Paper craftmaking is incredibly satisfying and a surprisingly lucrative business, particularly for work-from-home moms and dads who left their 9-to-5 jobs to spend more quality time with the family.
However, if you want to get serious about starting a niche do-it-yourself business, you have to get equipped with the appropriate tools, like a Cricut vinyl cutting machine.
If you spend a little time researching the Internet, you will likely find raving reviews about Cricut Maker, which represents the most complete cutter plotter from manufacturer Cricut. It can be intimidating for beginners, though, given the sheer number of blades, mats, accessories, and materials it can work with.
But you can begin your craftsmanship journey with a more entry-level product, such as the Cricut Joy machine. Keep reading to find out if it’s worth the investment.
What Is Cricut Joy?
Cricut Joy is a lightweight and portable cutting machine that you can place on any surface and quickly pack up when traveling. It’s so small and easy to use that a kid can play with it to cut various designs.
You can draw any shape in a user-friendly design software app called Design Space, in order to send the project to the Joy, print it out, and cut on light materials.
What Does the Cricut Joy Do?
Using the tiny but mighty Cricut Joy machine, you can engage in fun crafting activities with your kids, work on school projects, design party decor, and even open a small Etsy shop to sell your products.
For example, you can get into sticker cutting, scrapbooking, and even heat transfer vinyl to then iron designs on various fabrics using the Cricut EasyPress or a regular iron.
Here are a few ideas of what you can create with Cricut Joy:
- Small labels for jars, closet space, or kitchen accessories
- Vinyl stickers or large decals for wall art, motivational messages, or famous quotes
- Small decals for smartphone cases
- A giant ruler to measure your children’s heights
- Birthday or greeting cards, thank-you notes, and any types of cards
- T-shirts with Iron-On and Infusible Ink
Cricut Joy Review
We took a hands-on approach when researching, testing, and reviewing this Cricut cutting machine, in order to get a better idea of how it works and how it meets our expectations. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
Cricut Joy Specs
Check out an overview of the Cricut Joy technical details:
|Machine dimensions (boxed)||8.4 x 5.4 x 4.2 in (21.3 x 13.7 x 10.6 cm)|
|Machine weight (unboxed)||3.9 lbs (1.76 kg)|
|Machine colors||Turquoise only|
|Max cut size||A single image up to 4.5 in x 4 ft (11.4 cm x 1.2 m) long or repeated cuts up to 20 ft (6 m) long|
|Cutting force||Less than 0.46 lbs (210 g)|
|Material compatibility||+50 light materials (paper, vinyl, cardstock, iron-on etc.)|
|Tools & Capabilities||2 (Blade, Fine-Point Pen and some markers) to cut and draw|
|Compatible with Smart Materials?||Yes (matless cuts)|
|Free design app?||Yes (Design Space)|
|Optimal for commercial use?||No|
|Price||View price on Cricut|
Let’s take a second and talk about the size and dimensions of Cricut Joy. It’s so tiny and adorable that it almost fits an adult-sized hand.
What’s In the Cricut Joy Box?
After purchasing the Cricut Joy, here’s what you will find when opening the box (bundles are excluded):
- Cricut Joy machine
- Blade (with Housing)
- Fine-Point Pen (Black) with a thickness of 0.016 in (0.4 mm)
- StandardGrip Mat with a size of 4.5 x 6.5 in (11.4 x 16.5 cm)
- Power adapter
- Welcome card
- A 30-day free trial membership to Cricut Access (new subscribers only)
- 50 ready-to-make projects available for download
- Materials for a practice cut (a Smart adhesive vinyl and some cardstock)
Cricut Joy Materials
The tiny cutting machine from Cricut is capable of processing more than 50 materials, which basically includes paper, vinyl, and everything in between since they represent the lightest materials supported by Cricut machines. Here’s the complete list:
- Cardboard (Corrugated, Flat, Foil Poster Board)
- Cardstock (Glitter, Insert Card, Medium)
- Iron-On (Everyday Mesh and Mosaic, Glitter Mesh, Holographic, Infusible Ink Transfer Sheet, Smart, SportFlex)
- Leather (Paper-Thin Faux)
- Paper (Deluxe, Adhesive Backed, Foil Embossed, Foil, Pearl, Shimmer, Smart Label Writable Paper, Sparkle, True Brushed)
- Plastic (Foil Acetate)
- Vinyl (Adhesive Foil, Chalkboard, Dry Erase, Holographic, Premium, Smart, Stencil)
- Party Foil
- Window Cling
Don’t try to experiment with thicker and harder materials than that since you will scare away the little critter and end up with a broken-down gadget.
Using Iron-On and Infusible Ink
Iron-On is great since you can use it to apply adhesive heat transfer vinyl to various fabrics, such as cotton t-shirts or handbags. According to Cricut, it’s guaranteed to outlast at least 50 washes.
The Cricut Infusible Ink is also a pretty cool material since it takes heat transfer vinyl to a whole new level. It allows you to create polished, permanent designs that perfectly blend with the material.
They won’t get wrinkled, cracked, peeled off, washed away, or damaged in any way. In addition to its durability, Infusible Ink works with vivid colors to create truly vibrant designs.
However, you can’t apply Iron-On or Infusible Ink designs using Cricut Joy. Instead, you can use Cricut EasyPress or a regular iron.
Cricut Joy Tools
The Cricut Joy machine supports only 2 tools: a Blade that you can use for cutting material, together with a black Fine-Point Pen and markers for writing and drawing. Both of these tools are small, specifically designed for the Joy, so they won’t work with other Cricut machines.
When opening the Cricut Joy box and setting up the machine, you will discover that the blade and housing are already installed and ready for a practice cut.
The housing is the part that gets installed on the machine and holds the blade. When you want to swap the blade with the pen, you don’t need to also change the housing since all pens and markers compatible with the Joy will fit the same housing.
It means that when you want to buy a new blade or pen, you don’t need to also get the housing. But you can still purchase the housing separately if you lose it.
Cricut Joy Pens and Markers
As far as pens are concerned, the original box of Cricut Joy includes a black Fine-Point Pen for writing and drawing on the materials. You just need to swap the blade with this pen in the same housing.
If you’re interested in additional writing and drawing tools, you can separately purchase gel or glitter pens, along with metallic markers to create awesome labels or school projects. You can also get Infusible Ink pens and markers.
Cricut Joy Mats
You can cut with a mat when using the cutting machine so that the material sits on a smooth surface and doesn’t move around to screw up your design.
Cricut Joy works with three distinct mats:
- LightGrip Mat (Blue) with a size of 4.5 x 6.5 in (11.4 x 16.5 cm) or 4.5 x 12 in (11.4 x 30.5 cm). You can use it for standard materials like regular paper, light cardstock, vellum, adhesive vinyl, and iron-on
- StandardGrip Mat (Green) with a size of 4.5 x 6.5 in (11.4 x 16.5 cm) or 4.5 x 12 in (11.4 x 30.5 cm). It’s recommended to use this mat when working with medium-weight materials like adhesive-based deluxe paper, glitter cardstock, glitter Iron-On, corrugated cardboard, or Infusible Ink transfer sheets
- Card Mat with a size of 4.5 x 6.25 in (11.4 x 15.9 cm). It’s exclusive to Cricut Joy and can be used with Insert Cards to quickly customize cards
Cricut Joy Materials
If you plan on designing many projects with the Cricut Joy, you will have to purchase materials when they run out, such as paper, cardstock, and vinyl, in order to feed them to the machine.
Cricut Joy Insert Cards
Although it’s significantly less talented than its big brothers, Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Maker 3, the Joy has an exclusive feature: creating customized cards.
