Cricut Explore Air 2 Review (2023 Edition) – A complete guide before you buy
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A DETAILED CRICUT EXPLORE AIR 2 REVIEW TO HELP YOU DECIDE IF IT’S RIGHT FOR YOU.
So you’re thinking of getting a Cricut Explore Air 2, but is it right for you? Is the Cricut Explore Air 2 worth it?
One of the hardest things about purchasing a Cricut Explore Air 2, or any Cricut cuttng machine, is that it can be so confusing! What machine does what? Are they all equal quality? Is it a good value?
If you’re thinking of getting a Cricut Machine and have been on the fence, not to worry! By the end of this post, you’ll have the confidence you need to make the decision that’s right for you!
Note that I’m writing this post as an owner of a Cricut Explore Air 2 and a Cricut Maker machine, so I have first hand experience with two of the Cricut cutting machines!
In this post, we’ll go over everything that you need to know about using your Explore Air 2. From features, quality, and even how to use it so you can hit the ground running if you decide it’s right for you, I’ve got you covered.
Let’s start at the beginning…
What is a Cricut machine used for?
I actually get asked this question a lot because people don’t really know the purpose of owning a Cricut. I still actually remember when I’d roam around Michaels and see al this Cricut stuff and wonder what could it possibly be used for? I mean, I have an X-Acto knife right?
A Cricut machine is basically a computer-aided cutting machine. You upload a design, or create a design, on your computer. Then the Cricut machine will cut it for you on your medium of choice.
This may not sound like all that much but just you wait…
Now that people have let their creative juices flow, the Cricut machine can literally be used for anything! I love to create shirts, floral everything, cards, toys, shadow boxes, puzzles, fun signs for home decor, and just use them as a way to make my own DIY projects that are unique and fun.
It’s a lot of fun to create something that you know for a fact is the only copy of that creative expression of art in the world!
Differences between the Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Maker
If you’ve been thinking about getting a Cricut machine, it’s important to know that there are three types. The Joy, the Explore Air 2, and the Maker. The Joy is basically a mini version and only works on limited materials. Unless you’re okay with only making small stuff, I don’t recommend it.
So that brings us to the Explore Air 2 vs. the Maker. I’ll do a much more detailed post comparing all the Cricut Machines in the near future. In the meantime though, there are some key differences to highlight.
First and foremost, the Cricut Maker is significantly more powerful than the Explore Air 2. In fact, it has 10x the cutting power of the Explore Air 2. This means that it can cut much denser materials more easily!
The Cricut Maker also has more blade options and can cut more types of fabric.
That said, on average, it retails for $100 more than the Explore Air 2, so unless you want to cut wood, engrave metal, or cut unbonded fabric, there’s a very good chance that the Explore Air 2 will be the best value for you and be able to do everything you need!
Is Cricut Explore Air 2 easy to use?
You can’t have a Cricut Explore Air 2 review without talking about ease of use! In my opinion, it’s super simple and easy to use. Plus there are so many free resources that can answer all your questions. You can be up and running in no time! Within about a week of having my Cricut Explore Air 2, I had created labels for everything in my kitchen (probably 50 labels) and was on a roll!
I love using my Cricut for home decor updates but I think it really shines when I can use it for things like homemade gift ideas. For me, giving unique gifts is one of the biggest things that I tend to use my Cricut for and they’re always a hit!
Within days of getting your Machine, I’m sure you’ll only be limited by you’re imagination! It’s really that easy to use!
Is the Cricut Explore Air 2 good quality?
Let’s just say that my 3 year old has been rough with my machine and it used to “live” on the floor of our living room. It’s been through a lot and is still working like a champ!
I think that the Cricut Explore Air 2 is great quality and will absolutely last for years!
My one suggestion would be to not force anything with the machine so that you don’t over tax the motor. I’d also suggest keeping the machine closed when not in use so that dust doesn’t build up inside the machine.
