The Cricut Explore is a HUGE improvement over the Cricut Expression 2. Ashish Arora, Provo Craft’s new CEO, has turned the company around dramatically. Provo Craft really listened to customers and has created a much better machine with better customer support. Everything from the packaging, to the software, was engineered with the user in mind.
UPDATE 2018: The original Cricut Explore has been discontinued, and has been replaced by the Cricut Explore Air.
I’d like to note that there are two other versions of the Cricut Explore, the Cicut Explore Air, and the Cricut Explore One. The only differences are that the Explore Air comes with built-in wireless, and the Explore One has on carriage head instead of two. Besides that, everything else is the same.
The Cricut Explore comes nicely packed and even comes with its own carrying case. How cool is that! It is very easy to set up. Users have been able to unpack and start using the machine in only a few minutes. What’s really thoughtful is that the machine is that it comes with test materials, such as cardstock, vinyl, and iron-on. Upon setup, the machine guides you through creating a thank you card with the provided material, so you can get started right away.
Design and Features
- Cut, draw and score
- Cuts over 50 different materials with 12″ x 12″ or 12″ x 24″ cutting mat
- Dual clamps to cut and draw in one step
- Long lasting German carbide blade
- Smart Set Dial to easily adjust blade settings
- Print then Cut feature
- Bluetooth capability (with adapter)
- Online Design Space software
The Cricut Explore is a decently strong machine, and certainly stronger than the Silhouette Cameo. Here are some materials that the machine can cut.
- Tissue Paper
- Duck Tape
- Fabric such as cotton, wool, and silk
- Light Chipboard (0.55mm)
- Birch Wood
- Craft Foam
- Aluminum Metal
- Plastic Packaging
See the full Cricut Explore Cut List.
The Cricut Explore also comes with a multi-cut option, to go over the same area multiple times. There is also a deep blade available.
Using the Cricut Explore
The Cricut Explore is probably the easiest die cutting machine out there. Users have been able to start cutting designs with the provided material right away.
Smart Set Dial
The Smart Set Dial takes a lot of the guess work out of configuring the blade. With most die cutting machines, users are required to change the blade speed, depth, and pressure depending the material to be cut. This usually requires that the blade holder to be taken out of the machine and manually adjusted. With the smart Set Dial, all you have to do is turn the dial. If you have special material, you can use the “custom” setting, where you can choose from a preset materials list. This setting can even be saved so you can reuse the custom setting every time without reconfiguration.
Cut and Draw
The Cricut Explore comes with dual carriage heads. This means it can hold a blade and pen at the same time. Unlike other machines, there is no need to pause the machine, swap out the blade, and set everything back up.
To draw, you’ll need certain sized pens that fit into the carriage. Cricut does sell a pen set specifically for the Explore machine. There are a few other types of pens and markers that also fit with the machine.
Here’s a list of pens and markers that users have used with the Explore:
- Americans Craft Slick Fine Tip Markers
- American Crafts Precision Pens
- American Crafts Metallic Marker fine of medium
- Recollections Fine or Medium Tip Markers
- Crayola Fine Tip Markers (not the washable ones)
- Marvy Le Plume II markers
- Amy Tang American Crafts markers
- Recollections Signature Especial Photo Marker Set
- Recollections Medium
- Pilot Precise V5 extra fine
Print then Cut
Another feature of the Cricut Explore is the Print then Cut feature. Full-color images can be printed from your computer with registration marks, loaded in the Explore, then cut. When printing, the “bleed” option can be selected, which adds a tiny border around the image. This tiny border ensures that there is no white space left over when cut.
Software and Cartridges
One very important thing to know about the Cricut Explore is that to use the machine, you need to use the online software. The machine will not work without it. This means if you are traveling with the machine, you won’t be able to use it without an internet connection.
There is a place on the machine to plug in cartridges, but this is only used to link the cartridges to your online account. You cannot use the cartridges independently. You still must use the Cricut Design Space online software.
Cricut Design Space Software
The Cricut Explore uses the online Design Space software. This is a web-based application that requires a good internet connection. If your internet tends to be slow, you may have problems using the software. The good news is that you can use your machine with any computer that has internet, since there is no software to download. The purpose of having the software online is so when Cricut does updates, you will always be using the latest version of the software. Files are also stored in “the cloud”. Not everyone is happy with this, as designs created in the Design Space can’t be downloaded to your computer.
Because Cricut software is web based, the software requirements sometimes change. Click to see the latest software requirements for the Cricut Explore.
The Cricut Design Space is intentionally designed to be simple. The software is more for selecting and manipulating existing shapes, rather than creating custom shapes from scratch. The software is not designed to replace software such as Corel Draw or Inkscape, rather it was designed to import designs made from those pieces of software and turn them into cut projects. This allows for simplicity when using Design Space, but also for importing more complex images from other programs.
Compatible file types for the Design Space are .svg, .png, .dxf, .gif, .bmp and .jpg.
Although it’s more difficult to create images from scratch, one has a lot of options when it comes to manipulating images. The Design Space software offers welding, grouping, and use of layers. You can even select different canvases to see what your design would look like on different items, such as cards or t-shirts. Although you can see the design in Design Space, you can’t see what the finished product looked like. For example, if you are making a 3D flower, you can see the cut lines, but an image of the final product won’t be visible.
Image Library and Subscription Service
Uploading images, even .svg files, is free. You can also browse over 50,000 single images, image sets, fonts, and projects and purchase them. Images start at $0.99, while images sets start at $1.99, and fonts are $4.99 each. Fonts that exists already on your computer are free to use in the Design Space.
If you plan on buying a lot of images, you may want to consider the subscription service. The service is available for $9.99 per month, or for $99.99 a year. If you get the monthly subscription, you can actually cancel at any time.
Digital cartridges are still available, which contain anywhere from 50 to 350 images, and start at $19.99.
Overall, the Cricut Explore is a big improvement over the Expression 2. The machine is sleek, well built, and cuts great. Some notable improvements of the machine are that is cuts better, is quieter, and comes with a German carbide blade.
Some potential downsides to the machine are that it requires an internet connection, and the Design Space software isn’t great for creating custom shapes.