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Are you trying to decide if the Glowforge or Cricut is right for you? In this Glowforge vs. Cricut guide, I’m going to walk you through the similarities and differences of each one.
Luckily for you, Glowforge just came out with a new Craft Laser called the Glowforge Aura that’s an even better comparison to the Cricut.
Doing a Glowforge vs. Cricut post comparing the Glowforge Pro or Glowforge Plus to the Cricut just isn’t a fair fight! They’re just so different. This new machine, though, the Glowforge Aura, is designed for crafters like us Cricut-users.
I’m also going to focus on the Cricut Maker in this comparison because it has the most features and is a better comparison to the Glowforge Aura.
Quick Links to Information in this Post
My experience with the Glowforge and Cricut
A few years ago I wanted to add a specific type of label to my spice jars that I had seen on Pinterest. After some digging, I found that they were vinyl labels made using a Cricut machine. Oh boy did my mind start racing!
If I could make those, what else could I make? I found a Cricut machine of Facebook marketplace and hit the ground running.
Looking back, I realize just how quickly I jumped head first into the world of Cricut crafting. Like most things, I go all in or not at all… and I quickly became so good at using my Cricut machine that I was teaching others and making my own designs. That’s how the Crafting section of this blog all started actually!
Once I found myself in the world of Cricut crafting, it wasn’t long before I learned about Glowforge. If a computer-control blade cutting machine (the Cricut) could be this amazing, how much more amazing would a laser-cutter be? It’s a LASER!
I began to drool over the Glowforge machines and try to convince myself that I needed one. At the time, only the Glowforge performance models were available (the Basic, Plus, and Pro) and they’re really meant to business owners. So it was overkill for me. But then…
Then Glowforge came out with their Craft Laser for personal use, the Glowforge Aura and that changed everything!
I got an email from Glowforge one day and nearly fell out of my chair. I had wanted to work with them forever and here they were reaching out and asking me to sign an NDA. OMG! I soon learned that they had heard from so many people like me who were hobby crafters and wanted a laser and were about to launch the Aura.
Soon after that, they sent me one pre-launch to review and I was in love!
Needless to say, I’m a massive fan of my Cricut and my Glowforge and have used them both so much, that I feel I can really do each of them justice in a face-off.
So … on to the Glowforge Aura vs. Cricut Maker 3 match up…
Glowforge vs Cricut – How are they different?
While there’s lots of overlap between the machines, there are just as many differences, so let’s do a rundown of some of the key factors you might be interested in.
Both the Glowforge Aura and Cricut Maker can cut, engrave, and score. The main difference is going to be the materials that they can do these things on.
The Cricut can also press foil into things like cardstock which the Aura cannot do.
The Glowforge Aura has a built-in camera inside the machine so that as you’re preparing your project, you can line everything up onto the material you’ll be working with. This is extremely helpful and let’s you make the most of every scrap of material!
The Cricut doesn’t have this function which can be frustrating BUT you can use the phone/tablet app to scan your mat after you’ve put your material on it and move your items around before cutting… you just can’t do this as you design.
That means that if you can’t fit everything, you need to go back, adjust in Design Space, and then scan again etc.
Method & Parts
The Glowforge Aura uses a laser for all of its functions and you typically don’t need to put your material on anything special for it to work its magic.
There are two exceptions to this though – sometimes if you’re planning to do lots of a small items (like a pencil) you’ll want to put these items in what’s called a “jig” which basically holds them in place. That way you can pull the pencils out when done, put new ones back in the same exact spot, and continue working.
You do occasionally want to hold items down using crumb tray pins – this let’s you hold items flat so they don’t curl up. The jig and pins are somewhat optional though and only for specific cases. With the Glowforge Aura you will also need to either vent it out a window or use the optional add-on personal filter (which I highly recommend!).
With the Cricut machine, you’ll need different “blades” for different functions. For example, you’ll need one for regular cutting, one for deeper or harder cuts (the knife blade), one for foil transfer, one for engraving (engraving tool), one for scoring, a rotary blade, etc.
These blades aren’t super cheap either and if you do a project involving more than 2 blades, you’ll need to change them out mid-project. You will also need to put most materials on a cutting mat which can be pretty frustrating at times to work with.
Materials & Thickness
This is where the machines really begin to differ. Both have huge lists of different materials that they can cut and I couldn’t possibly list them all here but I’ll try to cover the major differences.
With the Cricut Maker, your materials can’t be thicker than 3/32 of an inch. Wtih the Glowforge Aura they can’t be thicker than 1/4″ for cutting or 3/4″ for engraving. So that’s the first criterion.
Then comes the type of material…
The Cricut Maker really shines when it comes to working with thinner materials like vinyl, cardstock/paper, leather, and fabric. It CAN cut up to 1/16″ inch basswood or wood veneer if you have the knife blade but it’s very limited with wood and I honestly haven’t had much success with it. You can’t make intricate cuts on basswood so it technically can, but not well.
