• logden38

Cricut Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Updated: Feb 6

Hi guys! I've been "cricutting" for well over a year now - but trust me, when I first unboxed this bad boy, I was so overwhelmed. If any of you are feeling this way, have no fear - it's totally normal, and you will get it... so don't give up!!!

Here are some of my tips and tricks - I will update as I discover new things (because I'm still learning too!)

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1. Fonts

Fonts can be confusing! Which ones can I use? How do I find new ones? What can I use them for?

Your computer comes pre-loaded with lots of fonts, but they aren't always the most ~fun~. So you have two options (and you can choose them both).

You can subscribe to Cricut Access - this will give you access to all the fonts that Cricut has pre-loaded into Design Space. If you aren't subscribed, the program won't let you create your design without paying for the fonts, so you might get stuck at a wall that keeps asking you to pay if you try to use them.

The other option is to download fonts from the internet. Some are free and others are paid. You can find free fonts at websites like dafont.com , fonts.google.com, and 1001fonts.com. You can find paid fonts on websites like etsy.com, creativefabrica.com, and fontbundles.net.

As a side note, pay attention to the licenses you get with your fonts. Many free fonts will say "personal use only". This means that you are able to use the font for projects for yourself, friends, family, gifts, etc - but that you may be in trouble if you sell items with these fonts. The benefit of paying for fonts is that you are often able to get the commercial license so you can freely sell items which feature the font.

When you download fonts, they will arrive on your computer in a .zip folder. If you have an older computer, you will need to download software to unzip the folder. However, if you have a newer computer, you may have a built-in unzipping software.

For example, on a Windows 10 computer, open your .zip folder. Then, "extract" the fonts to another file. Go to the folder you extracted them to and select all of them. Next, open the "font settings" from your system settings (if you have a search bar in your Start menu, you can just type in "font settings"). Then, select all the font files and drop them into the little box on the font settings window. Your fonts will now be loaded into your computer!

Note that if you have a program like Design Space open while you load new fonts, they will not show up in your system fonts until you close Design Space and reopen it.

Pro tip: if you try to use your pen to "draw" fonts with your Cricut, they will always come out as an outline unless they are a specific kind of font called "single line fonts". If you want to know how to fill your fonts in when they aren't single line, check out my post over here.

2. Finding SVGs

One of the most common questions I see is about how to get "svgs".

First of all, an SVG is a type of file that the Cricut software will recognize and prefers to work with. The name "SVG" means that the files are scalable vectors, which means you can resize them to any size without losing quality. PNGs or JPEGS, on the other hand, will lose some quality if you make them bigger than their original size, and may lose some details if you make them too small. They're not totally necessary to use the Cricut, but they make life way easier.

Note that when you have SVG files on your computer, they won't usually show up with thumbnails in your folders. Normally they will look like website pages that you saved - for me, that means that instead of a regular thumbnail that shows me the picture, all my SVGs look like Microsoft Edge files.

So where can you find them?

Well, you can make your own! You can download free apps like Inkscape that let you draw your own SVG files. You can also use paid subscriptions to make them - online software like Canva has a paid premium subscription that lets you download designs as SVGs.

You can also buy them. Websites like etsy.com, designbundles.net and creativefabrica.com have tons of SVGs. Some are free, but others require a subscription or payment.

Alternatively, you can scavange them. If you're on Facebook, there are tons of Facebook groups where people post images. You can also sometimes pull them from google images or elsewhere. Just be mindful of the fact that many people make a living by creating and selling SVGs, so if you find a "free" one, it might not be intended to be free. For this reason, its best to avoid selling anything with images that you did not pay for, or you aren't sure of the source of.

Also be aware that "SVGS" that are shared on platforms like facebook or google images are not true "SVGS". They will save to your computer as PNGs or JPEGS. You will have to convert these to SVGS. (You can use them as PNGs in Design Space, but you don't have as many options - like contouring, etc.)

3. Converting SVGs

So you've downloaded SVGs from the internet - or, you just want to turn your own picture into an SVG. It's easier than you think.

The first thing you're going to want to do, if your image has a background, is use an online tool like remove.bg which will help you focus on the parts that you want to use in Design Space. The alternative to this is to use a software like Krita which will let you erase the background of pictures. I would not totally recommend the "krita" route unless you have a computer with a touch screen or a drawing tablet of some kind - it would be super time consuming with a mouse.

If your background is just a solid colour, don't worry about removing it.

