Cricut Explore 3 Review (everything you need to know about this new smart cutting machine!)

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The new Cricut Explore 3 smart cutting machine has just been released! I’ve given it a try, and today I want to share what I think of the machine and everything you need to know to start using it. Here’s my official Cricut Explore 3 review!

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

Dislosure: This blog post is sponsored by Cricut. All opinions are my own.

Cricut’s latest smart cutting machines – the Explore 3 and Maker 3 – have just arrived on the scene and I had the opportunity to try out the Explore 3! After using the machine for a few weeks, I’m here to answer all your questions on it and show you how I’ve used it so far. Let’s get started!

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

First, what’s a Cricut machine?

A Cricut is a smart cutting machine that can cut several different materials for your craft projects like paper, vinyl, and cardstock. Some Cricut machines can even cut thin wood, leather, fabric and more. I wrote another blog post ALL about this, and you can read it right here.

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

When did the Cricut Explore 3 come out?

This newest Explore Air machine was released just last month – June 2021 – and is the latest addition to the Explore family. You can buy it on Cricut’s site right here (I’m a fan of the bundles for the best bang for my buck)!

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

The Cricut Explore 3 vs Cricut Maker 3

While I’m a big fan of the Maker line for cutting materials like fabric, crepe paper and thin woods, I use my Explore machine more. I find myself making mostly vinyl, iron-on and paper projects, and the Explore 3 is perfect for those jobs. The Explore is a little more compact and has a lower price point.

Here’s a quick comparison of the machines:

  • Max material width: 13 inches for both
  • Max cut length: 12 feet for both
  • Material compatibility: 100+ for the Explore 3 vs 300+ for the Maker 3
  • Tools: 6 for the Explore vs 13 for the Maker 3
  • Both compatible with Smart Materials (more on that below)
  • Price: around $399 for the Explore 3 vs around $549 for the Maker 3

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

What are the new features of the Cricut Explore 3 machine?

The first thing I noticed when unboxing the Cricut Explore 3 was that it didn’t have a materials dial like the Explore Air 2. Instead, you’re able to choose the material you’re using right from the Cricut Design Space app. If aesthetics matter to you (I admit they do to me!), the machine has a gorgeous matte finish in a beautiful mint green colour.

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

Which materials can you cut?

You can cut 100+ materials with the Cricut Explore 3 including cardstock, vinyl, HTV (iron-on vinyl), and poster board. What I was most excited about is the addition of using Smart Materials with this machine. I had been able to use them with my Cricut Joy in the past, but now I can use large format Smart Materials for super fast prep, cuts, and to make extra-long projects.

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

What are Smart Materials?

Unlike Cricut’s classic materials like Permanent Vinyl and Iron-On Vinyl etc, the Smart Materials require NO MAT making cutting quicker and easier than ever. You can buy the materials in rolls up to 9 feet long, load them in your Explore 3 and GO! This is my favourite feature of the machine. The Smart Materials include:

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

The ability to create longer/large designs with the Smart Material is great for projects like stencils for painted rugs, making long iron-on designs for home decor, and creating large decals. I used Smart Vinyl to create a 3 foot long decal for our kayaks at our lake house rental.

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

What’s the difference between Cricut Explore 2 and 3?

I was also BLOWN AWAY by how quickly the Explore 3 cuts Smart Materials. It’s 2 times faster than the Explore Air 2 when cutting Smart Materials, which is important to me as I’m often under a time crunch when crafting!

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

The speed of the machine, the ability to cut Smart Materials to create larger projects, and the sleeker look make it a nice upgrade from the Cricut Explore Air 2. (Though the Explore Air 2 is a fab machine, and I still recommend that one, too.)

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

It only took me 15 minutes to create this 3 FOOT LONG decal for the kayaks at our little lake house. I opened up the Design Space app on my phone, used the font “Tango” to create my design, and made sure that it measured 36″ long. 

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

I sent the design to my new Explore 3 and used Permanent Smart Vinyl in black. The speed the machine cut out my design was incredibly fast. I was able to use the new Cricut Roll Holder to keep my material aligned for a super precise cut.
It also has a built-in trimmer so I could trim the vinyl at the end!

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

After the decal was cut, I weeded out the excess vinyl and applied Transfer Tape to the design.

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

Then I applied the decal to my kayak, removed the Transfer Tape and it was all done. So easy! With the Cricut, you can design a project from scratch like I did, or you can pick a ready-to-make project from Cricut Design Space!

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

Cricut explore air 3 tutorials for beginners

If you’re looking for a beginner’s project tutorial for the Cricut Explore 3, check out my YouTube videos:

Get everything you need to know about the new smart cutting machine in this Cricut Explore 3 Review

Now tell me: Are you considering buying either the Explore 3 or the Maker 3? Which feature are you most interested in?

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