If you do that, I don’t see why your machine wouldn’t last a very long time!
Is the Cricut Explore Air 2 a good value?
Okay… So the machine costs a few hundred dollars. There’s no way around it – that’s a pricey machine. I definitely thought long and hard before getting my Cricut machines. Now that I have them, though, I wish that I had gotten a Cricut much sooner!
The possibilities are truly endless when it comes to these machines and I can make a $10 card for about $1 with it – and it’s custom and from the heart!
I can also make exactly what I want vs. spending hours scouring the internet and stores for something similar to what I was looking for.
On top of that, I could make items to sell and make an income off of my Cricut crafts fairly easily!
So in short – yes, the Cricut Explore Air 2 costs a few hundred dollars, but when you account for the tangible and intangible benefits of the machine, I 100% think that it’s a good value. I mean… I did buy a second one, right?
Note that there are often discounts, sales, and special offers from Cricut’s website too! Sign up for my newsletter using this field, and you’ll never miss a chance to save a lot on your Cricut machine or accessories!
Now let’s talk about what comes with an Explore Air 2 and what else you might need to get the most out of it…
What do you need to get started with a Cricut?
To get started with a Cricut Explore Air 2, you’re going to need your machine, a cutting mat, a blade, and something to cut. That’s it! That said, there are so many different types of mats, blades, and materials and it depends on what you want to do with your machine!
You’ll want to decide on your first few projects to determine what you need to get started. I recommend starting with either paper crafts, vinyl crafts (think stickers or labels), or Heat Transfer Vinyl (think T-Shirts). There are so many other thins you can do too, but these are great places to start!
For all of these projects, you’ll need the standard grip mat, the fine point blade, and either paper, vinyl, or heat transfer vinyl.
If you decide that you’d like to work with vinyl, you may also need “transfer” paper if you’ll be cutting things like labels where each letter is separate (this is what I first started with).
Luckily, you get some stuff WITH your Cricut Explore Air, and you can upgrade to the “Everything Bundle” or “Essentials Bundle” which include some additional extras to make getting started even easier!
What does the Cricut Explore Air 2 comes with?
When you purchase your Cricut Explore Air 2, there are several things that come in the box ready to use right away!
Included in your standard Cricut Explore Air 2 purchase is:
- Cricut Explore Air 2 cutting machine
- Black Point Pen (yes! Your Cricut machine can WRITE!)
- Fine-Point Blade and Housing
- Welcome and Instruction Book
- USB cable and Power Adapter
- Cricut Access free trial
- LightGrip Mat
These are the standard items that are going to come in every purchase and are very handy!
The fine point blade will be able to cut almost anything you want to cut with your Cricut Explore Air 2 and the LightGrip Mat is perfect for cutting paper!
That said, if you plan on cutting anything thick – like thin wood or cardboard, you may need the Deep Cut blade.
And if you want to be able to cut things like Vinyl or thick cardstock, you may want the “Standard Grip” mat. In fact, I use the Standard Grip for almost all of my projects and very rarely use the LightGrip Mat.
Cricut Explore Air 2 + Essentials Bundle Review – Is the bundle worth it?
Cricut has two upgraded options available for you when you buy a new machine. One is called the Essentials Bundle. I know the options are a bit confusing and it can be hard to tell if they are worth it or not, so let’s break it down and see if getting the essentials bundle makes sense for you.
The Essentials Bundle comes with:
- Everyday Iron-On Sampler, Elegance
- Premium Vinyl Sampler Removable, Elegance
- Iron-On Protective Sheet
- Transfer Tape
- True Control Knife, Blue
- Cutting Mat Variety Pack, 12″ x 12″ 3 pk
- Tools Basic Set
- Portable Trimmer
If this is your first Cricut Machine, chances are that you won’t have most of the items that come with this bundle with the exception of the True Control Knife (which is like an X-Acto Knife) and the Portable Trimmer. You may have these items already.