It’s a super fun way to design 3D gift cards using two pieces of cardstock: one in the front that gets cut and one in the back that adds contrast and makes your design really pop.
To make this happen, you need to use the Cricut Joy Insert Cards and Card Mat. However, because there is no Dual-Carriage system integrated with the Joy, you can’t simultaneously draw and cut, so you will need to perform these tasks in two separate sessions by swapping the blade with a pen.
Cricut Joy Smart Materials
Furthermore, Cricut Joy is compatible with Smart Materials. Compared to regular materials, Smart Materials are attached to a sturdy sheet to ensure precision and prevent them from wiggling around.
And, because the material automatically loads into the Joy, you can perform matless cuts up to 20 ft (6 m) long.
Here are some examples of Smart Materials that work with the Joy:
- Smart Iron-On. You can apply permanent or removable heat transfer vinyl that’s guaranteed to last for at least 50 washes. One roll has a size of 5.5 x 24 in (13.9 x 60.9 cm)
- Smart Vinyl. It’s also possible to use permanent or removable adhesive-backed vinyl to materials, but you will also need transfer tape. The permanent adhesive lasts up to 3 years, and one roll has a size of 5.5 x 48 in (13.9 x 121.9 cm)
- Smart Label Writable Vinyl. If you want to write or draw on vinyl, you shouldn’t use Smart Vinyl because it’s not specifically designed for that purpose. Instead, this version is what you’re looking for (and it’s permanent). You can either use the pens and markers supported by Cricut Joy or just write and draw by hand. One roll has a size of 5.5 x 48 in (13.9 x 121.9 cm)
- Adhesive-Backed Deluxe Paper. It’s sticker paper with a color pattern on top so that you can breathe a little life into your scrapbooking and cardmaking projects without getting it all sticky from using glue. You can cut the paper using the LightGrip map, peel off the design, and apply it to any smooth surface. One pack includes 10 sheets (5 colors, 2 each) with a size of 4.5 x 12 in (11.4 x 30.4 cm)
Extra Cricut Joy Tools
We have already mentioned that the Cricut Joy machine supports only the Blade and Fine-Point Point Pen tools, along with some markers.
However, you will definitely need the Starter Tool Set to get your hands on some helpful accessories that will help you manipulate vinyl decals, custom cards, and labels easier and without accidentally ruining the designs after they are cut.
Here’s what included in the Cricut Joy Starter Tool Set:
- Weeder: you can use it to remove negative space (waste) surrounding your designs
- Spatula: useful for seamlessly lifting smaller, detailed cuts from mats, particularly useful when using the Card Mat
- Scraper: you can use it to flatten out materials on mats, clean mats, and seamlessly apply adhesive heat transfer vinyl to transfer tape
If you’re looking for more intricate weeding tools, we suggest getting the Weeding Tool Set. It contains 5 tools to help you lift, remove, and carefully arrange your vinyl projects from multiple angles using different tip styles: Fine Tweezers, Hook Tweezers, Weeder, Piercing Tool, and Hook Weeder.
Taking into account the pure elegance, simplicity, and size of the Cricut Joy, the machine would look ridiculous with an almost equal-sized power charger hanging around, so it’s probably one of the reasons why the manufacturer integrated Bluetooth technology (not to mention the fact that it’s partly why the Joy is lightweight and portable).
The only downside is that Bluetooth will drain your computer’s battery faster, so that’s something you should take into account when you’re losing track of time and playing with the Joy’s design tool.
Cricut Joy Software: Design Space
Cricut Joy uses the same software application used by all Cricut machines: Design Space. It’s an exclusive program that you absolutely need to upload projects to the Joy machine in order to cut the designs.
But you can also use it to create basic designs and explore countless templates online, as well as to search more than 150,000 images and 500 fonts.
Design Space becomes free to use as you purchase the Cricut Joy. It can be installed on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. When it comes to Windows and Mac, you can either set up the app or use it through the web interface, depending on how it’s more convenient.
The software program is incredibly intuitive and only requires a free account that you can sign up for on the spot. However, only a limited amount of images and spaces are offered for free. You can separately purchase a specific item that you wish for your own projects.
A more convenient solution is to start paying for a Cricut Access subscription for $9.99/month or $95.88/year (save $24). It’s only worth it if you are truly invested in your crafting passion (or business). There’s a 30-day free trial to Cricut Access that you can activate right away to get a glimpse of what it has to offer.
How to Use Cricut Joy
Working with the Joy is so easy that you can barely call it work. It’s why even kids can use it to safely cut their own designs. Besides preparing the cutting machine, you just need to load the material and send the design using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
Here are some basic steps for how to use the Cricut Joy machine:
- Unpack the Cricut Joy box
- Read the instructions manual
- Download Design Space and install it on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone
- Sign up for a free Design Space account and log
- Plug the Cricut Joy machine into a wall socket
- Set up the Bluetooth connection between the Joy and your go-to design device
- Get started by making the test cuts recommended by Cricut in order to get accustomed to how the machine works
- Once you get the hang of it, you can work on your own projects
As a security measure, the Joy calculates the amount of loaded material and lets you know if you need to add more before starting a cutting project. It’s a nifty little trick to minimize waste and ultimately save money in the process.
Best Cricut Joy Bundles
If you’re on a tight budget, you might think to yourself that it’s better to purchase the Cricut Joy machine now, without any extra tools and mats, and get the rest of the stuff later once you feel comfortable using them.
It’s not a money-saving solution in the long term since you will love playing with this little critter and want to get all the additional accessories as soon as possible, which will prove to be more expensive.
And, if you already own a Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Air 2 machine, you shouldn’t try attaching their blades and tools because they are not interchangeable. The Cricut Joy items are smaller.
On the bright side, you can explore several Cricut Joy bundles and get a discount package for just a few extra dollars.
The Cricut Joy + Essentials Bundle includes some basic extra mats to help you get familiarized with this kid-friendly vinyl cutter. Here’s what it includes:
- Smart Vinyl (Permanent, Gold) with a size of 5.5 x 120 in (13.9 x 304.8 cm)
- Smart Vinyl (Permanent, Silver) with a size of 5.5 x 120 in (13.9 x 304.8 cm)
- Smart Iron-On (White) with a size of 5.5 x 24 in (13.9 x 60.9 cm)
- Smart Iron-On (Black) with a size of 5.5 x 24 in (13.9 x 60.9 cm)
- Cricut Joy Insert Cards (Macarons Sampler)
- Cricut Joy Card Mat with a size of 4.5 x 6.25 in (11.4 x 15.9 cm)
If you want to create designs with matless cuts and apply adhesive-backed vinyl to various materials using transfer tape, you can resort to the Cricut Joy + Smart Vinyl Bundle. Here’s what you can find in the pack:
- Cricut Joy Smart Vinyl Sampler (Beachside, Permanent)
- Cricut Joy Smart Vinyl (Permanent, White) with a size of 5.5 x 48 in (13.9 x 121.9 cm)
- Cricut Joy Smart Vinyl (Permanent, Red) with a size of 5.5 x 48 in (13.9 x 121.9 cm)
- Cricut Joy Smart Vinyl (Permanent, Silver) with a size of 5.5 x 48 in (13.9 x 121.9 cm)
- Cricut Joy Smart Vinyl (Permanent, Gold) with a size of 5.5 x 48 in (13.9 x 121.9 cm)
- Cricut Joy Smart Vinyl (Holographic Pattern Sampler, Permanent)
- Cricut Joy Smart Vinyl (Permanent, Black) with a size of 5.5 x 48 in (13.9 x 121.9 cm)
- Cricut Joy Transfer Tape (2 ct.) with a size of 5.5 x 48 in (13.9 x 121.9 cm)
The Cricut Joy + Insert Card Bundle is an excellent choice if you plan on making personalized cards, like birthday cards and thank-you notes. Check out the contents of this package:
