Beginner Cricut Explore User Tips

Jun 16, 2016 | Corner, DIY Crafts | 0 comments

If you’re a new Cricut Explore owner or are considering purchasing a Cricut electronic personal cutting machine you need to read this post!

(This post contains Cricut affiliate links)

Last week I told you about all the wonderful things my Cricut Explore Air can do.  I also told you about all the issues I had when I first got the machine, mostly because I didn’t take the time to learn how to use it correctly.

I’m pretty new to this electronic cutting thing, but not to crafting.  It seems like I’ve been crafting all my life, but back in the day I didn’t call it crafting.  I mean who hasn’t cut out paper dolls and snowflakes and turned them into greeting cards or decoration?  Cutting and pasting, (I mean this literally with paper, scissors, and glue!) is something everyone does in Kindergarten!  But I guess it was old school because Cricut has taken cutting and crafting in to the personal computer age.  Now you can design your card, cake topper, or whatever on your computer or tablet and print and cut it with the click of a mouse.  I love it!  At least I do now that I’ve figured out how to use this handy dandy machine!

When I first started using this machine I seriously didn’t know what I was doing.  Sure I managed to cut out layers of images and letters which I patiently glued together to create cool banners, signs, cupcake wrappers, and more.  That’s what happens when you don’t take the time to learn how to really use your Cricut!

Well after hours of reading instructions and watching YouTube videos I’ve finally figured out how to use the machine!  Of course you still need to glue and paste the pieces you cut, so far there’s been no getting around that part, but the machine does so much more than just cutting out shapes and letters.  It’s fired up my creativity and I’ve been making all kinds of stuff using things I designed and cut on my Cricut.  But I wish I’d found a list of basic tips for beginners like me, it would have saved me lots of time and card stock.  (I shudder to think how many trees it took to make the paper and card stock I wasted last year when I was figuring out my Cricut!)

Anyway I’ve put together a list of Beginner Cricut User Tips. I’ve also explained what the tabs are in the Cricut Design Space canvas. They’re  really basic tips that might just save you time, money, and frustration.  I wish I’d found such a list last year!

I’ve also added links to official Cricut videos to show you how to use some of the basic features, just click on the links to watch the video of each feature!