The next step is to either use a program like Inkscape to copy the new image and save it as an SVG, OR to use an online tool like picsvg.com. FYI, the online tools will not always be perfect - especially if there's a lot of detail in your picture. You may have to play around with the settings. I usually have the best luck with the settings "Details: Strong" and "Ready #3".

Then you can upload your file into design space and you will be able to view you SVG. Remember: unless you download a special software, you won't be able to see the thumbnails for your SVGs in your files, so make sure you name them well.

4. Materials by mat colour

Another issue I see a lot of, and suffered with myself, is slipping materials. Sometimes, the problem is that your mat isn't sticky enough and needs to be cleaned (check out my post on how to clean your mat ) but sometimes the issue is that you're not using the right mat!

There are 4 basic types of mat: lightgrip, standardgrip, stronggrip and fabricgrip. You can buy bundles of all 4 on Amazon here (it's worth it!): https://amzn.to/3gesIdX.

The light blue, or "lightgrip" mat is for the lightest weight materials you can think of. Printer paper, really light cardstock, washi tape, wrapping paper, thin poster board, vellum etc. It will hold vinyl, but only permanent or removable vinyl. If you're trying to use vinyl, make sure that you use the scraper tool to really make sure its attached.

The green or "standardgrip" mat is probably the most versatile. This one will certainly hold your vinyls (although it may struggle with thicker vinyls, like glitter) and your heat transfer vinyls. It will also be your best friend for cardstock - even the heavy kind. It's also great for infusible ink and textured papers. Just be careful not to assume that anything you can cut on the lightgrip mat can be cut on this one - finer materials like paper and washi tape may break or rip when you remove them.

The purple or "stronggrip" mat is for heavier materials. It's a really important tool for the Cricut Makers especially since they can cut much thicker and less pliable materials than the Explore Airs. Use this one for glitter vinyl, chipboard, basswood, cork, acrylic, faux leather, and more. This mat is well suited for cardstock, but be careful! Heavy cardstock is easy to bend, and if you pull it up from the mat it may leave the paper curled or bent - you should peel the mat away from the materials instead (more on this below)

The pink or "fabricgrip" mat is still pretty new to me, but it can be used for basically any fabric that your machine will cut. It can also be used for felt! But be warned: you may want to make sure you have a brayer tool handy.

5. Materials by blade

If your materials won't cut right, the issue might not be your mat at all - it might be your blade! Knowing the right blade to use can make a big difference in your enjoyment of crafting. But how do you know which is which? This can be so overwhelming because it feels like there are infinite types of blades and tips. But here's what you need to know:

Each machine can support different types of blades and tips. The Cricut Maker, of course, has the most variety, so there are options for the "knife blade" and the "rotary blade" which are not meant for the Cricut Explore Airs!

The fine point blade is the one most likely to come with your Cricut. This one is probably the one you'll use the most often and is made for things like vinyl, papers, and other light to heavy materials. (get replacement blades here: https://amzn.to/3GaBR1X)

The deep point blade is made for thicker materials, like faux leather, cardboard, and foam board. (get the blade and housing here: https://amzn.to/3gcMeHP)

The bonded fabric blade is made for pretty much anything bonded fabric that you use on your pink mat - so denim, polyester, felt and burlap. ( get the blade and housing here: https://amzn.to/3IVwdCj)

The above 3 blades are great to use with either the Maker or the Explore Air, as I understand it. The following appear to only be well-suited to the Maker:

The rotary blade is used for other fabrics that aren't bonded, like non-bonded denim, lycra, cotton, etc.

The knife blade is used for the heaviest materials, like basswood, chipboard, and most of the materials that are only available for the Maker. (get replacement blades here: https://amzn.to/3HjIHDt)

6. Types of transfer tape

This is a quick but very important tip: check your transfer tape. If you're using Cricut brand, there are two kinds: strong grip and regular. Strong grip will have a purple grid on the back, and the regular will have a grey grid.

Do not use strong grip for regular vinyl. You will literally NEVER get it off the transfer tape. Strong grip transfer tape is mainly for textured premium vinyl, like glitter.

It may transfer some regular vinyl, but only to perfect surfaces. So if it's all you have, make sure that it's not a porous surface (so canvas is out), and make sure its cleaned really well. You'll also want to use the scraper to push the vinyl down as you pull up on the transfer tape.

If you can help it, before applying the strong grip tape to regular vinyl, stick the transfer tape to your shirt a few times to get some lint on it - it makes it less sticky and may save your projects.

7. Check your vinyl

Another simple but important tip: always check your vinyl before you use it. Some vinyls (especially holographic ones) will have little plastic films on them to protect them from scratches. They are not always easy to see, but if you don't remove them, it will ruin your cuts and waste your vinyl.

8. Avoid the wrong setting

The pre-programmed settings on the Cricut machine are awesome - if you only ever cut one material. I can't even begin to count the number of times that I've ruined a piece of material by using the wrong setting. The best way to avoid this? Leave it on "custom". That way you are always forced to choose your setting. You can even click the little star beside the materials you use most often so you don't have to scroll through the ever-growing list of materials.

9. Cutting twice

If your material isn't cutting all the way through, there may be a few causes. First, it may be thicker than you thought. This happens often with non-cricut brand vinyl or cardstock - this is because Cricut is calibrated for its own vinyl and backing, so if its a bit thicker, it may not cut all the way through. Alternatively, your blade may be a little bit dull.

Whatever the reason, you have two options. First, you could choose to cut the project with "more pressure". This is a good idea to try if your blade is pretty old.

Your other option is to cut twice. This is usually my first resort. Sometimes "more pressure" can cut right through your mat, which is honestly... devastating. So I usually try the cut one more time. To make this work seamlessly, don't remove the mat from the machine or the material from the mat when it finishes the first cut. Instead, leave it there until the little "C" light on your machine begins blinking again, indicating that it is ready to cut. If your machine is calibrated, it should cut nearly perfectly over the first cuts, but it should not go through your mat!

10. Dull blades

A lot of people claim that aluminum foil will sharpen your blade. The process is to stick a piece of aluminum foil to your mat, as if its a regular material, and cut a few straight lines down the foil (to do this, just insert a line from your shapes in Design Space and make sure the command is set to "cut", not "score")

It does work - although it's unclear if it is because it actually "sharpens" your blade, or because it just cleans off the gunk. Remember - you're cutting through adhesives almost every time you cut (between vinyl and the mats) so your blades are bound to get a little gunk-y.

If it doesn't sharpen your blade, replacement blades are pretty easy to find on amazon - especially for the most common blades, like deep-point and fine-point. Find an assortment pack here: https://amzn.to/3GaBR1X. How often you should be replacing your blade depends a lot on use - it's normal to replace it every 6 months to a year if your machine is just for a hobby, but if you're running a business or use it daily, you should consider changing it out every few months. Really, just pay attention to how your machine cuts. If your mats are sticky, your setting is right, and you've tried "sharpening" your blade with the above method, and your machine still won't cut like it used to - it's probably time to change your blade.

11. Your blade is in wrong

Don't laugh - it happens... and it will probably happen to you too! Inserting the blade into the housing is pretty easy - they're magnetized so you just have to pull the old one out (carefully!!) and stick the new one into the hole.

The problem some people run into is with the protective cover on the replacement blades. The part that goes up into the housing is kind of pointed, which leads people to think this is the blade... but its not. The blade is actually under the rubber cover. Pull the cover off carefully and you will see it. Make sure this end of it is out of the housing.

12. You're removing material wrong

Our intuition is to pull the material off the mat carefully from one of the upper corners - but this is wrong. Doing this risks bending your material - especially if you're using a cardstock. Instead, try pulling the mat away from the material.

Lay your mat facedown on a clean surface and gently bend the corner of it. If you're using the right mat, the corner of your material should separate from the mat on its own (if not, its ok to pull a bit), then hold your material flat on the clean surface, and keep peeling your mat away from it.

This will save you so much curled cardstock.

13. You can use a lint roller as transfer tape

All out of tape? So lost without it? No worries. You can actually use your household sticky lint-roller to transfer your design! (Just make sure its a fresh piece).

Get 450 sheets here: https://amzn.to/3s25XzD

14. Re-use your transfer tape

Speaking of transfer tape - you know you can reuse your tape... right? Even if it seems kind of lint-y or a little bit dirty, don't throw it away!

Like I mentioned above, different surfaces require different levels of sticky. This is because some surfaces will be more difficult to bond with vinyl than others. A porous surface won't want to accept vinyl very easy, so the less sticky your transfer tape, the better chance you will be able to get it onto the surface (the vinyl will go where it can stick better - so if the back of the vinyl is stickier than the transfer tape, it will adhere to the surface easier)

Trust me on this - I went almost 6 months without ever buying a new roll of TT.

