While many craft and hobby enthusiasts absolutely love their Cricut die cutting system, the major complaint of the digital die cutting units is that they are too restrictive, only letting you cut a limited number of fonts that you have to purchase separately (at around $70 apiece).
This predicament has led several do-it-yourselfers to look for a workaround to “open” or “hack” the Cricut, enabling them to cut TrueType fonts, user-created designs and more. Of course there are alternative digital die cutting units available that are much more flexible than the Cricut. For complete creative control and computer connectivity, consider cartridge-free die cutting systems.
Still, there are existing Cricut die cutting machine users (or cost-conscious consumers) who may still be interested in software that opens up their Cricut to more creativity and customization. Luckily, Cricut has come out with a design software suite that brings more flexibility and more inclusive artistic control. Still, there are limitations, so it’s worth considering the alternative, third-party software available to use with Cricut die cutting systems.
Pro: Cricut DesignStudio is made by Provo Craft, and it lets you connect your Cricut to a computer to do more with Cricut fonts and shapes.
Con: You still have to actually purchase the Cricut cartridges to use them in your designs.
Cricut DesignStudio is made by the same manufacturer as Cricut die cutting systems, Provo Craft, and lets you connect your Cricut to a computer. The Cricut software lets you adjust fonts and shapes with a number of tools. You have the flexibility to slant, rotate, flip and weld quite easily. Unfortunately, you are still limited to the fonts and shapes from cartridges you actually own. While you can preview and even create designs with any image in the Cricut library, you still have to purchase the cartridge to actually do the due cutting. The design software brings quite a bit of customization to the existing Cricut library, but it isn’t a solution for original from-scratch, hand-drawn designs. While we like the added customization features, don’t expect to save any money – seeing all of the available designs will only encourage you to buy more cartridges.
Pro: Sure Cuts A Lot lets you take complete control of your design without the limitations of cartridges.
Con: The only potential holdup is that you have to install a firmware update to your Cricut die cutting machine, but you can do this for free by downloading the trial version of DesignStudio. It’s not hard to do, but it is only available for Windows.
Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL) is third-party design software specifically created to open up the Cricut’s cutting potential (though it also works with Craft ROBO, Silhouette and Wishblade die cutting machines). Sure Cuts A Lot lets you use TrueType and OpenType fonts, but it also lets you create your own designs with simple drawing and editing tools. You can use advanced features like grouping, layers and the weld tool to make the most of your design. Sure Cuts A Lot also has an auto trace feature to make vector images from raster graphics. You can even edit the individual nodes that make up the path. SCAL is the only Cricut design software that includes freestyle drawing tools. And even better, SCAL is compatible with both Mac and Windows.
Pro: Make The Cut can convert raster images to vectors for cutting, and it includes quick lattice tools.
Con: Unfortunately, you can’t add, delete or move individual nodes within the program, but you can use other design programs (like Inkscape) to edit the SVG files.
Make The Cut (MTC) is another third-party Cricut design software that gives you several simple but powerful design tools. MTC works with a number of file formats and can use TrueType fonts. It also has advanced editing tools and is intuitive to use. More than just Cricut die cutting machines, Make The Cut also works with Gazelle, Silhouette, Roland, Wishblade and Craft ROBO die cutting machines. Make the Cut’s pixel trace tool lets you take raster graphics and turn them into vector paths for cutting. Unfortunately, you have to use a separate program (Inkscape) to edit individual nodes. Overall, Make The Cut is flexible and user-friendly Cricut design software that adds a great deal of utility to the otherwise limited digital die cutting machine.
To make the most of your Cricut or alternative die cutting units, consider these great design software applications. Cricut software lets you take control of your creativity without the constraints and confinement of cartridges. With the best Cricut design software (Sure Cuts A Lot, in my opinion) you can finally “cut loose” and use the Cricut die cutting system exactly how you want to.
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