Cricut Explore Review

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UPDATE 2018: The original Cricut Explore has been discontinued, and has been replaced by the Cricut Explore Air.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.Cicut Explore Review

Amazon Price

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

Cutting Materials

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
  • Cardstock
  • Duck Tape
  • Fabric such as cotton, wool, and silk
  • Leather
  • Burlap
  • Light Chipboard (0.55mm)
  • Birch Wood
  • Craft Foam
  • Aluminum Metal
  • Magnet
  • Plastic Packaging
  • Vellum
  • Vinyl

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.

Cricut Dual Carriage Heads

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.

The Print then Cut feature works best on white paper, where the registration marks can be easily read.

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.

Creating Designs

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.

Existing projects created with the Cricut Craft Room cannot be transferred over to the Cricut Design Space. Projects in the Craft Room must be recreated in the Design Room software.

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 Review

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.

Amazon Price


  1. Deepali singhal

    Hello i am a new crafter ..n i am confused between knk zing air and curio or cricut explore please advise.which is easiest to use.thanks

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      Hi Deepali, thanks for the question!

      The Cricut Explore is easiest to use. However, the software is more limited. The KNK Zing air is more powerful and comes with more advanced software, but it takes longer to learn. The Curio is versatile, but not as strong and also comes with advanced software that may take longer to learn. Hope this helps!

  2. Stanley Gooch

    I was very interested to read your comment that The Cricut Explore also comes with a multi-cut option. I cannot find any instructions on how to use this potentially very useful function.
    Please explain …

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      Hi Stanley! The multi-cut option allows you to cut the same area multiple times. This is useful when trying to cut thicker material.

      To use this multi-cut option, you need to click on ‘custom materials’ on the preview screen. From there, you can select multi-cut. See here for further instructions:

      Hope this helps!

  3. Debi S

    Thank you so much for this information! I am trying to decide what machine to upgrade to from my expression. You have answered many questions I have that I have not found anywhere else.
    One question I still have is: Ok, I can use my cricut cartridges. Will it download everything contained on my cartridge and keep it available in my ‘cloud account’ if that exists, or will I put in the cartridge every time I want to use it (like I do now with the expression)? And if I have purchased a used cartridge that was previously linked will I be able to use it?

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      Hi Debi! I am glad to hear that we are able to help! When you link a cartridge, it will be made available in your cloud account. You do not need to use the cartridge every time. Cartridges can only be linked to one account, so if you bought a used cartridge that was already linked, you will not be able to link it again.

      Here’s some more information from Cricut about linking cartridges:

      Hope this helps!

  4. Ae Severino

    Hi! Im torn between Cricut Explore and Silhouette Cameo. So I cannot work with Cricut without internet? I mean I cannot use it without the internet? Because unlike Silhouette Cameo, no internet required when using it. HELP! Thank you!

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      That’s correct, the Cricut Explore requires internet, while the Silhouette Cameo doesn’t.

  5. Mark

    I am wanting to get a machine that will simply cut vinyl letters to be used on school projects/posters and 4-H posters/exhibits. Also need it for printing vinyl letters on feed troughs that will be used outside. I don’t see us doing any scrap booking or home decor type applications. Any suggestions for a machine that will do these two simple tasks.

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      Hi Mark, The Cricut Explore will do just fine. It doesn’t sound like you need to spend more money on anything more powerful.

      1. Anonymous


  6. Connie Cockerel

    If I have linked my actual cartridges to Craft Room can I link them to Design Studio also?

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      Hi Connie, the linked cartridges will automatically be available. There is no need to relink them. Hope this helps!

  7. Jennifer Burnett

    I have had a cricut Expressions FOREVER! I am looking to expand my sewing and crafting. I would like to be able to cut vinyl to iron on t-shirts, decals, etc. I want to do monograms and shapes etc. I was sold on a cameo until I saw the explore and explore air.
    What do I do???

  8. Joe

    I am looking for something to cut vinyl letters for monograms on drinkware, etc. And iron ons. Also just sports decals if possible. What’s the best for me?

  9. Joe

    I’m looking for something that I can just cut vinyl numbers/letters and iron on vinyl, and decals (sports). What’s the best for me?

    1. Personal Die Cutting (Post author)

      Hi Joe, I always recommend the Explore machines, but almost all machines will be able to cut vinyl just fine. Good luck!

  10. Rayna

    Hi. I’m a new at this never owned any of the cricut machines. I’m wanting to invest in one, I have children and I love doing projects, I’m wanting to do decals, cuts for iron on shirts, invitations, thank you cards, monograms, just everything, because I’m a stay at home mom and have time on my hands. So iv read on the expression 2 and now the cricut explorer. Need help to pick. And Internet is not a problem.

  11. Maggie

    I am a newbie. Haven’t even taken my Cricut Explore Air out of the box because I am waiting until I have a free day to play with it. However, I have a question that I can’t seem to find the answer to. Does it use a lot of memory on your computer, laptop or iPad? My laptop is old and I am thinking of getting a new one and will probably use it for most Cricut projects and want to be sure to get one with plenty of memory. Hope you can give me some advise. Thanks!!!

  12. Vero

    HI I am trying to cut vinyl oracal 651 on my cricut exolorer but it messes up my vinyl and it doesn’t matter what setting I have it on

  13. Seth

    I’m torn between the new Cameo 3 or the Cricut Explore Air… I also am very new to this and have never owned either before. However, I would use it for cutting actual stencils and not as much vinyl or thin materials. Not really sure which to choose and would love to see if anyone could help?

  14. Henry Bojorquez

    Hi, I design and make leather guitar straps and canvas bags. You say it cuts leather how thick can it cut? I use 4oz. Vegetable tan leather.

  15. Mallory

    Hi I was wondering about the variety of fonts offered on the circut software and if you are able to use outside softwares such as Microsoft office to create letters and then cut them out with the circut

  16. Christy

    Any suggestions on custom settings for cutting small letters on vinyl?

  17. Jaser

    Will the Circuit Explore cut a stencil of a heart with a smaller heart inside of it with bridges holding the smaller heart (island) in place? I don’t know what this is called, sorry. I am thinking about buying a Cricut to make stencils to decorate cookies and cakes, but I need stencils with bridges and islands for it to work for me.

  18. Isabelle

    Can this machine be cutted on chiffon fabric?


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.