Cricut Explore 3 Review

Overall Rating



The Cricut Explore 3 is a versatile cutting machine with advanced features. It can handle a wide range of materials, making it a great choice for DIY and small business users.

Whether you’re a creative pro or a green-horn to DIY, the name Cricut is almost guaranteed to ring a bell in your mind.

They make some of the finest die-cutting machines out there – no doubt about that. Now, they did launch the Cricut Explore 3 in May 2021 and it proved quite popular; literally hitting the ground running.

Indeed, this new-kid-on-the-block is commonly lauded for its powerful motors and advanced material guides. But how exactly does it perform in real-life. Here’s our detailed review of it.

Cricut Explore 3 Product Overview

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This is one of the recently launched cutting machines from Cricut. It can be used to cut a wide range of materials including vinyl and paper to make intricate designs.

That makes it a must-have tool for creatives who would like to perform more tasks efficiently and faster while having fun.

The machine can also use a wide variety of tools to draw and write e.g. fine-point blade, scoring stylus, foil transfer tool. 

Just like its predecessor the Cricut Joy, the Cricut Explore 3 uses Smart Materials. The best part is that those materials can be fed into the machine without using a mat.

You may also want to note that this machine does not limit you as far as the cutting mat’s size unlike other older cutters from the brand. In fact, you can easily cut 12-feet of vinyl using the machine and at some pretty decent speeds.

What’s Inside? Let’s Unbox It for You

What do you get when you unbox this machine?

This cutting machine comes packaged in a box and once you open it, the first thing you will get is a card containing the safety and warranty information.

Other things include:

  • The machine itself
  • A smart tool housing
  • A premium fine-point blade
  • Power adapter and USB cable
  • A trial subscription
  • 4 smart materials

What is New?

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Cricut did keep everything you loved about the Cricut Explore Air 2, which is this machine’s immediate predecessor but they also added some major updates that are supposed to save you time and work more.

Let us get right into the updates, shall we?

1. Sleek Design

Instead of selecting material with the dial like in previous versions, this machine allows you to select your material within its software known as Design Space.

2. The Design

You will love the new color of this latest addition to Cricut’s line of cutting machines, which is Mint Green.

You will also notice that the top of the machine comes with a textured coating while the bottom is smooth.

This may look like it is entirely for aesthetic purposes but it is done to keep the machine from collecting fingerprints. That way, you can spend more time creating and not cleaning up your machine.

3. Branding

Looking at the machine, you will notice that the name is located on the tool housing. This makes it easy to remember which machine you are using seeing as the machines from the line look similar.

The original ‘C’ button has also been replaced with the universal start button. That means no more confusion.

4. Storage Compartment

The storage compartment is not new when it comes to Cricut machines. However, with the Explore 3, you get a bigger one. That means you get more space to store your tools and blades.

This is because Cricut eliminated the need for the cartridge.

If you like to use your phone or iPad to create designs, you will appreciate that the machine comes with an ingenious holder on its lid where you can place such devices.

5. Advanced Light Sensor

The Explore 3 also features a more advanced light sensor that allows you to do print and cut projects on both colored and white paper.

6. Matless Cutting

Cricut created SmartMaterials as a way to let the machine cut without using a mat and understandably, so because it is something that users have been asking for. 

Aside from saving you, the time you could have spent placing your material onto a mat, the SmartMaterial also allows the machine to cut two times faster than the previous version.

When using SmartMaterials, the machine will cut up to eight inches per second on each access. With previous models, the cutting size was limited to 12×24 inches. With Smart Materials, you can cut up to 12-feet!

At this point, you are probably wondering if you can use your Cricut cutting mats with the Explore 3 machine. Well, you can.

Just like the Explore Air 2, you can still cut over 100 different materials with your machine using your Cricut cutting mats.

This is because the Explore 3 is just like its predecessor only that it comes with several updates. Note that the cutting speed will reduce when using mats on the Explore 3.

What We Think About It

The Explore 3 is not just the newest addition to the Cricut family for the sake of upgrading. It is specifically designed to improve your workflow.

