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What is Design Space and how does it work?

What is Design Space and how does it work?

For those of you exploring what Cricut is and how you use it, this is an explanation to answer the question “What is Design Space and how does it work?” You’re going to LOVE what the program and the Cricut machines can do for you!

This post is sponsored by Cricut. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Affiliate links are within.

What is Design Space?

Design Space is Cricut’s program that interfaces will all its machines to cut stuff out that can be used either online or locally on your computer. That’s the answer in a nutshell, but it does SO MUCH MORE than that.

Cricut Design Space is also a pretty user-friendly design program for things you will produce with your Cricut machine(s). If you’ve ever used a program like Inkspace, Illustrator or Photoshop, you’ll be pretty familiar with how things work in Design Space. But not to worry, even if you have never used a graphic design program before, Design Space is easy to use for the beginner. Don’t be afraid to try working with the program!

What Design Space Does

When you open up a new project in Design Space, you get a wonderful blank canvas to start creating projects. The images you create here are what your Cricut machine will cut out–and your machine will cut these images out of many many hundreds of materials so your creative juices can flow.

After you design something, upload or drop clip art into this space, you’re creating what’s called a vector image. Meaning, it’s an image made up of a bunch of mathematical points and equations. You’ll be able to make the picture really small or really big without losing any picture quality. No pixelation here!

What Design Space does is it takes this vector image from your canvas and translates it over to your machine so it can cut it out. Pretty neat, right? The Cricut engineers spend tons of time making sure all of this goes smoothly for the end user, and the experience improves every month.

If you have a multi-color image like the graphic I showed above, Design Space will sort the different colors onto different mats when you go to cut it out. With the sorting of colors, you have the opportunity to load each mat with the color paper, vinyl, fabric, etc. that you want for each design element and save materials in the process. The program is pretty smart like that.

When you choose the material you are cutting in Design Space, the program lets the machine know how much pressure it needs to apply to the cut. For instance, vinyl needs a “kiss cut” while chipboard is going to require heavy pressure and multiple passes. Design Space figures this all out for you and tells the machine exactly what to do. The exception is for the Explore Air 2 – there is still a knob you have to adjust for pressure on this machine.

How do I make images in Design Space?

There are a three ways to plug images into Design Space: use Cricut clip art, upload your own image, or design an image using the tools in Design Space.

Use Cricut Clip art

Cricut Design Space has a database with about 250,000 images to use. A portion of these are free, but with a fairly inexpensive subscription (it’s less than Netflix, y’all) you have full access to all images, some fonts and as a bonus, you get a discount on materials purchased in the Cricut store.

After you search the Design Space image database, select the images you want to use and click “insert images” to place onto your canvas. Watch what I do with that “Surfin’ Waves” image….

You can use the other Design Space tools to alter the clip art images. The “Surfin’ Waves” art was changed using the “slice” tool in Design Space to format it for use on an Infusible Ink Coaster like you see above. (See the full project here)

Upload Your Own Image to Design Space

You’re not limited to the 250,000 images already in Design Space; you can upload anything you want to the program, provide you upload it in .jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .svg or .dxf formats.

Whenever possible, though, I really recommend using SVG files for cutting projects. This type of image is already in that vector format I was telling you about. Design Space will allow you to upload jpgs, gifs and pngs, but you’ll have to use the program to clean up the white background and rough parts out of your images. Depending on how your image originally looks, this could take some time.

Here’s an example of a few of the images I’ve recently uploaded to Design Space. The program will keep a library of your images you’ve uploaded; I’m up to 167 images already. Most of these were uploaded as SVG files. The Irish dance shoes were an JPG, though, and I had to spend time erasing each of the squares of white background from the image so it would cut. I couldn’t blow this shoe image up very large as the picture started to show pixelation past a certain point.

As an example of an SVG uploaded image, I designed this “Thankful for friends that are family” sign in Adobe Illustrator, then uploaded it to Cricut Design Space to cut from vinyl for my project. There are tons of places online you can pick up free SVG images as well as find them for purchase.

Design your own image using Cricut tools

The last way to get images into your Cricut Design Space canvas is to draw them yourself using the tools available to you. Sometimes you just need some lettering to label something or you can join a few shapes to get what you need.

Using the fonts available, I created a Happy Birthday cake topper.

The font tool was used to create a piece that could be placed in a cake. It was a few steps to get here, but I promise all I used was the Cricut fonts! You can see the cake topper project step by step here.

How does design space work?

Without going into a full-blown tutorial on how to use every single function of the program, here are the highlights of what you can do in design space:

Starting a new project

One of the beauties of Cricut Design Space is that there are all manner of projects already loaded into the system that you can just open up and make. Inspiration is always on tap! Or click!

New projects can be started by clicking “new” to get a new canvas or click “projects” to explore the projects that are available for your machine.

Using the tools in Design Space

There are tons of tools to use to change clip art, help separate colors for cutting, attach images together for cutting, and edit text till you have the perfect graphic for your project. Some of the things you can do within Design Space:

  • insert graphics
  • resize graphics and text
  • recolor graphics and text
  • cut apart graphics and text
  • blend together objects
  • add text
  • align text
  • flip and rotate text
  • adjust leading
  • adjust kerning
  • wrap text
  • offset text
  • fill with pattern
  • use a template to design
  • add scoring to a paper project
  • create a drawing to use with pens
  • create deboss image
  • create foiled image
  • create an engraved image
  • print an image and cut it out
  • create wavy lines
  • create perforated lines

…and more!

What happens when I click “Make” on my machine?

After all the designing you’ve done, you’ll want to actually cut out your project. This is specifically what Design Space was built for.

Depending on your machine, after you click “Make” in the upper right hand corner, you’ll have the option to choose the material (like on the Maker series and Explore Air 3), or turn the knob to choose the material you’re cutting (on the Explore Air 2). The Explore Air series of machines cuts THOUSANDS of materials, and the Makers thousands more that! I always love trying to put something weird through just to see if it’ll cut. And so far, if it’s under 2mm, I haven’t been out of luck yet.

Choosing the material lets the machine know what pressure to cut with and tell you what blade to put in the machine. There are a few Quickswap Tools to choose from on the Maker machines for cutting: knife blade, rotary cutter, fine point, and deep point. The Design Space program steps you through what attachments need to be where while you’re cutting your project out. When you’re drawing, scoring and cutting all in the same projects it’s pretty helpful that Design Space gives you step by step guidance!

What do projects look like after Design Space?

So this is really what design space is for. Making fabulous projects. Here are a few of my favorites using a variety of materials that I’ve done. You can click to the other posts to dig deep on how to make the projects.

Larger than mat, multi-layer iron on upholstery project, using Cricut SportFlex vinyl.

Cinderella’s castle in 3D – a paper project – created for a Cricut project filled Disney Princess Baby Shower.

DIY Easter bunny pull toy. Made on a Cricut Maker with chip board and knife blade for cutting.

Art Deco Name Cards. Made with drawing pen, paper, and embossed stickers on the Cricut Maker.

Paper flower hoop wreath. Made with a combination of uploaded designs and Cricut Design Space clip art.

What is Design Space and how does it work? As you can see, it’s a really great program that allows you to design your cutting projects and make them a reality!

Paula Biggs

Owner at Frog Prince Paperie
Paula Biggs is a party planner, DIY crafter, and owner of Frog Prince Paperie, where you can find hundreds of party, craft and lifestyle ideas.