Learn the basics of operating the Cricut cutting machine and how to design your project in the Cricut Design Space software.Read the complete slide transcript
A Cricut is a precision cutting machine similar to a die cutter, but slightly lighter duty. It is meant to help crafters and hobbyists with home projects such as: custom cut vinyl stickers, iron-on transfers, greeting cards, and others. The machine has many settings and can cut and score various materials such as: paper, vinyl, bonded fabrics, and cardstock.
To put things simply, the Cricut cuts things out. Whether it is a vinyl sticker, or some shapes out of cardstock for a greeting card, or paper that is meant to be folded. The Cricut makes clean, precision cuts to help make beautiful, professional looking crafts and projects. Some examples of projects that have been done at VPL with the Cricut are: custom mugs, decorated canvas tote bags, custom 3D greeting cards, wedding seating charts, and felt puppets for our storytimes. There are several examples online of projects that people have done with the Cricut machine as well as tutorials on how they are done, so the most difficult part of using the Cricut is deciding on what to do first.
In order to use the Cricut machine to cut out your designs you need to download and install Cricut Design Space, the operational software that lets you send designs to the Cricut machine for cutting. Design Space takes images and fonts and converts them into pathways for the blade in the Cricut machine to follow and tells the machine how quickly and how much pressure to put on the material so that it cuts properly. Cricut Design Space also has a tool that helps you lay out your jobs onto the printed material so that you can create multiple copies on a single sheet of material to reduce waste. It works similar to many design programs such as: CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, or Microsoft Publisher. If you have never used any of these programs, that’s okay as there are several tutorials available online and through the Design Space program to help get you started. Cricut Design Space software suite is available for Windows PCs and Macintosh computers. There is also an app for iOS and Android; however, to connect to the machine, you will need a PC or a Laptop.
Upon launching the Cricut Design Space application you will be greeted with a launch screen.
- Select the Sign In button
- Upon reaching the sign in screen, select Create a Cricut ID
In order to sign up for a Cricut account, you will need a valid email address.
To finalize the creation of your Cricut ID, you need to provide the following information:
- Your First Name
- Your Last Name
- An email address (this will become your Cricut ID)
- A password
- Your country of residence
The Cricut machine has a few basic elements you need to be aware of before operation.
- The Power Button
Pressing this button will turn the machine on/off. You can tell the machine is on when this button is illuminated.
- Material Dial
This dial has a dot on its face to let you know which material the machine is currently set to cut. These settings are listed in order from the lightest blade pressure to the strongest blade pressure from left to right. Simply rotate the dial clockwise or counter-clockwise to adjust this setting. There are dots in between material settings that indicate a “setting plus” mode which slightly deepens the cut of the previous setting, but not as strong as the next setting to the right. In case you are having issues with the blade not completely cutting through your material, try using the plus setting before moving to the next step up.
- Load Button
This button will calibrate the machine and ready the plastic rollers to load the adhesive cutting sheet into the machine before cutting.
- The Start Button
When this button is flashing that means that the cut is ready to begin. Press this button to start your cutting project.
- The Pause Button
Pressing this button while the machine is in operation will pause the cut, allowing you to step away from the machine or check for any errors in the project.
- Open Lock
This button will open the machine’s front cover, exposing the cutting tool and allow for loading materials for operation.
- Blades A & B
These are the cutting tools that can be loaded into the Cricut for operation. They can be swapped for finer blades or scoring tools.
Here is a closer look at some elements of the Cricut’s internals:
- The Cutter Head: this is the head that houses the removable cutter blades.
- Rubber Roller: these rollers move the adhesive mat back and forth allowing the cutter head to reach various parts of the material.
- Load Guides: these plastic guides keep the adhesive mat from getting loose during operation.
The Cricut comes with a wide array of accessories to help create the perfect end-product. Here we will talk about the basic tools that we keep with our Cricut machine and their purpose.
- The Scoring tool. The scoring tool is used to create crisp fold lines and indentations in cardstock and cardboard so that there are no creases and wrinkles in your paper-based project.
- Tweezers. At times, there are many fine cuts that will stubbornly cling to the mat. Use the tweezers to remove them cleanly with minimal risk of tearing the end product.