That said, I have to say that I really like the Portable Trimmer that comes with this set. It’s a much better quality than the one I had previously so I now use the Cricut brand one that came with my essentials bundle.
Additionally, if you are brand new to using a Cricut Machine, you may not have experience using Vinyl and Iron-On (also known as Heat Transfer Vinyl). I personally think that they provide a great “starter” pack of these items so that you can play around with these materials and see if this is a path you want to go down before investing in other styles.
Since they include Transfer Tape, tools, and an Iron-On Protective Sheet, which you would need to dabble in Vinyl and HTV, it’s great that they give you these items. It can be overwhelming to pick these out yourself when you’re brand new.
Lastly, I like that they include a variety pack of the cutting mats. It’s incredibly frustrating to start a project only to realize that you don’t have the right mat for the project. Not using the right mat can lead to disaster and wasted materials (and time). So trust me when I say, you want to use the right mat for each job. Having the variety pack is great!
All of the products included in this starter pack are items that any Cricut user is likely to use at some point – so none of them will go unused or go to waste. They are also all very high quality.
So in short – I think that the Cricut Explore Air 2 + Essentials Bundle is a great value for a new Cricut user. You are likely to use all of the items included at some point and you’ll be very pleased with the quality. You will also save money compared to buying each of these items individually and save time because they are included all at once!
Cricut Explore Air 2 + Everything Bundle Review – Is the bundle worth it?
How about the “Everything Bundle”? Is that one worth it?
Well, the Everything Bundle comes with just about everything in the Essentials Bundle plus the following:
- Foil Iron-On Sampler, Bejeweled
- Adhesive Foil Metallic Sampler, Bejeweled
- Dry Erase Vinyl
- Stencil Vinyl
- Vinyl Chalkboard
- Foil Poster Board Sampler, Bejeweled
- Glitter Cardstock Sampler, Brights
- Cardstock Sampler, Basics
- Pen Set, Classics (5 ct.)
- Scoring Stylus
While I’m sure that all these items are great quality and would be fun to craft with, I have not personally purchased this bundle. That is because I don’t personally need all of these right now and they are not items that I routinely use. I do have the Pen Set and the Scoring Stylus and I have tons of cardstock, but I have not yet needed the other items.
I personally think that this set is a bit more specialized and that it doesn’t’ include items that every Cricut user will eventually use. For that reason, I don’t think it’s a good value.
If you were to buy all of these items anyway, you would definitely save a lot of money buying this set but… if you aren’t going to use all the items, then it doesn’t really save you much.
Must-have Cricut Explore Air 2 accessories
Whether you buy the Cricut Machine alone or with a bundle, you will likely need some accessories at some point. Or, if you are thinking of buying a Cricut Explore Air 2 for a specific project, you may need to buy some extras right away. So let’s take a look at the most popular accessories or add-ons that you may want to consider.
I think it’s important to know the various options so that you can buy what you need now and what will work for you in the future, rather than buy something for a single project that won’t be useful long term. I’m all about value… how much use can I get out of these things?
Here are a few things you’ll want to consider…
Having different blades will get you different cuts! Keep in mind that not every Cricut blade is compatible with the Cricut Explore Air 2. With this machine, you can use the Fine Point blade (which comes with the machine), the Deep Point blade and the Bonded Fabric Blade.
If you plan on doing mostly Vinyl and Paper projects, the fine point blade is likely enough.
If you plan on trying some thicker materials, I recommend having the Deep Point blade on hand.
And… if you’re someone who loves to cut fabric and sew you would want the Bonded Fabric blade. Keep in mind, though, that you can only cut Bonded Fabric with the Cricut Explore Air 2. If you love to work with Fabric, I recommend considering the Cricut Maker as you will be able to do so much more with that machine – if you cut fabric a lot.
Cricut Weeding Tools
This are such a time savers! You can definitely use regular tweezers if you’re in a bind – or even a toothpick – but trust me … You’ll want weeding tools at some point! I highly recommend getting the Cricut Tool Pack because it’s a good variety pack and will have something that’s ideal for every project! Oh and this pack comes with the Essentials Bundle and the Everything Bundle!
