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Gift a Baby Mini Album with Cricut!

Whatever the occasion, if something needs to be decorated, gifted, or celebrated, pretty much the first thing I think is “what can I DIY with my Cricut?” My Cricut really is my secret ninja weapon of creativity…whether it is t-shirts for an event, new pillows and wall decor for the living room, holiday decorations, labels for storage containers in the kid’s room, or a last-minute card, my Cricut can whip it out fast, easy, and gorgeous. It’s the little black dress of my craft room – it goes with everything! (Now, if only it could whip me up a perfect little black dress, it really would be the perfect gadget!)

To get an idea of the full potential of what you can make with the Cricut Explore Air 2, I suggest paying a visit to the “Make It Now” section of Cricut Design Space. Even after all my time working with the Cricut Explore machine, the talented designers at Cricut still continue to surprise me with the diverse ideas they come up with for the regularly updates to the project library.

Today’s occasion that has me pulling out my Cricut is the birth of a friend’s new grandchild. A card didn’t seem like enough, so my Cricut to the rescue…a baby mini album that the proud grandma can be fill with pictures is the perfect solution!

Cricut Explore Air 2

Supplies Needed:

I resized the cut file in Cricut Design Space so that the full sized pages in the baby mini album would be the perfect size for putting 4×6 photo prints on without cropping. Use the link above to access the perfectly sized file for your own use!

The cut file had pages in a variety of colors but I wanted the base of my album to be white. I just kept feeding white sheets into my Cricut Explore Air until everything was cut. It maybe wasn’t the most efficient way to cut the album but I used a lot of the scraps that were left from the cutting to create embellishments and some special pieces that I cut later.

Cricut Mini Book Cut Out

When I was done cutting out all of the pieces, I was left with a big pile of white cardstock. How would I know how to put them together? A quick search found me the assembly instructions for the Mini Books cartridge on the Cricut website!

After it was all assembled, I was left with this simple album that can have photos and notes added to it by the new baby’s grandmother! Along the way, while I was assembling the album, I added just a few embellishments.

Cricut Baby Mini Album

A few pieces, like the binding piece for the spine above, I decided that I wanted to create covered in decorative washi tape. Rather than cut a duplicate piece from washi and try to align and adhere it, I decided it would be easier to put a layer of washi down on cardstock and then cut a new copy of the piece from scratch. To avoid wasting washi, I cut pieces very close to the size of the finished piece, and positioned them carefully.

Cutting with Cricut Explore Air 2

For the full sheets pages, there wasn’t room to embellish if a 4×6 photo is going to be placed on them. But rather than just leave them plain, I used the Cuttlebug with an Anna Griffin embossing folder to give the pages a decorative look. Since the pages were slightly larger long wise than the folder, I just made sure that they binding end was the end that hung out of the folder and didn’t get embossed.

Embossed Baby Mini Album Page

This was my first time using a Cuttlebug, and I was highly impressed at how easy it makes embossing. I have another die cut machine and I rarely use it for embossing due to the complexity of set up and tear down, plus its size means it must be stored far away from where I sit to work. This Cuttlebug folds up small enough that I can store it within arm’s reach, and there’s no complicated sandwiches to make for embossing. Just throw your folder between the plates and crank!

Cricut Cuttlebug

The quality of the embossing is stunning as well! The detail in this Anna Griffith pattern was perfectly crisp, even in the fine details. I will definitely be using embossing more often with my new Cuttlebug around!

Cricut Cuttlebug Embossing

For decorating this pocket page, I cut a strip of the washi paper to wrap around the pocket as a decorative border.

Baby Mini Album Pocket Page

Next in the baby mini album comes two sets of four pages that are stair stepped in size. For these, I tried to alternate the backgrounds between textured and flat paper. The first (smallest) pages were cut from washi covered paper, just like the album’s binding.

Baby Mini Album insert pages

The pink border on one of the pages in each set is an embossing border folder from the same set with the Anna Griffin background. I embossed it on pieces of scrap paper, trimmed down the edges close to the design, and brushed a pink ink pad across it to highlight the design.

Baby Mini Album Insert Pages

For the text on the cover, and the flower that embellished the flap of this envelope page, I used another decorative technique. First, I cut the shapes out with my Cricut Explore Air 2 like normal. Then, to create the texture, I put the cut shapes in an embossing folder and ran them through my Cuttlebug.