- Scissors. To help you separate projects and keep the majority of the original material for later reuse.
- Scraper. Use this tool to smooth out any air bubbles when applying vinyl stickers or when affixing transfer tape to a vinyl cut-out.
- Spatula. Use this tool to help remove your project from the adhesive cutting mat. It is also useful when cleaning fine particles left over after cutting from the mat.
- Weeder Tool. Use the weeder tool to help extract small details from your project. Use this instead of the tweezers when working with vinyl to avoid dealing with sticking vinyl to the tweezer prongs, the weeder also has a finer point allowing for better precision removal.
Before you start any Cricut cutting project, you’ll need a few things:
- The Cricut Machine
- An adhesive cutting mat
- The Cricut accessories
- A computer with Cricut Design Space installed
You will also need the material you want to cut. It is best to prepare everything before you load the job into the computer and add the material to the adhesive mat to ensure the job goes smoothly and you have everything on hand when you need them.
There are several types of adhesive cutting mats available and depending on the type of material you’ll be using, a different type of adhesive cutting mat will be needed. The cutting mat ensures that the material being cut does not shift while the machine makes its precision cuts, allowing for clean and precise lines and an overall better finished product. For light materials such as tissue paper and regular paper, use the light adhesive mat. This will ensure that the material does not tear when you try to remove it. For cardstock, light vinyl, and iron-on transfers use the standard adhesive mat. For heavy cardstock, bonded fabrics, and heavier material, use the strong adhesive mat. These materials need to be held down strongly to ensure that the strong blade pressure needed to cut through them does not cause the material to shift during the cutting.
To complete a project is fairly simple and straightforward with plenty of on-screen prompts in Cricut Design Space to help you along the way.
Step 1. Load project on Cricut Design Space. Select your project you wish to cut and load it into the Design Space program.
Step 2. Select “Make it”. Review your print project and you will see a preview of your cut on the screen. If you are doing an iron-on transfer, select the “mirror” option to mirror the direction of the image.
Step 3. Select “Continue”. After reviewing your print, selecting continue will take you to the final stage before the cut, allowing you to review your cutting material. Ensure that the Cricut machine is connected and On before proceeding to this stage.
Step 4. Select your material with the material dial. Make sure the material dial on the machine is set to the appropriate setting for what you are trying to cut. You can also dial the material all the way over to “custom” to use your own pre-sets if you wish.
Step 5. Apply material to the adhesive mat. Take your material that you wish to cut and apply it to the adhesive mat. Make sure you’re using the appropriate adhesive mat for the material being cut or else you risk damaging your project when trying to remove it from the mat, or the material might come loose during the cut if the mat isn’t strong enough.
Step 6. Load adhesive mat into Cricut. Slide the adhesive mat into the machine, ensuring that it goes in underneath the loading guides.
Step 7. Press “Go” and follow prompts. Press the flashing button and watch the machine do it’s work!
The total cuttable surface area of the Cricut Adhesive Mat is 12 inches by 12 inches. Keep this in mind when designing items in Cricut Design Space. When applying your material to the cutting mat, please ensure that you always start at the top left hand corner. Use the scraper tool to smooth out any air bubbles and ensure good contact between your material and the adhesive mat. Loose material and air bubbles in the material will lead to errors in cuts and possible jams to the machine with a slight risk of damaging the cutting tool.
When your project is ready to cut, follow the on-screen prompts in Cricut Design Space. When it asks you to load the material, take your adhesive cutting mat and slide it into the machine, towards the cutter head and underneath the plastic load guides and rubber rollers. Do not push the mat through the rollers, but simply push it lightly against the rubber rollers and apply light pressure against them to make sure the rollers catch onto your mat. This is especially important if the Cricut machine is older or you’re using an older adhesive mat which has seen a lot of use.
While applying light pressure against the rubber rollers, press the illuminated load button and the machine should engage the rollers and pull the adhesive cutting mat towards the cutter head and begin its pre-cut calibration. If the cutting mat is not pulled in straight or is not pulled in at all, press the load button again to unload the machine and simply try again. Once the mat is loaded, press the start button to begin your project.