- Card Mat (5 ct.) with a size of 4.5 x 6.25 in (11.4 x 15.9 cm)
- Insert Cards (Rainbow Scales)
- Insert Cards (New Romantic Sampler)
- Insert Cards (Gray/Silver Holographic)
- Insert Cards (Cream/Gold Glitter)
- Extra Fine-Point Pens (3 ct.) with a thickness of 0.011 in (0.3 mm)
- Fine-Point Pens (3 ct.) with a thickness of 0.015 in (0.4 mm)
Many craft makers prefer working with heat transfer vinyl instead of adhesive-backed vinyl. If you’re one of them, then the Cricut Joy + Smart Iron-On Bundle is for you. Here’s what you will receive:
- Cricut Joy Smart Iron-On (Black)
- Cricut Joy Smart Iron-On (White)
- Cricut Joy Smart Iron-On (Gold)
- Cricut Joy Smart Iron-On (Red)
- Cricut Joy Smart Iron-On (Silver)
- Cricut Joy Smart Iron-On (Glitter, Black)
- Cricut Joy Smart Iron-On (Glitter, Multi)
Or, if you want to design labels to organize your kitchen supplies, bathroom accessories, or other household items, check out the Cricut Joy + Label Making Bundle. Here’s what it contains:
- Smart Label Writable Paper (2 ct.)
- Smart Label Writable Vinyl (2 ct.)
- Fine-Point Pens (3 ct.) with a thickness of 0.016 in (0.4 mm)
- Gel Pens (3 ct.) with a thickness of 0.039 in (1.0 mm)
- Extra Fine-Point Pens (3 ct.) with a thickness of 0.012 in (0.3 mm)
How Is Cricut Joy Different From Cricut Maker 3 or Cricut Explore Air 2?
Cricut Joy is designed to be a tiny and portable cutting machine that accompanies Cricut Maker 3 or Cricut Explore Air 2. It has more limited features than its siblings.
In fact, it would be easier to list the things they have in common. Firstly, all three products can cut more than 50 materials. Granted, Explore Air 2 surpasses 100 materials, while the Maker 3 works with a whopping number of over 300 materials. That’s because the Joy has just one blade that’s not capable of cutting through thick material like wood or leather.
Secondly, all three machines use the same design software: Design Space. You can easily operate this program to create projects and send them to the vinyl cutter for cutting. However, that’s where the similarities between the three products end.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be pointless to get Cricut Joy if you already own the Maker or Explore Air. It would be a welcome addition to craft makers who frequently travel and need to bring along their dependable vinyl cutter. It’s great for parties and for teaching kids how to use such a machine. Plus, Cricut Joy is the only one from the Cricut family that can make innovative labels using Insert Cards.
The Pros of Cricut Joy
The cutting machine is incredibly small, lightweight, and portable. Besides a power adapter, there are no cables involved since it connects to your smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth. So, you will get to keep a clean workspace no matter where you go.
The Joy is an awesome asset for hobbyists, crafting amateurs, kids, school crafting projects, party decor, and designing fun cards. We can certainly see its appeal, especially to people who get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of features that come bundled by Joy’s bigger brothers – Cricut Maker 3 and Cricut Explore Air 2.
You can easily operate Design Space from the comfort of your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. It makes it possible to create simple designs from scratch, discover templates created by other Cricut artisans, and easily send your projects to the Joy for cutting, writing, or drawing.
Cricut Joy is the only cutting machine from Cricut capable of creating custom cards using Insert Cards. Moreover, you can explore some cool bundles to focus on specific crafting activities, like working only with heat transfer vinyl or adhesive-based vinyl.
The machine works with more than 50 light materials, which are basically paper, vinyl, and everything in between. Smart Materials are supported, too, which means that you can cut designs without a mat: up to 4 ft (1.2 m) long for a single image or 20 ft (6 m) long for repeated cuts.
The Cons of Cricut Joy
Without trying to sugarcoat it, the price is too high. Cricut Joy is almost as expensive as the Cricut Explore Air 2, which has infinitely more features. Even the Joy’s accessories are expensive, and you can’t use the blades from another Cricut machine, not even previous Joy models.
That means that if you decide to stick to this Cricut machine when a newer version gets released, you have to upgrade the required tools, too. We recommend exploring the Cricut Joy bundles to save some money.
Cricut Joy is not as fast as you would expect from such a small vinyl cutting machine. On top of that, it’s surprisingly loud and not that talented when it comes to printing detailed designs.
It doesn’t support a Dual-Carriage system, which means that you can’t instruct it to cut and draw at the same time. To make this happen, you have to stop the operation, swap the blade with the pen, and start again.
Most craft makers are probably pleased by the Bluetooth connectivity, but not all laptops are equipped with Bluetooth, making it impossible to use Design Space on them since Cricut Joy doesn’t have a USB slot.
The Print & Cut feature is not supported.
As adorable as it might be, Cricut Joy comes in only one color.
Design Space is fun and intuitive, but you can’t use it to create elaborate designs from the ground up. That means that you still have to purchase a license or subscription for a third-party graphic design tool like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop.
FAQ: Learn More About Cricut Joy
What can Cricut Joy cut?
The Cricut Joy machine can cut through Cardboard, Cardstock, Iron-On, Paper-Thin Faux Leather, Paper, Foil Acetate, Vinyl, Party Foil, and Window Cling.
Can you use the Cricut Joy Card Mat on Cricut Maker?
No, the Card Mat is exclusive to Cricut Joy and can’t be used on the Cricut Maker or any other Cricut Machines to create customized labels. You can still make it happen but without the Card Mat.
What should I choose between Cricut Joy and Cricut Explore Air 2?
Cricut Explore Air 2 is better than Cricut Joy. They are priced almost the same, but the Explore Air 2 has more features. The only real advantage of Joy is that it’s small enough to carry it easily when you’re on the go.
What can Cricut Joy do?
You can use the Cricut Joy to cut, write, and draw on lightweight materials. For example, you can create pantry labels, vinyl stickers, decals, and birthday or greeting cards.
What dimensions can a Cricut Joy cut?
When using a mat, the Cricut Joy can cut a single image up to 4.5 in x 4 ft (11.4 cm x 1.2 m) long. However, if you don’t want to use a mat, the machine can make repeated cuts up to 20 ft (6 m) long.
Can the Cricut Joy cut wood or fabric?
As of this moment, fabric and food materials are not listed within the materials the Cricut Joy can cut.
Does the Cricut Joy need a pen adapter?
No, it doesn’t. The Cricut Joy pens fit in the machine like a glove.
Should I get Cricut Joy if I already have Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Air 2?
If you feel like you need a tiny assistant to accompany you during your travels, then sure, the Cricut Joy might be able to help. However, besides creating custom cards using the Card Mat and Insert Cards, it brings nothing to the table when comparing it to Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore Air 2.
Final Thoughts: Is It Worth Buying Cricut Joy?
After weighing in its advantages and disadvantages, we fail to see the point in spending a small fortune on Cricut Joy when you can purchase Cricut Explore Air 2 for a few bucks extra and get more stuff done. It’s impossible to shake the feeling that it’s just a cash-grab attempt.
But we can certainly understand its appeal. The Joy is small, elegant, portable, and you probably get to have a blast when bringing it along to parties. It’s an awesome vinyl cutter for kids, too.
If you decide to bring the Cricut Joy into your life, though, we suggest getting one of the bundles since they offer more accessories at a discount price. Once you do, make sure to return to this page and let us know how you feel about the Cricut Joy machine by leaving us a comment in the section below.