Large format projects are now much much easier with the release of the Cricut Maker 3. The real upgrade to the Cricut Maker 3 over the original Cricut Maker is that the new machine can now make cuts up to 12 feet long without the use of a mat.
Why is this so exciting? If you’ve ever done a larger than mat project, you’re probably doing a little dance right now because that translates into much much less piecing together of projects that are bigger that 12×12.
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Cricut was nice enough to send me a shiny new Cricut Maker 3 to try out. I was skeptical that the improvements were going to be anything to be excited about, but I must admit, the few extra bells and whistles that are on the Maker 3 did make me smile a bit.
A few other changes to the Cricut Maker 3 to get excited about if you’re a super crafter:
It’s faster. The cut times twice as fast as the old machine. ((But a bit noiser.)) I usually go multi-task while my projects are cooking, but I didn’t even really have time to open something up and it was done. A nice surprise!
More intuitive. The blinking C is gone, replaced with a triangle that looks like the universal “play” button. There’s also a pause button on this machine; I’ve used pause more than once on the old maker and it’s nice to see it called out in it’s own button on this model.
Additional alignment tracks. Seems so silly, but I found they really have helped the mats and Smart Material feed into the machine the right way the first time. It’s always so annoying when a mat goes in crooked!
Less vinyl waste. There is an attachment called the Cricut Roll Holder to hold a roll of vinyl to feed into the Maker 3 that has a cutter on it, so you can use only what you need every time.
No need to buy new QuickSwap Tools. Every tool you have for your Maker will still work on the Maker 3.
Did I mention large canvas cuts? The Cricut Maker 3 uses Smart Vinyl on a roll in addition to vinyl on mats. That’s 12 feet of fun you can cut out now! Great for really big signs, or if you want to do a border in room, or make a really big character cut out. Larger than mat projects are all the easier now!
Choosing Materials for your Large Format Cricut Wood Project
Full disclosure here. I shop thrift stores for my raw materials quite often. Why pay $15 at the craft store when I can buy it for $5 and make a blank canvas with a coat of paint? Also, I am 100% for creating less waste by using recycled products.
Anyway, I had a really big large format wood sign I prepped for an iron on ((see my post here on ironing vinyl onto wood)), buuuuuut….failed to look at the paint I was using. It was latex, not acrylic or chalk paint. Ironing vinyl onto wood painted with latex is a big no-no because it melts the latex…I had a really cool project ruined in about 40 seconds.
See the melted paint and vinyl mess? You can take this opportunity to laugh in my general direction. Next time, I’ll look to make sure I’m coating my wood with a heat press compatible paint.
I like using Iron-on Vinyl for my wood projects because the vinyl looks painted on by the time it’s been melted to the wood. Stick-on vinyl has a much different look. Here’s the new thrifted sign and instead of iron on vinyls, i used stick-on vinyl because of the chalkboard surface.
What are Smart Materials for the Cricut Maker 3?
This is the fun part! If you haven’t had the chance to play around with the Cricut Joy that was released last year, Smart Materials are probably a little new to you. “Smart” materials are basically those products Cricut makes that don’t require use of a mat to do cutting. Which can be mighty handy.
Right now, they have Smart Iron-on Vinyl, Smart Permanent Vinyl, Smart Removable Vinyl, and Smart Sticker Cardstock; most come in the holograph/metallic/shimmer/glitter colors you’re used to in the regular vinyl products. You can also get the vinyl in 12 foot rolls!
After I melted the first sign, I had to revisit the thrifts and find a new sign to update. It was a bit of a rush job because I had to get the project done for the second time before I went off to surgery (a hip replacement (!), I’m healing up fine, thanks!). The new sign I found unfortunately was not larger than the 12×24 mat, but it was still a great candidate for using the Smart Vinyl because it was larger than 12×12.
Using Smart Vinyl in the Cricut Maker 3
There is a handy piece for the Maker 3 called the Cricut Roll Holder. It attaches onto tracks on the fold out tray of the machine. The roll sits in the bin, and the vinyl is fed through a slit with a cutting attachment and on into the Maker 3. You don’t HAVE to have this accessory, but I can say it was pretty handy keeping everything tidy while cutting my large format project.
To use the Smart Vinyl in the Cricut Maker 3, wait for the blinking arrows and then feed the vinyl into the machine the way you would a mat. The machine is going to measure the amount of Smart Vinyl you have by feeding it all the way through and spitting it back out.
Press the blinking button shaped like a play triangle to start the cut. No more blinking C!
After your cut is complete, the machine won’t immediately spit your Smart Vinyl back out. This is where if you have the Cricut Roll Holder installed, you can slide the blade across the vinyl to cut the project off the roll. If not, just press the double arrow button to get your vinyl back.
PRO TIP: Make sure there is plenty of room BEHIND your machine when you do this. I did not the first few times I tried and the program told me there was not enough material to cut. When the material hit the wall behind the machine, it took that to be the end and spit the vinyl back out for me to try again.
- The assembly for this sign is typical for stick-on vinyl. First, resize the Variant graphic to fit your particular sign. Be sure to leave at least an inch or two of blank space all the way around your graphic. You don't want it filling the ENTIRE board.
- Cut out the project using Smart Vinyl (or on a mat if your project is small enough.)
- Cut a piece of transfer tape to the size of your cut. Regular stick transfer is fine--don't use the strong grip for this unless you've chosen glitter vinyl!!
- This is the easy way to apply transfer tape to a large project. Bend the backing off the tape at the very top and press the sticky part down to the top of your weeded image. Pull the backing off at the same time you're pressing the sticky tape to the vinyl cut. Everything should align and you don't risk the tape folding in and sticking to itself.
- Rub the transfer tape onto the vinyl. I use my fingernail, blunt end of a weeding tool, or the Cricut scraping tool on the regular. Or whatever else happens to be in arms reach.
- Make sure the surface of your project board is clean and dry before you try to stick the vinyl on.
- Just like the transfer tape, peel the top of the backing for the vinyl off a few inches.
- Center the vinyl onto your project board and place the peeled back part onto the board. Slowly pull the backing away as you press the vinyl onto the board. If all the vinyl is perfectly stuck to the transfer tape, this is an easy process. If it's not, expect to stop to rub the vinyl to get it to stick to the transfer tape.
- Using your scraper/weeding tool end/fingernail, rub the vinyl to ensure it sticks to your project board.
- Peel up the transfer tape. Again, if the vinyl has perfectly stuck to the project board, this is an easy thing, but if it hasn't, expect to stop the peel to rub the vinyl to the board.
- Your Be the Best Variant of You sign is done! Hang and be proud. You're a Cricut Maker 3 superstar!
In the end, I am pretty chuffed to be able to use the Cricut Maker 3 to make some large format projects and other fun stuff just a little bit faster. If you feel the need for speed, an upgrade is a good option for you. And you have to love the option to make bigger projects in an easier way!