Story time: I received Cricut Explore Air 2 for Christmas, and it is one of the most glorious gifts I’ve ever received. I absolutely love this machine and all the possibilities that come with it. I just can’t stop gushing about this amazing piece of design equipment.
Gone are the days where designers had to cut out letters by hand or invest in extremely expensive equipment to create a one-of-a-kind design. Today, at-home cutters are much more affordable than they were in the past. Now, just about any small business can afford to add one of these machines to its equipment list.
The Cricut Explore Air 2 offers a lot more flexibility than even previous Cricut models. The device is referred to as a smart cutting machine. While the company states it is easy to use, there is a learning curve with all Cricut products. However, tutorials and tips help you figure out the advantages and ease of using this particular model.
1. What It Cuts
The Explore Air 2 is quite a versatile machine. The machine can cut more than 100 different materials, including cardstock, iron-on paper, glitter paper, and even leather! It comes in several pastel colors, such as mint and baby pink. Other items the Cricut Explore series can cut include fabric, foam, cork board, flocked paper and even adhesive magnetic sheets. This means you can design anything from handbags to jewelry to custom T-shirts.
2. Comparing Models
There are a few different models by Cricut, including my Explore Air 2. Each model upgrade brings with it more features. Within the Explore series, the base-model Explore One has the ability to also cut the same 100 materials. However, by upgrading to the Explore Air, you also get the ability to use Bluetooth wireless technology and you gain a double tool holder.
Upgrading to the Explore Air 2 brings with it cutting and writing that is twice as fast. The Cricut Maker adds to all those features with the ability to cut even more types of materials, a rotary blade for fabric butting, knife blade for thick materials and digital sewing patterns.
3. Watch the Tutorials!
Learning to use your new Cricut machine is challenging at first. You have to learn the design software and how to insert material into the machine. If you don’t follow the steps correctly, your design might come out opposite of the way you’d like or you could waste material. Cricut offers a community area where you can ask questions and also provides a number of tutorials to help you hit the ground running. There are also numerous tutorials on YouTube that will help you get a feel for your Cricut.
4. Practice With Scraps
For your first designs, you’ll want to use scrap paper to practice. You will inevitably choose an incorrect setting or a design will come out as a mirror when you don’t want it to be or vice versa. Scrap paper will save you from wasting expensive materials as you get used to how the machine works.
5. Start With Something Simple
Although you can make detailed and complicated designs with your Cricut, it is best to start with something simple. This will allow you to get used to the design software and figure out the best ways to load the machine and work within the space provided to design something new. It is also smart to start with one of the designs already created by Cricut and then tweak that design. You can start working on custom designs at a later date.
6. Write It Out
Cricut Explore Air 2 has pens that will etch a design on cardstock for you. This allows you to create one-off greeting cards with a personal touch, business cards and more. Cricut has 370 fonts available via its software, as well as the ability to use any font you have downloaded to your computer. This gives you a lot of flexibility in your designs. It is best to start with a template for the project you want to create, so the measurements are correct.
7. Download the App
The Air 2 allows you to download an app and design anywhere you are. If you are at a client’s place of business and inspiration suddenly strikes, you can easily design on the fly and finish the project when you get back to your own office. You can even show the client a mockup of what the design might look like.
8. Create Samples
One thing that holds some designers back is the cost of creating samples of a product they’d like to offer. Let’s say you have an amazing idea for a children’s clothing line. However, the cost of creating sample clothing pieces is quite prohibitive. With Cricut, you can create a custom look, add details and have a sample to show potential buyers for a fraction of the cost.
9. Save Money on Tools
You can buy a weeding tool, which allows you to lift pieces of vinyl from designs you’ve cut and place them anywhere you’d like — on wood, a piece of furniture, etc. However, the cost of all these tools can add up. You can also use a large safety pin for the same purpose, or until you can afford to buy the additional tools you need. Pointed tweezers also come in handy for lifting out small pieces you’d like to remove from your vinyl cuts.
10. Use Contact Paper
The costs of clear transfer paper can add up. While some projects require paper that has a bit more stick or the heaviness of Cricut’s contact paper, there are many other projects where you can get by with using clear contact paper, which is a mere fraction of the cost. Because the branded products rarely go on sale, make sure when you do buy the Cricut-brand products that you get them for a discount. All the little costs of materials can add up over time, making your projects far less profitable.
11. Make Your Mat Last Longer
You’ll need to use the acrylic mat each time you make a cut. The mats are expensive and easy to damage. There are a couple of things you can do to ensure the mat lasts as long as possible. After each cut, wipe the mat down with a water-based baby wipe. Some users also recommend that if the mat loses its stickiness, spray it down with repositionable adhesive spray. It’s worth a try as it would save a lot of money.
Designer in Love
After reading through all the things a Cricut can do, you likely see why I’m in love with this machine. Even though it is perfect for a designer to create small projects, it also is just plain fun. The more you use your Cricut, the easier designing with it will be.