Cutting Mats are required every time you use your Cricut Machine. They come in different sizes and grip strength.
You can get them in 12×12 or 12×24. I have 12×24 mats but almost never use them. You really only need them if you’ll be cutting something that it bigger than 12×12 (and too big to cut on a diagonal on the 12×12 mat).
Most projects won’t need this. The one time I remember using the 12×24 mat was when I decided to quickly redo some of my large tote liners for my Dreambox. While these can be cut one by one on the 12×12 mat, I was redoing them with a roll of contact paper and could do 4 at a time using the 12×24 mat!
They also come in a light grip, standard grip, strong grip, and fabric grip. The standard grip is best for most projects but the strong grip is key if you are going to cut cardboard or wood. Think of it this way… If you are going to use the Deep Cut blade, then you will need the strong grip mat.
The light grip mat, which comes with the machines is ideal for thin paper – but I rarely use mine.
I have to admit – I did NOT know that the Cricut Explore Air 2 could write when I first got my machine! The machine has two holders which lets it hold a pen or scoring stylus and a blade at the same time!
I love being able to make cards or sign things with the Cricut Pens so I definitely recommend having a few on hand in different colors and thicknesses. That said, unless you plan to start with card making, chances are you won’t need one immediately.
The scoring stylus is another amazing tool that I recommend everyone have! There are so many projects when it will come in handy.
If you decide to make cards, you will need it. That’s probably the most obvious example. If you decide to make other paper projects, like say a paper bag, toy house or anything else that might include folds, flaps, or tabs… you’ll need a scoring stylus!
Now that you know a bit about some frequent questions that people tend to have when it comes to owning and purchasing a Cricut, let’s dive into some of the nitty-gritty details of getting it started to use.
What can you cut with a Cricut Explore Air 2?
Can I cut wood with Cricut Explore Air 2?
You can but it will require a bit more patience and research on your part. Here’s a video to help you learn a bit more about how to cut wood with a Cricut Explore Air 2.
That said, if you want to cut wood often, you will likely want to get a Cricut Maker.
What is the thickest material a Cricut explore AIR 2 can cut?
You can cut materials up to 2 mm thick with your Cricut Explore Air 2 if you have the Deep Cut Blade! If it’s a thick material (like say 2 mm thick), your machine will make multiple passes over each spot and cut deeper and deeper with each cut. Just be patient but it will get through the material so long as it doesn’t exceed 2mm thick.
Can Cricut explore AIR 2 cut thin metal?
Yep! It sure can BUT there are some tips and tricks you should know. This video walks you through how to cut metal using a Cricut Explore Air 2 and a Cricut Maker.
That said, if you’re going to be cutting a lot of metal, I highly recommend getting the Cricut Maker instead. It’s 10x stronger and can cut deeper!
Can the Cricut explore AIR 2 cut leather?
This machine is even strong enough to cut through leather! Again, it all comes down to the thickness so make certain that you’re paying close attention to that before attempting.
And just in case you’re wondering, this Cricut can cut over 100 different types of items! This means that so many things are fair game to use and create with in your Cricut!
What else can the Cricut Explore Air 2 cut?
A Cricut Explore Air 2 can cut so many materials that Cricut actually have a page on their site where they list ALL the materials that it can cut but… they also include the note that it may cut other things as well! So the list is even longer than what you’ll find here but it’s a good start.
Cricut Software – Design Space Review
In order to use your Cricut Explore Air 2 (or any Cricut Machine), you’ll need access to their software called Design Space. Without Design Space, you cannot cut anything with a Cricut Machine. Think of Design Space s your liaison – it tells the machine what you want to cut and how so that the machine can do it’s thing.
Design Space is great because it is very user friendly and easy to use. It also comes ready with tons of images, fonts, and projects so you can hit the ground running.
