Cricut Explore: Conclusions

I wanted to wrap this up with some of my concluding thoughts. I decided to do it in a more graphical form than the previous posts.


As you may be able to tell by now, I’m not really all that impressed by the software.  I am intrinsically opposed to the software (and thus the machine) being able to be used only when you’re online.  I like that it’s easier to set up how your design will cut and lay it out, but it’s very difficult to create the design.  I can only hope that Cricut will change some of this, since software is in generaly easier to upgrade than hardware.

I’m impressed by it’s ability to cut.  It’s not perfect, but it can definitely handle more material types, thicker material, and firmer material better than the Cameo can.  I can’t compare how it handle’s delicate cuts just yet, but in sheer cutting force, I find that it is definitively better.  Of course, that’s only an issue if you are interested in cutting those materials to begin with.

And overall, I like the machine design in general.  All of those little details, like places to put your tools, add up to a nice machine.  Here’s my final list of pros and cons, in pinnable form for you.



And the big question for those who are interested in purchasing a new machine: what would I suggest you purchase?  Here’s a flow chart.  This in version 1.0.  I’ll update it again after I do a side by side comparison with different materials and more intricate cuts.  Update:  Kay mentioned three other machines in the comments: the  ZingPazzles or Silver Bullet.  Check those out as well if you’re interested in cutting thicker materials!!  Thanks for the heads up Kay!


For those who already have a Silhouette, whether or not you would want to purchase an Explore entirely comes down to whether or not you want to cut a wider variety of materials.  I do think that anyone who already owns a Silhouette will be sorely disappointed by the Cricut Design Space.  Incidentally, you can use the software without having an Explore.  Head over to to try it out and see what you think.  Be aware that you will need to install a plugin to make it work.

Did reading my series help you decide to purchase a machine?  Here’s a link to the Cricut Explore, and another to the Silhouette Cameo.  Both of these links are affiliate links through Amazon.  If you click through using them, any purchase you make through Amazon will provide a small commission to me at no extra cost to you to help keep this blog running.  Thanks for the support!  I love my Cameo and am excited about the possibilities that the Explore provides.

So, what do you think?  Does anything about the Explore excite you?  Or does it leave you out in the cold?  I’m somewhere in between.  I’m happy with it’s cutting abilities, but don’t care for the software as a design experience.  And then there’s that whole online thing.  Enough about me already, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!  Or ask me questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them!

This post is part of a series.  Go ahead and click on one of the links below, you know you want to!
Cricut Explore: First Impressions
Cricut Explore: The Machine
Cricut Explore: The Software 
Cricut Explore: Cutting Materials
Cricut Explore: Conclusions <– You’re here!

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48 Responses to Cricut Explore: Conclusions

  1. Thank you for all of your work rating the Cricut Explore. I recently purchased a Silhouette Cameo during their latest product push and then felt buyers remorse when the Explore was released. However, your chart made me realize that I made the correct choice for me. Now I just need to get up the courage to actually turn it on and cut something!!

    • I’m so glad you found it useful Alyce! And don’t worry, you are going to LOVE your Cameo. Even after having a Cricut in my hands I can see myself using the cameo more often and the Explore just for the heavy cuts.

      And I love the way you put it – the machine you choose is the one that’s the right choice for you. That’s so much better than thinking one is better than the other!

      If you’re looking for some group support, I highly recommend joining the Silhouette Challenge Facebook group (of which I am a support team member). They are some of the kindest, most helpful,and most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to all things Silhouette!

      Here’s the link if you’re interested:

  2. THanks for your advise and being so truthful regarding both machines. I have the silhouette but am tempted to buy the Explore but I think I will wait and see if they do an update to the software! SO far I love the silhouette!

    • I love my Silhouette too! Having an Explore in my hands hasn’t changed that, and I’m kind of glad. Hopefully having both machines on the market will spurn on some healthy competition between the two companies!

      I’ll be sure to let you know how the software moves along, if and when it does.

    • Thanks Lauren! I admit, I went through several times making sure I was fair with both machines. I’m glad you find it a useful resource! I’m always happy to have some Thinking Closet love. 🙂

  3. Wow, good to know Explore requires Internet connection. That’s a deal breaker for me as sometimes I take my Cameo along with me to use where there’s no internet!

    • I know, right?! I’m still mind boggled over the fact that they did that, especially after some of the recent debacles with the gaming community outcry over similar issues. I could understand if they took a two pronged approach, with a paired down version of the software to use off line, but they didn’t even do that. I just keep thinking to myself “Software can be upgraded, maybe they’ll change it.”

