My Cricut Review: Expression vs Original Cricut Machine

cricut-expression-machine.jpgDo you like to scrapbook?  Make your own greeting cards?  Decorate bulletin boards?

If you said yes to any of the above, then you will love the Cricut!

I have had my Provo Craft Cricut Expression machine for several years now… and I LOVE it!  It has taken my paper crafting to a whole new level of professionalism and fun.

Create die-cuts of shapes, letters, and phrases without a computer using the Cricut machine! Simply install one of these cartridges and keypad overlays, select your desired image, and cut! Adjust the images from 1 inch in height to 5-1/2 inches in height using the original Cricut machine or up to 24 inches in height using the Cricut Expression machine!  Source

It really is that easy!


How The Cricut Machine Works

Use the sticky cutting mat to adhere your selected paper, choose your image on the keypad, see it on the display screen, and punch the CUT button.

Then, sit back and watch the Cricut automatically move the mat back and forth as it precisely cuts the image.


Cricut Paper Sizes

The specific Cricut machine you are using will have a maximum paper size to correspond with the cutting mat.  For example:

You can use paper the same size as your mat or small scraps, depending on the size you want your image to be. The size is chosen using a dial on the side of the Cricut.

The machine will tell you if you choose an image that is too large for your paper.


Cricut Cartridges

Each Cricut cartridge includes a plastic overlay to place on the machine’s keypad, plus an instruction booklet. The plastic overlay will indicate key selections for that cartridge only.

By using special keys called “creative features,” every regular key will cut multiple things. The booklet will show you exactly what the options are for each key.


There are 2 types of cartridges:  shape and font.

Plantin Schoolbook is an example of a basic font cartridge.  It has 6 “creative features” keys that allow the following:

  • Basic lower case letters a to z and numbers 0 to 9
  • Basic upper case letters A to Z
  • Italic a to z, A to Z and 0 to 9
  • Tall Ball a to z, A to Z and 0 to 9 (slender, taller letters)
  • Roly Poly a to z, A to Z and 0 to 9 (shorter, fatter letters)
  • Shadow a to z, A to Z and 0 to 9 (basic letters/numbers only, will be a slightly larger shadow of the original)
  • End Caps (cuts your word out of a tag, with 1 of 12 shapes on each end)
  • End Caps Shadow (shadow of the above)
  • 12 shapes (heart, circle, diamond, etc,) with different looks in Tall Ball, Roly Poly and Italic

Whew – that’s a lot, right?!

Each cartridge has different “creative features,” which can allow literally hundreds of different cuts from just one cartridge.  Since you can use paper of any size and color, the possibilities are endless!


There are additional features on the Expression that provide even more options — such as quantity, flip, portrait, fit-to page, and more.


Before You Buy A Cricut Machine

Some things to keep in mind before purchasing a Cricut:

  • See if the price includes any Cricut cartridges or tools.  I have seen them advertised several ways (from nothing included to your choice of 2 or more cartridges).  I got mine on eBay and it included 2 cartridges and 2 cutting mats.
  • Cricut tools are usually sold separately.  A Cricut cutting mat is required, because it has a thin layer of tacky adhesive which gently grips materials and holds them flat to prevent tearing or shifting during trimming.  You will also need a Cricut spatula to help remove cuts from the mat.
    I tried using mine without a spatula, but couldn’t do it.  I even tried using a real spatula from my kitchen (a tiny one, not much bigger than the Cricut spatula), but no luck.
  • When you cut out a word (such as “HAPPY”) the word will be 5 individual letters, not one connected word.  This can be a real challenge, especially with small letters.  I have a pair of craft tweezers that I use for this, and I typically use a fat font (like Roly Poly) because it is easier to work with.  Really small, thin fonts can be very difficult to pull off the sticky mat without tearing them (truly impossible without that Cricut spatula). cricut-phrases.jpg Many cartridges have “phrases” as an option, which will be cut as one continuous shape.  There is Cricut software available called Design Studio which is available.  It allows you to “weld” letters and shapes together to form one word.
  • The Cricut sticky mats don’t last forever.  Fortunately, there are lots of tips and videos on how to make the mat “re-sticky” using products like Aleene’s Tack It Over & Over or repositionable adhesive sprays.  I have successfully done that to one of mine.  Be careful with a new or newly sticky mat and thin paper; it might tear as you pull it off.  Even some cardstock will be tricky to remove from very sticky mats.
  • Speaking of Cricut tips and hints, they are everywhere!  So don’t worry if you get your new Cricut and can’t figure out how to do what you want.  Provo Craft has a great online community full of people who are willing to share their expertise and ideas.  Plus, there are tons of “how-to” Cricut videos online.
  • There are over 100 cartridges available for both Cricut machines!  But you won’t need that many.  I got by for about a year with just 2 cartridges — one with fonts and one with shapes.  Now I have 8.  There are still so many things I can cut with my 8 Cricut cartridges that I’ll never get to them all!
  • If, like me, you’re always watching for bargains and you regularly shop at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s or JoAnn Fabrics, then you are probably already familiar with their weekly coupons.  Unfortunately, they all state that the coupon cannot be used on any Cricut products. Those stores do occasionally have good sales on Cricut items though.


Which Cricut Machine Is Best?

If you are considering a Cricut and think you want the original, smaller Cricut Personal Cutter, I would encourage you to reconsider and get the Cricut Expression instead!

Shop online or watch for a bargain.  I truly think you will be happier with the option of using the larger paper.

With the original Cricut, you will have to purchase the special Provo Craft 6″x12″ paper or always cut your own paper to that size. The Expression can use paper commonly used in scrapbooking: 8.5″x11″ or 12×12″.

See which Cricut machine is right for you


These next 2 videos might help you see some of the similarities and differences between the 2 Cricut machines.

The first video shows what the Original Cricut Personal Cutter can do:


This next video highlights all that the Cricut Expression can do:

Whether you’re a teacher, homeschooling mom, or just an avid crafter, the Cricut machine is a tool that you will use over and over again.

Regardless of which Cricut you ultimately choose, you can bet that you’ll get years of enjoyment from it!


Fun Things You Can Do With A Cricut



I've been crafting for many years. I started with cross-stitching, then moved on to wearable art, projects with painted wood, fabric crafts, and paper crafts -- which has transformed primarily into card making. I also do some rubber stamping and scrapbooking, but mostly I enjoy creating handmade, one-of-a-kind cards.

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  • Julie Russell

    wondering what font you used for the big “P” and “S” in the picture.

    • Suzie

      Hi Julie!  That’s Plantin Schoolbook – the “roly poly” feature.  It’s the one I use the most because it’s the thickest!

  • Connie Jean Jones

    Do the cartridges for cricuit machine fit, expression machine?

    • Suzie

      Hi Connie! Yes, you can use any cartridge in any cricut machine – that is part of the beauty of the cricut! Hope this helps!

  • Leanna Jane

    I have a Cricuit that simply sits in my closet because I find it too hard to use. I’m fairly talented with arts/crafts…but, I find the letters/shapes hard to remove from the sticky-pad.
    Any suggestions?

    • Suzie

      Hi! Oh wow, get the Cricut out! What kind is it? If it didn’t come with an instruction manuel, you should be able to find one online. I have been following some groups on Facebook that have been very helpful for tips on using my Cricut as well as creative ideas – Cricut Lovers Guide to Design Space and Cricut Craft Room. Design Space (for the Explore) and Craft Room (for personal cutter and Expressions) are online programs that offer access to images for purchase (instead of needing to own individual cartridges). BUT – in general – you MUST have the Cricut spatula to remove anything from the sticky mat. If your mat still seems too sticky, pat your hands all around it to remove some stickiness. I hope this helps a little! Let me know which Cricut you have and any other questions!