That said, it can occasionally be a bit glitchy from what I’ve heard (though I’ve never experienced this myself). It’s also fairly basic if you want to create your own designs in Design Space.
That said, there are many other types of software that you can use to create designs if Design Space doesn’t have everything you need. You can also get designs on Etsy or from bloggers like myself! I share lots of great easy circut projects for beginners on this blog that include design downloads that you can use! If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get free access to all my exclusive designs! (This includes my 5 exclusive paper flower templates!)
Once you get a design you want to use, you just upload it into Design Space and then cut!
So in short, I like Design Space as a basic and user friendly application for telling the Cricut Explore Air what to cut.
Do I need a computer to use a Cricut?
Yes, you will need to have a computer and an internet connection to use a Cricut Machine. Some features like Print-and-Cut requires a computer (this is how you make things like stickers or printable HTV). The internet connection is needed mostly for registration and updates. You can work in offline mode once you have completed those steps!
Will a Chromebook work with a Cricut?
This is such an important thing to know! If you have a Chromebook, it is NOT compatible with a Cricut machine. Total bummer, I know. But you do have to have a Mac or Windows operating system for your Cricut and computer to sync up and work together. There is still hope though…
Can I use my iPhone for Cricut?
Yes, there is even an app that will let you connect from your iPhone or Android phone! What a wonderful world we live in! The app is called the Cricut Design Space and it lets you connect and browse to create designs, straight from your phone.
This is an awesome feature to have when you’re sitting around and feeling a bit creative but don’t have your computer handy. I *might* be on this app creating and looking around way more than I care to admit!
I also used my Android App almost exclusively when I started because I found the interface so easy as a beginner. It is a bit limited though, so I recommend getting the computer version set up too – unless you have a Chromebook. If you’re a Chromebook user, then the smartphone app will be your best Cricut friend!
Is Cricut software free?
Yes. Design Space is FREE but not everything accessible in Design Space is free. I’ll get to the paid stuff in a moment but first, just know that using the software to tell your Cricut Explore Air what to cut is free. Some fonts, images, shapes, and projects are also free which is great! It means that you can get started making amazing projects immediately without having to design anything your self or import any designs. This makes it really easy for beginners! Some are paid though and for those you’ll need Cricut Access.
What is Cricut Access?
Cricut Access is a program that you can pay for that gives you access to even more great fonts and options. People who craft quite frequently are very happy with this option and it also gives the ability and freedom to use images that might be limited by certain licensing restrictions as well.
You just have to decide if the fee is worth it for what you’re going to be using it for.
I do have the Cricut Access subscription and I make use of the paid fonts and images quite frequently. I found that I was spending more than Cricut Access cost when buying things a-la-carte which is also an option. So for me, it made sense to subscribe.
The beauty of Cricut Access is that you can sign up for a month and drop it the next. It’s not a long term commitment!
You also get lots of special perks if you sign up for Cricut Access Premium like free shipping and discounts on accessories! Click here to learn more about the perks of Cricut Access.
Alright, let’s say that you’ve decided based on everything above that a Cricut Explore Air 2 is right for you! You might be wondering what you can expect once you get your box.
I know I was more than a little intimidated at first and not sure what to expect or do once I had it. So let’s go over that!
How to set up your Cricut Air 2 for the first time
After unboxing and staring at its beauty, you’ll need to plug in your Cricut and get it ready for use.
- In the box you’ll have two cables and it should be fairly obvious which goes where. One will be a power cable and one will be a USB cable. Plug your power cable in.
- Use the USB cord and connect your computer and the Cricut together if that’s your connection method of choice. I actually use Bluetooth only so I don’t connect this cable myself. You won’t need to.
- Visit the site design.cricut.com/setup to start.
- Open up and download Design Space to your computer.
- There will then be directions on how to create a simple user ID.
- Once you’re logged in, it will prompt you to connect a device. Follow the prompts to connect your new device via Bluetooth.
