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Best Cricut For Beginners (2021): Which is the Best Cricut Machine If You’re New?

From mugs to shirts, cards to decals, you can do so many fun, creative projects with a Cricut cutting machine. The company’s flagship cutting machine, the Cricut Maker, is one of the most powerful machines that can cut hundreds of materials of different thicknesses. But if you’re still new to the crafting world, we recommend the Cricut Joy or the Cricut Explore Air 2 as the best Cricut for beginners.

Keep reading to find out why and to learn the must-have tools and materials for beginners.

The Best Cricut for Beginners: Cricut Joy & Cricut Explore Air 2

ModelCricut JoyCricut Explore Air 2
 Cricut JoyCricut Explore Air 2
PriceCheck Price

at Cricut.com

Check Price

at Cricut.com

Best ForPortability and ease of useVersatility, speed, and value for money
Recommended Machine Bundle for BeginnersCricut Joy + Essentials BundleCricut Explore Air 2 + Essentials Bundle
Max Cutting Area4.25″ x 6.5″12″ x 24″
Cutting VersatilityCuts 50+ materialsCuts 100 materials
Print and CutNo, Only draw and cutYes
Tool HolderSingleDouble
Material DialNoYes
Mat-less CuttingYesNo
Tool StorageNoYes
ColorsWhite/TurquoiseBlue, Cherry Blossom, Matte Black, Twilight, Mint, Persimmon, Rose
8.4″ x 5.5″ x 4.25″22.17″ x 7″ x 5.0″
Weight3.9 lbs21 lbs

Best Cricut for Beginners: Cricut Joy

The Cricut Joy and its compatible Smart Materials make it convenient to design and cut without a mat

Best Cricut for Beginners Cricut Joy
This tiny Cricut cutting machine can fit the palm of your hand

Released in 2020, the Cricut Joy is the company’s smallest cutting machine to date. Don’t be fooled by its size, though, as it can do a lot of things that its bigger siblings can.Β In fact, Cricut rolled out a technology on the Joy that’s not available on the Explore Air 2 and Maker: cutting Cricut Smart Materials directly without a mat.

If you’re a complete beginner, not having to worry about the cutting mat before cutting makes the process easier. If your budget allows, the Cricut Joy and its line of Smart Vinyls, Smart Iron-Ons, and Smart Labels are excellent materials to start with. With the Cricut Joy, you can quickly design and cut labels, cards, heat transfer vinyl, and a lot more.

With the Cricut Joy, you can cut the Smart Vinyl directly from its roll

While the Cricut Smart Materials may be super convenient to use, they are not exactly the cheapest. If you want to save on materials, you can still use the regular materials with the Cricut Joy, but you’ll need a cutting mat to cut them with the machine. Another way to save on materials is through getting a Cricut Joy + Essentials Bundle, which includes insert cards, card mat, and different colors of Smart Vinyls and Smart Iron-Ons.

Runner-up Cricut for Beginners: Cricut Explore Air 2

The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a budget-friendly, versatile Cricut machine that can cut a wide range of materials and features Fast Mode and a 12″ x 24″ cutting area.

The Cricut Explore Air 2 in mint

The Cricut Explore Air 2 features a 400-gram cutting power, which means it can cut a wider range of materials than the portable Cricut Joy. It can cut up to 100 material types, more than enough for beginners to play around and explore what the machine can do. Since it has a larger 12″ x 24″ cutting area, you can create bigger designs for shirts, tote bags, pillows, and more.

One of my favorite features of the Cricut Explore Air 2 is its Print and Cut functionality that lets you design and cut stickers. This lets you print your designs on sticker paper using a regular printer and have your Cricut do the cutting for you. There are also a lot of free designs that require simple materials that you can do on the Explore Air 2 even as a Cricut beginner.

A lot of Cricut crafters sell stickers and decals on Etsy or their own store

The upside to getting the Cricut Explore Air 2 is you can do more with it once you’re ready to delve into more complex arts and crafts projects. Since it’s an older model, the Explore Air 2 typically goes on sale and can cost almost as much as the smaller Cricut Joy. For even more savings, you can get the Explore Air 2 + Essentials Bundle which comes with tools and materials that are great for beginners.

Must-Have Tools & Materials

Here are some of the things you’ll want to get with your Cricut cutting machine

1. Extra Cutting Mat

Having an extra cutting mat at home makes sure that when you do need to replace your mat, you won’t have to run to the store to get one. Most Cricut machines require the use of a cutting mat, so it’s always wise to have extra. Cricut carries standard grip mats, light grip mats, and fabric mats you can choose from.

2. Cricut Essential Tool Set:

As a beginner, you may not end up using all of the tools in the Essential Tool Set, but as you start creating more projects, you’ll find all of them handy.

  • paper trimmer
  • scissors
  • scraper tool
  • blades and scoring wheel
  • reversed tweezers
  • weeding tool
  • spatula
  • scoring stylus

3. Sampler Materials

Whether you’re getting the Cricut Joy or the Explore Air 2, getting the sampler materials is a great way for you to explore the different materials and colors you can play around with. As a Cricut beginner, you may not know yet what materials you enjoy working with the most for your designs.

4. Transfer Tape

You’ll be needing a lot of transfer tape for the arts and crafts (esp when cutting vinyls) that you cut on your Cricut machine, so it’s good to have an extra roll or two.


The Cricut Joy is best for beginners who want a portable machine that’s intuitive to use, while the Explore Air 2 is great for beginners who want to create and cut larger designs

Cricut machines are the most intuitive among most cutting machines. Whichever you end up with, you’ll get an excellent machine you can use as a beginner and even as you start to create more intricate projects.

The Cricut Joy may be more limited than the Explore Air 2 in terms of power and versatility, but its compatibility with the Cricut Smart Materials makes it a great machine choice for beginners. Meanwhile, if you feel you need to create and cut larger designs, the Explore Air 2 better fits your requirements. It may require a slightly higher learning curve than the Joy, but it remains an excellent entry to Cricut cutting machines.


πŸ“Œ Can I upload my own images to be used with Cricut?

Yes, you can. The recommended image file to be used with Cricut’s Design Space are SVG files (scalable vector graphics), so your design won’t get pixelated even when enlarged.

πŸ“Œ What materials can I cut with my Cricut machine?

A ton! You can cut board papers, vinyls, and sticker paper. With the right tools, you can even cut fabric and foil using the Cricut Explore Air 2.

πŸ“Œ What supplies do I need with my Cricut if I’m a beginner?

We recommend getting sampler packs for the materials, alongside transfer tapes, essential tool set, and cutting mats.

πŸ“Œ What is the best Cricut machine for beginners?

The best Cricut machines for beginners are the Cricut Joy and the Explore Air 2. To read more about these two machines, check out our comparison chart above.

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Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

Managing Editor and Team Leader at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about people, product comparisons, culture, and current events.