Since this machine can cut longer lengths at faster speeds, you not only get to save effort but also create more projects within a short time.

If you are keen enough, you will also notice that the Explore 3 does not come with a material setting dial. That simply means that with the machine you can create all the settings for your material in the design space making the process much easier.

Cricut Explore 3 also comes with a tray for holding your tablet or smartphone while working. It comes in a Mint Grey color for now and no longer has a glossy finish.

Ultimately, the Explore 3 is more affordable so it would make sense to appeal to a broader range of styles.

Cricut Explore 3 Benefits

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The Cricut Explore 3 does come with several benefits. Let us look at some of them, shall we?

1. Speed and Precision

The machine works two times faster than previous models. That means you can do anything from large banners to custom iron-ons within a short time.

It can also work with six different tools for decorating and cutting such as bonded fabric, cork, vinyl, and cardstock. These materials are not included in the package though.

2. Pro-level Designing

The Explore 3 features a fine-point blade that is designed to craft an assortment of craft materials when paired with a deep-point blade and scoring stylus.

Moreover, the fine-point blade works with the Cricut Foil Transfer Tool to add pro-level foil add-ons to your projects.

Note that the package does not come with the transfer tool either so you would have to purchase it separately.

3. Practical and Flexible

If you are looking for a cutting machine that is highly versatile, you will not go wrong with the Cricut Explore 3 Machine.

We say this because it can be used in collaboration with the Design Space app for Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows. The machine also features a slot for your devices and as well as an in-built storage compartment, that makes using the machine convenient.

As you can tell by now, you can do more than just cutting vinyl with this machine. One may argue that the Maker 3 has a lot going for it, but we can assure you that the Explore 3 also has a lot going for it – and it is cheaper.

The main cutting tool makes one of seven different choices for the Explore series. You get to score fold lines, draw, transfer foil, and cut fabric among other things. If you would like to handle projects that do not require cutting, you would have to buy the required tools and slot them into the machine.

The good news is that the Explore 3 can accommodate two tools at the same time. That means that you can swap between materials without having to pull out anything from the device.

4. User-friendly Software

We have already mentioned that the Cricut Explore 3 facilitates flexibility and as much as that is important, the ability to design regardless of your location is just as important.

In response to that, Cricut launched its software known as Design Space. With the software, you can import images and edit them to your desire. From there, you can turn them into designs from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

5. Explore 3 Tools, Blades, and Accessories

As far as tools, the Cricut Explore 3 can use all the tools used by the Cricut Explore Air 2. Let us go a bit deeper with the tools, shall we?

6. Premium Fine-Point Blade

This Cricut Explore 3 delivers a decent cutting force when using the standard blade because it can cut up to 1.5mm deep.

7. Bonded Fabric Blade

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to the Explore 3 is that it doesn’t work too well with fabric. Of course, you can use the rotary blade on the device but if you want to cut fabric, you will need to use backing or stiffen it up.

That said, it is still a great machine and adequate as long as you do not use it for fabric or thick material cutting.

8. Deep-Point Blade

If you intend to make deeper cuts, you may have to use an upgraded blade that cuts up to 2mm. The Explore 3 can cut through the same materials as the Maker 3 just not as deep.

This is because you cannot use the knife blade with this machine.

9. Roll Holder

Did you know that the Cricut Explore 3 can cut up to 75-feet of vinyl rolls? You are probably wondering how such bog rolls can be fed into the machine.

Well, you can just add them and let them sit on a table, but if you want to have an easier time, a roll holder comes in handy.

This accessory attaches to your machine’s tray so that you can feed your vinyl roll or any other material right in.

Cricut Explore 3 Price

The Cricut Explore 3 goes for about $299, which is $100 cheaper than the Maker 3, and our thoughts here are that you will be getting more than you bargained for.

This machine can withstand everyday use so it is ideal for small businesses. If you are going large scale, it would be better to get the Cricut Maker 3.

Should you Get It?