On the flip side, the Glowforge Aura can really shines when it comes to wood and can do extremely intricate cuts on wood up to 1/4″ thick. It can also cut acrylic, cut leather, engrave silicone, engrave slate, engrave coated metals, and much more! Where it can get tricky though is with materials that are transparent, blue or clear acrylic, stickers, vinyl, MDF, and some faux leather.
The transparent and blue challenge is due to the type of laser beam (diode laser) and it can’t be helped – this isn’t an issue with CO2 lasers though like with Glowforge Performance series.
Stickers, vinyl (and some plastics),and faux leather are an issue because they emit a toxic fumes when hit with a laser – so you need to be careful to only use these materials in your Glowforge Aura when they are marked as “laser safe”.
While I LOVE having both machines, the differences here are pretty clear. If you love the idea of working with various materials that are thick like wood and even some acrylic, then hands down the Glowforge Aura is going to be the right machine for you.
If you don’t plan to work with those materials, and really want to work with paper and vinyl, then the Cricut machine is better for you! I LOVE using wood and acrylic now and could never go back to just using cardstock for my 3D projects so my Glowforge is definitely a favorite.
When it comes to working with HTV though, the selection of laser-safe vinyl is pretty limited and the Cricut is faster with vinyl – so I’ll always turn to my Cricut for vinyl projects.
With the Cricut Maker 3 you can cut materials up to 3/32 of an inch/2.4mm thick. You can also cut up to 11.5 in x 23.5 in with a 12×24″ mat or 11.7 in x 12 ft with their smart vinyl! For many people this is enough!
The “printing” size for the Glowforge Aura laser cutter (printing is the term they use for anything the Glowforge does to a material), is very similar. You can print on a 12″x12″ space within the Glowforge Aura machine or 12″ and virtually any length if you use the pass through slots.
These slots let you push material through the machine and print on it in 12×12 or smaller chunks as you go. It’s a somewhat manual process for now but I have hopes that the Aura machines will get an update soon and be able to get assistance from the software soon like with the Performance Series machines!
The Glowforge Aura is a little over 2x the size of the Cricut Maker. The Cricut is basically a rectangle and the Glowforge Aura is more of a square.
Cricut Maker 3 Dimensions and Weight per their website
- “Height: 15.06 cm (5.93 in)
- Length: 53.80 cm (21.18 in)
- Depth: 17.75 cm (6.99 in)
- Weight: 4.84 kg (10.68 lbs.)”
Glowforge Aura Dimensions and Weight:
- 22″ x 20.5″ x 5″ (55.88cm x 52.07cm x 12.7cm)
- Optional Glowforge Air Filter: 22 x 17 x 13 inches and 18lbs
Both the Cricut and Glowforge have specific software that you need to use in order to send your project to the machine. In the case of the Cricut, the software is called Design Space.
It’s a software that you need to download to your device whether that’s a computer, tablet or phone. In the case of the Glowforge, it’s a web-based app that you access by going to app.glowforge.com.
In both cases you can either import designs made in other apps, or create your own designs within their apps. Which you do is up to you!
Both are free but have the option to add-on a paid subscription. In Cricut Design Space, you can sign up for Cricut All Access which gives you extra designs, projects, and fonts to use plus a 10% coupon per quarter.
Wtih the Glowforge web app, you can sign up for Glowforge Premium, which gives you extra app features, fonts, images, projects, priority access to their servers etc. Both paid options are optional and you can absolutely use either machine for free!
There are a few differences though…
- Glowforge has the Camera Assist function mentioned above
- Glowforge’s ability to create designs in the app from scratch is a bit more limited than Design Space but enough for the average craft user (I recommend making designs in Canva or Inkspace anyway!)
- You can import fonts into Design Space but not into Glowforge’s app
- Design Space has lots of starter settings for materials already built in – the Glowforge App only has settings for Proofgrade materials built in (these are settings for Glowforge materials). For non-proofgrade settings, you’ll need to tinker yourself, or join my Facebook Group to get access to all the settings I’ve tested and fine-tuned for you!
In the FAQ below I list the file types that each machine’s software can recognize however, I can’t stress enough that using a vector file for both will get you the best results!
A vector file can be made bigger or smaller without losing any quality, can retain its multiple layers so that you can cut, engrave, score each layer differently, and they’re easier to modify in the apps if you want to! In this case, both are the same.
The Cricut machines can all work without an internet connection (though your app functionality will be limited without one). The app connects to your Cricut machine either via a USB cable or a Bluetooth connection.
Your Glowforge machine on the other hand needs a Wifi connection. The software is web-based and all of your projects will go through the Glowforge servers to be processed and then sent back down to your Glowforge machine to print.
Since the Glowforge is so much more powerful, it’s going to be more expensive. The Glowforge Aura will cost about $1,199 and the optional filter will cost $399.