- After you’ve completed the directions and set up, there will be instructions on how to do a simple test cut with your Cricut. The prmpts will walk you through all of this.
If any of this process didn’t work as expected you can call Cricut directly (they are extremely helpful!) or watch this YouTube video which provides a good visual.
How do you actually USE the Cricut Explore Air 2?
It’s time to start cutting paper in your Cricut and see what this bad boy can do! Here’s a general overview of the steps you’ll take when cutting with your Cricut Explore Air 2…
- Setup your design in design space. This could be something ou picked from the design space library, something you made yourself, or something you uploaded from my free exclusive library!
- Make sure you have it sized right.
- Click “Make It”
- Choose the material you wish to cut and the appropriate mat. Place your material on the mat. (If you’re working with any type of vinyl for the first time, note that you do NOT remove the backing from the vinyl. Put the entire thing on the mat.)
- Turn the dial on your Cricut Explore Air 2 to the material you will be cutting. Some always leave this dial on custom. If you do that, you will be promoted to choose the material in Design Space. This is a great option if you often forget to turn the dial.
- Line up your mat and insert the end of the mat into the machine just a bit. Then press the double sided arrow button. This will load the mat into the machine all the way.
- Check the design space screen – it will tell you which tools you need to load into the machine based on your design and the material you chose. You may need to load a different tool into the machine. (Note: If you are cutting Heat Transfer Vinyl, you likely need to turn on the mirror option in Design Space. Check your HTV instructions to make sure you have the right side facing up and if you need to turn on Mirror)
- Click on the flashing C and watch the magic happen!
- When the cutting is completely done, click on the double sided arrow again to unload the mat.
Do you need a printer for Cricut Explore Air 2?
For most things, nope! You will not need a printer for most projects because you can layer different materials to make just about any design! That said, if you want to make single layer stickers or T-Shirts for example, that have multiple colors, you will need to print the image on your material and then use the Cricut Explore Air 2 to cut the stickers out. So – you only need a printer if you will be doing print-then-cut style projects.
Where do you store your Cricut Explore Air?
When I first got my first Cricut Machine, I didn’t have a designated craft space. I kept my Cricut Explore Air 2 on the floor in our living room. That makes me cringe now just to think of it but… I really didn’t have a good spot for it. Luckily, it worked just fine and I was able to keep it plugged in at all times and ready to use.
Since then I’ve gotten a Dreambox and I now keep my Cricut Machines ready to go in the Dreambox. Click here to learn how I organize my craft supplies if you’re interested in setting up a designated space too!
So, Is the Cricut Explore Air 2 a good buy?
So what’s the verdict of my Cricut Explore Air 2 review? I think it’s a great buy and a great value! The Cricut Explore Air 2 is a great value in that it does many of the things the Maker can for about $100 less and SO much more than the Cricut Joy. It also opens up a huge world of possibilities for any crafter, teacher or parent.
On a rainy day, I sit around the computer with my kids scrolling through projects in Cricut Access, or design on of our own, and then spend the day putting our new crafts together! We’ve made everything from cards, art for their walls, toy houses, masks, puzzles, T-shirts and so much more!
You don’t need to be a professional crafter to get a ton out of a Cricut Explore Air 2 and even a beginner can make some money selling their crafts on places like Facebook and Etsy!
It’s a great buy, a great value, and a ton of fun to play with!
I hope you’ll give it a shot and then come send me a note or comment below to let me know how you like it!
And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter so that you can get emails with all my latest Cricut projects and free Cricut design files!
Still have a question? Comment below and I’ll answer it ASAP!
Fun Cricut Crafts To Try
- How to make a cricut paper flower + FREE flower templates and a video!
- Easy paper rose craft and gift – a floral picture frame!
- How to make a paper flower bouquet – An Easy Cricut FLOWER CRAFT
- Dreambox Storage Craft Room Makeover – PLUS Decorating and Organizing tips