Cricut Maker 3: A crafting phenomenon for good reason

The latest addition to the Cricut line-up is not cheap but it cuts up to 300 materials

Cricut Maker 3
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Price: €500
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Back in the dark days of March 2020, we all picked up new hobbies to get us through what we thought would be a couple of weeks of lockdown. Crochet, knitting, painting, binge-watching Netflix – we each found our own niche.

If your hobbies leaned to the more creative side of things, you may have heard of Cricut. The brand has quickly become the must-have for crafters both established and aspiring, cutting everything from vinyl and paper to balsa wood and leather. It can turn its hand to almost anything, limited only by your imagination (and design skills).

The Cricut Maker 3 is the latest addition to the line-up. It’s not cheap, but it does a lot, using a variety of different tools to cut up to 300 different materials. Put a compatible pen in it and it will write and draw. Since it arrived on my desk, I’ve personalised water bottles (small children who perpetually misplace them), created home-made cards, labelled almost every glass container in my cupboards and created more than a few home decorations for Christmas.

Some of these projects have been more successful than others – think Pinterest style "nailed it" disasters. I've also fallen down a rabbit hole of Facebook groups, and have picked up a whole other language, from weeding and welding to offset and slicing. I know the trick to getting the most out of transfer tape – and what other materials will work in an emergency.


It’s a new world.

Thankfully, it’s an easy one to get started with. The whole point of Cricut is that you can pick it up quickly and start creating. The machine itself is quite minimalist looking, with a button to load materials, another to start cutting and one to pause operations, plus a power button. You have space to hold your tools, and a compartment in which to store them more carefully, along with a section for spare blades for the machine.

Proprietary software

The Cricut machines all use the proprietary DesignSpace software to do everything from activating the machine and designing projects to sending them to the machine to cut out the pieces. DesignSpace can be relatively straightforward, but if you want to master some of the more advanced features. you’ll need a bit of practice first.

The software is free to use, although there is a fee for using some of the images and fonts unless you sign up for Cricut Access membership (a subscription for the year). Cricut does offer a month’s free access, however, so you can try before you buy.

The strength of Cricut Access is the projects that are already available on the platform, everything from cards for almost every occasion to home decor ideas, papercraft projects such as houses, flowers and 3D animals, and more vinyl and customised clothing than you could ever hope for. If you have signed up for the subscription service, you can access most of these as part of that membership – the exception being some of the licensed images owned by companies such as Disney – and you can craft away to your heart's content.

If you plan on designing your own projects with fonts you’ve found elsewhere and your own images, you don’t necessarily need Cricut Access, but you’ll still need to use the DesignSpace software to cut.

The machine itself is a breeze to set up. Once you have your Cricut ID registered, you can connect your Maker 3 to your laptop via an included USB cable, or use Bluetooth for wireless communication. The latter is also handy for connecting to your laptop or tablet.

Then you are ready to go, sending your designs to the machine, loading it up with the right materials and cutting away. It comes with a fine-point blade, which covers a multitude of materials and some material for test cuts.

Right settings

The only thing you need to remember is to choose the right material settings when cutting, as there will be different pressure settings to cut properly – glitter vinyl will need more pressure than plain permanent vinyl, for example. Test cuts are your friend in this case, because once you unload the material from the machine, it’s almost impossible to line it back up exactly to cut it again. It will always be just a fraction off, so you need to make sure the material has properly cut through.

The main difference between the Maker 3 and its predecessor is the ability to use smart materials. These are Cricut-branded materials – vinyl, paper, cardstock – that don’t require mats to cut. That makes them much easier to use, and also opens up the possibility of creating larger projects such as banners or signs up to 12ft long.

To cut any other materials – regular card or generic vinyl, for example – you’ll need to buy a cutting mat, and if you plan to cut other material such as wood or leather, you’ll need to invest in a different type of blade for the machine. Cricut’s website has a handy guide to what you need for each project, and Harvey Norman is a good source for Cricut accessories.

The good

If you are trying to up your craft game, the Maker 3 will get you over the line. Very far over the line. In fact, you’ll probably have created the line with some of the smart vinyl, and a few signposts to get there.

The Maker 3 is quite fast at cutting some items, although the more intricate your project, the longer it will take. Still, you can set it to cut, and go off about your business, returning only to change mats or swap materials.

Speaking of materials, the smart materials from Cricut means you don’t need a mat, which makes things easier, and also cuts out the added expense of replacing mats.

The not-so-good

You’ll need a bit of space around it, as the materials have to pass through the machine. But prepare to start on a slippery slope. It starts with the Maker and a few rolls of vinyl, and before you know it, you are you are hunting down acrylic blanks, investing in engraving tools and scoring wheels, and getting to grips with the best quality balsa wood to make some personalised signs for around the house. If it’s not nailed down, you’ll personalise it. In fact, even if it is nailed down, you’ll personalise it anyway. Sure why not?

The rest

There are 13 different tools for the Maker 3, and a couple of different housings to make them work. Get to grips with what you’ll need before going off spending money on absolutely everything with the “Cricut” brand on it.

The verdict

Regardless of your skill level, “home-made” just levelled up.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist