Just when you thought the brilliant folks at ProvoCraft couldn’t take the Cricut line any further, they come out with something new, innovative, and completely want-able. Meet the Cricut Expression 2!
Here’s an overview from the Cricut website:
With the Cricut ExpressionÂ® 2, you’ll be able to bring all those wonderful ideas swirling around inside to life, because itâ€™s chock-full of all-new features to love. Cricut ExpressionÂ® 2 is perfect for new and not-quite-so-new users alike â€” itâ€™s easy and fun to use for all your personal creative projects. A sleek, new exterior and thoughtful innovations make Cricut ExpressionÂ® 2 a must-have for any craft room.
Each Cricut ExpressionÂ® 2 comes with 2 cartridges already loaded on your machine:
CricutÂ®Â Â Alphabet Cartridge: Your words never looked so good. Whatever the message may be, this font cartridge, with its set of letters, numbers, and designs, is sure to help your writing jump right off the page.
CricutÂ®Â Â Essentials Cartridge: Dress up any of your projects with this multipurpose cartridge. With it, you will have access to hundreds of shapes, designs, and artwork to inspire a new creation or even apply the finishing touches on something youâ€™ve already started.
You’ll enjoy these great features and many more:
Sleeker design with all-new colors and finishes
- Cuts with all CricutÂ®Â Â and Cricut ImagineÂ®Â Â cartridges
- Wireless compatibility (optional accessories)
- Full-color LCD touch screen display with stylus
- No keypad overlay required
- Mat preview
- Material setting
- Cutting area light
- Exclusive cartridge content preloaded on the machine
- Swappable side-trim pieces
- Settings menu
So, in other words….it’s almost a brand-new machine. It’s got the same great die-cutting features you love, but also many of the features of the Gypsy. Now everything is run from the full-color touch pad and you can really see exactly what you are going to cut and where you are going to cut it.
(If you already are used to the Cricut Expression or Create, you may be interested in this article I wrote comparing the the original Cricut Exression with the Expression 2 Anniversary Edition.)
However, for those of you who have never used a Cricut, I decided to approach the E2 with fresh eyes- and take you through it step-by-step on how the functionality and usability stands up. (After all, we already know that the Cricut line is renowned for it’s excellent cutting capabilities.)
First off… what is inside the box?
You get your machine, two pre-loaded cartridges with the image books, user manual, power cables, a USB adapter, a stylus, and little silicone protectors for your ports for when they are not in use. There is also a quick-start guide. (You can absolutely get started with the quick-start guide, but you can get detailed tutorials online.)
So let’s talk about getting started. All you need to do is plug your E2 in, and it will boot up for you. The only task you need to perform before you make your first cut is to calibrate the machine. The E2 will walk you through the process, and it isn’t any more complex than tapping the screen with your stylus.
Now you are ready to go! And yes, there are TWO pre-loaded carts so you can get going right away. (By the way, that means that they are IN the machine, so you won’t get the physical cartridge. Or the silicon overlay, for that matter.) You’ll need to get familiar with the icons, so be patient with yourself. The main one is the folder icon- it’s where your images are stored.
From there you’ll see a silhouette of the Cricut and/or the silhouette of a cartridge- it will determine where the E2 “looks” for images. For this review, I’m working with artwork that is built into the machine.
You can select your images just by tapping on the icons. The function buttons are along the left hand side. You cannot select the size of your image from this screen- we’ll do that later. Once you’ve selected your images, tap the “HOME” icon in the lower right hand, as I’m doing in the above photo.
Now you will see your images previewed on the mat- just as they will be cut. If you want to edit the image- such as change the size- you can tap the image with your stylus. A box will pop up like the one you see in the above photo. To change the size, tap the “pencil” icon, and you will be let to the screen where you can increase or decrease your image size. When finished, you tap the icon of the hard disk- the “Save” icon- to return to the mat preview page.
When you are ready to cut, adhere your paper to the sticky mat- and YES, new mats are REALLY STICKY. Then load your mat using the “load mat” icon. Super easy. Then you can tap the “cut” icon- the one that looks like a craft blade- and the cutting menu will pop up.
So here’s where the E2 feels like a whole new machine. In the previous Cricut machines, you just tap the cut button and it does-whether or not you’ve got the right pressure selected, or blade depths, or whatever. But with the new E2, cutting is almost goof-proof. First, it asks you what weight of paper you are using, and there are 4 presets already there for you to choose from: light paper, medium weight paper, heavy weight paper, and vinyl (kiss cut.) It will ask you to double check if the settings are correct, and then ask you if you’ve got the blade at the right depth. All in all, you have to tap the “cut” icon four times (!!) before it will actually cut the image out.
I’m a little impatient going through this double-triple-quadruple check every time, but I guess it’s better safe than sorry.
One of the functions I liked best in the Cricut Expression was the ability to change the blade position with just a push of a dirctional arrow. To change the cutting position on the E2, it’s a bit more complex. First you have to tap the “wrench” icon on the home screen, then scroll through and find the icon that looks like a mat with a target on it.
Once you tap that, a window will pop up and ask you how far to the right and down you want the blade to be. (Remember that with the E2, the default cutting location is in the upper LEFT hand corner. Also a change.) So the days of eyeballing the blade to a place on the mat is over- you now have to measure how far across and down you want the blade to be. Once you make your selection and save it, the E2 will re-render the mat preview, showing you exactly where the images will be cut.
I’m not sure this is an improvement- to me, this is far more time-consuming that the original way of eyeballing it!
Also, I ran into another little issue: sometimes the images are way too tiny on the preview screen to see what they are. Take a look at the bottom row of these images.
Even if I got really close, there was just no way to see what those images are until you select them, enlarge them, and see them on the preview screen. I was kind of longing to be able to do an “iPhone” move and enlarge the screen and zoom in so I could see them better. So note- keep those booklets handy- you will need them to use the touchscreen in some cases!
By the way, the E2 is theoretically wireless- but you need to buy an optional accessory package to make it work. Since it wasn’t included in the kit I got, I can’t report on how that works.
By the way- here’s how my card turned out:
The Cricut E2 cuts beautifully- I found that in most cases the cutting setting were accurate and needed no adjustment. (The card above used Core’Dinations Cardstock and I cut it on the “heavy paper” setting.)
I had my junior apprentice do some Cricutting with me, too. He made a sign using the Post It Craft paper (Which I cannot speak highly enough of!) Note that the 10-year old caught on quickly and used the machine almost completely independently.
The new Cricut Expression 2 retails for $299.99 USD, which is on par for what “new” die cutting machines cost. This is certainly is not cheap, but if you are a die-hard paper crafter you can certainly justify the cost. (Or rationalize!)
As I mentioned before, despite the learning curve, I really like the E2. It’s a machine my kids love to use, too- giving us some real quality family crafting time together.
Feel free to weigh in if you have an E2- I’d love to hear your thoughts, as well!
Disclosure: Sample provided for review.
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