Cricut Maker and Explore Differences

What Makes Cricut Maker Different From Cricut Explore Machines?

November 26th, 2019 • Contributor: Cricut Blog Team

We know many of you still have questions about what makes Cricut Maker different from our Cricut Explore family of machines. If you’re thinking about questions like…

What can Cricut Maker cut that my Cricut Explore machine can’t cut?

Can I use the new Cricut Maker tools, like the Knife Blade, in my Cricut Explore machine?

Is it worth upgrading from my Cricut Explore machine to Cricut Maker?

What is Design Space and how does it differ for each machine?

We hear you and we want to make sure you as many of your questions are answered. So let’s talk about Cricut Maker compared to the Cricut Explore family of machines. This includes the Cricut Explore Air 2, Cricut Explore Air, Cricut Explore One and Cricut Explore.

More Tools. More Materials. More Possibilities.

Let’s start with the biggest difference between the machines, Cricut Maker’s Adaptive Tool System™. Cricut Maker has a completely different technology built into the machine, that we call the Adaptive Tool System, which allows for us to expand the suite of tools you can use for a number of cutting and scoring applications.

The Adaptive Tool System can control your tools to cut from side-to-side, move up and down, and lift and turn, so you can cut more materials with more pressure than ever before. This is what makes it easy to cut through fabric without a backer (right off of the bolt) using the all-new Rotary Blade. We’ll talk more about the Rotary Blade below. Cricut Maker can cut hundreds of materials from delicate papers and fabrics to denser materials like leather, chipboard, balsa wood and more.

Cricut Maker has 10X the cutting power


Our Cricut Explore family of machines has a drag blade technology system that moves up, down and cuts side-to-side. While you can still cut a number of amazing materials, they have to be stabilized otherwise the blade will get stuck in the fibers. It also makes it difficult to cut through dense materials like balsa wood, basswood, and leather because the Cricut Explore Family doesn’t have the same pressure as the Cricut Maker.

You can still cut up to a hundred materials like vinyl, iron-on, cardstock, and stabilized fabric, using the blades available with the Cricut Explore family of machines. To see the full list of materials the Cricut Explore family of machines can cut, follow this link.

What tools can be used with what machine?

Now that we’ve explained the technology differences between the Cricut machine lines, we want you to know what tools you can use with what machine.

How is Cricut Maker Different from Explore Machines?
Cricut Pens, Fine Point Blade, Rotary Blade, Single Scoring Wheel and Knife Blade.

All of the tools you love and use with your Cricut Explore family of machines also work with the Cricut Maker. This includes the Fine Point Blade, Deep Point Blade, Bonded Fabric Blade, Scoring Stylus and Cricut Pens.

The new tools that were designed specifically to work with Cricut Maker, because of the Adaptive Tool System, include the Rotary Blade, Knife Blade, and Single and Double Scoring Wheels, Wavy Blade, Perforation Blade, Fine Debossing Tip, and Engraving Tip.

Rotary Blade

Rotary Blade brings infinitely customizable, precision fabric cutting to the home for the very first time. Use it to cut cotton, fleece, denim, and more. With its gliding, rolling action, it cuts virtually any fabric quickly and accurately – without backing material. Rotary Blade comes in the box with Cricut Maker.

Knife Blade

The extra-deep Knife Blade cuts through dense materials up to 2.4 mm (3/32”) thick with unprecedented ease and safety, almost like an automated X-ACTO® blade. It’s ideal for thicker materials like balsa wood, mat board, and heavy leather. Check out more on the Knife Blade here.

Single and Double Scoring Wheels

Scoring Wheel makes a deep single-line score perfect for uncoated light materials like crepe paper, light cardstock and even acetate.

Double Scoring Wheel creates two deep, parallel score lines that are ideal for coated, heavier materials like poster board and cardboard.

Wavy Blade

The Wavy Blade adds a whimsical wavy edge to any design in half the time of a drag blade.  This specially sculpted stainless steel blade is great for original decals, envelopes, cards, gift tags, and collage projects, or anytime you need fabulously finished edges and stylish design accents.  Learn more about all of the materials the Wavy Blade can cut.

Perforation Blade

Get the perfect tear quickly and effortlessly with precise perforation cuts on a variety of projects. Evenly spaced perforation lines allow for clean, even tearing without the need to fold beforehand – especially great for shapes with curves! We love these projects in Design Space that use the Perforation Blade to create unique punch outs that allow you to interact with your project long after it’s complete!

Fine Debossing Tip

Add professional polish and elevated elegance to paper crafts. To create crisp, detailed debossed designs, just snap this tip onto the QuickSwap Housing (sold separately) and tell your Cricut Maker to "Go!" Unlike embossing folders, which lock you into a specific design, this rolling debossing ball, powered by your Cricut Maker, gives you free reign to customize, personalize, and design with incredible intricacy. Make a dimensional wedding card, thank you card with your monogram, or add flourish to gift boxes, tags, and more. Creates a stunning effect on foil cardstock, coated paper, shimmer and glitter paper, foil cardstock, and much more.

