About this expert: Holly Spanner
Holly is a paper engineer and creative designer. She can turn her hand to almost any craft, but specialises in papercraft, illustration, and arts and crafts. She has worked extensively across Immediate Media to create bespoke craft projects over the years and has been reviewing since 2009. She is currently writing for BBC Science Focus so has her finger on the pulse when it comes to technology, so you can be assured of an honest and frank review.
Make sure to head to our comprehensive roundup of the best Black Friday die-cutting machines deals for more exciting discounts on Cricut’s entire range!
What is the Cricut Joy?
The Cricut Joy is Cricut’s smallest and lowest-priced electronic cutting machine. It’s billed as a ‘compact smart cutting machine’, and it works with the Cricut software (Cricut Design Space), or the Cricut Joy app.
It’s designed for fun craft projects that you can whip up with ease, and at a moment’s notice. As it’s an electronic cutting machine, there is no need for dies. Instead, it uses patterns stored within the Cricut software, which you download onto a virtual canvas. The Cricut Joy requires an internet and Bluetooth connection to work, and is powered by mains electricity.
The Cricut Joy works with both the traditional adhesive cutting mat that you might expect from an electronic cutting machine, as well as a range of smart materials designed especially for the Cricut Joy (negating the need for a cutting mat).
Like the other electronic cutting machines from Cricut, the Joy uses rubber rollers to grip the material, and move it backwards and forwards, while the cutting blade (or pen) moves side to side. Together, this creates 360 degrees of movement allowing you to make virtually any 2D shape you might wish.
What does the Cricut Joy do?
In a nutshell, the Cricut Joy cuts and draws. It can cut a range of around 50 of the most popular materials, including card, vinyl, paper, iron-on transfers, and paper-thin faux leather.
Switch the cutting blade with a pen, and you can instruct the Cricut Joy to draw instead of cut. It’s ideal for making labels, stickers, vinyl decals and small A6 cards.
Here are its key features:
- Cuts 50+ materials, including a range of vinyl, paper, card, iron-on, certain acetate, and paper-thin faux leather.
- Can be used to draw designs with a range of pens, including gel pens, metallic markers, infusible ink pens and fine point pens (one 0.4mm black pen is included in the box).
- The Cricut pens will fit into the same clamp that holds the cutting blade, so you don’t need to purchase an additional adaptor.
- The all-purpose blade is precise and durable, but will need replacing after around 2 years, depending on use.
- Works with smart materials. The back of these smart materials is stiff, and functions as a cutting mat, so you don’t need to buy an additional adhesive mat.
- Compact size.
- Works with Cricut Design Space, or the Cricut Joy app.
- With smart materials, you can cut up to 4.5” x 20’.
- With a cutting mat you can cut up to 4.25” x 6.25”.
- Connects via Bluetooth to your computer or smart phone.
How much is the Cricut Joy?
The rrp of the Cricut Joy is £189.99, and to get the most from your machine you’ll also need Cricut Access, a monthly subscription of £7.49. It’s the entry-level model in the Cricut line up, and one of the cheapest electronic cutting machines on the market. You can get one month free when signing up to Cricut Access, so you can get a feel of the software before shelling out every month.
Is the Cricut Joy good value for money?
Yes and no. It’s only a little less expensive than the Cricut Explore Air 2, so if you’re after more versatility, you’ll probably end up getting frustrated with some of the limitations in terms of size and materials the Joy can cut. If, however, you value convenience and speed, and you’re not fussed about only working with smaller projects, then the Cricut Joy is decent value for money, and you’ll have a lot of fun to boot.
The RRP is a little steep in my opinion, especially considering that you need to shell out for a monthly subscription, but if you can find it in the sale then it’s worth snapping up. However, there’s such a fantastic range of accessories and smart materials, that in terms of consumables, these are excellent value for money.
My recommendations: don’t pay RRP for the Cricut Joy. Instead, shop around for bundles and deals to get value for money. Keep your eyes peeled around Black Friday and in January for the best deals. You can find these on the official Cricut website, Amazon, and places like Very.
Cricut Joy functions
The Cricut Joy is essentially a cutting and writing machine. It can be used to cut out custom designs for everything from stickers to birthday banners.
