Cricut Design Space for Beginners

Cricut what? If you’ve started to delve into the world of electronic cutting machines for the first time. you may be feeling confused, intimidated, or frustrated. These are pretty common reactions once you get your Cricut home. Then add in that you may not have realized that to make your first project, you need to use Cricut Design Space. In this post, I’ll give you an easy introduction to Cricut’s design software, help you set up a canvas, show you how to upload designs, how to change the actions you want, and explain what Cricut Access is.

Start Smart Day 5- Infusible Ink Canvas Boards

Before you check out this article, I have a fun project for you! In my Free Library, you’ll find 3 different inspirational drawings that I used with Infusible Ink pens to transfer drawings onto canvas boards. This is inspired by the Sip n’ Paint parties that are super popular. ❤️

I’ll have a full tutorial soon, but in the meantime, you can grab these motivational canvases or draw your own in Procreate!

You’ll find my 3 designs under the Procreate section in my Free Library.


Basic Questions You May Have Before You Begin

What is Cricut Design Space?

Cricut Design Space is the software that will run your Cricut cutting machine and that you’ll use to tell your Cricut what actions to take. Cricut Design Space is free, if you heard that it is not free, then you may have confused it with Cricut Access which is a paid subscription. 

What is Cricut Access?

Cricut Access is a monthly or yearly subscription that includes images and projects you can use in Cricut Design Space to make your crafting easier. Cricut Access does have other advantages, such as 10% off your Cricut.com orders, priority customer service, 

What can a Cricut Do?

All Cricut’s can cut, score, and draw. The Cricut Maker can also engrave, deboss, use a knife blade, and it has a rotary blade to cut fabrics. The Cricut Explore is the middle machine and is bigger than the Cricut Joy but does not do as much as the Cricut Maker. 

How Do I Get Started with Cricut Design Space?

First, you want to download the software to your desktop or get the mobile app if you have an Android or iOS device. For Design Space, go to design.cricut.com.

I’ll demo this with screenshots of the desktop version, but I can come back and do a mobile version later if it’s helpful. Just leave a comment and let me know you’d like this.


A Tour of The Home Page in Cricut Design Space

The Home page for Cricut Design Space is the central go-to place for a LOT of information and actions. I map out everything on the page below and have used a red arrow or black arrow to show what you will and won’t use frequently.

Basic Map of the Cricut Design Space Home Page

A Close Up Look at the Top Bar of the Home Page

First, you’ll notice that the version of Cricut Design Space software that you currently have installed is at the VERY top of your screen. Then, to the right, you’ll see these options.

The Hamburger Menu- If your Home page doesn’t look like the one above, it’s because you may need to click on the three lines in the upper left corner of the Home Page. This is commonly called the hamburger menu and has a drop-down menu of options to click.

  • My Projects- A shortcut to your saved projects.
  • Machine Selection- The type of Cricut machine you’re using. If you have more than one, you’ll want to make sure the right machine is selected for the project you’re doing as your actions may be limited according to the machine chosen. For instance, you won’t be able to get Engrave as an option, if you have your machine selection set to Explore.
  • New Project- This opens up a new canvas so you can start creating!

The Drop-Down Menu Options (on the Left of Your Page)

  • Home- Your Home Page Link
  • Canvas- Your Project Work Space
  • Calibration- This is where you can run through a calibration operation to get your print then cut to work as accurately as possible.
  • Manage Custom Materials- Make Your Own Cut Settings with Pressure and Pass Changes.
  • Update Firmware- Update your Cricut Cutting Machine or Heat Press.
  • Cricut Access- Subscription Info for Cricut Access
  • Settings- Change the canvas settings like the language, Metric vs. Imperial, type of grid, and how you’d like to Save your files (offline option).
  • What’s New- This is where you want to go when you have questions about changes and updates to Cricut Design Space.
  • Sign Out- To log out of Cricut Design Space.

Your Project Canvas

Here are the basic import functions available on your canvas. You can add a template, projects, images, shapes, text, and your own uploads. I have screenshots below that will help you understand what each of these options means to your project.

Templates

These are not files but are images that you can use to help you size and design your projects.

For instance, in the pic below I searched for a cards template. When I did, it added options for me to choose what type of card, and the size of card. Again, this is NOT part of your design, just a tool to help you create it.

Because of this, in the lower-left corner you’ll see below the Layers Panel (far right) the template is there, but there is no action with it. That means you can’t cut, draw, or do anything else to this template. It’s purely there to help you design. To hide the template on your canvas just click the eye next to it.

Projects

This gives you the option of importing a project. This may be one of your own that you saved, or it could be one of those in Cricut Access or uploaded by the Cricut Community. You can filter your search by your saved projects, and then you’ll see your Collections as well.

No collections? This is something you have to create as you Save your projects, it’s not automatically generated for you.

Images

This includes the images that are available free to Cricut users, as well as the 200,000 plus images that are available to Cricut Access subscribers. To know which ones are part of Cricut Access, you’ll notice they each have a green flag with a small “a” in it.

Besides the free images, and the Cricut Access images, there are additional ala carte images that you pay extra for. These are usually licensed images such as Star Wars, Hello Kitty, or Disney images. Please note that these are personal use only. This means you can’t sell anything you make with these images, even if you purchase them from Cricut. You’ll see a price next to all ala carte images.

One great addition in the last year or so is the constantly refining search feature that will help you find the images you’re looking for. Currently, you can search images by operation, single or multi-layered, project type, materials, free or saved, licensed images, and language!

Text

Text has all kinds of its own options that I’ll dedicate a separate post to, but one big thing to mention is that at the top you’ll see an All, System, and Cricut. If you’re trying to find the fonts that you’ve purchased in the past and are on your computer, you’ll find them under the System.

Although, there are many different fonts available through Cricut Access, be aware that some fonts are ala carte and cost an additional fee to use. Again, you’ll see a price next to these.

Recently, Cricut introduced kerning and has made that an option you can check to help you search fonts with this capability. You can also use the Filters to search by type of operation such as drawing, or you can choose single-layered fonts or multi-layered fonts.

Shapes

Click this to add a basic shape to your canvas. