The Cricut Explore Air 2 VS the Cricut Maker

Cricut Maker vs Cricut Explore Air 2

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This post will compare the Cricut Maker vs The Cricut Explore Air 2 so you can make the best informed decision for yourself about which one is right for you

Are you going back and forth between the Cricut Maker and the Cricut Explore Air 2? Well, my friend look no further! We will be discussing both machines in depth, what the similarities are vs the differences between the machines and some questions around both of these machines.

The Cricut Explore Air 2 VS The Cricut Maker

I am so thrilled to teach you the difference between these two awesome machines! This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you! Read my full disclosure here.

But before we get into that, let’s go ahead and talk about what a cricut is, shall we?

What is a Cricut Machine?

The Cricut machines are cutting machines that connect with your computer and/or phone that cut Fast and Precise designs onto materials. They cut 100+ materials, up to a 12″ x 24″ in size. It is the ultimate DIY cutting machine for all your craft needs!

What do the Maker and Explore Air 2 have in common?

I want to start out saying that both of these cutting machines are wonderful. I have worked with them both and they are well built and Cricut does an excellent job making quality machines and supplies.

  • Both machines come with your first project so you can familiarize yourself with your machine.
  • They both work with Cricut Design Space
  • Both machines can hold two tools at once such as a blade and a pen
  • Both Machines cut at least 100 materials such as cardstock, vinyl, HTV (iron on), and fabric just to name a few
  • You can cut, draw, score, and add foil to projects
  • You can upload your own designs and projects to design space
  • They both are Bluetooth enabled
  • Print and cut is for both machines
  • You can cut up to a 12 x 24 in size with both machines

What are the differences between the Maker and Explore Air 2?

The Cricut Maker is the newer more advanced model than the Explore Air 2. It has more ability to cut thicker materials as well as works with more blades than the Air 2.

Difference in Price

The Maker, because it is more advanced, is going to be a bit higher in price than the Explore Air 2. The prices vary depending on sales and where you purchase, but the Maker is Retailed at $399 while the Explore Air 2 is $299.

Is that $100 extra dollars worth it?

That really is going to depend on if you have the extra money and if you do, will you use a lot of the functions for the maker? Let’s continue on and discuss

Cutting Force Difference

The biggest difference between these two machines, Maker vs Explore Air 2 is definitely the strength and cutting force! The Maker has 10x the cutting force then the Explore Air 2.

The cutting force of the Explore Air 2 is 400 grams and the Maker’s cutting force is 4000 grams. This is huge you guys!

The Maker has changed the playing field and because you can now use the most powerful tools and cut endless amounts of materials. There’s a reason that the Maker is called the Ultimate cutting machine!

10x the cutting force means more powerful tools to cut more complex materials such as wood, chipboard, and sheet metal. Say what? Yes I know. It’s absolutely wonderful for us crafters!

The Explore Air 2 cuts with a deep cut blade while the Maker uses the Knife blade and cuts deeper and thicker materials.

Materials that they can both cut

Both of these machines can cut up to 100+ materials. I will be listing just a few for you but if you want to check out the full list of materials for both machines you can view those here.

Materials Only the Cricut Maker can cut

If you decide you want to cut some of these materials, then you will need the Maker to do so because the Explore Air 2 will not have the cutting power to do so. The Maker can cut thicker materials because of the 10x Cutting force.

Again these are only a few. Full list of the 300+ materials the Cricut Maker can cut.

You can also check out What all does the Cricut Maker cut

Different Cutting Blades

These two machines have different blades that suit what each machine can cut. There are more blades that work with the Maker vs The Cricut Explore Air 2.

Cricut has been putting out more and more blades that are compatible with the Maker than the Explore Air 2.

Each blade is designed to cut a particular material with a certain amount of pressure so it is essential to know which blades do what and what is the best blade for each material you will be cutting.

Want to learn all about blades? Check out my Beginners Guide to Cricut Blades.

Cricut Explore Air 2 Blades (compatible with the maker)

This blade was designed specifically for fabric! Do not use this blade for any other material or you will ruin your blade.

With this blade you have to make sure the fabric is bonded to a backing material.

The BONDED Fabric Blade can only be used with bonded fabric which is a fabric that has a double-sided adhesive attached to it.  One side is attached to the fabric and the other side also has adhesive and will attach to something else. Bonded fabric lets you attach fabric to other fabric without gluing it or sewing it.

An example of this is the Heat and Bond, which comes in a package with a rubbery adhesive on one side and the other is a paper backing.

The Deep Point Blade is a life changer if you are going to be cutting thicker material! This blade does work with both machines!

The deep-point blade makes it easy to cut intricate cuts on thicker materials because of the steepness of the blade.

The blade has a 60 degree angle vs the fine point blade at 45 degrees. This allows the blade to cut those intricate cuts on thicker materials.

The Fine Point Blade is the most common blade and comes with all Cricut Machines. It was formerly known as the Premium German Carbide blade because it is made with premium German carbide steel.

This Blade is great for intricate cuts and is used for light to mid-weight materials. The newer blades have a gold color to them, but the earlier ones were silver so this blade will be either gold or silver.

