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Cricut makes smart cutting machines that can cut all kinds of material from paper, vinyl, fabric, sticker paper, faux leather and more. What follows is my Cricut Explore Air 2 review for 2020, along with a list of frequently asked questions about this product. Comment below if you have anything to add!
What kind of projects can I do on a Cricut Explore Air 2?
All kinds of fun stuff. As a beginner, here are some of the things you can try:
- Paper greeting cards
- Foam stamps
- Wood signs
- Pencil pouches
- Pantry labels
- Custom print shirts
- Custom cup and mug designs
- Felt bows
- Leather hair bows
… and much more. What you want to make with a Cricut cutting machine is really only limited to your imagination, and if you are the artsy type you’ll probably have a lot of fun with it. As you’d guess from the list above, a Cricut machine is primarily for arts and crafts, and for personal enjoyment over anything else. You will not be printing out a desk and chair with a Cricut machine 😉
How does the Cricut Explore Air 2 compare to other Cricut products?
The Cricut Explore Air 2 is not the only machine Cricut offers; there is also a Cricut Joy and Cricut Maker. Here’s a helpful table on the Cricut website comparing them:
Here’s my take on the differences between them…
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Cricut Maker: The Cricut Maker is more expensive, heavier (24 pounds vs 16 pounds), and has 10 times the cutting force (4kg vs 400 grams) which allows it to use many more tools. With the Cricut Maker you can use a rotary blade (cuts through basically any type of fabric), knife blade (super strong – can even cut leather) and quick swap tools (including a scoring tip, engraving tip, debossing tip, wavy blade and perforation blade), none of which are available with the Cricut Explore Air 2. Appearance-wise, they’re pretty similar.
Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Cricut Joy: The Cricut Joy only recently came out (February 2020) and is the cheapest machine, sufficient for making cards and labels but not too much beyond that. If you want to get into the more advanced and fun projects, you definitely want to get the Explore Air 2 or Maker.
If you’re brand new to this space, get the Cricut Joy or Explore Air 2 – you can always upgrade to the Maker later if you really want.
What competitor products are there to Cricut?
As I see it, these are the 3 main brands competing with Cricut:
- Silhouette (biggest one)
The Silhouette Portrait 2 is an alright machine as an alternative to the Cricut Joy – it’s cheap, can make stickers and cards, and is of decent build quality. I still believe the Cricut Joy is a bit better though due to its ease-of-use and larger cutting area. If you want the next best Silhouette cutting machine, you can try the Silhouette Cameo 4 which is a worthy competitor to the Cricut Explore Air 2 and significantly better than the Silhouette Portrait 2 (so that’s the machine you should get if you’re going with a Silhouette product).
Sizzix has its Big Shot Machine, a simple, budget machine similar to the Silhouette Portrait 2 and the Cricut Joy. It’s a worthy competitor in the budget cutting machine space.
Pazzles, meanwhile, offers the Inspiration Vue at $399. This is a relatively unknown product as of the time of writing and I haven’t tested it personally.
Should I get the Cricut Explore Air 2 by itself, or as a bundle?
If you want to buy an Explore Air 2, definitely get the bundle that comes with these additional materials:
- Deep-Point Blade + Housing (makes it easier to cut a wider variety of materials)
- Machine Mat Variety Pack, 12″ x 12″ (30.5 cm x 30.5 cm) – 3 ct (these mats are sticky in order to keep your materials in place during the cutting process. You can try cutting without them, but I advise using a mat)
- Scoring Stylus (lets you score lines, ie. make a crease, for use with cards, boxes, envelopes and so on. You may not need this)
- Basic Tool Set (includes scissors, tweezers, a weeder, scraper and spatula – very handy if you don’t have these lying around in your house already)
- Pen Set, Candy Shop (5 medium tip pens in Blueberry, Candy Crystal, Sour Apple, Candy Corn, and Very Berry)
- Window Cling, Black (designed for indoor use)
The bundle isn’t always in stock, but here’s the link for it on the Cricut website (rose color): https://cricut.com/en_us/machines/cricut-explore-air-2/cricut-explore-airtm-2-rose.html
The default price for the Explore Air 2 bundle is $419.44, but you can often find it on sale, sometimes at a bargain price. It goes out of stock easily, though, so if you see it at a huge discount you should jump on it. At the time of writing it has just gone out of stock for me after having been discounted heavily:
Sometimes one color will go out of stock while others are still available. In any case, you should check both the website (cricut.com) and Walmart if you’re interested in the bundle.
Does the Cricut Explore Air 2 require a monthly subscription payment?
As of March 2020, no. There seems to be a lot of confusion about this, at least partly because of this Amazon review:
I can confirm that it is not necessary to pay any monthly subscription charges to use your Explore Air 2. The $10/month software this user references is optional; if you get it it’ll just give you access to the Cricut catalog where there are a bunch of pre-made projects created by Cricut. But there are loads of free files and fonts online that will let you have plenty of fun without needing to spend a dollar.
