of cutting force, while the Explore Air 2 has just 400 grams. However, don’t let the strength difference fool you… The Explore Air 2 is still powerful enough to cut through tons of materials, just not quite as many as its successor.
Fewer Cutting Options
The Explore Air 2 includes a smart set dial—a feature that’s handy and user-friendly, but the dial does limit the machine’s capabilities. Cricut went back to the drawing board and equipped the Maker with a revolutionary adaptive tool system, allowing makers to switch out blades and tips to optimize their crafting and cutting experience without the dial.
Limited Paper Options
With the Explore Air 2, the print & cut feature only allows for white paper. The Maker, however, can print multiple types of paper, including colored and printed options, making it more versatile.
Is the Cricut Maker or the Cricut Explore Air 2 Right for You?
As you can see, both machines are loaded with amazing features, so I encourage you to make your ultimate choice based on your preferences, crafting need/goals, and budget.
My Personal Preference
After using both machines for a considerable amount of time, getting used to the mechanics and features, and creating a variety of projects, I personally adore my Cricut Maker.
It’s important to note that I was perfectly content with my Explore Air 2 before the Maker came along, but now that I’ve upgraded, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the most recent model to anyone. The machine is well worth the extra money, and the bundle Cricut offers is the perfect starter set. I absolutely love both machines, but if I had to choose between them, I’d definitely opt for the Maker.
Final Thoughts to Consider Before Purchasing Your Cricut Machine
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to jump into making intricate projects right off the bat, but I encourage you to start with beginner-friendly, ready-to-make projects while becoming familiar with your machine.
While it’s super easy to set up and use, it’s a good idea to work your way up to complex projects. There’s no better feeling than nailing your first project—no matter how simple it happens to be.
Prior to purchasing your machine, I recommend picking out a few simple projects and any necessary materials, so you can dive in as soon as your Maker or Explore Air 2 arrives. Cricut’s Design Space is an excellent resource for unlimited inspiration.
Crafting should never be stressful, so just have fun with your new machine! The more you create, the more you’ll want to create. As Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”