The Fine Point Blade works with the Cricut Maker or the Cricut Explore family machines.

Worth Mentioning

Scoring Stylus– allows you to make some beautiful folds on your materials

Foil Transfer Tool-allows you to create beautiful foil effects on your projects (compatible with both machines)

Cricut Pens– allows you to write and draw on your projects for a more personalized feel (compatible with both)

Cricut Maker Blades-Only for the Maker

The Cricut Maker does allow you to use the blades and features that the Explore Air 2 uses and that is why I would highly recommend the Maker.

The Maker also allows you to grow with all the options and New items Cricut comes out with. You won’t be limited.

The Knife Blade is specifically made for the cricut maker and makes the cricut maker a game changer! What you can cut with this blade blew me away because this machine is so cute and small but fierce and can slice through materials up to 3/32” thick!

This is the strongest of the blades and can cut materials such as Balsa Wood, thick leathers, and chipboard.

The Cricut Rotary Blade comes with the Cricut Maker and is Cricut Maker-specific therefore, it can not be used in the Cricut Explore Family.

The Rotary Fabric Blade does not have a number on it like some of the other blades and tips. ( you will see this when we get into quick swap blades)

The rotary blade brings immense customization and precise fabric cutting to the world with its smooth gliding action. This blade can practically cut any fabric quickly and accurately with no backing needed. So the material does NOT need to be bonded.

Quick Swap- all have numbers associated with them

Quick Swap Tools for the Cricut Maker

The Quick Swap tool is designed specifically for the Cricut Maker’s adaptive tool system and allows you to quickly change between the Scoring Wheel, Double Scoring Wheel, Debossing Tip, Engraving Tip, Perforation Blade, and the Wavy Blade.

Debossing Blade/Tip (21)

The debossing tool for cricut maker

The Debossing Tip is wonderful because it indents patterns and intricate designs into the materials leaving it beautifully flourished with elegant designs. This debossing tip brings endless possibilities to any and all projects!

Engraving Tip ( 41)

The engraving tool for the cricut maker

The Engraving Tip allows you to design monograms, create personalized texts or phrases, and draw some pretty impressive things onto a wide variety of materials!

Perforation Blade/Tip (11)

The perforation tool for the cricut maker

The Perforation Blade brings us endless possibilities with its ability to create clean evenly spaced lines that allow for a perfect clean tear. This blade’s job is to make it easier to tear the finished projects.

Examples of these projects would be raffle tickets, coupon books, tear-able journal pages, and so much more.

Scoring Wheel (01 & 02)

The scoring wheel (01 & 02) for the cricut maker

The scoring wheel has 10X the pressure of the Scoring Stylus and creates crisp precise creases on thin and thick materials to make a clean effortless fold.

The scoring wheel is not a blade because it doesn’t cut but rather lays the indent of a line on your materials. This is only compatible for the Cricut Maker.

The Scoring Wheel is a part of the Quick Swap Housing which means that it can be swapped out super easy!

There are 2 different wheels that cricut has made. The 01 which is a single scoring wheel and 02 which is a double scoring wheel.

01 Tip– This is used for uncoated, light materials, including crepe paper and light cardstock.

02 Tip– This is used for coated or heavier materials like poster board and cardboard. 

The single Scoring Wheel makes one deep score line while the Double Scoring Wheel creates two parallel score lines.

Wavy Blade (31)

The wavy tool for the cricut maker

The Wavy Blade adds beautiful clean wavy lines to any project! This is best used to make wavy edges with projects such as cards, envelopes, and gift tags. It will also come in handy when you need to create finished edges and fashionable accents.

If you would like to learn all about the different blades and what they do head on over to Cricut Beginners Guide to Blades- All you need to know

Physical Differences between the Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore Air 2

There are some physical differences between the two machines.

Weight

The Maker is a bit heavier weighting in at 30 pounds while the Explore Air 2 is 21 pounds.

Color

The Explore Air 2 offers more color variations for that machine than the Maker. The Explore Air 2 comes in so many different colors while the Maker only comes in 3.

Storage Space

The Maker and Explore Air 2 have excellent storage space for the tools they use. I love that you can keep each tool and blade with the right machine. The Cricut Maker does have a bit more storage room than the Explore Air 2.

Cartridge Slot

In the past, you could purchase physical cartridges for your machine. The cartridges held sets of images and done for you projects. Because of this the Cricut Explore Air 2 does have a special place that you can use cartridges while the Cricut Maker does not.

Now, you do NOT need cartridges because they wrapped it all in their software, hence why the Cricut Maker does not have this.

Smart Dial-Explore Air 2

The Explore Air 2 has a smart dial which is AWESOME if you consistently work with the same materials over and over again! It lets you pick from a huge list of materials before you are cutting materials.

Adaptive Tool-Cricut Maker

The Maker doesn’t have a Smart Dial because of this awesome adaptive tool system. This is what makes the Maker 10x the strength and force than the Explore Air 2.

This awesome Adaptive Tool allows your machine more control over the direction of the blades and also allows it to adapt the pressure of the blade depending on the material you choose.