    • Yay! You liked my flow chart! I admit, I used process boxes where I shouldn’t have, but it made it so much easier to read with some of those larger bits of text.

      And I’m so glad it leaves you happy with your machine! Another commenter said it just right, you need to make the choice that’s right for you. Plus, I know you’ll love your Silhouette even more than you already do as you continue to use it!

  4. Thanks for the review Kristy. So few of the reviews out are by experimced Silh users. One big factor for people considering a new machine is whether they like/think they will use/already own the Cricut or Silhouette content. Already having a ton of cricut cartridges, for instance, would be a big reason to go with the Explore. But if cutting thicker materials is your main thing, there are other machines that make a lot more sense than the Explore such as the Zing or Pazzles or Silver Bullet. It’s not just a 2 horse race.

    • Kay, I’m so glad you brought this up! I admit that previous content wasn’t something I had thought about, and I’m not particularly familiar with either of those machines. Sometimes I get so deep into my own little rabbit hole that I forget to come up for air and see what the world around me is like. I’ll be sure to edit the post to reflect the other “horses in the race” as machines people should consider. Thanks for your input! It has been invaluable to me!

  5. Thanks! Your awesome, you’ve answered every question. I was thinking about upgrading to explore but I will now get a silhouette

    • Maria, glad my review helped. Hopefully I’ll be getting to my Silhouette overview in the next week. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  6. HI Kristy,

    I found this late, but still very helpful. I already own the explorer. I do own a lot of cartridges so that was a major factor. I do not have a silhouette so I don’t know what I am missing out on but it sure sounds like a favorite… Maybe one day.

    Do you happen to know if I can truly cut poster board with the setting with regular blade, and do I need to cut it more than once? PS the software is not user friendly I am really struggling/fumbling to figure it out. Your previous blog posts helped me figure out a lot more. Thanks!!!

    • Nickey,

      Yes! I had not thought to consider previous investments, having not been invested in either previous to this past year. I plan to update the post (and infographic) to reflect then when I have a moment of spare time.

      I’ve been finding myself more comfortable with the software as I go along, but it was a bear to work with at first! I’m glad my posts have helped make it manageable for you.

      With the poster board, I had originally thought they mean the foam poster board, but this is too thick for the machine to cut (at least the stuff I had was). I tried it with disastrous results. I think that they are instead referring to the really stiff paper that can be used as posters, or possibly the corrugated cardboard type (frequently found as tri-folds). I haven’t gotten my hands on any to try though yet. It looks like I’ll be doing another cut test in a week or so, I’ll make sure to add those in and let you know!

  7. Hi Kristy! 🙂

    I found your blog after searching for reviews on the Cricut Explore. It launched here today in England. I’m so excited because I’ve been reading so much about it since it launched in the USA!

    Thank you for doing your review, especially about the kind of things it cuts. It’s so nice to see the actual results you had, rather than just read what someone can cut with it.

    Eastbourne, England

    • How exciting for you! I’m glad you found my review helpful! I’m hoping to do some more cut tests in the near future (this weekend or next), so if there’s anything else you’d like to see, let me know!


      • Hello 🙂

        Actually, yes… card! Here, in the main big craft store “Hobbycraft” they sell their own basic cardstock, which when putting through my Cricut Mini it gets caught up when cutting intricate things. No matter what settings I use, blade depth, pressure, it still does it.

        We’re slowly starting to get more of the brands you know and love over there so the card weights are all different – from basic unbranded cardstock to American Crafts, BoBunny etc. I’d be very interested to see your results with different weights/brands of cardstock – and which settings you have to put your machine too.

        My Dad would also like to see leather being cut, now, does that come in different weights because he said he didn’t think it would cut heavy leather, only light leather?

        • So I didn’t get to cutting last weekend (man, did it get busy!), but I’ll be sure to try a few different types for you.

          For the leather, check out the Cutting Materials post in this series to see some of my preliminary stuff. All of the leathers I used there were belly or shoulder cuts and sold at either a 6-7 or 8-9 oz. They ranged from 2.5-3.8 mm in width (thought the 3.8mm is really pushing the edge of what will fit in the machine). Each of those cuts went almost all the way through (or all the way through in some parts). I have had success in running it through the machine twice to get a more complete cut. Usually, I’ve been running it through once (which gets through most of the material) and then use my leather scissors to follow the cut and finish it off. It’s an extra step, but I get a better result then if I were to cut it by hand for curvy cuts.