Engraving Tip

Make a lasting impression with Cricut Engraving Tip. To get professional-looking results, just snap this tip onto the QuickSwap Housing and tell your Cricut Maker to "Go!" Watch with awe as you write personalized text or create monograms, draw decorative flourishes and embellishments, or inscribe your favorite quotes on a keepsake. For an eye-catching effect, engrave Cricut Aluminum Sheets or anodized aluminum to reveal the silver beneath.

We know many of you ask why you can’t use these new tools with your Cricut Explore family of machines. You can see at the top of the tools that were designed for Cricut Maker that they have the gold gear-like attachment. That is what directly connects to Cricut Maker’s Adaptive Tool System so it can use the different controlled movements we discussed above. The tools aren’t compatible with the Cricut Explore Air family of machines because the housing technology is simply different.

What else is different between the Cricut machine lines?

Aside from the technology, there are some design differences. Cricut Maker does not have the materials dial like the Explore Family of machines. You now choose your material from Design SpaceⓇ once you get to the cut screen. We’ve also provided more storage space for your tools in the Cricut Maker, added a mobile device dock on the machine - so you can do hands-free designing - and a USB port for charging your mobile devices.

Cricut Maker comes in multiple colors.

How is Cricut Maker Different from Explore Machines?

The Cricut Explore family of machines comes in a number of different colors across the different machine lines. For both the Maker and Explore machines, different colors are available at select retailers like Michaels, JOANN, Hobby Lobby and more, so if you have a color palette you love, keep an eye out for where you can find the right one for you.

How is Cricut Maker Different from Explore Machines?
Cricut Explore Air™ 2 in mint, rose and glacier blue.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the all-new Bold Cricut Explore Air 2 machine lineup, make sure you learn more here.

To view Cricut Maker compared to the Cricut Explore family of machines and their differences, we also have a comparison chart on

Which machine is right for me? Should I upgrade?

First of all, we have to say we love both of our machine lines. Our best-selling Cricut Explore family of machines have opened up the possibilities of what crafters can make for more than five years. Cricut Maker takes those possibilities to the next level.

If you are a crafter, designer, sewer or really any type of creator, Cricut Maker gives you the possibilities to take on new projects you couldn't imagine you could do from your home.

How is Cricut Maker Different from Explore Machines?
Cutting and applying chipboard to make incredible 3D projects.
How is Cricut Maker Different from Explore Machines?
Like this 3D cake stand that was cut on Cricut Maker and painted over for a premium look.

If you love your Cricut Explore family machine and really stick to cardstock paper projects, iron-on and vinyl, the Explore  lineup is a great option for you.

However, if you’re someone who likes to push the boundaries of what you can make - from 3D to sewing and fabric projects - and are looking for the next evolution in cutting machine technology, Cricut Maker is the right choice. We want to bring you more tools, more materials, and more possibilities so you can make anything you can imagine.

And remember, Cricut Design Space is available for both machines, so you can design away no matter which machine you decide on.

We hope this was a helpful guide to what differentiates Cricut Maker from the Cricut Explore family of machines. Tell us in the comments which machine you use and why, and we will answer your questions as they come in. #CricutMade

40 thoughts on “What Makes Cricut Maker Different From Cricut Explore Machines?

  1. Will the Cricut Maker come in other colors anytime soon? Like maybe Purple or Wisteria like the Air 2. I am holding off buying a Maker with hopes of more color coming around the holidays.

  2. I have the original Explore machine and I want to upgrade eventually but I’m still conflicted. Lol. This helped a bit and made me more confused at the same time. Doesn’t help that you guys just brought out the Air 2 in all those pretty colours. Lol. I thought I wanted the maker but I don’t sew and I’m not into 3D so I’m not sure I would use it to it’s potential. Although my husband builds model airplanes and being able to cut balsa wood would be nice. Ugh! Too many choices. Lol. Wish I was rich. Hahahahaha

  3. I don’t have either yet, so this article was very helpful and loaded with information to help me make the best choice. After reading, I’m leaning towards the Maker.

  4. I own the maker but I haven’t warmed up to it yet. I was just getting familiar with the Explore Air 2. I guess I need to play with it a bit.

  5. To all those who complain Maker was expensive, I live in Europe and had to pay for shipping, handling and customs. The end price was double to what you pay in US. However, I am extremely happy with purchase. I sell my work and my Maker paid off long time ago (I got my at the end of April). I must admit that I did not use it to full capacity yet. Without Knife Blade, Maker can’t do more than Explore Air 2. I purchased Knife Blade recently and I’m just about to start using it. So, if you are in two minds, first consider what you need it for. If you don’t plan to use it for heavy and thick materials, Air 2 will suit you perfectly. You don’t have to even think about Maker. For all those working with textile, Maker is the right choice. I still don’t have scoring wheels but I have the idea what I might need them for. For the time being I use scoring stylus extensively, which I’m sure works equally well with Air 2.

