Skip to Content

Cricut Maker Vs Explore Air 2 Machines

Sharing is caring!

When crafting, you have to know what your tools are capable of and this comparison of the Cricut Explore Air 2 vs. Cricut Maker series of cutting machines is going to get you hooked up with the right tools for the crafts you make!

Firstly, I love having options in my craft room. So much so that my supply organization is a mess, but it’s more than just having options for supplies.

I like having options for my tools too, so I decided to compare the Cricut Explore Air 2 vs Maker series of cutting machines. Similarly, you can never have enough information. And of course, if you’re going to be investing in a cutting machine, you want to get the right one for you.

cricut maker 3 cutting faux leather with the rotary blade

After all, I am the proud owner of the new Cricut Maker 3, Maker 2, Cricut Explore Air One, Explore Air 2, Cricut Joy, and the Silhouette Cameo. I am not your typical casual crafter as you know so I thought this comparison would be good for those looking for the best machine for them.

Cricut Maker Vs Explore Air 2 Machines

All of my machines are my best friend, but you may not want to spend the extra money unnecessarily. So let’s talk about the obvious differences first.

The maker machines, especially the Maker 3 machine takes crafting to a whole new level. This machine is compatible with a whole host of extra blades and different tools plus new materials (Cricut Maker 3) that you can cut with the machine.

The main differences are the price and tools. All of the machines can cut intricate designs, have a special storage space at the bottom of the machine. They are also both compatible with the fine tip and deep cut blades.

What Type Of Materials Can The Cricut Maker Machines Cut?

The maker machines can cut all different types of materials with all of the new blades. Both thick materials and thin. some of the more common materials are,

  • garment leather
  • acrylic
  • paper
  • you can easily make wood signs
  • and so much more

If you’re anything like me, you have literally searched for “which Cricut should I buy” when you realized that having a cutting machine might be a good idea for your craft room. Because I am not a know-it-all about anything crafty, I really feel like digging in with information is really what’s going to help me make an informed decision.

While I love a good jotting of notes and perusing in the store, I really needed some more nuts-and-bolts analysis. I mean, buying a cutting machine can be a big investment in my crafting, my business, AND my favorite hobby. So, I wanted to make sure that investment wasn’t wasted – or wasn’t quite enough.

If you’re in the same boat, keep reading, and let’s make sure you’re finding the right cutting machine for you!

cricut explore air 2 with cricut pens near it

Cricut Explore vs. Cricut Maker Series

So, whether you’re trying to decide whether to buy a Cricut or Silhouette or you’re trying to decide between the Cricut Maker or the Cricut Maker 3, understanding your options is a great place to start.

So, to help myself (because that’s how I am) I put together a quick and efficient table to bring all the basic information together in one place. But, if tables aren’t your thing, keep reading. I’ll go into more below about each of the really critical things you can’t fit into a simple table.

Cricut Explore vs Cricut Maker Series ComparisonCricut Explore Series*Cricut Maker Series*
Size22.6″x 7.09″ x 6.22″22.6″x 7.09″ x 6.22″
Cutting SpeedExplore Air 2 is Standard Speed
Explore 3 is 2x Faster than Explore Air 2
Maker 10x Faster Than Explore
Maker 3 is 10x Faster than Maker
Adaptive Tool System?NoYes
Smart Cutting Machine?Explore Air 2 No
Explore 3 Yes
Maker No
Maker 3 Yes
Cut Larger Projects?Explore Air 2 No
Explore 3 Yes
Maker No
Maker 3 Yes
Draw?YesYes
Emboss?No Yes (see attachment)
Etch?Yes Yes (see how here)
Score?Yes Yes (see attachment)
Compatible MediaVinyl, Heat transfer material, Cardstock, Photo paper, Corrugated paper, Glitter paper, Bonded Fabric, and more (100+)Vinyl, Heat transfer material, Cardstock, Photo paper, Corrugated paper, Chipboard, Fabric, and more (300+)
Mattless Cutting?NoYes, with Smart Materials (over 6″ in length)
Cut SizeExplore Air 2 and Explore 3 with Mat: 12″x2′
Explore 3 with Smart Materials 12″x12′
Maker and Maker 3 with Mat: 12″x2′
Maker 3 with Smart Materials: 12″x 12′
Fabric CuttingYesYes
Deep CuttingYes (2.0mm)Yes (2.4mm)
PricesCheck PriceCheck Price
*Keep in mind that I have lumped several machines into one category, so there may be small variations in some items that I’ve tried to capture, but please give me some grace because there are several machines in each category – and each machine is different.

Cricut Maker Vs Explore Air 2 Machines

Equally important, the Cricut Maker series is intended to be the “professional” version of the Cricut series of machines. What I mean by that is that, with the added speed and heftier cutting potential, the Maker would be useful to professional makers. But that hobbyists are more likely to appreciate the lower price, and thus be accepting the lesser function, of the Explore series, so that’s why, despite the fact that the cutting machine series are so similar, Cricut maintains both lines.

Now, with all that out of the way let’s get a little more detailed and dig into some additional comparisons.

cricut maker 3 with a gold roll of vinyl hanging out of it

What File Types Do the 2 Cricut Machine Lines Use?

All of Cricut cutting machines use SVGs as what I like to think of as their “primary” cut files. For cutting a typical design, you just upload your selected design file to Cricut Design Space.