          I’ve also run a 4-5oz tooling leather (1.8mm thick) through, which cut like butter. This isn’t shown on the page (I did it later). That should give him an idea on the capabilities of the machine when it comes to leather.

  8. I got my explore yesterday and so far am impressed but stuck on getting a good cut on small 1 or 2 inch filigree cuts like a butterfly. Do you have any tips? Thanks so much 🙂

    • Woohoo! Congrats on the awesome purchase. I haven’t really done many small cuts with my Cricut. To be honest, I usually switch over to my cameo for those. There I can slow down the cut speed which helps immensely. I haven’t yet seen that option through the Cricut Design space, but I’ll keep my eye out and let you know if I find anything else that might help! Can I ask what it is you’re cutting? I can try a few cuts myself as well to do some experimenting. Sorry I can’t give a better answer.

  9. this was the best post I read today on comparing the two machines. I also bought a Cameo (last night actually) and then while on Amazon looking for accessories, ran into the Explore and thought maybe I’d bought the wrong machine since cutting wood and leather would be so cool! But I got a great price on the Cameo and I think I will stick with it for now. Thanks!

  10. I want to buy a machine for just one purpose- to cut reusable stencils (using durable vinyl) to stencil words onto wood signs, using my own fonts/designs. I need the ability to modify the fonts to make the stencils usable. For instance, in cases such as not cutting the entire center out of the letter O, but leaving a small portion uncut so that the stencil doesn’t fall apart. Does that make sense? Silhouette says that the software has a work-around for this, but I don’t know if the Explore software does. I have no experience at all with any machine, so I’m in the dark about which one is better for my needs. I’ve searched for info regarding my specific need, but it’s hard to find.

    Thanks for any insight you can provide!

    • The first thing I would ask is what is it you mean by durable vinyl? Are you talking about a thin acetate similar to a quilting template? Or are you looking to use a vinyl with a sticky backing? If the former, I’ve cut it on both machines, but find it easier to cut on the Cricut.

      For the design aspect – I understand exactly what you mean. You’re building bridges between the letters. One thing to consider is that if you’re using vinyl with a sticky back, you can use contact paper or transfer paper to keep everything in place without needing those bridges. I haven’t used the Silhouette reusable stencil material yet myself, but have heard good things about it from other silhouette users I know. I imagine that at some point the sticky would wear away, but you might get a long enough life out of it to make it worth your consideration.

      Between the two software suites, I find Studio much easier to design in hands down. That said, I think the best thing for you to do would be to try each piece of software out for yourself to see which one you like better. They are both free and don’t require having the machine to use for designing. I was able to make the word “Hello” with bridges on the O and the E in both programs.

      In Cricut, I just created boxes that went over the top and bottom of the O and welded them together. I tried it with different fonts, and sometimes it welded the way I wanted, but other times it didn’t. I haven’t been able to figure out the logic in when it welds which way. I thought it was how the layers were ordered, but that isn’t it because when it finally welded correctly it had previously tried that layer order and given an incorrect weld. I’ve linked pictures below so you can see what I mean.

      In Silhouette Studio, I used the square eraser tool to erase parts of the letters to create the bridges. For me, this was easier, but I recognize that that’s a personal preference.

      That’s not to say that these are the best or only ways to create the design your looking for, they are just the ways that I tend to use.

      Here are some links to images and the software, I hope you will find them helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions, and I will do my best to answer them.

      Cricut Design Studio:
      (You will need to download and install a plugin the first time you run it.)

      Silhouette Studio:

      Bad Cricut Weld Example:

      Good Cricut Weld Example:

      Silhouette Eraser:

  11. Thanks so much, this is so helpful! It was so nice of you to take the time to help me! I will try both programs.

    I have no idea what material I need to use. I made signs in the past, but then I cut my own stencils. That was 10 years ago, haha. If you can believe it, I printed off my design then laminated it, and cut it with an exacto knife. I’m not familiar at all with the options. I do want to be able to reuse the stencils a lot.

    Anyway, thanks again so much. I really appreciate it!

    • I have the design edition, and I like using. I also know many people who don’t have design edition and are happy not using it. You can see the list of feature differences here:

      The biggest differences are the ability to import svg files (sadly you still cannot export in that format) and more options for the knife and eraser tools. Layers have been introduced with the V3 software, but I was able to get around fine without them previous to V3. There are some other tools for sketching and rhinestone use, but they aren’t relevant to what you are looking to do.

