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Cricut Explore 3 vs Maker 3 (2021): Should You Save Or Splurge?

If you’ve been finding it hard to differentiate between the Cricut machines, things just got even trickier now that there are two new models. The Cricut Explore 3 and the Cricut Maker 3 are the latest additions to the Cricut family, both said to be a huge step-up from their predecessors. However, they’re meant to serve very different types of crafters so it’s important that you choose wisely. To help you out, here’s an in-depth comparison of the two that covers their design and features.

Cricut Explore 3 vs Maker 3 Comparison Chart

ModelCricut Explore 3Cricut Maker 3
 Cricut Explore 3 White, MintCricut Maker 3
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Material CompatibilityOver 100 materialsOver 300 materials
Smart Material CompatibilityYesYes
Maximum Cutting Width13 inches13 inches
Maximum Cutting Length12 feet12 feet
Tool Compatibility6 Cricut tools13 Cricut tools
Adaptive Tool SystemNoYes
ConnectivityUSB and BluetoothUSB and Bluetooth


Both the Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Explore 3 aren’t too different from their predecessors in terms of design.

Cricut Explore 3 vs Maker 3 design
The Cricut Explore 3 (left) comes in mint green while the Cricut Maker 3 (right) is available in powder blue.

The Cricut Maker 3 and the Cricut Explore 3 are a lot more powerful than their predecessors but design-wise, there aren’t too many changes. On the Maker 3, the only differences you’ll spot are the buttons and the shift from white to powder blue. As for the Explore 3, the material setting dial has been completely removed. This means that you need to use Design Space to access the material settings which is actually a lot easier. It has also ditched the glossy finish and now only comes in mint green. In addition, it now sports a tray where you can place your phone or tablet while you’re working.

Both the Maker 3 and the Explore 3 score high when it comes to ease of use. The process of setting up, printing, and cutting isn’t confusing at all even if you’re new to the world of arts and crafts. One thing that you might find annoying about these machines though is the noise. They can get pretty loud but that’s expected given how powerful they are and how fast they work.


The Cricut Explore 3 can only work with 100+ materials while the Cricut Maker 3 can work with 300+.

Cricut Explore 3 vs Maker 3 materials
The Cricut Explore 3 (left) and the Cricut Maker 3 (right) both have improved maximum cutting sizes.

Just like the models that came before them, both the Cricut Maker 3 and the Cricut Explore 3 are able to work with an abundance of materials including paper, matboard, and even leather and balsa wood. However, the more expensive Maker 3 goes past a hundred materials, beating the Explore 3 and their predecessors. It can score and cut 300+ materials, including thicker ones like basswood. So if you want the creative freedom of being able to work with all sorts of materials, you might find it worthwhile to spend an extra $100 on the Maker 3.

Also, we can’t recommend the Maker 3 enough especially to those who work a lot with fabric. Equipped with a rotary blade, the Maker 3 is able to cut fabric of any thickness with so much ease and you don’t even have to stiffen the fabric. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Explore 3. It’s not compatible with the rotary blade so if you want to cut fabric with it, you need to have a backing. Another alternative is to stiffen the fabric and then use the Bonded Fabric Blade.

The Maker 3 and the Explore 3 do have something in common though and that’s the fact that they both have improved cutting sizes. While their predecessors could only cut up to maximum width of 12 inches and length of 1.9 feet, these new machines are capable of cutting up to a width of 13 inches and a length of 12 feet. That’s a pretty significant increase which goes to show how much more powerful they are.


The Cricut Maker 3 is compatible with 13 Cricut tools while the Cricut Explore 3 only supports 6.

Cricut Explore 3 vs Maker 3 tools
The Cricut Explore 3 (left) and the Cricut Maker 3 (right) don’t need to use mats when cutting Smart Materials.

Another advantage that the Cricut Maker 3 has over the Cricut Explore 3 is the amount of tools it can work with. With the Explore 3, you’re limited to six Cricut tools and basic skills like writing, scoring, and cutting. But with the Maker 3, you get to work with 13 tools, allowing you to take on more advanced tasks like engraving, scoring foil, debossing, and as mentioned, cutting fabric.

To top things off, the Maker 3 is equipped with Cricut’s Adaptive Tool System which exerts precise cutting force depending on what material you’re working with. With the Maker 3’s cutting prowess and versatility, it comes pretty close to the level of professional cutting machines out there.

These differences aside, you’ll be glad to know that you no longer need a mat when you’re cutting Cricut’s Smart Materials with both the Maker 3 and Explore 3. This is because the Smart Materials are fed directly into these machines. Only the Cricut Joy had this feature before so it’s nice that two other Cricut models now have the same capability. In addition, the Maker 3 and Explore 3 are time-savers, able to perform two times faster than their predecessors when it comes to cutting Smart Materials.


Get the Cricut Maker 3 if you do advanced projects but go for the Explore 3 if you’re more of a casual crafter.

The Cricut Maker 3 and the Cricut Explore 3 are excellent machines, both able to perform much faster, cut bigger sizes, and eliminate the need for a mat. However, they’re different in a number of ways and are meant to cater to different types of crafters.

If you work with a wide variety of materials, have an advanced skillset, and are willing to invest in your craft, you’re much better off with the Maker 3. Not only is it compatible with more materials and tools, but it’s also a lot more powerful and precise. But if you’re more of a casual crafter and tend to work with more basic materials, save your money and go with the Explore 3 instead as it should be more than enough for your needs.


๐Ÿ“Œ How many materials can the Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Explore 3 work with?

The Cricut Explore 3 can work with 100+ materials including paper, matboard, leather and balsa wood. As for the Cricut Maker 3, it’s compatible with over 300 materials including thicker ones like basswood.

๐Ÿ“Œ How many tools are compatible with the Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Explore 3?

The Cricut Maker 3 is compatible with 13 of Cricut’s tools, including the rotary blade which is excellent at cutting fabric. As for the Cricut Explore 3, it can only work with six of Cricut’s tools and blades.

๐Ÿ“Œ Can the Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Explore 3 work with Cricut’s Smart Materials?

Yes, the Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Explore 3 are compatible with Cricut’s Smart Materials. In fact, they’re able to cut them faster than their predecessors and don’t need a mat to do so.

๐Ÿ“Œ Which one should you buy, the Cricut Maker 3 or the Cricut Explore 3?

If you’re an advanced crafter who works with a wide range of materials, the Cricut Maker
3 is the better option for you. But if you craft for fun and are fine with using more basic materials, the Cricut Explore 3 should be enough.

Last update on 2021-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Denise Jose

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying. Researcher and yoga teacher passionate about article writing, photography, wellness, and mindfulness.