Go through all the prompts to indicate to the software what you are trying to do and the software will tell the machine to make your design into precise cutting lines for vinyl lettering or transfers, drawn lines (using a pen or marker), or printing lines that are perfect for sewing patterns, or cut and emboss paper projects.

Beyond just SVGs, the Cricut machines can use JPGs, PNGs, and more, and whichever you choose will dictate the project type – but we’re not here for that.

If you are looking for some ideas or maybe a free SVG to show you exactly what you can do with the design types, you can check out my library here.

Or, if you’re feeling like tackling a little design yourself, in Cricut Design Space you can create your own cut files, with new capabilities they seem to always be adding to it.

cricut explore 3 with smart vinyl

What are the Materials That the Cricut Explore Cutting Machines Can Cut?

The Cricut Explore series can cut the same materials. Over 100 different materials. The most popular ones I’ve personally used include:

  • Paper
  • Vinyl
  • Iron-on Vinyl
  • Card Stock
  • Fabric, bonded
  • Poster Board
  • Sticker Paper
  • Craft Foam

The Cricut Explore series has a downward cutting force of 4g, allowing this series to cut materials up to 2.0mm thick.

What are the Materials That the Cricut Maker Cutting Machines Can Cut?

The Cricut Maker series can cut the same materials. Over 300 different materials. The most popular ones I’ve personally used include:

  • Balsa Wood (or Bass Wood) 
  • Felt
  • Fabric
  • Craft Foam
  • Paper
  • Chipboard
  • Leather
  • Poster Board

The Cricut Maker series has a downward cutting force of 4kg, allowing this series to cut materials up to 2.4mm thick – and the list of what those materials are is long.

multipal cricut machines cutting

What Blades Can the Cricut Explore Series Use?

  • Deep Point | Used for thicker materials like chipboard, stamp material, thick cardstock and many more.
  • Bonded Fabric | Cutting bonded fabrics or fabrics with an iron-on backing. 
  • Foil Transfer Tool | For using with Foil Transfer Sheets to foil accents to projects. There are 3 sizes of foil transfer tools.
  • Scoring Stylus | Scoring fold lines on paper projects and more.

What Blades Can the Cricut Maker Series Use?

Both Maker machines can use the same blades with the adaptive tool – which is fantastic for anyone who might upgrade their Maker to the Maker 3. Additionally, the housings are also sometimes interchangeable with the Cricut Explore series of machines. The following are the blades the Cricut Maker and Cricut Maker 3 can use:

Does The Cricut Explore Series Come With Blades?

The Cricut Explore Series of cutting machines come with one blade:

  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing – A standard, useful blade for most craft cuts.

Does The Cricut Maker Series Come With Blades?

The Cricut Maker comes with two blades:

  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing – This my most-used of the blades for basic crafts.
  • Rotary Blade + Housing – Generally for cutting fabrics, so perfect for sewing projects.

While the Cricut Maker 3 comes with one blade:

  • Premium Fine-Point Blade + Housing – As with the Maker, this will be your everyday blade.

Items in the Box with Your Cricut Explore Air 2

  • Fine Point Pen, Black
  • LightGrip Machine Mat, 12 in x 12 in (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

Items in the Box with Your Cricut Explore 3

  • Welcome card
  • USB cable
  • Power adapter
  • Free trial subscription to Cricut Access™ (for new subscribers)
  • 100 ready-to-make projects online
  • Material for a practice cut

Items in the Box with Your Cricut Maker

  • Fine Point Pen, Black
  • FabricGrip™ Machine Mat, 12″ x 12″ (30.5 cm x 30.5 cm)
  • LightGrip 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

Items in the Box with Your Cricut Maker 3

  • Welcome card
  • USB cable
  • Power adapter
  • Free trial subscription to Cricut Access™ (for new subscribers)
  • 100 ready-to-make projects online
  • Material for a practice cut
cricut maker machine with hand inserting a tool into the machine

Cricut Explore vs Cricut Maker Series Price Comparison

The Cricut Explore Air 2 costs: $199 and you can buy one here.

Cricut Explore 3 will cost: $299 and you can buy one here.

The Maker costs: $329 and you can buy one here.

Maker 3 will cost: $399 and you can buy one here.

cricut maker 3 being loaded with vinyl

Which is Best: Cricut Explore vs. Cricut Maker Series?

Really, it all depends on the comfort level you have in your wallet compared to what you plan to do with your cutting machine. Honestly, you’re not going to go wrong with any of them, but if you are wanting to make wood designs and leather earrings to sell – building a little handmade factory in your craft room, you might want to snag a Maker.

But if you’re just having fun, cracking the machine open maybe once in a while to work on scrapbooking and card-making, you probably would do fine with the Explore series.

So, it’s really up to you and your crafting needs.

cricut maker on a table

If you appreciate this post, keep in mind that you might want to review it again, or someone you know might find it helpful, so please pin it to your favorite crafting board on Pinterest. I would sincerely appreciate the share!

And the final verdict is, no matter the series, there is no clear winner, they’re both an AWESOME addition to any crafter or maker’s toolbox.

Free Cricut Get Started Guide

Are you ready to get on track to learning your Cricut?

Sign up below to get my Free Getting Started With Cricut Guide.

Color Me Crafty Logo

free guide

5 Easy Cricut Crafts You Can Make & Sell!

Easy projects that are done in 30 minutes or less!

Color Me Crafty Logo