Baby Mini Album envelope page

The last set of assembly was to thread the ribbon through. I folded mine in half and threaded it from the back through the center hole. Then I took the ends still hanging on the back, and threaded one through each remaining hole to the front. Then I hooked them through the loop that was coming up through the center hole and tied them in a pretty bow to secure the binding. It’s decorative and functional!

Cricut Baby Mini Album

So next time you have to do something decorative…grab your Cricut machine and ask “what can I DIY with my Cricut?” You might be surprised at what you create!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

Will I Be Required to Use Cartridges with the Cricut Explore Air 2?

For users of previous generations of Cricut machines (such as the Expression) that are considering making the jump to the newer generation of computer-connected Cricut Explore Air 2 machines, there can be a lot of confusion about whether they still need or can use the library of cartridges they’ve already invested in.

[This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Cricut.]

Hopefully, this FAQ will help clear that up for some people considering making the leap!

If you’ve already using one of the new generation of Cricut machines, skip to the end to see my latest Cricut project!

Cricut Cartridge

Q: Will I be required to use cartridges with the Cricut?

The Cricut Explore Air 2 (and the other machines in the Cricut Explore family) work by connecting to a computer or mobile device that is running the Cricut Design Space software. Content and cutting instructions come to the machine from the computer and Cricut Design Space, instead of from within the machine itself as with previous generations of machines.

Cricut Design Space functions as both the store to purchase content for your machine and the software to design and cut with. Instead of buying cartridges, you can buy individual images or fonts, or purchase a Cricut Access subscription that allows usage of a huge library of Cricut designs.

Q: But can I use my cartridges I already bought with a Cricut Explore Air 2 machine?

This is one of the most common concerns of users of older Cricut machines – such as the Expression – that are thinking of upgrading to one of the Cricut Explore family of machines. Over time, you can build up quite a library of cartridges and don’t want to have to pay for that content again! This is understandable, especially since I’ve met Cricut Expression machine owners who own hundreds of cartridges!

The good news is that you absolutely can use your library of cartridges with your Cricut Explore Air 2 (or other Cricut Explore family machines) by using the slot on the machine to “link” them to Cricut Design Space.

Q: How do I use my cartridges with Cricut Design Space?

To use your cartridges with Cricut Design Space and your Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, there is a simple process to follow to link the cartridge to Cricut Design Space.

To begin, log in to Cricut Design Space, and turn on your Cricut Explore Air 2 machine. Insert a cartridge that you want to link in the slot on your machine.

Cricut Explore Air 2 cartridge linking

Then, from the menu in the upper left of Cricut Design Space, select the “Link Cartridge” option:

Cricut Design Space Link Cartridge menu

Clicking the “Link Cartridges” option will pull up a screen that will walk you through linking your cartridge.

Cricut Design Space Link Cartridges

After you are done following the prompts on the screen, your cartridge will appear as “purchased” in your Cricut Design Space account and you will not be charged for using content from it in your projects. There is even a filter option in the cartridges view section of the image library that will let you view only your “purchased” cartridges! (Fonts from cartridges will appear on your list of fonts.)

Cricut Design Space purchased library

Q: Do I have to put my cartridge in my machine each time I want to use it?

Once you go through the “link cartridge” process with a Cricut cartridge, your ownership of that cartridge is recorded in your Cricut account. You will be able to use the contents of that cartridge directly from your computer anytime you log in to Cricut Design Space, without needing to put the cartridge in your machine. You can put your actual cartridges in a box on a high shelf in a closet, or under a bed, and forget they exist while you create with their contents in Cricut Design Space!

Q: Does linking my cartridge erase it? Can I still use it with other machines?

Linking your cartridge only records certain data about it to your Cricut Design Space account. It absolutely does not erase the cartridge’s contents. You can still continue to use the cartridge with older machines that don’t work with Cricut Design Space, such as the Expression.

Cartridges can only be linked to one Cricut Design Space account, so once a cartridge has been linked it cannot be linked again to another account. Since machines can connect to multiple devices and Cricut Design Space accounts, you do still have plenty of options if you want to use your cartridge on another Cricut Explore Air 2 machine while away from your own machine (such as at a crop). You can either use a mobile device to connect to your friend’s machine while logged into your Cricut Design Space account, or log in to your Cricut Design Space account on whatever device your friend uses with their machine usually.

Q: What if my cartridge was already linked to Cricut Craft Room?

If you have cartridges already linked to a previous Cricut Craft Room account, you need to make sure that you create your new Cricut Design Space account with the same user name and password as your Cricut Craft Room account. If you do this, your cartridges that were linked to Craft Room should show up automatically in your Cricut Design Space account!

Q: Why should I use my cartridges in Cricut Design Space?

Using cartridges in Cricut Design Space is so much easier that using cartridges on machines such as the Expression. Contents can be keyword searched, so there’s no more forgetting what cartridge that perfect image for your project is on (or that you have it altogether). There’s no more hunting on a keypad for multiple pieces of a layered image and trying to get them to cut the right size. Images can be layered, colored, and sized in Cricut Design Space so that you can see exactly what a finished item will look like. Designs can be saved to be cut exactly the same over and over. In short, using cartridge designs digitally via Cricut Design Space provides more design power and more visualization of the finished product. It also provides for more precise cutting, so there’s less wasted paper from cutting mistakes!

I will admit that I rarely used my Cricut machine before getting a Cricut Explore family machine and linking my cartridges to Cricut Design Space. It was just too much hassle to use cartridges, I could never remember what I had, and I found it too difficult to get my cuts sized how I wanted. Plus, I rarely found cartridges that I wanted enough of the images on to invest in them. Now, since linking my small collection of cartridges to Design Space, I use those images quite regularly!

I made this small wall art project using a silhouette from my “A Child’s Year” cartridge, which I believe was the first cartridge that I bought many years ago.

Silhouette Child Frame

Supplies Needed:

Normally you’d see silhouettes like this done in black but that feels a bit harsh to me visually. I chose to do mine in bronze metallic foil for a softer warmer look. In the metallic bronze foil, the silhouette is still very dark but also has a glow to it that exudes the warmth of a little girl.

A design like this relies on each of these elements being very precisely sized to work. Using my cartridge in Cricut Design Space makes this infinitely easier, as I was able to lay these elements all out and size them exactly in relation to each other and the size of the frame before cutting. I’d have never even attempted a design like this on my old Cricut machine.

Cricut Design Space

So, if you haven’t already…I highly recommend that you get those cartridges out of their boxes and into Cricut Design Space! It really does expand the possibilities of what you can do with them!

Will I be required to use cartridges with the Cricut?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

Make Geo Heart Wall Art with Cricut Explore Air 2!

A lot of what I cut on my Cricut Explore Air 2 is cardstock for my scrapbooking projects. But there are so many other materials that it can cut, and it’s fun to play with those – and often exciting to see what the machine can do, with the right blade, mat and setting. When I was working Scrapbook Expo shows for Cricut, we had a keychain in the booth with samples of material that had been cut on the Explore machine. It was downright amazing to see some of them, such as leather, craft wood, and acrylic. I’ve actually cut acrylic on my own machine – I just had to try it after seeing that key chain! I’ve also cut fabric (with an iron-on stabilizer backing), and wood veneer paper. Cricut advertises that the Cricut Explore Air 2 will cut over 100 materials…I’m not even sure that I could name 100 materials to try to cut! Perhaps instead of asking “what can I cut with my Cricut?” we should ask – “what can’t I cut with my Cricut?”

Projects like this Geo Heart Wall Art are so fun because it gives me a chance to play with a couple of different materials, in this case Holographic Vinyl and Glitter Cardstock, neither of which I had worked with before. It’s always exciting to see what my machine can do with a new material!

Cricut Geo Heart Wall Canvas

Supplies Needed:

Not on the supply list, but an important tool to completing this project, is the Cricut Essential Tool Set. Over the course of completing this project, I used virtually every tool in this kit: the trimmer, scissors, scraper, spatula, and weeding tool. I even used the scoring tool, despite there being no scoring on this project, because it is the perfect size and so smooth for rolling flower petals on!

And bonus – it perfectly matches my Mint Cricut Explore Air 2 machine! (It’s also available in Rose and Blue.)

Cricut Tool Kit

To create the background for my wall art canvas, I used a 12″ by 12″ pre-primed canvas from a major craft chain store. Then I used a large brush to swipe green acrylic paint back and forth across it, but stopping short of the edges by about an inch. Once that paint was dry, I used a stencil to dry brush a design on top of the green in white acrylic paint.

Cricut Wall Canvas background

I’ve been a bit obsessed with geo hearts lately, so I decided to make one in Cricut Design Space for this canvas! The Vintage Revivals cartridge had just what I needed, a geo shape that I could slice. Then I searched and chose a heart that had an outline of about the same thickness. I laid it over the geo shape in a way that I liked, duplicated it and set the duplicate aside (this will be important later), and then used the slice tool to cut the geo shape.

Cricut Geo Heart Construction

Next I removed all of the sliced pieces that I wouldn’t need in my finished piece. This was followed by using the basic shape tool to lay another (this time solid) heart over the remaining geo structure and slicing again. Then I took that heart that I had set aside, and laid it over the geo design, selected the heart and the geo design, and hit “weld” to create my geo heart!

Cricut Geo Heart construction

This ability to experiment and try things (and hit the undo button if they don’t work and then try again) is one of the things I love about Design Space. But if all of that seems like a lot of work to do…here’s the link to my completed Geo Heart file that I’m sharing in Design Space.

Cricut Geo Heart construction

Once I had created my geo heart, I made it 7 inches high and added some 3D flowers from the Flower Shoppe cartridge to my design. If you’d like to be able to replicate my design, here’s a link to the design I created in Cricut Design Space.

Cricut Holographic Vinyl

I’ve worked quite a few times with Cricut’s regular vinyl, but the Cricut Holographic Vinyl is more like foil than vinyl in appearance, and weight. It cut beautifully and just like vinyl on my Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, by using my Smart Set dial on the “vinyl” setting. This pink is dark pink and, depending on the light and angle that you look, will turn almost burgundy. (There’s also a gorgeous lighter pink color that is called Opal.)

Cricut Tools for Vinyl

I’ve always found weeding to be a bit of a zen experience. It can be challenging, for sure (especially when there are small details in a design), but there is something immensely satisfying about the sort of reverse jigsaw puzzle effect of watching the design reveal itself.

Weeding Die Cut Vinyl

Once the design was completely revealed, I laid a piece of Cricut Transfer Tape on top of it and peeled it up and transferred the heart to the upper right corner of my canvas. To press it down on my canvas with my tape, I laid a book underneath the area of the canvas the heart was going onto so that the canvas was better supported and was flat.

Cricut Geo Heart

The Holographic Vinyl is thin enough that it will take on the texture of the item is it applied to, so surface preparation is important! The material is delicate, but the transfer tape held it tightly and then released it perfectly without ripping the vinyl or damaging the painted surface. (I also recently used the Cricut Transfer Tape to apply vinyl to a kraft paper notebook cover and it released from the paper cover perfectly without damaging it when I was done applying my image.)

Cricut Glitter Flowers

Next, I used Cricut Glitter Paper to cut my 3D flowers. I’m normally not a huge fan of working with glitter paper, as it sheds and is difficult to cut without it losing a lot of glitter. This glitter paper is none of those things! The glitter on this Cricut paper seems to be finer than most other glitter papers that I’ve tried, and is extremely well adhered. It cuts absolutely beautifully, and having tried it I will now be looking for excuses to cut glitter things on my Cricut. (Luckily I have a teenage daughter so it won’t be hard!)

Cricut Glitter Flowers

I used a hot glue gun to assemble the flowers and then also to adhere them to the canvas. Before I glued them in place, I rolled the ends of the petals around the Cricut Scoring Tool to give them a nice curve. For the smaller flowers, the small point of the tool was used for rolling the petals around. I finished the flowers with buttons hot glued into their centers.

Cricut Geo Heart Wall Art

This Geo Heart Wall Art is great for a teen girl’s room. I used my 14 year old daughter’s bedroom wall for some of the photography for this article, and I’m not sure that I’m getting this project back!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

Easy Happy Father’s Day Shaker Card with Cricut Explore Air 2

One of my favorite things about the new generation of Cricut machines is the way that Cricut Design Space makes it easy to visualize what I am cutting on my Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, and to place your cut shape precisely where you want it in relation to other elements. Without that ability, this Father’s Day Shaker Card would not be possible. With it, the card can be created and cut perfectly in a matter of minutes!

Cricut Father's Day Card

Supplies:

This card is created from several colors of Cricut cardstock, along with two other specialty items from the Cricut supply closet. One (which I am totally in love with) is the black 0.8 gel glitter pen from the black Multi Pen Set. And because that just wasn’t enough glitter, I also decided to use the gold sheet from the Classic Sampler of Cricut Glitter Cardstock!

Cricut Father's Day Card supplies

I designed this card from scratch in Cricut Design Space, and it’s surprisingly easy! It’s simply a series of basic shape and text elements layered together and with their properties set to make them behave a certain way to create the design I want. Below on the right side, you can see all of the layers of the design.

Since I wanted to make a 6×6 card with a 1/4″ border showing all of the way around this blue center part, I started by setting my canvas to be a 5.5″ square. I colored it cream – that is what you see peeking through the large star.

Cricut Design Space screenshot

To create my background “paper” I first drew a square exactly on top of my canvas, and colored it blue. Then I added my 3 stars to the top of the card front’s design, making two varying smaller sizes and one larger. (We’ll get to that really big blue star in a minute.) I colored the smaller ones a bright yellow to signify the gold glitter paper.

Once I had the three stars in place how I wanted them on the card front, I turned off the visibility of the smaller ones. Then I drew a box with my mouse around the blue paper and the large star on the card and hit the “slice” button. This cut the star out of the blue background, and I moved the blue star that it created off of the card front and to the side. Once there, I enlarged it quite a bit to serve aa a backer for my shaker box.

Finally, I added my text elements. For the “one of a kind” I made sure to choose a “writing” style font and set my text to writing. I chose a nice clean sans serif Cricut font in a deep red color to cut the text for DAD. Then I turned off the visibility of the “DAD” letters, drew another box around the blue background, the star cut out, and the “one of a kind” writing, and clicked “attach”.

I made the yellow stars and “DAD” text visible again, and the card design was done. I hit my “Go” button and started feeding my different papers into my Cricut Explore Air 2 machine. I almost forgot to insert my pen in the machine before cutting the blue piece, but fortunately Cricut Design Space is smarter than I am and reminded me!

After my pieces were cut, I just assembled them into a shaker box. A piece of scrap page protector went on the back behind the star opening to serve as the front of my shaker card. Then I began cutting pieces of foam adhesive tape to place two layers around the edges of the star shape on the back of the card (with the page protector scrap between the cardstock and the foam tape). After building my foam tape “walls” for my shaker box, I filled it with the metal colored sequin mix, peeled the backer tape from the foam tape, and pressed the large blue star down on top of it to seal the sequins in.

Cricut Father's Day Shaker Card-1371

Once the shaker was done, it was easy to adhere the rest of the elements (DAD text, glitter stars, and a few star sequins) to the front of the card. Then with a little more foam tape put along the edges of the back of the blue cardstock, I adhered it to a brown card base. (I made the 6×6 card base by folding a 6×12 piece of cardstock in half).

Cricut Explore Air 2 Father's Day card

This fun and easy Father’s Day shaker card will delight Dads and Granddads (and the kids too)! This same technique can be easily adapted to working with other shapes to make shaker cards for a variety of occasions and I can’t wait to see how many other variations I can make. I also look forward to trying this technique to write titles and make “peek a boo” windows in elements for my 12×12 layouts.

Don’t underestimate the basic shape tools in Cricut Design Space. They may be “basic”, but with some imagination, their possibilities with your Cricut machine are limitless!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

Getting Started with Make It Now on the Cricut Explore Air 2

Because it requires using software on a computer (or a phone app), a lot of people are intimidated initially by using the Cricut Explore family of machines. But Cricut Design Space has a built-in shortcut for learning how to do almost anything with the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine: the library of Make It Now projects!