15. Heat your permanent vinyl

Like I said, porous surfaces and vinyl don't always mix. A good example of this is powder-coated tumblers (like these: https://amzn.to/32MoFmd). Powder-coated tumblers make amazing blanks because they're usually pretty reasonably priced, AND super easy to find. BUT the texture makes vinyl hate sticking to them. The solution?

Heat guns. Seriously. The small handheld ones ( like these: https://amzn.to/347j3Uf) are lifesavers. They will warm up the adhesive, so if you push on it while you heat it, you can actually push the adhesive down into the pores and make it stick way better. The trick is to not overheat the vinyl, or you will risk fully melting your adhesive. Try starting with it about 6 inches away from the surface and moving it back and forth over your project. If it doesn't start to heat up, move it a little bit closer - but always use caution.

16. Weeding troubles

Can't see when you're weeding? You're not alone! But fear not, there are options!

The first, and simplest, is baby powder or corn starch. I brush a teeny tiny bit onto my project if it's particularly hard to see the cuts. The white powder will sit in the cuts and let you see where you need to weed much easier.

Another option is light boards. Some people love this, others struggle with them. They are helpful for most coloured vinyl, but I find them a bit tough to use with white vinyl that has white backing. One like this might be worth a try: https://amzn.to/3rgSrZR.

17. Lost in the weeds?

On the subject of weeding, where do those little bits even go? How do you get them off your pick? Why are you still finding them in your hair, a week after you finish the project?

There are lots of options to collect your weeded bits. Some people ball up a bit of masking tape and stick it to the side of their mat or the table they are working on, so they can push the pick into it and the adhesive will pull off the little bits.

Others use coffee tins with those flimsy plastic covers. If you want to try this, just cut a small X into the cover of the tin. You can stick your pick in the cuts and it should pull those little pieces right off!

Alternative, some people want more "handy" options, and use nail polish holders that can be worn like a ring. These work incredibly, and are pretty easy to store! Find some here: https://amzn.to/3L3dU0b

18. Design space basics

Check out my previous post on Design Space Basics.

19. HTV versus sublimation

HTV is heat transfer vinyl. It is cut out of a material similar to a regular vinyl, but the adhesive requires heat to attach to things. HTV sits on top of the blank.

Sublimation, on the other hand, is dry ink that can be infused with the actual fibres of the fabric or blank. Both HTV and sublimation require some kind of heat to apply the material - a heat press or iron is a must.

Sublimation can be done in one of two ways:

The least time consuming is perhaps getting set up with a sublimation printer. You will need a specific type of printer (like this one https://amzn.to/34zah1i), and then you will have to convert it to a sublimation printer by buying the correct ink (like this: https://amzn.to/34txiCy), and special paper. It is definitely the more expensive route, but once you are set up, you can literally sublimate any image with as many colours as you would like, with the click of your mouse.

The more time consuming, but probably cheaper, method is by using infusible ink. This is a special type of ink sheets and pens made by Cricut. The Infusible Ink sheets are cut from a larger sheet, much like vinyl is. It is then weeded out and applied to your blank with heat. Infusible Ink Pens pop into your Cricut where your regular cricut pens would. Then you use the "draw" function to draw out your mirrored image. The good news is that you can just draw on regular printer paper with these pens. Then you use the printer paper to apply your design to your blank.

One thing to keep in mind with sublimation is that you always want a few pieces of butcher paper or parchment paper between your ink and your press. Infusible ink is so pigmented, that it will bleed all over your press if you don't protect it.

Check out my post on using Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets here

20. Sealing permanent vinyl

You don’t need to. Cups, tumblers, etc don‘t need to be sealed. The permanent vinyl adhesive is strong enough to withstand hand washing (but not dishwasher washing). To be safe, if you’re making a mug or coffee tumbler, let it sit for a 24-48 hours after putting vinyl on it before you put any hot liquids in it.

If you still feel that you need to seal permanent vinyl, you can use a glue sealer like mod podge. If you’re making a cup, mug, or tumbler, make sure it’s dishwasher safe mod podge, and make sure that you don’t put any within about 2 inches of the rim - you don’t want peoples mouths in contact with the glue.

Pro tip: just because mod podge is “dishwasher safe” doesn’t mean you should put it in the dishwasher. It can withstand hotter water than regular mod podge, but too many runs in a dishwasher or water that’s too hot can cause the mod podge to separate and crack - which looks much worse than peeling vinyl!

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