This machine can cut over 50 different materials and doesn’t need a cutting mat, unlike other cutting machines.
The Cricut Joy can also write in a variety of styles and cut shapes up to 1.2m (4ft) long. It’s portable and small enough to store away easily when not in use.
To use the Cricut Joy, you will need access to Design Space software in order to program the machine.
While it doesn’t come with any accessories, there are plenty available to buy.
Is the Cricut Joy easy to use?
In a word – yes. It has one of the easiest (and quickest) set-ups imaginable. You’ll be crafting within minutes from pulling it out of the box.
The hardest part will be choosing a project from the library. After you have (eventually) selected something from the huge selection Cricut has on offer (assuming you’ve bought a subscription to Cricut Access – more on that below), you’ll need to import your chosen design onto your canvas.
If you’re intending to transfer your design onto something like a mug, you can import a template of a generic mug shape, to see how it will look once it’s cut, which is handy.
You can resize the project by grabbing the arrows in the corner of your design, and once you’re happy with the size (there are measurements on the screen) the software will then guide you through the rest of the process. You’ll need to select the type of material you’re cutting, and if you’re cutting from multiple colours – the software will prompt you to select each one. Then it’s just a case of selecting ‘Go’ and sitting back to watch the Cricut Joy do its thing. The Cricut Joy couldn’t be easier to use and is ideal for all crafters, but especially beginners.
When you load the software, you’ll be prompted to select your machine, in this case the Cricut Joy. Doing so will populate your library with projects specifically designed for the smaller Joy, so you don’t need to worry about accidentally selecting a project that’s too big.
Cricut Joy optional extras
Cricut Design Space
Cricut Design Space is the software that all Cricut’s electronic cutting machines use. Everything is controlled through the software; there are no buttons on the Cricut Joy.
The software is free to download and allows you to create complex projects that use multiple layers and/or materials. It’s user-friendly and intuitive.
But here’s the rub: in order to get the most from your Cricut, you need to pay a monthly subscription to ‘Cricut Access’ for access to a full library of designs. (Cricut Access is the membership, and Cricut Design Space is the software.)
You don’t strictly need Cricut Access – and although there are free designs and projects (very basic and not hugely inspiring) within Cricut Design Space, the projects in Cricut Access are much, much better. The selection is huge, and Cricut upload new projects on a regular basis. And to be fair, Cricut do offer one month’s free membership.
If it wasn’t for the rolling subscription of £7.49 per month, it would be a no-brainer; Cricut Access really is a nifty piece of software, and it does leave you wanting to craft more. But after shelling out for an expensive machine, it’s difficult not to feel bitter when you find out there’s a monthly fee on top of that. It’s also not immediately obvious from looking at the box, so if you’re browsing in-store, it’s easy to overlook what is essentially a hidden cost.
Cricut Joy app
If you don’t like the idea of downloading software onto your computer – there is an alternative. It comes with considerable limitations, but Cricut have created a simplified app for the Cricut Joy. Currently, it’s only available for iOS users, but they are working on adapting it for Android.
The Cricut Joy app is essentially a stripped back version of the full Design Space software, so you’re not able to upload your own designs or fonts. The app also only works for single layer designs – so you won’t be able to make any projects that use multiple layers. In addition, you’re not able to transfer projects between the Cricut Joy app and the computer-based Design Space.
The only ready-to-make projects in the app are insert cards. So, if cardmaking is your thing, then the app is great. There are currently 1,325 different card designs, ready to go. All the other project types require you to import shapes onto a canvas, then take it from there. You can get full functionality when using the Cricut Design Space, but if you’re after quick and easy cards then the app is ideal.
Cricut Joy accessories
There are a lot of accessories for the Cricut Joy. Most are consumables; things that you’ll use up in the natural course of crafting, but there is also a healthy selection of tools. The accessories, both consumables and tools, are well priced and offer value for money.
I could write a dissertation on the merits and drawbacks of each accessory available (there are hundreds), so instead, here is a summary of my favourites:
The first thing you’ll want will be vinyl and card. These are the raw materials that you’ll be crafting with, and although there are a few samples included in the box, you’ll certainly want more. There are different types of vinyl available, depending on what you want to do with it. And they’re ‘smart’, too. The smart material auto-loads into your Cricut Joy, without needing to stick it onto an adhesive mat first. It’s a nifty innovation and definitely one for the better.
