Cricut Explore: The Software

Cricut Explore: The Software

Just as a reminder, I am not affiliated with either Cricut or Silhouette.  All opinions here are my own and are based solely on my own experiences (as they would be even if I were affiliated). 

The software.  Oh, the software.  What am I to do with you.  Let’s start with the big thing.  You MUST be connected to the internet: to design, to cut, to do anything with the machine other than hit the on button and load the mat.  I don’t want to belittle this.  It’s one of the reasons that I almost didn’t purchase the machine.  The machine is useless without a decent and stable internet connection.  I’ve seen people suggest that it’s not all that bad, because as long as you have cell phone coverage you can just use the hot spot from your phone.  Really?  You must be paying a lot for your phone service for that to be an option you don’t balk at, but I’m certainly not.  I’ll not beat this to death, but it was a bad decision and automatically means that they are narrowing their user base.  Well, at least it’s something that they could possibly change in the future, and I really hope they do.


Onwards and forwards, when you go to the web page where their online app resides, you’re first presented with a number of projects you can make.  And you know what?  It’s actually pretty cool.  The projects are all well designed and well presented.  Here’s a snapshot of the project gallery:


And here’s the information on one of the projects:


I like that it lists all of the materials used, the difficulty level, an approximate time, the shapes you need, and step by step instructions.  It’s very well presented.  The only thing I find a bit odd is that you pay for each shape individually.  I would have expected it to be set up so that you pay for the shapes as a bundle price (to encourage you to buy those specific shapes), but that’s not really a complaint, more of an observation.  You can also make the projects as is, or you can customize them.

When you are designing, you have the choice of a basic blank design space or specific media to design on.  Honestly, I really like that feature.  I can choose to design on, say, a Men’s XL t shirt.  Or a onesie.  And I can lay out my images out on that medium, see how it looks, and the program sizes everything for me.  Yeah, that I love.  The lovely Lauren from The Thinking Closet graciously let me use her elephant onsie to show this.  You can download the Silhouette cut file from her and find instructions on how to make the onesie here.

canvas choice


And, notice how everything is overlapping on my canvas?  Well, I don’t need to go and separate it out later.  The program does that for me.  Automatically.  It’s smart enough to create different mats for the different colors.  Of course, I need to fill the layers with different colors for it to do that.  Note that I have the writing layer set as a pen, this means that it knows to write instead of cut.  It even had me choose the pen color, which tells me probably even knows to tell me to switch the pen.  What’s more, let’s say I want to make 5 onesies with that pattern.  Simple.  I tell the program that, and it places the pieces on the mat and tells me how many pieces of each material I’ll need.  Plus, I can choose to mirror the image for HTV.  The fifth mat is for the writing I added in.  So I can see here that to make 5 onesies, I need 3 pieces of blue and 1 of green.  I’m impressed by this functionality.


But really, I’m a maker, so I want to make my own projects.  Let’s take a look at what the software offers for that.  First, let’s talk about importing that elephant.  It was a pain, and it required “tracing” the image twice.  Once for the blue and once for the green.  It didn’t do so hot with the green, and appears to have compressed my image in weird ways on import.  You trace by deleting the colors you don’t want, and then it creates a contour based on that.  Let’s just say this isn’t that trace you’re used to if you use Silhouette Studio.

upload trace


And there isn’t any splitting of images, but you can hide lines (contours) in the layer panel.  To me, it’s an odd an illogical way of doing things.  And for the back, I had to hide both the front part of the elephant and the eye.

contour layers


Not to mention that the two pieces didn’t import to the same size, so I had to manually adjust them so that they fit.  You can also see how poorly it did with the ear trace.  I could have used the trick below about hiding and showing lines plus duplication to bring in all the colors at once, but I hadn’t realized that just yet here.



