In 2021, Cricut released their newest generation of machines, including the Cricut Explore 3. Since the third generation machines all use blue tooth technology, Cricut has decided to drop the “Air” from the names – which is why you’ll see the “Cricut Explore Air 2” and the “Cricut Explore 3” on Cricut’s website. To clear things up, the Cricut Explore 3 is an updated version of the Explore Air 2.
What’s Different Between the Explore 3 and the Explore Air 2
Other than the one-inch increase in the maximum material width (from 12” to 13”), along with some structural changes to the machine (e.g. mobile device holder, no more material selection dial, and a color change to the machine’s case) there are three major differences between the Cricut Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Explore 3.
- The first is the maximum cut length, which increased from 1.9 feet to 12 feet. This is a huge update for third-generation Cricut machines and was made on the Cricut Maker 3 and the Explore 3.
- The next difference is the Explore 3’s cut speed doubled. Compared to the Explore Air 2’s maximum of 4 inches per second, the Explore 3 can cut up to 8 inches per second.
- The third and arguably most important difference is introducing Cricut “Smart Materials” to the Explore 3. This enables a matless cutting option for the Explore 3 and the Maker 3 (which was previously only available with the Cricut Joy).
Despite these differences with the upgraded Cricut Explore, the tools and materials from the Explore Air 2 are all still compatible with the Explore 3, so there is no need to worry about repurchasing add-ons if you’re looking to upgrade your machine.
What are Smart Materials?
Cricut’s Smart Materials were first introduced in 2020 with the Cricut Joy but are now compatible with the Cricut Explore 3 and the Maker 3. They are not compatible with the Explore Air 2, which is one reason you may want to upgrade your machine. These smart materials load into your machine without a cutting mat, and according to Cricut’s blog, they “stay aligned without any manual adjustment.” The new capability of the Explore 3 and Cricut’s Smart Materials allows for the upgraded maximum cutting length (12ft) to work.
Cricut’s Blog has an overview of their Smart Materials here, so you can get to know what they are and how they work with your machine.
How to Use Your Cricut Explore 3
Inside the box, you’ll find your Cricut manual, as well as some test materials. You’ll also be given a power chord and a USB adapter to connect your Cricut to your computer or mobile devices. The Cricut Explore 3 is Bluetooth compatible, so you can connect your machine to your computer, printer, and mobile device via Bluetooth.
Cricut Design Space
If you’re new to using Cricut, you’ll need to download Cricut Design Space. This is the software you’ll use on your computer or mobile device to create, print, and cut your Cricut projects.
Cricut also offers a subscription program called Cricut Access. Cricut Access provides a wider variety of designs and images that you can use for various projects with your Cricut.
Using Your Cricut Explore 3
When you open your machine up (by clicking the button on the top left side of your machine), you’ll see two clamps for tools. One of them will contain the Cricut fine point blade, which is the blade that comes with the Explore 3. You’ll also notice two storage compartments at the front of your machine, as well as a place for your mobile device at the top of your machine.
There are four buttons on the right side of your machine: the power button, the unload/load button, the go button, and the pause button. On older models of the Explore you would have noticed a material selection dial on this part of the machine. With the Explore 3, you’ll select your materials in Design Space instead.
On the back of the machine is where you’ll find the USB port and the power connector.
Setting Up Your Machine on Design Space
Once you’ve downloaded Cricut Design Space, you’ll see a prompt for setting up a new Cricut Machine. Youtuber Paige Joanna goes through this process in her Cricut Explore 3: Getting Started video.
On Design Space, you’ll be shown exactly how to set up your machine for its first project. You’ll create your Design Space account and be asked if you want to subscribe to Cricut Access. Once you’ve gone through this start-up process, you can start making your first design.
The Basics of Using Design Space
Once you’ve chosen your design, whether an image or writing, you can use the tools inside Design Space to play around with it, all the tools are at the top of your window. To create a border around your image, you can use the “Offset” tool and play around with that until you’ve got your design how you want it.
The size of your design will be exactly what it says in Design Space, so make sure that you’ve correctly measured everything before continuing.
Making Your Design
When your design is complete, you’ll go through these steps in Design Space:
- Select “Make It” in the top right corner of your Design Space Window.
- If you are using Smart Materials, select “Without a Mat,” If you’re not using Smart Materials, then select “With a Mat.”
- From there, you’ll be taken to the “Review” page, where you can check everything from material size to whether you’re using a mat. On the bottom right corner, click “Continue.”
- This takes you to the “Set Base Material” page, where you can select the material you are using.
After going through these steps on Design Space, you’re ready to load your material into the Cricut machine. The “feed” button will be flashing, and that’s when you put your material into the machine, following the built-in guides. You can then press the “feed” button, and the machine will check that everything is correct before prompting you to press the “play” button with a flashing light.