    • I live in the Netherlands. What I tihink is a pity about Cricut is that you can find very Little in The Netherlands of de Cricut. Now you have Some diy stores that sell The Cricut Maker Machine. But Tou can choose a color. Because this is standard. There are never any offers on the device and if that is the case, the discount is very low. While in America you always get Hugh discounts. It is also a shame that you cannot order mysterie boxes. Because I love The Cricut. But that’s way I do not upgrade. Sill

  6. I want to cut out quilt patterns and not just one thickness, how could I make that work with the sticky matt? And is the software easy to learn are there more than one way to learn it?

  7. Want a machine that cut material (cotton or maybe poly-cotton.)only for making quilts , is it the Cricut maker the one to choose , not interested in leather , card or none of the other materials , I’ve saw one at michaels n the diff. Pcs. To do other items , o.k. Should I start shopping n viewing circuit maker , mary, Canada.thank u .please answer.

    • Hi, if you are mainly interested in fabric, the Maker would be the way to go. You can cut other materials too down the line if you like.

  8. can somebody tell me what currency if I buy this machine online I’m from Australia I would like to know the amount in Australian dollar
    thank you,

    • Hi, you can get the Maker at spotlight they are around $599 depending on if it’s on special or not. Over Christmas it was $529 I think. Hope that helps

  9. I’m not sure I need more then the Cricut Air but I’m afraid it will be outdated soon and anything new will be for the Maker. Am I right in saying this?

    • Hi. Both machines use the same software (Design Space), so the Air 2 will work fine if that is what you want to buy.

  10. Pingback: 10 Cricut Gift Ideas for the Beginner Crafter | Cricut

  11. I have an older Explore as well as 2 legacy machines. Is there any way that you could develop a material cutting blade for the explore like the rotary one for the maker? Being in the UK we are paying over the odds for our Cricut machines which makes updating very expensive. Thanks.

  12. I am gearing towards buying a Cricut Maker. I make projects using mostly foam sheets. Can the Maker cut through foam sheets or does the Explore Air 2 also handle this type of material? I am not sure if the new version of Maker allows for creating your own design and saving it in the computer. Can someone give me advise/feedback? Thanks.

    • Hi. If you’re looking to work with foam sheets, I would suggest the Cricut Maker. On this machine, you have the ability to move the rollers over to the side. This means that you won’t have tracks running over your design. It can handle sheets up to 3mm. Since the Maker also uses Design Space, you can create your own design and upload indeed.

      You can cut through thinner foam sheets on an Explore Air 2, but you may end up with tracks depending on the size of your design.

  13. Love my Explore but would like to see you add the ability to join two of my projects on one new page and better finished pictures of some images you leave a lot to my imagination and not everything has a you tube

  14. I have the cricut explorer one, can I switch blades on it and use it to cut material? Or can I trade it in for another one

  15. Just wondering I have the original cricut. I like the flexibility of being able to design without being on the internet,. Is this possible with the maker

    • Hi. You could potentially design on separate software and upload the image to Design Space when you are ready.

  16. I have the Air2. Not long after I purchased it I found out about the Cricut Maker. Would have purchased Maker but did not need yet another Cricut machine (owned two older models before that). If unable to trade-in I would have been wasting money. I do wish I had waited.

    • I’m in the same boat as you. Love my Air, but wish I’d known the maker was coming. Can’t afford both of them!

      • I, also, am in the same boat. My primary creativity is quilting then other things. I have the original cricut which works just fine and I like the offline ability especially when we go to camp. I waited a long time before I bought an Explore Air and within months The Maker came out. I was disappointed I hadn’t waited even longer as The Maker is right up my creativity alley and I don’t use the Explore Air as much as I thought. I, too, am waiting for a trade-in special. But in the mean time, I’ll keep Exlporing Air!?

  17. I have two Cricut Explore machines which I use extensively in my job. I would love to upgrade, but I am constrained by lack of finances. It is certainly interesting to know what is available out there in the event that I come across some funds, I definitely will upgrade.

  18. I upgraded to a Maker and I’ve been very pleased with it – to a point. Here in the UK the full range of accessories are still not available, meaning I can actually do less with this machine than I could the Air 2 I had.

    Very frustrated with the lack of any information, both from the outset when there was no indication accessories wouldn’t be available and now when no-one can tell me when they will be available.

  19. I have an expo lore air 2 I’m very happy with this apart from design space software, I would like to see better design software

  20. When will Cricut make it easier to shadow letters like the Silhouette? When will Cricut upgrade to allow us to do some cutting without internet connection like the Silhouette?

  21. I like my Explore machine but the design space software is bad. The web app is slow and tedious to work with and requires constant updates. I don’t think I’ll ever buy another Cricut machine if it doesn’t come with a native offline app.

    • You can upload your own images to Design Space. The formats that work are .gif, .jpg, .bmp, .png, .dxf and .svg.

  22. Wondering why Cricut isn’t addressing the trade-in question?? So many people already own machines and can’t seem to justify purchasing the Maker. I own two myself and am very interested in the Maker, but until I see Cricut is even considering helping their customers… guess I’ll just keep my old models.

  23. I have the explore one love but I have change out when I’m using the pens I want get the mark for I can do more at one time please I love my Cricut

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