Docking Station

The Explore Air 2 doesn’t have a docking station, but the Maker does which is great if you are working from your phone or Tablet. It also has a USB port so you can charge your devices.

So which machine Should I Buy? The Maker or Explore Air 2

There are definitely differences between these machines.

If you are really only wanting to cut paper and vinyl the Explore Air 2 will work just fine, but if you think you are thinking of getting into everything and want to grow with your machine I highly recommend you invest in the Cricut Maker.

I understand the Maker is a bit more expensive, but it can do so much more and if you want to engrave awesome things or sew the Maker does that!

I do know many crafters that said they wish they would have gone with the Maker because it offers so much more.

At the end of the day the only thing that matters is that your machine does what you want it to do for your crafting and DIY projects. The money is coming out of your pocket so ask yourself some questions.

What do you want your cutting machine for? > no one can answer this but you

Do I want to work with thicker material like wood, chipboard, leather? >Maker

Do I want to grow with my machine and have access to all the new items that Cricut will be coming out with? >Maker

To Bundle the Machine or just buy the Machine

So once you have made up your mind on what machine will benefit your needs, then you can think about bundling the machine with supplies, tools, and materials.

All in all I say bundling the machine with other supplies, tools, and materials is definitely the way to go because you can see that you are getting much more value for your money that way.

There are many many different kinds of bundles out there. Some bundles come with just materials and some other bundle may come with tools, accessories, and materials. It just all depends how you want to start your cricut journey.

If you are just starting on your journey I highly recommend a bundle with a little bit of everything. It is the MOST Bang for your BUCK!

Bundles- so you have an idea of what I am talking about

Explore Air 2 Bundle– Everything Bundle

Everything Bundle-Explore Air 2

Included

  • Cricut Explore Air™ 2 machine 
  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing 
  • Fine Point Pen, Black 
  • LightGrip Mat, 12″ x 12″ (30.5 cm x 30.5 cm) 
  • Welcome Book 
  • USB cable 
  • Power adapter 
  • Free trial membership to Cricut Access™ (for new subscribers) 
  • 50 ready-to-make projects 
  • Materials for a practice project

Bundled with-

  • Foil Iron-On Sampler, Bejeweled
  • Everyday Iron-On Sampler, Elegance
  • Adhesive Foil Metallic Sampler, Bejeweled
  • Premium Vinyl Sampler Removable, Elegance
  • Dry Erase Vinyl
  • Stencil Vinyl
  • Vinyl Chalkboard
  • Foil Poster Board Sampler, Bejeweled
  • Glitter Cardstock Sampler
  • Cardstock Sampler, Basics
  • Transfer Tape
  • Pen Set, Classics (5 ct.)
  • Scoring Stylus
  • True Control Knife, Blue
  • Cutting Mat Variety Pack, 12″ x 12″ 3 pk
  • Tools Basic Set
  •  Portable Trimmer
  • The images and descriptions are straight from Cricut.com

The Cricut Maker Bundle-Everything Bundle

The Maker Bundle-Everything Bundle

Included

  • Cricut Maker® machine
  • Rotary Blade + Drive Housing
  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing
  • Fine Point Pen, Black
  • Fabric Grip™ Machine Mat, 12″ x 12″ (30.5 cm x 30.5 cm)
  • Light Grip Machine Mat, 12″ x 12″ (30.5 cm x 30.5 cm)
  • Welcome Book
  • USB cable
  • Power adapter
  • Free trial membership to Cricut Access™ (for new subscribers)
  • 50 free ready-to-make projects, including 25 sewing patterns
  • Materials for a practice project

Bundled with:

  • Foil Iron-On Sampler, Bejeweled
  • Everyday Iron-On Sampler, Elegance
  • Adhesive Foil Metallic Sampler, Bejeweled
  • Premium Vinyl Sampler Removable, Elegance
  • Dry Erase Vinyl
  • Stencil Vinyl
  • Vinyl Chalkboard
  • Foil Poster Board Sampler, Bejeweled
  • Glitter Cardstock Sampler
  • Cardstock Sampler, Basics
  • Transfer Tape
  • Pen Set, Classics (5 ct.)
  • Scoring Stylus
  • True Control Knife, Blue
  • Cutting Mat Variety Pack, 12″ x 12″ 3 pk
  • Tools Basic Set
  •  Portable Trimmer

The images and descriptions are straight from Cricut.com

Bundle from another craft store

Cricut Maker Bundles

Cricut Explore Air 2 Bundles

Just remember- We all started at the beginning and there is some learning to be done. That’s the exciting part is learning all the things your AWESOME little machine is capable of!

We just need to start at the beginning which is learning and mastering Cricut Design Space!

If you want to start learning about the software these machines use- Check out my Awesome Ultimate Beginners Guide to Cricut Design Space.

I do hope this article has helped you in your decision of purchasing a cricut cutting machine. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me. I am only an email away!

The Cricut Maker VS The Cricut Explore Air 2

Again, Thank you for spending some time with me and reading my article! If you found value in this, please share the love!

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