I’m getting my cutting machine…what do I need?

I think I see a post like this at least once a week. I am very guilty of getting a new device and wanting to buy all the accessories – ALL of them – immediately. And after a lot of years of doing this, I found that I have a lot of unused or barely used supplies. With something like a cutting machine, it’s easy to spend a lot of money and collect a lot of pieces that you might not use. Especially if you don’t quite know what you are going to do with the machine.

I suggest that you get a few items and do a few tutorials and make a few easy projects in paper before buying an array of cutting tools, paper, vinyl, cork, bass wood and copper blanks. Learn how your machine works and what you like before you invest in a ton of materials, especially if materials have a shelf life (for example, vinyl ages and can be difficult to cut or the project may not adhere well if the material has aged for a couple of years before you finally get to it). Investing the first weekend or two on learning with cardstock will pay dividends in the future, leaving you more money for more cardstock or vinyl instead of buying expensive tools and materials that you won’t use.

Well, then, what do I buy?

Paper, or more specifically, cardstock, is the cheapest, easiest material to use to learn about your machine. At ten cents a sheet or less, you can feel more comfortable learning about your machine than sending through heat transfer vinyl (HTV) at $5 or more per sheet. There are a few other things that make life easier, so here’s your shopping list.

  • One package of cardstock in multiple solid colors
  • One package of cardstock in solid white
  • A large scraper
  • Another mat or two
  • Scoring tool, if you know you want to work on cardstock (Maker and Explore only)
  • Adhesives: glue, glue tape, and/or glue stick

“But, but, but…I want to work on vinyl!” Yep, I know. Learn with the cardstock that is SO much cheaper. Buy a smaller package of cardstock, making sure there’s a bit of white to play with print-then-cut because there is printable vinyl.

Read on for more tips on each of the materials. The last section talks about what else there is that you might purchase depending on your interests.


Not all cardstock is created equal! Some is fibrous and cuts with scissors just fine, but doesn’t do well with cutters. There is textured and not textured. Solid and patterned. There are different weights and sizes. So, really, what do I buy?

First, let’s talk about weights. Weights are measured in pounds or GSM (grams per square meter). The lower the number, the lighter it is. Lightweight cardstock is 65 lb, medium is 80 pound, and heavyweight is 110 lb. Lightweight is perfect for beginners as it has enough stiffness to hold up to the sticky grip on the mats but thin enough to ensure that it cuts easily.

There is solid core and white core. Solid core means that the color extends all the way through the paper and when you cut it, the cut edge will be the same color as the top and bottom. White core means there will be a thin white line visible on the cut edges. The white core can be more difficult to cut because the core may not be the same paper as the top and bottom. From a design standpoint, the white core can be very distracting, too, making your design look as if some shapes are partially outlined in white as the core shows through the cut edges (though sometimes this can be a feature, too). To start out with, buy solid core.

I’d get a multipack of solid colors and another small pack of white. I like 8.5×11” as it’s cheaper and works for most (not all) projects. If you want to get the multipack in 12”x12”, that’s good, too. The small pack of white is useful to play with the print-then-cut feature, so keep that at 8.5×11”.

If there’s a paper or two in the open stock shelves that calls you, by all means, get it. But that pad of printed paper (it’s SUCH a good deal with the coupon) might just be the one you never, every use (I have many such pads and packs).

Scrapers and Other Tools

Scrapers are useful for a number of things, most notably for rubbing over the material to make sure it’s adhered to the mat and also for getting the tiny bits of paper off of your mat. You can buy the large scraper, which fits my hand nicely and has a nice weight that feels good. However, the slightly rockered bottom edge doesn’t quite get everything as nicely as a plastic gift card.

Buying the scraper by itself isn’t as cost-efficient as buying it in a bundle with other tools that help you weed (meaning picking out all of cutout parts that aren’t part of the design). There are things like spatulas and picks. The basic tool set package has useful tools, all of which you are likely to use (though if you’re only going to do paper crafting, picks aren’t as useful for Cricut projects).