  1.  The Cricut Explore and Cricut Explore Air (the Air connects wirelessly to your device via blue tooth) will only work with the online Cricut Design Space.  (The older machines use keyboard overlays and cartridges, I’ve never used the older machines, so I’m not sure how they work.) So you MUST have an internet connection to design, print, and cut projects.  The first thing you must do is create an account in the Cricut Design Space, you’ll be prompted to do so when you register your new Cricut Explore.  If you have the the Cricut Explore Air has a built in blue tooth but it will only connect wirelessly if your device (computer or tablet)  AND printer has blue tooth AND the blue tooth must be enabled.  If either one doesn’t have blue tooth you will not be able to connect wirelessly to that device.  If you don’t have the Explore Air you can’t connect wirelessly unless you purchase and install the blue tooth adaptor to your Cricut Explore.
  2. In design space you can choose a “canvas” when you start a new project.  Depending on what you’re making you can choose card, t-shirt, and more, this will display an image of the card, t-shirt, etc.   you will add images and fonts on them.  The canvas allows you to see what your project will look like.  If you can’t find a specific canvas you can choose a “blank canvas” and create your design on that.
  3. In design space you can insert shapes, images, and text, and you can choose the color, font, and action you want to perform on each image or text.Beginner Cricut Explore User Tips
    1.  To choose what you want to put on your canvas click on the tabs on the LEFT side of the canvas.  Those tabs are “Insert Image, Upload Images, Insert Shape, Add Text, Set Canvas”
      • Insert Image will insert an image or set of images from the Cricut Library – some are free; others you can buy by the piece or you can buy a subscription to Cricut Access which allows you to use hundreds of images, fonts, and projects for a flat monthly fee.  Still others such as licensed images and fonts must be paid for separately when you use them.  (You won’t be charged until you’re ready to cut.)  You can also use Cricut cartridges that can be purchased separately and linked to your Design Space account.
      • Upload Images allows you to upload your own image files.  Files must be .jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .svg or .dxf.  When you do this you will be taken to a screen where you can turn your upload into an image which you will save to your account and can insert into your projects. Click here to watch official Cricut Video!
      • Insert Shape will give you a choice of shapes (score line, circle, triangle, square, etc.)
      • Add Text allows you to type in text in the text box.
      • Set Canvas allows you to choose a canvas that I talked about above.
    2. On the right side of the canvas you have a box with 4 tabs “Layers, Edit, Sync, Canvas”
      • Layers – has 2 parts:  Layer Attributes & Line Type and Action tabs
        •   Layer Attributes tabs –  in this tab you can choose what you want to do with the images and fonts you’ve inserted on the canvas.  From the pallet you can choose the color or pattern fill of each image or text and you can choose what you want to do with each from the Line Type (cut, score, write, or print).  Click here to watch official Cricut Video about Line Type!
          • Cut – images and text will be cut out.
          • Score –  a line will be scored on to your card stock or paper with the scoring attachment  which you will insert in the housing on the machine. (Score line is the crease line you follow when you fold the paper, great for making cards)
          • Write – image or text will be written or drawn on your media with the marker you insert in the housing on the machine – write should not be confused with print! Click here to watch official Cricut video!
          • Print – prints your image or text using your printer then the Cricut will cut it out.
          • Below the Line Type you have a color pallet and 2 tabs – Basic Color and Pattern  here you can select the color or pattern fill for you image or text.
        • Action tabs – You can also choose to attach, weld, slice, flatten, or contour 2 or more images together. The bottom tabs will group, ungroup, delete, or duplicate images and text
          • Attach – attach two or more images and texts together so that both images will be cut or be written- for instance when you attach text to the middle of a circle, the machine will cut out the letters in the middle of the circle then cut out the circle or if you want the Cricut to write the text in the middle of the circle. Click here to watch official Cricut Video!
          • Slice – will slice parts of an image or text from another image – for instance if you want to cut out text from a circle shape you can do that with slice.  Click here to watch official Cricut Video!
          • Weld – weld two or more images or text together to create a single image. Click here to watch official Cricut Video!
          • Flatten – changes an image or text to print mode and attach it to the image you want it printed on.  For example if you want your text printed in the middle of a circle you will highlight both the text and the circle and click flatten – your text will be printed in the circle by your printer then the Cricut will cut out the circle.
          • Contour – allows you to hide certain parts of your image by removing certain cut lines.  Click here to watch official Cricut Video!
          • Group – group images and text together so that they are a single image – changes and actions will be for all items in a group will be the same
          • Ungroup – detach groups of images and text so that you can move each piece around and make changes and perform actions to each separate piece – very helpful if you want to move text around
          • Delete – remove image or text permanently from canvas
          • Duplicate – duplicate image, text, or groups of each
      • Edit allows you to resize your image or text, create mirror images, change the position of the image on the canvas, and choose your font.
      • Sync can be used before cutting, it lets you sync the pieces by color so that pieces of one color are cut on on sheet of media.  For example if you have several images that are in varying shades of pink you can sync them all to be the same shade so that they will cut one on piece of pink card stock.
      • Canvas allows you to choose the type, color,  and size of the canvas you are working on.
    3. If you want to print then cut you must:
      • Calibrate your printer to your Cricut before you begin.  Log in to Design Space, click on your name at the top left corner, click on Calibration  – this will walk you thru the process.  Be sure your printer is connected to wi-fi so it will connect to the Cricut machine.
      • In Design Space be sure you FLATTEN the image or text you want printed.
      • Print only on WHITE paper or card stock otherwise the Cricut will not be able to scan the cut lines and it will not cut properly.
    4. When you start cutting be sure the dial is set for the correct media – paper, card stock, fabric, vinyl, etc.
    5. Use the correct mat for your material – most of your cutting will probably be done on the regular green cutting mat, but some material such as fabric or leather may need the strong grip purple mat.  Be sure your paper, card stock, etc. are completely secured on to the cutting mat.  Smooth out wrinkles, make sure there are not gaps between the paper mat, otherwise your paper will slip while it’s cutting, not good!
    6. If you will be cutting thicker material such as craft foam you will need the deep cut blade and housing. The deep cut housing for the Cricut Explore & Explore Air is BLACK, the blue one will not fit.
    7. When using a cutting mat for the first time pat your palm around the surface so it won’t be too sticky.  Cut paper and card stock can be difficult to remove from the mat if it’s too sticky.
    8.  If you’re cutting fabric you must stabilize it first with fusible webbing or Heat’n Bond (Ulta or lite depending on fabric).
    9. If you’re cutting  iron on transfers or decals that are stabilized with something that has a paper backing you will most likely have to cut with paper side up so remember to click mirror image before cutting so that it will be right side up when you apply it.
    10. Cut out shapes or letters before you decorate them with foil or glitter.
    11. Cut only one sheet of paper, card stock, etc. at a time.
    12. Scrape off all lint or pieces of paper from the cutting mat before placing another sheet for cutting.
    13. Be sure your mat is placed under the plastic tabs before cutting or else your mat will not feed thru properly.
    14. When removing cut pieces from the mat roll the mat away from the cut pieces instead of pulling them off the mat, this reduces the chance of ripping.
    15. If you’re looking for cool fonts a great source for FREE fonts is  You can browse from thousands of cool fonts, download them, and install them on to your computer.  They become part of your font library.
    16. If you’re going to cut out letter stencils you must weld and slice thin lines to the letters  so that the inside of the letters will be attached to the outline.  Otherwise you some of your letter will come out funny.  Like your “O” will be a big open circle, the machine will cut out the middle part.  Welding a thin line to the center will insure the middle part is attached to the outline.  (Look out for a future post about creating stencils.)

Here’s a quick video exploring the Cricut Design Space Canvas.  I’ll walk you thru the features and show you how to use them.


I’m sure you’ll run into more issues as you play around with your new machine.  I know I did, but it’s a fun learning process and remember it’s ok to make mistakes.  If you have any questions feel free to drop me a note, I’ll be more than happy to share what I know!

Happy crafting!

Beginner Cricut Explore User Tips

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