Cricut Design Space

The Make It Now library of projects, which is what you are looking at when you open the main screen of Cricut Design Space, is like having training wheels for your Cricut Explore machine. Whether you are trying to use the machine itself, or trying a new material or accessory tool (like the stylus) for the first time, a Make It Now project will hold your hand while you do it. The Make It Now projects have been set up by the expert designers at Cricut to create an entire project flawlessly from start to finish. It takes the guesswork out of working with new tools or materials. There’s no guessing, so you can get perfect results the first time!

One very popular use for the Cricut family of machines is to cut iron-on material to create custom shirts, bags, and other items. Cricut sells an extensive palette of iron-on materials that the machine’s built-in settings are calibrated to cut. Working with iron-on, though, has a bit of a learning curve. Make It Now projects to the rescue!

Probably my all time favorite Make It Now project is the “C’est La Vie” t-shirt designed by my friend Anna Rose Johnson. This fun t-shirt features two layers of iron-on that together create the phrase and a glittered heart.

Cricut Make It Now t-shirt project

Remember, just because you are using a Make It Now project, doesn’t mean that you have to make it look exactly like the Cricut sample! Changing the color scheme is as simple as feeding different colors of material into the machine. Cricut Design Space does allow you to edit a Make It Now project – or any other one – to change the colors of elements. But on a simple two color project like this one, it’s not worth taking the time to make the change in the software. Just feed the colors you want into the machine when it’s time for each cut!

For making my t-shirt this time, I chose to make the design with white lite iron-on and pink glitter iron-on. My 13 year old daughter, who the shirt was for, is all about the pink glitter.

Cricut iron-on cutting

The Smart Set dial on the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine makes it easy to set the machine to cut Cricut Iron-On material. Just spin the dial to “Iron-on” to set it and you’re done!

Cricut Explore Air 2 Smart Set Dial

The other key to cutting iron-on material is that you have to cut your images in reverse. There is a handy checkbox alongside each layer of your design in the first cut window that you can check to have Design Space reverse the design for you. If you proceed to the final cut window with your machine set on “Iron-on”, but have forgotten to check the “mirror” box for your layers, the machine will yell at you with a bar that pops up to remind you!

Cricut Iron On WarningWhen your material comes out of the machine, and your design has been cut in reverse, it will look something like this. The plastic is underneath it on the mat, and then becomes the transfer tape to carry your design to the item you want to iron it on.

Cricut iron-on

The weeding tool makes it 100x easier to weed (remove the waste from) designs cut from iron-on material. Just use the hook part to stab a piece that you want to remove, and then pull to remove it.

Cricut iron-on weeding

To iron on your material and get good results, it’s important to pay close attention to the package instructions. Before your begin, make sure to pre-wash your item (and don’t use fabric softener) so that your iron-on will stick well.

Cricut iron-on t-shirt

It only took a few minutes to cut my Cricut Make It Now design and iron it on, but the results were gorgeous! My fashionista was very happy with the results and the new addition to her wardrobe!

Cricut iron-on t-shirt on model

Tips for Using Iron-On Material:

  • Iron-on material goes plastic side down on your cutting mat
  • Don’t forget to check the “mirror” boxes when cutting
  • Items being ironed on should be 100% cotton if possible and pre-washed with no fabric softener before ironing designs on
  • Make sure to turn the steam off on your iron
  • Use a nice firm ironing surface

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine: First Look

As many of you may remember, I spent a lot of 2015 traveling around the country to various Scrapbook Expo shows to demonstrate the Cricut Explore machine for Cricut. I loved both the chance to interact with consumers around the country, and the machines themselves! So I was thrilled when Cricut offered me the chance to try out the new Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, see how it compared to my current Cricut Explore machine, and tell my readers about it!

What is the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine?

Cricut Explore Air 2If, like me, you are a user of a previous Explore model of machine, you’re probably wondering what is different about this new one from your current model. For users of the original green model of Explore machine like mine, or of the Explore One, you’ll find that the bluetooth is now built inside the machine instead of requiring a plug-in accessory dongle to work. If you currently have an Explore One, you’ll also find that the Explore Air 2 has two carriages – one for the blade and one for accessories, meaning less switching out while cutting.