Now let’s talk about creating your own images within the program.  To do that, I’ll be trying to recreate Lauren Lanker’s amazing A Thousand Thanks card.  It was her very first project, so I figured it’d be pretty safe to try and recreate.  You’ll notice that there aren’t very many options for adding things to your work space other than uploading, text, and inserting images.  So, if you want a square, you’ll need to insert it first.  So, let’s look at the insert option.  I search square, and this is what I get:


Wait, what?  I need to pay $1 to cut a square?  Preposterous!  Seriously, this made me so angry when I saw it (and I’m still peeved about it).  I do like that you can “try before you buy” with shapes, but seriously?! However, if you change the filter to “My Images”, there is a free option.  It’s just, you know, hiding.  Because of course it would set to “all images” before “my images”, and it would show the images that cost money first.  *rolls eyes*  *breathes*  {Oh, and side note, there are no free rectangles except a scalloped one.  That’s ok, because we can re-size, but still…}.  And so far as I can tell, there is no way to make custom polygons within the software.  Or point edit.  I’ll let that one sit with you a bit.


To re-size this into a rectangle, you can click and drag the edges of the shape.  If you want to be more precise about the sizing, you can click on the edit option in the upper right hand corner to get a few more options.  It took me a while to find this, but it’s there.  Be aware that the window might open behind your layers window.  Here are the options it gives you:
edit object

Ok, now let’s add the text.  Here are the text editing options.  Again, the default is to include fonts you pay for, I turned that default off and decided to use Monotype Corsiva, similar to Lauren’s font.

font edit

Hmm…. apparently not all fonts work, so I switched to Mistral.

monotype minstral


The weld option is hiding in the layers tab.  It took a few moments, and made all my browser’s applications stop working while it was working.  Wasn’t too happy about that.   This is what I got:


Um… That’s not at all what I expect.  So I switched the letters and the box to the same color, and was able to get this:



Closer, but the way the color is acting, I’m a bit worried about how that might cut.  I haven’t cut it yet, but the whole experience of trying to design it left me cross eyed and frustrated.

Have you made it this far?  Or did you just skip everything above?  I wouldn’t blame you much if you did.  As you can see, there are design features there.  But, I find them clunky, and they are missing a lot of functionality that I’m used to in the Silhouette Studio environment.  The lack of point editing and inability to make your own polygons is a big problem for me.  Their equivalent of the trace function is sub par in my opinion.  And the fact that you need to be connected to the internet is problematic, to say the least.

Cricut did do some things right.  The intelligent placement of pieces on the mats, the ability to separate layers by color, the custom canvas types: these are all really cool and useful tools that the software provides.

What’s my overall opinion of it?  It’s great for working with other people designs offered through the Design Space and for laying things out on your design surface.  But for the actual process of creating your own designs?  I’ll probably do that elsewhere.  There is an option to import svgs, which I haven’t done here, and I suspect that’s the route I’ll be taking in the future.  Since Silhouette Connect works right in Illustrator, I’ll probably just do my designing in there so I can work with both programs.  But for those who don’t want to invest the time and money to work with Illustrator and just want to design in the Cricut Design Space, well, let’s just say I would get frustrated.  Though, in the end, it is software.  And software can be improved upon.  So here’s to hoping that Cricut ups their game in the software department and takes these issues into consideration to make a better product.

And of course, this is just my experience with it.  Perhaps it isn’t as frustrating as I think it is and I just need to give it more time.  Possibly some of the features I can’t find are lurking in there somewhere, but as of now I’m just not as impressed as I was hoping to be.

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 <– You’re here!
Cricut Explore: Cutting Materials
Cricut Explore: Conclusions

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14 Responses to Cricut Explore: The Software

  1. It was so fun to see two of my favorite cut files in this post; thanks for the feature, Kristy! And for sharing with us your discoveries, frustrations, and honest opinions. This really makes me appreciate what we have with Silhouette Studio! As well as keeps me on the edge of my seat for the next installment in the series…. (Cue dramatic music NOW.)
    Lauren @ The Thinking Closet recently posted…The Thrifty Girl’s Guide to Coastal DecorMy Profile

    • I *really really* want to like it better, Lauren. The features that they got right are just so cool! I wish I could just take the two and smash them together to create something that uses the best of both worlds.