Permanent vinyl is water and UV resistant, so it’s ideal for long-lasting, or outdoor projects. It comes in a huge range of colours, including metallic, holographic, and shimmer.
Removable vinyl, on the other hand, is ideal for creating decals that you may eventually want to remove (for example, decorating your work computer!), as it peels away without leaving a residue. Removable vinyl is also the type you want to go for if you’re creating stencils.
Writable vinyl does exactly what you might expect; you can draw onto it and it’s ideal for creating bespoke labels. Cricut also does a range of luxury smart papers, so if you’re keen to spruce up your craft room or kitchen, I recommend looking at some of the brown kraft writable paper.
Iron-on vinyl is for use with textiles. Think DIY t-shirt, tote bag or pillow customisation. And, like the other types of vinyl, the iron-on vinyl comes in a huge range of colours, including holographic and glitter.
You’ll need to use an iron to ‘set’ the vinyl onto your chosen surface, and this can be an ordinary household iron, or the specially designed Cricut EasyPress.
Transfer tape is a must-have Cricut accessory if you’re making detailed, or multi-colour vinyl. You won’t need transfer tape if you’re just making cards, but for holding all the little pieces of vinyl in place while you transfer your design, it’s absolutely essential.
There’s a starter tool set that includes a spatula (to lift materials without scuffing the edges), a weeder (essential for picking out unwanted bits of vinyl and iron-on pieces), and a scraper (for burnishing vinyl designs to ensure no bubbles).
There are a multitude of other tools available, but these are the ones I recommend as a starting point, and you’ll use them over and over again. If you’re into diamond painting, for example, the scraper is great for ensuring your diamonds line up perfectly.
The Cricut Joy comes with a blade and housing, but if you want to branch out – I recommend the foil transfer kit. It comes with the tool, housing, 12 foil sheets and tape. It’s a fantastic little gadget that can help you take your crafting to a new level, and like all the Cricut accessories, is super easy to use.
All you need to do is follow the prompts on the software (or app), watch it work, then peel to reveal your foiled design. If you know someone with a Cricut Joy, then the foil transfer kit would make an excellent gift, just be sure to check they don’t already have one.
The accessories I’ve talked about above, barely even begin to scratch the surface of what’s available. But the one other accessory I highly recommend is the Cricut Joy tote bag. It has a padded interior to keep your Joy snug and safe from accidental dings, an interior pocket for the power cable and a few accessories (like pens or tools), and a pouch at the back for your cutting mats.
It won’t hold rolls of vinyl, or the longer smart labels or deluxe paper, but there are a lot of off-brand cases if you don’t fancy this design. For the average crafter, this tote bag is ideal (and you can often find it in the sale!).
Our verdict: Should you buy the Cricut Joy smart cutting machine?
Before you make your decision, you’ll need to ask yourself what you’ll be using it for, and how often. It’s all too easy to shell out the cash when we see a good deal, but the cost-of-living has forced many of us to re-evaluate – especially when there’s a monthly fee on top of the original machine cost. And, once you see the limitations of the free, bog-standard Cricut Design Space, you’ll almost certainly find yourself shelling out for Cricut Access.
So even if you don’t mind the initial outlay, you need to consider whether you’re able (and willing) to pay the monthly subscription as well. Of course, you can cancel your subscription – so there’s no reason why you can’t pay for a month here and there, as you need it. You can also purchase the designs individually if you don’t want to sign up for the subscription – they’re less than £1 each.
If the monthly subscription doesn’t bother you, and you anticipate getting a lot of use from your Cricut Joy, then it’s undoubtedly the best beginner cutting machine on the market at the moment. During the Black Friday sales last year, I saw a lot of fantastic offers for the Cricut Joy. Both on its own and in bundles; and some of the bundles were less than the rrp of the machine itself.
So, if you’re thinking of buying, now is the time. It’s worth shopping around, but places like Very, Amazon, John Lewis and even Ryman might surprise you with some of the offers that they have available.
Where to buy a Cricut Joy
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, chances are you’re thinking seriously about buying a Cricut Joy, either for yourself or a keen crafter in your circle.
Here’s where you can buy the Cricut Joy: