Saturday, March 31, 2018

Don't Make These Mistakes: Cricut Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Do you have a Cricut Explore? Do you see all of the cool projects on Pinterest and say, "Hey I can do those", you absolutely can complete most of them, or at least take a lot of the labor out of the process by having a Cricut Explore. Cricut is a company who has created a number of amazing products to help individual crafters make personal items and gifts to family and friend, as well as the craft entrepreneurs who wish to turn their passion into an empire. 

I'll admit, I stalked Pinterest boards for months before deciding to buy one, and it sat in a box for weeks because I was so worried I was going to screw it up and overwhelmed with how to use it. Well that was 2 years, ago and while there are still things that I am slowly learning to do, once I made the first project through Cricut's Design Space software, there was no turning back.

Now, that isn't to say that I haven't made mistakes along the way, and a lot of tears I have cried over ruined projects that I would have been better off leaving alone. But, that is part of the learning curve and now I love the cool things I've been able to make with different mediums. Tips and tricks for using my Cricut would have been extremely useful. While I found many Youtube videos showing how to use the software, there were limited videos, in my honest opinion, showing you exactly could and probably would go wrong at least once while you were using a Cricut cutting machine.

The Cricut is a wonderful product, but it does have a learning curve to it. So, without further discussing my mistakes an failures, I'll tell you the best secrets I have learned along the way, along with important things to remember. I pulled in ideas from bloggers all over the web, as well as a few of my own to make this a list you are going to want to reference over and over again. 

Tip 1:
You DO NOT have to use only Cricut images available in the Cricut Design Space software. There are multiple ways you create SVG images (images converted for cutting) without paying for or using their images. There are multiple ways you can create your own images to use with the software, some use PicMonkey (which I have never personally used), but I use a program called Inkscape. I like to manipulate images and draw my own, and this is a little more tricky to use, but I have so many more options and capabilities. If you want to download Inkscape you can HERE! It's free to use and there are multiple tutorial videos on YouTube available that will really teach you how to use the program efficiently for more than just Cricut crafts. 

Tip 2:
Have separate mats for different materials. This is important! If you don't want to constantly clean your mats or replace them, this is the best piece of advice I can give you. I've written a blog post on cleaning your mats so that they last longer, but I haven't seen bloggers touch on the topic of just using one mat for one medium. For example: I use a lot of vinyl, but I don't want to stick my vinyl on a mat that is continually being used for paper as they lose their stickiness much more quickly. 

Tip 3:
This goes along with tip 2, but I didn't know this when I first using my Cricut. Use the appropriate mat for the project you are cutting. Cricut has several different mats available: 

  • LightGrip adhesive cutting mat
  • StandardGrip adhesive cutting mat
  • StrongGrip adhesive cutting mat
If you don't want your project ripping or tearing, it's best to have one of each available. Sometimes the mat is just too sticky which brings be on to my next tip.

Tip 4:
Sometimes, after buying a new mat, they are still too sticky for the project you are going to be working on. Personally, I either rub my hands all over it to destick it some from the natural oils on my skin, or a I use a wash cloth to remove some of the tack by lightly dabbing it across the entire surface. Desticking your mat could be the difference between a perfect project and a project which is torn to shreds after trying to remove it from a mat that is too sticky. 

Tip 5:
Clean your mats on a regular basis. Because I have specific mats that I use for certain materials, I don't have a particular schedule for cleaning my mats like others do. I can say that I tend to clean my paper mats more frequently, and I think that's because of the tiny bits of paper that get left behind, as well as the amount of scraping you have to do in order to get paper off of a mat sometimes. If you need more tips and simple ideas for cleaning your cricut mat, you can check out my article HERE!

Tip 6:
When using HTV (heat transfer vinyl) with your cricut, always ALWAYS remember to either flip your image horizontally or mirror the image right before cutting. When cutting HTV vinyl you have to place the vinyl face down instead of face up like vinyl you would apply to a hard surface such as wood or tumbler cups. HTV is expensive, and I promise you do not want to screw up a big cut job by forgetting to cut it the right way.

Tip 7:
Pay attention to the cutting dial on the top of the machine. Cricut really does try to make cutting different materials dummy proof, so much so, they placed a dial at the top of the machine to turn to set which material you will be cutting. This adjusts the blade so that it cuts harder or softer depending on what is being cut. The choices on the turn dial are the main mediums used on a Circut machine, but so many more materials can be cut, that they added a custom cut option where you can choose more than what is listed on the machine. You can mess up even the simplest projects by not setting this right and it can be extremely frustrating. You have no idea how many times I have a cut in process only to realize that I have the wrong setting. Not only does this dull blades faster, but it can also ruin a mat. 

Tip 8:
Always do a test cut. I don't really feel like I have to elaborate on this, but if you are like me, then you are so excited to get a cool project finished, in a rush you forget something simple and you ruin something nice. Just take a scrap piece of card stock and run your image through that before using your good stuff. This helps you catch mistakes before you get to the final product. 

Tip 9:
When you get to the cut screen in design space, you can easily move cut objects around on the mock up of the cut mat on the final screen. This is a great thing if you are working with limited materials and need to use up as much of a material as you can. This works great when you are working with scrap materials so they don't go to waste. 

I will add to this post as I go, but as of right now that is about it. The best thing to do is have fun with your Cricut Explore machine and let it guide you. I hope these tricks serve you well. Do you have some tips and tricks to add to list. Feel free to keep adding to this article by commenting below. 

Be Blessed Y'all

Geeks and Glitter

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