      If you end up with a silhouette machine and decide you want to purchase the designer edition, I would recommend googling “Studio Design Edition sale” to see if there are any third party sellers who are selling it at a discount. This was how I purchased it. Often these sales also come with credit to purchase files (usually svg) from the sites that are selling it. SVG cuts and Miss Kate Cuttables come to mind as places you might be able to purchase it discounted.

  12. I would like to relate my current experience with my circut explore.

    Their current release of the Design Space Software has issues that cause saved files to no longer usable. I do understand as an IT person that new releases sometimes have bugs. My issue is with their support.

    I opened a support issue through the email on their website. I immediately received an “Out of Office” message indicating that I would not receive any reply for 5 to 7 days.

    I then called support. I was requested to submit urls of my damaged files, and that I would receive a return call. Four days later, I had not received that call, so I called back in.

    After talking to a supervisor, I was told that a 5 – 7 day response is how they handle support calls. That even if I couldn’t open my files, my cricut was not broken. Essentially, I got complete disrespect. Their support is horrible.

    I have owned my machine just long enough to not be able to return it, but I will be unloading it as soon as I can and going with another brand of machine. This machine does work great when it works, but you can’t expect any assistance from them if it does have an issue.

    • Hi Cindy. I honestly don’t know, and am traveling untill mid December so can’t try. Sorry I couldn’t help you with this question.

  13. HI! Thanks for the posts…they have been really handy in trying to figure out which machine to get, however, just to be clear…the Silhouette is best for custom design images?. I guess what my dilemma is design and thickness both matter to me. So what to do?

    • Makai – I find that I really like the silhouette software much better. So much so that unless I’m working with something like leather or plastic paper (which the silhouette can cut, just not as well), I use my silhouette.

      And depending on what you mean by custom design images, the cricut software might still work for you. I.e, if you’re adding a name to an image. I just find I can do a lot more with the silhouette overall.

      If I were you, I’d test out the software for both. Both of them are free to use without the machine. Silhouette is a download, and cricut requires you to download and install a plugin. There is a ‘designer’ edition to the silhouette software, but you don’t necessarily need it. I like it’s ability to open up .svg files and some of the improvements with the tools.

      In both cases, you can upload .svg files. So, if you’re doing a lot of your own designs and are comfortable working in a program that saves to .svg, that’s always an option.

      And as for materials, it’s worth thinking about what it is you really want to cut with it ahead of time. The silhouette can cut a lot of things! Paper, fabric, plastic paper (though I sometimes need to run it through the machine 3 times), felt, and thinner leathers.

      But if you know that you absolutely want to cut thick leather or wood… well, then the cricut is probably better for you. There are limitations to it’s ability to cut, but it definitely cuts thicker materials. And don’t forget it’s need to be online! If online connection is an issue, than the cricut is not for you. You simply cannot cut if you’re not online.

      I hope this helps!

      Here are the links to the software packages:

  14. Hello Kristy.
    I love your blog … still amazed at the flowchart.
    Very scientific, very neutral.
    Thank you for that.
    Maybe you could help with my wish 🙂
    I wanted to know what would be the smallest circle diameter the Cricut Explore could do.
    Called their tech support and was told that they didn’t know about the circle diameter issue but … “the shortest cut would be a tenth on an inch … draw your own conclusions” I was asked 🙂
    Could you please try that? … could you please try cutting some really small circles for us to see? ( by small I mean 1/16 or smaller diameter) … Think it would be interesting for a lot of people out there.
    Thank you for the blog and the clarity you bring into our minds.
    Many blessings,

    • Manuel, Thanks for your message. I’m glad you find my review helpful. I would be happy to try those cuts for you, but am currently traveling and wont’ have the chance to do so until after the holidays. I”ll be sure to update you with a reply comment here when I do!

  15. Hello Miss Kristy,

    I was wondering if by any chance you know what setting to use on the Cricut Explore to cut rhinstone template paper. I have been trying to find an answer so I do not waste media trying to test the custom settings. TIA!!!

  16. Awesome article! Thank you. Although I was a bit disappointed to see soda can as metal option because that was the search that led me here. I wanted to see if it can handle a thicker metal. Would love to hear your feedback if you do try it with much thicker material say 1-3mm metal (if that’s even possible with several cuts). Great article regardless!

  17. Hello!
    I am still having a hard time choosing one! I need it primarily for an already designed logo and vinyl lettering/ numbering. I am not technically savvy and have issues working with programs as easy as Microsoft paint! Which would you recommend and I’m assuming I can turn my jpeg logo into an svg on both? Thank you for your time!

