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Cricut Joy Review

I am simultaneously obsessed and baffled by the Cricut Joy. The Joy is the latest machine by the behemoth company which swore that the Cricut Maker was the last machine we would ever need. So imagine everyone's confusion when they announced this compact cutter. At nearly half the size, a fourth of the weight, and over $100 cheaper than the Maker, the Joy offers itself as an alternative machine. But is it worth it? Who should consider buying it? Is this for novices or experts? The answer is going to surprise you.

Production Over Design
The Cricut Joy is a sleek looking tiny machine. As promised, once you plug in the machine, you'll be producing cards within minutes. If (and it's an if), you can procure the new Cricut Joy Card Mats, card production was never easier.

But let me be clear: this is card production, not card designing. This is how making a card goes with the Cricut Joy. Pick a design. Insert a pre-folded card into the Cricut Mat. Press Go. It cuts. Push in an insert. And voila, you're done.

Here's what "card making" looks like with the Joy:

To call this card making is the same as going to Build-A-Bear and claiming you made a stuff animal. You did. But did you? You didn't sew it. You chose from prefabricated designs. You just pick a color and maybe (maybe) an embellishment and voila. You're done.

I can't stress how cool these cards look.
Now, you could design your own cards on the Cricut Joy. But for beginners thinking they could design something as cool as Cricut Joy's designs: well... fat chance. Design Space is an intuitive program, but designing from your phone or tablet is clunky, and these insert cut designs are quite difficult to design, even for experienced designers. The Cricut Joy is easy to use, but those thinking they could design a card with ease are in for a rude awakening.

Design something like this, with a mixture of pen and cut feels virtually impossible.
It's with this revelation that the Cricut becomes a hyper niche product. Beginners may be receiving a product that sells them on false promises, and experts can design these products from scratch on the Maker or the Explore Air. This leaves a huge question mark of who this is for?

Expendable Income or Low on Space
I happen to be a person with plenty of expendable income. In addition to the Explore Air 2 and now the Cricut Joy, I also own a Cuttlebug and an Empress. I own (and I'm not kidding here), at least a thousand dollars worth of die plates from Anna Griffin. The idea of plunking $179 for the machine, $8.99 for a set of three markers, mats (card mat + cutting mat) and materials didn't give me a second thought. But if you're a first time investor, why not spend the extra $50 on the Explore Air 2 which can do everything the Joy can and more? Or why not save more money for the Maker and literally have the do everything machine?

If you happen to lack space for designing, the Cricut Joy is worth your consideration. I tend to use my kitchen table, so space is never an issue, but when designing with the Joy, I'm still always pleasantly surprised that a huge machine and my laptop aren't taking up space. Cricuts require space, but with the Joy, it's a non-issue. Those crafting in small areas may find the Joy the reprieve they were looking for. In fact, everything with the Cricut Joy is small.

Here's how much space my Cricut Explore (and some of its supplies) takes up:

Here's how much space my Cricut Joy (and all of its supplies) takes up:

The space change is startling, and is greatly welcomed.

What About Special Materials?
Unlike going from Cricut Explore to Cricut Maker, the Cricut Joy is not compatible with any of your previous add-ons. All your mats, blades and pens are all wasted here. Cricut Joy requires Cricut Joy mats and Cricut Joy pens. This is a pricey endeavor, just like getting any new machine (full break down on price below); that said, I still can't understand why the pens are not compatible other than to find a way to price gauge users.

Pens come in the same colors, but are for some reason, not compatible
with other Cricut products.
New for the Cricut Joy are Insert Cards. These packs are $6.99 and make 12 cards (and come with envelopes). In truth, the price of entry here is a little high. You can get 50 pieces of cardstock from Michaels for $3.33, which could make upwards of nearly 100 cards. So why pay double for the $6.99? Here, you're paying for quality. The finish on these cards is unlike almost any cardstock I've seen. The weight of these cards is closer to 80lbs card stock and the matte finish makes these cards look sleek. Showing them to people, they're immediately attracted to not only the finish of the card, but its weight too. People will notice the difference. Of course, it's entirely possible to purchase some high quality cardstock and get the same results, but the fact that these packs come in an assortment of colors and sometimes with some nice holographic inserts I will say, despite the price, I'm a huge fan.

Seriously... these cards look amazing.
The best new feature of the Cricut Joy is the card mat. I love the Cricut Joy card mat for making cards. But it's not all it's cracked up to be. First off, as of this writing, they're a bit hard to track down. Currently, none of the stores within a 50 mile radius have them (and I live near-ish New York City). I ordered some extras online, but even getting these card mats online are starting to dry up.

And you might notice I mentioned I ordered several of these card mats. Why? The adhesive is really ho-hum. After making a little over a dozen cards, the mat became basically useless. This, again, might be a slight turn off to new comers to Cricut who expect these mats to last a long time. Ultimately, I invested in not only extra mats, but a spray adhesive to make my old mats sticky again.

Smart Vinyl is the other touted new item. Normally, vinyl requires a mat and transfer tape, etc. The new Smart materials cut out the need for a mat. Is it worth it? The short answer: no. It's too pricey (even in bulk) and vinyl is much cheaper without the need for Smart Vinyl.

The writeable vinyl is cool. The transfer tape is questionable (but Cricut's transfer tape is always crappy). You'll need some weeding tools and such, but if you're a crafter, you already have them. Cricut's weeder and spatula are always nice, their bone folder has always received a solid B+ from me.

It Cuts Up to 20 Feet
Cricut Joy's other touted feature is it can cut vinyl up to 20 feet. And it does... sort of. That is, it cuts designs up to 4 feet in 5 replications. So those dreaming of making one huge 20 foot banner are definitely going to be disappointed. To me, it's not even a feature worthy of our consideration.

But Do You Like It?
I kind of love it. It's a bit unquantifiable. Maybe because I know when I pull out my Joy, I know I will be able to pump out cards in a way that I can't with my Explore. Maybe because the cards do look so unique. As a card seller, this is just another avenue to make a different type of card.

If you're both short on space AND want to get into true card making, then the Cricut Joy is for you. If you only meet one of those requirements, I think other Cricut products are worth your consideration. If you already own the Explore, Air 2 or Maker, this also isn't worth your time. If expendable income or trade shows are the name of the game, then consider (but only consider) the Cricut Joy.

Total Cost for Getting your Cricut Joy Up and Running?
Cricut Joy: $179.00
Cricut Joy Tote: $39.99
Card Mat: $5.99
Three different sets of pens (gels, blacks, and color): $26.97
Insert Cards x3:  $20.97
Starter Tool Set: $14.99
Writable vinyl: $7.99
Smart Vinyl Roll (20ft) (cause you have to try it just once): $28.99
Total cost for your new Cricut Joy:  $324.89

Other items to consider: additional card mats and/or spray adhesive to make mats sticky again.


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