  2. Kristi — this is a wonderful series! Thank you for sharing what you’ve been learning with all of us. Can’t wait to see what it will CUT!!!!!!!! I’m playing around with some weird materials to see if I can force my Silhouette to “play nice”. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything exciting.
    Sharon Rexroad’s Bringing Creativity 2 Life recently posted…How-To Create a Custom Pillowbox on Your Silhouette Machine + Free Cut File!My Profile

  3. Seriously?! You’re the PERFECT person to give it a test run!

    Thank you for the step by step and opinions on what’s working and what’s not working with the Cricut Software. I was very surprised by the fact that there isn’t a point edit and custom polygons feature. That could be a break it for me. Hopefully they fix some of those with future releases.

    Can’t wait to see how that bad boy cuts!!
    Trisha D. recently posted…Custom Blogger Redesign + Branding for The Glittered Barn LLCMy Profile

    • *Blushes* Gee thanks Trisha! I do have to say that so far my concerns have been software related, and those are things that can be changed down the line. I was surprised those were missing myself! I keep hoping that I’ll find them somewhere. There were a few other things (like weld) that I wasn’t able to find at first either, but I’ve pretty much lost hope on finding those two. I’ll keep an eye out though.

  4. Kristy, this software reminds me of the old program I used to use for sign making and it cost over $280 used! I know what you mean about wanting to like it, but after working with Studio and its features, this just doesn’t cut the mustard with me.
    Right from the start, when I found out that it required internet service, I knew I would never own one. I’m in a rural area where service sputters like an old car and it would just not be suitable for that software to work properly. And I know that you are in the city where internet is much more dependable and I couldn’t get over how ugly your images were turning out.
    I do, however, hope that Silhouette will incorporate a few of the features you mentioned, or at least, tweak them a bit more. I think they will eventually.
    Thanks so much for taking the time to record and share all of this with us.

    • That much! Wow! Moore’s law in action with software.

      Yeah, I’m not super impressed with the software. And honestly? If I didn’t have other options for designing already available to me, it would bother me a lot more. Not that it doesn’t already!

      I also can’t begin to tell you how much I agree on the whole internet connection required thing. I almost didn’t buy it because of that! In the end, I was willing to bite the bullet for the potential for new cutting abilities, but I still think it was the absolutely wrong decision for them to make. I just keep telling myself that software can change, so hopefully they will keep improving the software and provide something downloadable. Though, that would require backpedaling and admitting they were wrong.

      As for the elephants ear, had I done a darker color it probably would have turned out better. I was still really surprised at the compression of the image though. Even with the lower contrast between the ear and the white, it shouldn’t have been that bad. I’m sure as I continue to work with importing images (cause you can bet I won’t be designing in there) I’ll be able to figure out better work arounds, but in the end, I really shouldn’t have to do that.

      I also think you’re right in that the good features here will push Silhouette to improve on their work. And that can only be good for us users!

  5. The fact that the machine is smart enough to tell you when to shift mediums amazes me!! And the fact that you can design right on a onsie is pretty awesome! But major bummer to hear about the lack of design yourself options, and the tedious trace functions. I kinda wonder the resourcefulness of the machine telling you how many items you can cut per sheet.. I really hate wasting materials so before I cut something I tend to make use of the dead space or make it so I can reuse it again. Did you notice if you have the option of moving the elephants around on the pAge to maximize space by any chance?
    Dee recently posted…Easter CupcakesMy Profile

    • I know, some of the features they have are so cool! You can move things around the mat, which was really important for me to target the right parts of the mat to cut on and move the leather around. Here’s the thing though: the interface is tiny. If you click on the image to see it at full size, that’s what you get. No zooming. And you have to use your mouse to move it, no using those arrow keys to gently nudge something where you want it. The functionality is there, but it’s pretty clunky.

  6. Thanks again for writing these Kristy.
    If only you could use other software with the machine. I don’t own one of the independent software like MTC, but I would be more inclined to buy an explore if I could.
    It would be great to have the two machines and one software to run them both, along with their own software.
    There seems to more I dislike about the software than what I do like, but there are nice things about the machine itself.
    Dawn Marie recently posted…Running Log ~ April 10thMy Profile

    • I haven’t really used the Connect plugin from Silhouette, but I’m really glad they worked with Adobe to expand the utility of the software for just these reasons. Maybe Cricut will follow suite? (Though, sadly, I doubt it).

  7. Have to take it back. Can’t get connected to my computer I don’t have time for the nonsense BUT I am very disappointed.

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