One other minor change is mostly cosmetic – the setting at the dial on the top of the machine now read “bonded fabric” instead of just “fabric”. This isn’t a change in the machine’s capability but rather a better explanation of them. The previous label, based on postings in Facebook groups I belong to, seemed to confuse people into thinking the machine could cut fabric when in fact it can only cut fabric that has been bonded to an interface backing to stiffen it.

For users of all previous Explore machines, Cricut is advertising that the Explore Air 2 will cut up to 2x faster than the previous machines.

If you are a user of a cartridge based machine (the Expression series and earlier) models, the Cricut Explore Air 2 machine is a whole new eco-system, with the Cricut Design Space software and Cricut Access library subscriptions, and features like the ability to import and cut your own SVG and JPG files. But you might also be asking if a computer based machine is too complicated, or too much hassle. You might be surprised to find that the answer is no.

Cricut Explore Air 2 machine

Although I’m very experienced in setting up Cricut machines from demonstrating them, for this article I decided to try an experiment and see how long it would take me to set up the machine and make the introductory project that is included in the set-up process (pictured above). I used a clean machine that had never had Cricut Design Space installed on it, so I was starting from scratch the same as any other new user – albeit one with a bit more experience under my belt.

I started a timer from the moment that I started to take things out of the box.

Inside the box, I found the machine, power cord, USB cord, a pen, a green mat, paper for the introductory project, and a few instruction booklets.

Cricut Explore Air 2 contents

If you follow the instructions in the box, the next step is to open a special URL on the Cricut website that serves as a tutorial for setting up new machines.

Cricut Explore Air 2 set-up

Then the instructions call for plugging in the machine to the wall and connecting it via cable to the computer.

Cricut Explore Air 2 instructions

Once that is done, there are onscreen instructions in Cricut Design Space to follow to complete setting up your machine. They literally walk you through each step.

When you are done with the set up, the final step is to have some fun with your new machine for the first time! At the 14 minute mark of my set-up process (and that included time taken to take a few pictures for this article like the ones above), I loaded a mat with paper into my new machine for the first time!

Cricut Explore Air 2 with mat

By barely over the 20 minute mark, I had not only set up my new machine, but I had created (along with a few pictures for this article) a fun little card with it!

Tips for setting up a new Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine:

  • Choose Chrome: I’ve used Google Chrome for a long time with my Cricut Explore, and it is highly recommended as the most trouble-free way to work in Cricut Design Space with the Cricut Explore family of machines.
  • Forget Old Machines: For the smoothest install and bluetooth set-up, go into your computer or mobile device’s bluetooth settings and tell it to “forget” your old Cricut Explore machine. You can always re-pair them later to continue using it alongside the new machine.

And that is it…my new machine was up and running – and I’d made something – in less than 20 minutes!

Does the Cricut Explore Air 2 really cut faster?

I ran another test to see – and if so, by how much!

First, I selected a “make it now” Easter card project from the Cricut Access library and set it up to cut on my iPad Mini. This way, all of my cuts would be made from the same file on the same computer device.

Cricut Easter card

Then, I cut the green part of the card three times. The first time, it was on my new Cricut Explore Air 2 machine on the “fast” setting. That setting is available for use on vinyl, iron-on, and cardstock, and can be used just by clicking a box in the cut window. That cut took 1:58 from start to finish.

Then I tried it again on my Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, but this time I unclicked the “fast” box to cut “regular” speed. On this setting, the cut was clocked at 2:45.

Finally I tried the cut on my old green Cricut Explore machine, and it took 2:54.

This was a relatively small, but complicated design file. Other files will show varying differences in speed, of course. But even with this file I saved nearly a third of the cut time moving from my old Cricut Explore machine to the fast speed on the new Cricut Explore Air 2. Extend this time savings to large intricate backgrounds for 12×12 pages, or for large amounts of production cutting, and the time savings could add up, well, fast (pun intended). Especially or machine owners who are running a business with their Cricut, faster cutting means more time for themselves – or more time to make more profit!

Now that I can cut so much faster with my new Cricut Explore Air 2, I’m really excited to take on some larger cutting projects that I didn’t have the time or patience for before, like 12×12 decorative backgrounds for scrapbook layouts, or intricate iron-on shirt designs. Or maybe I’ll even take on some wall-sized vinyl projects…

What would you like to make faster with the new Cricut Explore Air 2?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.