You’ll see a ton of accessories advertised in stores or online. You WILL need some of them. You WON’T need all of them. To find out the ones you need, the best way is to take an hour or so and go through Cricut’s projects. Click on the project to open up the information about the project. Make a list of the things you need. I’ve created a checklist to help you, available at http://inspiredsquirrel.com/cricut-shopping-list/

Circling back to the first paragraph, note that I mentioned I used a plastic gift card. For getting lots of tiny bits of paper off of the mat, the plastic gift card works better (for me) than the scraper you can purchase. Don’t underestimate DIY and found object tools! If you’re using a plastic gift card, if something happens to it, you’ll likely have another one sometime soon. If something happens to your $10-15 scraper, you won’t be quite as thrilled. You can also use the scrapers that you’d buy for your kitchen sink. Come to think of it, it might be a good time for me to order a pack of them from Amazon, to replace my beat up one at the kitchen sink and one for my tool stash!

Another Mat or Two

For the first project or two, you may wonder how anybody needs more than one mat! You’ll put your material on it, load it into the machine, then watch as your Cricut does its thing. You carefully remove your first material, then apply the next one and watch again. But it doesn’t take long to realize that if you’re using several colors of vinyl or cardstock that having a mat for each color allows you to be removing or weeding the cut pieces from one mat while another is cutting. And mats don’t last forever, so it’s not unusual to have quite a few mats in your supply stash. Note: Cricut sells a 30 pack of the 12×12” for the Maker and Explore! And there are off-brands available on Amazon that are less expensive.

Scoring Tool

If you’re working on cardstock, you’ll undoubtedly try a card and possible some sort of paper sculpture. The scoring tool puts a score line on the cardstock, meaning presses a perfect line into the paper so you can see where to fold and it creases the paper to help you get that perfect fold. The scoring stylus is about $10 or less and works in both the Maker and the Explore. If you have a Maker, the scoring stylus is an inexpensive alternative to the scoring wheels; if you wind up using the scoring stylus, you can determine if you want to use the scoring wheels (if so, get the combo pack with the single and double tips and the housing for the best value!). And if you don’t use the scoring stylus, you’re out about $10 – BUT you did get to buy an accessory for the instant gratification of buying an accessory! (That’s a real feeling, y’all. Give in occasionally – if you’re not blowing your budget!)

Paper Adhesives

You can never have too many craft supplies, especially adhesives. They are useful in daily life as well as crafting. The adhesives aisle at your craft store offers a dizzying assortment of innumerable types! Here’s what I’d buy first to get started, then after you get more experience, you’ll determine the adhesives that work best for you. Here’s what I’d buy:

  • A glue pen with a broad and narrow tip. A little glue goes a long way and the narrow tip helps you get just enough glue on the tiny pieces while the broad tip helps with larger areas. If a glue pen seems pricey, try a small bottle of Tacky Glue.
  • A glue stick. Get just one – they dry out over about a year or so, even when not in use. A liquid glue can wrinkle and warp paper, so a glue stick is a good alternative.
  • A double-sided tape runner. If you’ve never used one, you’ll wonder how you lived without it. You can “draw” on a ¼” or so wide line of adhesive. It won’t warp or rumple the paper and it’s amazingly strong.

These will set you back about $15 or so (without coupons) and these are useful for other around-the-house duties. There are PLENTY more adhesives, but start here. If you only want one, I’d get the double-sided tape runner.

What Next?

Resist the urge to buy a ton of storage for your new tools, too. Why? You don’t quite know what you’re going to use. You might buy one of those really cool stands for 30 or so pens or tools, but you find out you really only a handful of pens and tools fit in it, with some tool handles being too wide for it. Or you bought the cute one that stores 6 tools, and now you have 25 pens, 5 tweezers, and 10 weeding tools of varying shapes and sizes. Repurpose a shipping box for the moment. Wait and see what kind of collection you’ll build.

You also need to find out if open storage works for you, or if closed storage is better. Closed storage is practical if the others in your household find out that there are other uses for your weeding tools and borrow them OR you have toddlers that like to explore and can hurt themselves (or find new homes for your tools even if they don’t get hurt). There are tons of really cute open storage, which I really don’t want with very young and inquisitive grandchildren around.

Play around a bit. Make at least five projects, starting with the project included with your machine. Then find another few in Cricut projects (you get a free trial of Cricut Access – use it!). Also find a bunch of YouTube videos. Look around Inspired Squirrel, too! After you decide what you like to do, THEN you can start stocking up on the goodies that are tailored to YOUR interests!

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