We will begin our session by first logging into the Cricut Design Space program. After launching the program, a window will appear asking you to sign in or create a new cricut ID. Enter the credentials you created when you signed up for a Cricut Account and then select “Sign in”.
After logging into Cricut Design Space you’ll be welcomed with what is known as the home screen. From this screen you can browse your most recent projects, see some highlighted projects from the marketplace and start a new project from scratch.
You can break down the home screen into multiple zones:
- Drop Down Menus
File – In this drop-down you’ll see options to exit the program and to open a new Cricut Design Space window.
View – In this drop-down you’ll see options
Help – In this drop-down menu you’ll be taken to the Cricut help website as well as options to check which version of the design space software you have installed
- Home Menu
By default this entire tab is hidden, to view it click on the tab that says “Home” with the three horizontal bars beside it.
Home – Return to the home screen
Canvas – Go to the canvas screen
New Machine Setup – Set up a new Cricut machine
Calibration – Fine tune an attached Cricut machine
Manage Custom Materials – Create new profiles for custom materials, change cut pressure, speed, etc.
Update Firmware – Update the built in software on a Cricut machine
Account Details – Change details about your Cricut account: passwords, emails, purchases, etc.
Cricut Access – A premium paid monthly service that gives you access to design templates and images
Legal – Privacy and user access agreement documents
New Features – A list of features newly added to the platform
Country Settings – Change your location setting
Help – Link to the Cricut help website
Sign Out – Sign out of the current Cricut ID
- My Projects Button: this tab will take you to a new page that displays all of your saved projects
- Machine Selection: select which attached Cricut machine the software will connect to
- New Project Button: start a new project, this will take you to a blank canvas screen
- My Projects Tab: a quick view of your most recently accessed projects
- Marketplace: a quick selection of new and sponsored images and templates to purchase
This is the main work screen when working on Cricut design projects. For easy measuring, the grid is divided into one inch cubes and is a direct representation of how items will be cut on the cutting mat. So, if you create a 2 inch by 2 inch square on the screen, the machine will cut a 2 inch by 2 inch square out of your material.
Here are the areas you’ll find on the canvas screen.
- Drown Down Menu: same as in the Home screen overview
- Home Menu: same as in the Home screen overview
- Add Object Bar:
New Canvas Button
- Tool Bar: these tools help you move and manipulate the objects you place on the canvas:
Linetype – how will the Cricut machine treat lines on the object, cut or draw
Fill – is the object filled in or just an outline?
Deselect – deselect the currently selected object
Edit – change properties about the selected object
Align – if multiple objects are selected, you can use these tools to line them up
Arrange – if multiple objects are selected, determine the order they are stacked on top of each other
Flip – flips an object horizontally or vertically
Size – the exact dimensions of the selected object(s), you can select the lock icon to keep the object in proportion.
Rotate – rotate the selected object(s) a set number of degrees
- My Projects Button: go to the my projects page, listing all of your saved projects
- Save Button: saves the current project
- Machine Selection: Changes the Cricut machine the software is connected to
- Make it Button: prepare the current project for cutting
- Canvas: the work space, meant to simulate the material you will be cutting
- Layers tab: a list of all the different layers and objects being used in the current project. Layers and objects can be made visible and invisible by clicking on the ‘eye’ icon
There are several ways to start a new project in Cricut Design Space.
Method 1: From the home screen, use the New Project button located on the upper right-hand corner of the screen to create a new blank canvas.
Method 2: From your My Projects tab on the man screen, select the “new project” icon to create a new blank canvas.
Method 3: From the Home tab select “canvas” to enter the canvas screen. This will be a new blank canvas unless you were previously working on another project. To start a new one, in the add object bar, select “new”
Loading new projects in Cricut Design Space can be done a few ways.
Method 1: Navigate to the My Projects page by clicking on the “my projects” button in the upper bar of the home screen. This will take you to the My Projects page, listing all of your previously saved projects. Select the project you wish to continue to load it onto the canvas. Begin Working.
Method 2: Navigate down to the My Projects tab located on the main screen of the Home screen. This will list all the most recently accessed projects you have worked on. Select the project you wish to continue to load it onto the canvas screen. Begin working.