  18. Hi, I’m fairly new to the concept of cutting machines, I used to cut everything by hand and just recently discovered such a thing exist! Imagine my joy 🙂

    Anyway, I usually make my own designs on illustrator, so design software won’t be much on an issue since I’ve read that I’ll be able to export my images to both softwares. I plan to use the machine moslty for cutting paper, cardstock, felt, canvas, poster board, sticker paper. I will also be making A LOT of paper flowers so that’s a lot of cutting. I wonder how many cuts can the machine do before the blade gets dull.

    Having said that, I still don’t know which machine is right for me. I’m leaning towards the Cricut because I like the option of being able to cut wide variety of materials but what’s holding me back is that it’s not available where I’m from but I’m willing to order online and have it shipped. Now my question is, is the difference of a cricut and a silhouette noticeable? Can I settle with a silhouette?

    I hope you can help me decide on which machine to get since you own both and is an expert in all this 🙂

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Perla,

      What a joy for you to learn about! I hand cut paper flowers for our wedding, and when I learned about these machines the only thing I could think was – “Really?! Why didn’t I know about that then?!”

      Here are my thoughts on this issue after owning both machines for almost a year now (though I apologize up front that I wont’ be giving you a straight answer).

      I only use my Cricut to cut leather. I don’t do any felt work, but I would probably also use the Cricut for felt, though my friend Jessica uses her cameo for felt frequently ( I suspect canvas will throw you a little bit of a loop on both machines since it isn’t as consistent a fabric in either, but the Cricut does have more down force to help with that and Silhouette does sell their own canvas brand, so it’s certainly do-able. They are both comparable for paper, cardstock (as long as it’s a good quality cardstock, neither will cut the cheap stuff well), and sticker paper. I’ve worked with different weights of posterboard in the past, and some work while some don’t on both machines. The best thing to do if it doesn’t work the first time is to run it through multiple times. With the silhouette, this is absolutely no problem. You just leave the mat in and tell it to cut again. With the cricut, you can tell it to cut multiple times (up to 5 I think), but it spits the page out when it’s done, so if it doesn’t cut through, well, there’s not much else you can do.

      Yes, you can import .svg files into the software, but I’ve never found it intuitive enough for me to like it using the Cricut software. I also really like how I can place things where I want them on the silhouette mat (so if I’m using 3 types of paper that all fit on the mat, I can run it through the machine only once by lining up my placement). Cricut has made that easier than before, but it’s still clunky. There is an Illustrator plugin for the silhouette so that you can design and send directly to your machine from Illustrator, and that might be of interest to you. I haven’t used it, but I know people who do.

      For me, it comes down to lots of little things that just frustrate me in how working with the Cricut works that I default to the Silhouette unless I’m doing something I absolutely can’t do without the cricut. In terms of if the difference is noticeable, of the materials you mentioned I’d say it’s definitely noticeable for felt, might be noticeable for the canvas or the posterboard, but shouldn’t be noticeable for paper, cardstock, or sticker paper. In all honestly, unless I’m cutting leather or felt, I feel like I’m settling when I use my Cricut instead of when I use my Silhouette. But, I also started with the Silhouette, so my expectations for what I should be able to do (re-running the mat, being able to easily place where things get cut on the mat, importing and editing shapes, working with the design, etc.) are shaped by my previous experiences with the silhouette.

      As for the blades, in my experience they both wear about equally. How fast they wear depends on how often you use your machine. When I use my machine frequently, I replace my blades about once every 2 months. I know people who can go for an entire year without needing to replace. I like the Cricut housing for the blades much better, and I also really like their deep cut blades.

      Here are my concluding thoughts for you. If you know you’re going to want to do lots of felt and canvas and if you think you’d feel like you were settling for the Silhouette – take one of your designs and import it into the Cricut software. Spend about 10-15 minutes playing with it, and see if you feel comfortable with it. If so, get the Cricut. If those are something you think you’d only use occasionally (but not frequently), consider looking into using the Illustrator plugin for the Silhouette and using that machine. Overall, I’m happier with my Silhouette than my Cricut, but in the end there are little things about both that I like and I think either would make a great machine. It sounds to me like you’re leaning towards the Cricut, so I’m thinking that might be the better choice for you. I hope that helped! Don’t hesitate to ask me if you have any particular questions. I’ll do my best to answer in a timely manner. 😀

      And – welcome to the world of machine cutting! You’re gonna have a blast!

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