Lesson 1 – Square Gift Tag

This is the first in a series of projects to learn to use the features of Cricut Design Space. These projects create something that likely everyone can use: gift tags! They are small, quick projects designed to be useful and use inexpensive cardstock to learn how to use Design Space.

This first gift tag is a simple square. It’s the most basic introduction to Design Space. Absolutely no experience is required! (We assume you have a login account setup and have set up your machine per the instructions in the box.)

Skills Covered Materials Needed
  • Open Design Space
  • Place a square shape
  • Prepare the mat
  • Make the mat (cut the square)
  • Remove the paper from the mat
  • One piece of lightweight cardstock, any color, 8.5×11″ or larger
  • A mat

1. Open Design Space

Open the Design Space app.
The Cricut Design Space icons. Shown at left are the icons to look for to open Cricut Design Space. The Windows icon is on the left and Android is on the right. The shapes and colors may look different depending on the version of the operating system on your device and the Design Space software. Click or tap on this to get into the Design Space software.

Start a new project.
The New Project button should be visible on your screen. Depending on your device and version of Design Space, it could be a different color. Press this button to open the Design Space Canvas.

For more information on the Main Design Space screen, see:http://inspiredsquirrel.com/cricut/design-space-home-windows/

Your screen should show a blank Canvas screen, as shown below.

Windows Canvas Screen
Android Canvas Screen

For more information on the Canvas Screen, see the Canvas Screen Overview.

2. Place a Square

For this step, we’ll use the Shapes tool found on the Design Panel menu. It’s down the left on Windows, across the bottom on Android screens.

➀Click on the Shapes tool to bring up a menu of basic shapes.

See screenshots.

➁Select the Square tool by clicking/tapping on it. A square appears in the Canvas window.

See screenshots.

It placed a square that measures 3.11″ on each side. Perfect! We’re done and ready to cut out our square!

While we have the screen up, there are a few notes that may be helpful later. If you feel like you’re lucky to make it this far, come back to this later. If you’re feeling inspired, click/tap below to see a few observations.

A few observations
  • This is one of the few menus that will stay open in case you want to add multiple shapes. Click anywhere outside of the menu to close it.
  • Looking closely at the two screens, the Windows screen default is the square is selected, indicated by the red and blue circles on the corners. The Android is not selected by default — simply click on it to select it.
  • The default size for squares is about 3.11″. We’ll look at resizing it in the next project

But wait? Don’t I have to move the square to cut it?

Before you set up your mat, look again at your screen. What are the coordinates of the upper left corner of the square? If you’re on a Windows device, the corner is about 2″ in and 2″ down. Won’t that waste a lot of paper? If you’re on an Android device, it might be about 7″ in and 9.5″ down — adding the 3″ or so of the square, won’t that fall off my page?

Thankfully, no! Cricut Design Space assumes you’d like to use your paper as efficiently as possible. It will automatically put it in the upper left hand corner on the mat. It does require a .25″ margin, however. This margin helps to stabilize the paper so it doesn’t tear trying to cut right at the edge.

3. Prepare the Mat

Your square will print .25″ in and .25″ down. With that in mind, grab a mat and a piece of cardstock — any color will do, and don’t make it your favorite unless you’re confident in your abilities. Until you get the hang of it, it’s best to work on a large, clear, flat surface. (Soon you’ll be able to place the paper on a mat in your lap, but it’s not an ideal way to learn.)

Prepare the mat.

Place the mat on your surface with either Cricut logo towards the top. Remove the protective clear plastic protective sheet. SAVE THIS. (Pro tip: if your home has fur babies in the house, the static can and will pick up the fur. Try to avoid furry areas, like the floor (regardless of how recently you swept, vacuumed, and mopped).

Take your cardstock and place it on your mat, lightly anchoring the top left corner and aligning the top and sides, smoothing your way down to the bottom right. A new mat is extremely sticky (sometimes too sticky!) while well used mats may be barely sticky, so as you rub and smooth the paper, ensure the paper is good and stuck to used mats, but don’t rub too hard on brand new mats. You want to be able to remove the paper later!

The prepared mat.

If you’re mat looks similar to the one above, great! You’ve prepared your mat. Time to let the Cricut cut out your shape!

A note of encouragement: if you don’t get the paper perfectly adhered to the mat, the worst that can happen is that you ruin the piece of paper. If it’s not down tight enough on the mat, it can shift and tear; if it’s on too tightly, it rips when you pull it off. Paper is inexpensive, so if you mess up on this one, you’ll have learned something about mounting cardstock on a mat!

4. Cut the Paper on the Mat

Windows (left) & Android (right) Make It buttons

Going back to your screen, look for the green Make It button. On Windows, it’s in the upper right; Android, it’s the lower left.

Click on the Make It button to start the process.

The Prepare screen appears, as shown below:

Windows Prepare Screen

We’ll cover this screen more in detail in future lessons. For now, just press Continue.

For those of you with eagle eyes, don’t worry about the paper size. If it makes you feel better, you can select 8.5×11, A4, or whatever size you’re using.

On the Make screen, you’ll see the thumbnails of the mats, plus a few steps:

The Windows Make screen

If you have a red error message at the top, you’ll need to connect your machine. Most of the time I get this, it’s because I forgot to turn it on.

Get into the habit of looking at each of the three steps!

➀Double-check the material setting. Ensure that your dial is set to Cardstock, or if it’s thicker, use Cardstock+. As you change your dial, this screen reflects the setting.

➁Check to ensure the proper tools are loaded (you need a blade loaded, for this project), and then load your mat. To load your mat, slide your mat up to the rollers, being sure it’s underneath the little tabs on the right and left side. As it’s butted up to the rollers, give it a slight push forward as you press the flashing Load/Unload button on the machine. It will grab the mat and move the mat and the cutting head around. When it’s properly loaded, the Cricut logo should be mostly under the rollers.

➂The third step is to press the flashing Cricut logo button on your Cricut machine. Then watch it cut the square.

When it finishes, the Load/Unload button will flash. Press it to unload the mat. You’re ready to take the paper off!

Results of cutting the square.

5. Remove the Paper from the Mat

All you need to do is peel the paper away from the mat. Actually, it will work better if you peel the mat away from the paper. This keeps the paper flat and helps to prevent curling or bending.

Pull the mat away from the square, then pull the mat away from the remaining paper (we’ll use this in the next project — but if it gets wrinkled or ruined, just use another piece of paper!). When both pieces are removed from the mat, replace the plastic sheet to protect the mat.

Tada! Your first project is finished, designed by you! Congratulations! Write the to/from information and affix it to your gift!

What if it didn’t turn out right? Did something happen that ruined the paper? Try to figure out what happened. Was it an old mat and the cardstock didn’t stick well causing it to bunch up and tear in the machine? Was it a new mat and it stuck too well and tore the paper? Did it not cut all the way through because you forgot to set the material to the thicker cardstock? Did it cut into the mat because you used the Cardstock+ setting for use on your lightweight cardstock? If your project turns out less than perfect, or find out your machine cuts a little heavier or lighter than others, you might just learn more from the imperfect process than if everything went perfectly. It’s why we use inexpensive cardstock on these learning projects instead of expensive materials!