I have been using my Cricut machines for 4 years and have tried all the current machines this includes the Explore air, The Explore Air 2, Explore Air 3, Maker, Joy and Maker 3. Plus the cup press and the easy press and Easy press 2. But I still feel like there are things I am learning or wish I would have known before I started my Cricut journey so that I could have saved myself some aggravation. I am going to share with you some of the things I wish I would have known before I got a Cricut!
The first thing and one I feel is most important really in any hobby you are going to get into is to be kind to yourself and accept that you will make mistakes. Its completely OK to mess up something. It is how we learn and grow. I still make tons of mistakes but I learn a little something new from each mistake. Don't feel embarrassed by them either! We have all been there! The amount of times I have forgotten to mirror some HTV or put the right cut setting in would blow your mind! You won't break your machine so don't worry!
This is one that may upset some people *coughCricutcough* but you DO NOT need to use Cricut brand products with your Cricut machine! This includes Vinyl, Iron-on , HTV or cardstock. literally all materials! Tools as well. You can get tools that are exactly the same for a much cheaper cost. I really like these tools from Nicapa or a Pin Pen and a Squeegee from 143vinyl.com. I do not recommend using the hard plastic scrapper that comes with the Nicapa or Cricut tool sets. Its a little harsh on your vinyl especially on the glossy or shiny finishes because it will scratch them. the soft plastic squeegees are a better choice. I also do not recommend using a Cricut brand mat due to price. The mats from Nicapa, Monicut, and Xinart actually seem to last a lot longer and do not crack as easily when bending the mat backwards to remove your materials from it.
On the topic of mats another thing that is important to know when you get a Cricut is that each mat is made for different materials.
BLUE - Light Grip - Cardstock, paper. thin materials that may rip
GREEN - Standard Grip - Vinyl, HTV/Iron-on
PINK - Fabric Grip - Fabrics, faux leathers
PURPLE - Strong Grip - Acrylics, wood, faux leather
So you will want to get a couple mats depending on what you want to use the machine for. I recommend starting with a blue and a green. The other thing about mats is that they are washable! So when the mat gets less sticky and isn't working as well don't toss it! You can very easily wash the mat by using some dawn dish soap and a scrubby sponge. You can check out the video on how to clean mats HERE. You can also do some spot cleaning using an alcohol free baby wipe. Be sure to keep the plastic cover for your mat as well. It will help protect it from dust, pet hair and more when you are not using it.
Something else cool about mats is you can actually load them two directions. One being with the hole at the top (the little hanger hole) the other being with the hole at the bottom. You cannot load them sideways but top or bottom first works!
You will want to make all the things when you start but don't go out and buy everything you see. I recommend grabbing a couple things from the Dollar Tree or the Target Dollar Spot to get started with to start learning and see what you really enjoy doing. Blanks can get pretty pricey so until you are sure you love it don't go buy 100 acrylic blanks or mugs or shirts! You can usually buy one offs really inexpensive to practice. Another great place to try is the facebook market place or destash groups for crafts. These are filled with people who bought too much and either couldn't sell it decorated or like you bought it all and realized they hated the craft.
Not all transfer tape is the same! There are different tacks and different brands. Using a real transfer tape will gain you the best results. When I first started I was using clear contact paper from the dollar tree but this actually really not good. It can leave a residue on your vinyl and no one wants to deal with that. So be sure to use a transfer tape that is actually made for vinyl. I highly recommend grabbing a roll of a medium tack style. These are my three favorites! Styletech, StarCraft, Craftables. Don't toss that transfer tape after one use either. You can reuse it over and over until it gets too curled or it loses its stick.
Do not waste money on Cricut brand blades. They have some mislabeled and it makes it confusing for the consumer but I also found the ones I get at 143vinyl lasted longer as well. I also have these from Amazon and I like them as well. You will save quite a bit of money purchasing them this way and they are a great product.
You will see a lot of bad advice on the internet when it comes to Cricut and one I see most is people saying to calibrate you machine when you are having trouble cutting vinyl. The Fact is the calibration settings are only for use with Print then Cut, The Knife Blade, or The Rotary Blade. Always do your own research and don't take random facebook group members advice as the gospel. While a lot of them are really knowledgeable you will find a lot who have no idea what they are talking about or are just passing on bad information they were given. I recommend finding a trusted source whether its a blog or a youtube channel that you know is very knowledgeable. Now that is not to say there is only one way to do something so if you find something that works and its not how everyone else is doing it it doesn't make it wrong! :)
These are just some of my favorites but if you want to see all of the things I wish I had known before I got a Cricut check out the video below!