If you are a small business owner, DIY enthusiast, or crafter, you are probably going to find the Explore 3 quite adequate because it can help you actualize your ideas irrespective of your niche.

You can make anything from felt flowers to cards with the machine and if you do not intend to work with thicker materials, then this would be a perfect choice.

Get the machine if:

  • You need to make long cuts often
  • Want to reduce your cutting time
  • Need to replace a worn-out older model

Cricut Maker 3 vs. Explore 3

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The Cricut Explore 3 enjoys sibling rivalry with the Cricut Maker 3. So, it is important to compare them because you are probably wondering why you would ditch the Maker 3 for the Explore 3. First off, the similarities:

The Similarities

  • User Experience- The first thing you should know is that both machines are highly user-friendly. By that, we mean that the setting up and cutting process is easy to master even if you have never used them before.
  • You can simply begin making your designs as soon as plugging in the machine.
  • Speed- Both the machines come with powerful motors. That translates to speed so you will be able to cut two times faster than you would with a regular cutting machine with these.
  • Versatility- Perhaps you don’t know it, but both the Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Maker 3 can cut, score, and write through over 100 materials. 
  • Cutting Width- One of the features that make both machines stand out from previous versions is that they have a cutting width of 33 cm or 13 inches. Previous models had a width of only 30.5 cm or 12 inches.
  • Matless Operation- One of the best features when it comes to both machines is their ability to cut through materials without having to use a mat.
  • You simply have to feed the SmartMaterials directly into them and wait for a finished product.
  • Cuts and Prints Both White and Colored Paper- Another great feature of both machines is that they allow for printing and cutting on both white and colored paper.

The Differences

It is now time to check out the differences between the machines.

  • Cutting Force- The Explore functions by dragging the blade across the material while the Maker works by actively positioning and turning the blade as required. This makes it possible for the Maker to cut more materials with 10 times the force. We are talking up to 300 materials here.
  • What we are trying to say here is that the Maker can cut everything the Explore can cut plus a few other things like leather.
  • Tools- The Maker also uses more tools including the rotary tool, the knife, and an engraving tool. The Explore works with six tools while the Maker works with 13 tools.
  • With the Explore, you can be able to score, foil, write, and cut while with the maker, you can do all that and more including engraving and debossing.
  • Cutting Ability- If you work mostly with fabric, we would recommend using the Maker as it features a rotary blade that cuts through thin fabric seamlessly without needing to stiffen it.
  • On the other hand, the Explore 3 can cut through fabric but you would have to stiffen the fabric if you do not want to struggle with the process.
  • Pricing- The Cricut Maker 3 costs $100 more than the Explore 3.

Frequently Asked Questions

You probably have several questions when it comes to the Cricut Explore 3 or the Cricut machines in general. We have addressed a few commonly asked ones to help you get a clearer insight.

Which is the best Cricut for Beginners?

That would have to be the Cricut Explore Air 2 even though the Explore 3 is a good choice as well. The Explore Air 2 comes with numerous features designed to make cutting extremely easy.

The features include a dual tool holder, a fast cutting mode, and Bluetooth capability.

Which is the best Cricut bundle?

We would say the Cricut Maker Amazon Bundles. The Maker Beginner bundle is ideal for those who want essential materials and tools.

The Maker Vinyl Bundle works great for creating sticky vinyl labels while the Maker Iron-On Bundle would be best for making T-shirt designs.

Is the Cricut everything bundle worth buying?

Yes, it is. Although the Cricut Everything Bundle is pricey, it gets to save you money in the end. Here’s why. With it, you get tools that you would otherwise purchase separately. Besides, you also get an array of materials including iron-on material, adhesive foil, faux leather, fabric, and vinyl.


The Cricut Explore 3 is a fun crafting machine even though it comes with some expensive additions. It scores, draws, and cuts different materials, not to mention that it can work with two tools simultaneously.

It is also user-friendly – something that most beginners will love. We would therefore recommend getting it if this is what you are looking for in a cutting machine.