The Cricut Maker 3 on the other hand will cost $399 plus the cost of the cutting mats and different blades as needed.
So even with the Aura, the cost of a Glowforge Machine is going to be more but given all that it can do, I’d still consider it a really great value. It has way more capability, makes much more impressive projects, and it’s definitely a cheaper alternative to other laser printer options.
Final Results: Cricut vs Glowforge
So in the Glowforge vs Cricut comparison – which is better?
I wish that I could say that there’s a clear winner, but the truth is that it will depend on your specific needs! Both machines are amazing in their own right and I intend to keep sharing tutorials and projects for both! Personally I plan to keep using both machines!
If you can only purchase one either for budget or space reasons though, the right choice will depend on your needs.
If you’re really focused on thin stuff like cardstock and leather, than either machine will work for you and it’s a matter of whether you want to splurge for the extra functionality of the Glowforge or not.
Is cutting tons of vinyl, Heat Transfer Vinyl, and stickers be important to you? If so, then the Cricut machines are probably best for you!
Is cutting thicker materials like wood and acrylic more important? Is being able to make super precise cuts on any material really important to you? Then definitely get the Glowforge Aura!
Overall, the projects I’ve made with the Glowforge are SO much more impressive and giftable than the Cricut – they have more character and weight… when making gifts, I’ll always turn to my Aura!
Cricut vs Glowforge: Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I ask more specific questions?
My facebook group! To join go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/glowforgeaurafans and you can ask all the questions you want! We have hundreds Glowforge Aura users so you can ask as many questions as you need!
I also test and share the best materials, coupons, giveaways and material settings for non-Proofgrade materials!
Does Glowforge cut or just engrave?
It does it all! This is why it’s a great option for anyone who wants to make a wood sign or engrave on a cutting board. Not only does it do both – it does them with a level of precision that the Cricut Maker just can’t match.
Can Glowforge print on metal?
Absolutely. The laser engraver was created for ease of use and to be able to make the printing and cutting process easy. With the Glowforge Aura you can print on coated metal – it will essentially etch away the coating leaving your design behind. Do it’s not actually engraving INTO the metal, but the visual effect is the same and beautiful!
From custom knives, to aluminum bracelets and key chains or even plaques – you can make some really beautiful projects with coated metal blanks!
Can Glowforge engrave fabric?
Easily. When you go into the Glowforge Aura community, you’ll see tons of posts from people who have made amazing designs on just about anything including JEANS! So cool! (You can see why so many people think that it’s the best choice, right?)
While obtaining this machine is an initial investment, it will pay for itself time and time again with all the things that can be created.
What can I make with my Glowforge machine?
The better question might be what can I “not” make? Glowforge laser machines have perfected the cutting method with great precision so that you can make wooden plaques, bookmarks, picture frames, and more. You can even engrave name tags for your four-legged furry friends. The options really are endless!
Is the Glowforge portable?
Yes and No. This machine is definitely bigger than a Cricut and doesn’t have a “carrying” case available. It’s definitely not designed to be a portable machine. That said, if you’ll need to travel with it, you’ll want to make sure that you keep the box it came in so you can safely pack it up (you should probably keep the box anyway just in case!).
I’ve seen posts from people who have the Glowforge Pro who have traveled with it when visiting family – so it’s definitely possible. You’ll just need to make sure that you pack it up safely, and have a good spot to use it wherever you’re bringing it to.
Is laser cutting better than cutting with blades?
The biggest difference that you’ll notice between the cutting capabilities of the Glowforge and Cricut maker machines is that laser cutting offers a more precise cut, and also doesn’t require switching out all the various types of blades and tools. You can do much more intricate cuts and intricate designs on thinner fabric without the risk of tearing the material.
What are the design programs?
If you use a Cricut machine, you’re going to use the Cricut Design Space. You don’t need an internet connection to use this, and it has a lot of digital file options to download and use.
There is a Glowforge App that does have free files and options, and you will need an internet connection to use it.
What file types work with the Cricut and Glowforge?
For the Glowforge machine, you’ll be able to use the following:
For the Cricut, you’ll be able to use the following:
How should I make my designs?
While you can create your own designs in Cricut Design space directly or the Glwofofrge App directly, I highly recommend making them in either Canva Pro (paid), Inkspace (free) or Adobe Illustrator (paid) so that you’ll have more options and more control on the final result. You can then save your file as an SVG file and import into Design Space or the Glowforge App.
Can small business owners use either machine?
Yes, both of these machines can be used to launch successful businesses. Since you can use digital products and each has its own design programs, either option would work well for professional use. That said, both the Cricut Maker and Glowforge Aura were designed for hobby crafters. In fact, Glowforge calls the Aura their Craft Laser.
Both machines are more limited and slower than their professional level machines. So while you CAN start a business with it, if you do decide to run a business with one of these machines, the Cricut Venture or Glowforge Basic, Plus, or Pro is going to be a better bet since they are more powerful, can support larger materials, and much faster.