What’s my overall verdict of the Cricut Explore Air 2?
Cricut makes a quality product, and the Cricut Explore Air 2 is no exception. I definitely recommend getting it if you want it and you’ve concluded it’s right for your needs, as you won’t be disappointed. It’s just a matter of comparing the different cutting machines (see above) to make sure you get the one that suits you best.
We put out a request for people who own a Cricut machine to submit what they thought of it. Here are the submissions we received:
I LOVE My Cricut Cutting Machine: My experience using my Cricut cutting machine has been wonderful and I 100% recommend them. I’ve especially loved being able to give cards to people that have a lot more meaning because they’re handmade (but still look beautiful). I’ve also enjoyed using it to decorate for the different seasons.
The one caveat is that it’s been challenging to learn how to design my own SVG files. I was able to learn, but it wasn’t easy. Now that I’ve learned how to design them, I love having the freedom to create anything I can think of.
In the beginning, I’d definitely recommend finding people who blog about Cricut and give away free SVG files. It’s a great way to learn how to use the machine and see what types of things you like to make. After that, you can learn to make your own files or find people that sell files that you love and are happy to pay for.
Here’s an image of a wreath I cut out using my Cricut. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gr8t8mdphr9whao/AABMTlvDs2L68Bk5aEeO6Ilca?dl=0
— Alexa Blay, Key To My Lime
I own a Cricut Maker and Joy and have previously owned the air 2. My experience has been a positive one, being a mum it’s great to be able to quickly make a project for school, cards etc. They are also great for home projects such as cushions, labelling, pictures and artwork. The Cricut Machine is also great for small kids parties its amazing how engaged kids and teens are with a Cricut Machine, roll of iron on vinyl and a blank t shirt. I have also found the Cricut design space a great resource full of project ideas and templates but love that I can also upload my own projects including business logos for projects.
— Sarah Christie, Extraordinary Chaos Blog
After much contemplation and homework, whether I’d use it often enough, did it do what I thought I needed it to do… I finally bought the machine.
What i learned is that its interface is relatively easy to use. I struggle with it a bit because I am very good at Photoshop, so importing files in was a little tricky. I have to make adjustments. They have alot of free templates and thousands more for purchase, but I cannot justify their prices (even at .99 because i can create my own).
Some issues I’ve had are: sometimes the machine wants to work outside if the ruled area i’ve designated, despite being set for that exact area. i learned quickly how to expand my margins to ensure the object fits in the field but not end up wasting too much material. Also, having to use the interface online is a bit of a pain, I prefer to work offline outside of the clutches of an app.
The Explore machine works fine for light weight paper applications and vinyl- which is what i use it most for – i apply various images/text to my photo booth gear as branding and fun.
What I originally wanted it for was to create custom props for the photo booth using heavier chip board. i did not know that this particular model was not compatible with the chipboard knives tools and so i’ve ‘cheated’ by cutting multiple layers and compounding them to make thicker objects, but its not ideal. the cost of the “better” machine, Cricut Maker is prohibitive for me because it’s almost twice as much money and i already have this one. i attempted to sell the Explore Air on a local community board, to get some money back and purchase the other; but no bites. I have read reviews that the Cricut maker tools are not particularly good anyway and dull quickly. I use many recycle materials I have as well as some Cricut and other OEM offerings. I typically buy it only when it is on sale.
I continue to use the Cricut Explore Air for the vinyl application and someday maybe will upgrade. For now, when chipboard props are needed, i will make some and purchase others from specialty vendors.
— Victoria Genin, Annnd… Action! Photo Booth
These machines are really one of a kind on the market, and in my opinion, the competition can’t compare with all they have to offer.
First of all, the large number of different add ons and extensions that you can use on almost any Cricut Machine is fantastic. I’ve been using different blades for different projects, and in the long run, love switching between the fine point and deep point blade when cutting things like cardstock or even cardboard.
One of the biggest downsizes to Cricut was that the software was only available online, but this was solved recently so you can use your machine without an Internet connection.
The community is large, and there are many different projects to be inspired with, as well as a large database of finished projects that come with the Cricut Access package.
All in all, any Cricut is a versatile machine able to support your crafting and creative streak. Even so, there are some flaws.
The software, compared to other simpler CAD software, is practically a joke. It’s simplistic, and there are some things that you can’t precisely determine, as the actual position on the mat, without a lot of additional steps.
The biggest downside for me at least, are the mats. They lose their stickiness relatively quickly so you need to secure your projects with tape or buy new mats. I know that some industrial machines have a vacuum pump that keeps paper and other materials in place, eliminating the mat. It would be nice if Cricut would offer that functionality as well, but I guess that the price would become too large.
— Bryan Stoddard, Homewares Insider
The user reviews submitted to us were very positive overall, just like our own verdict — so we definitely have no qualms recommending Cricut. If you’d like to submit your own review or have anything to say about this piece, please comment below or contact us.
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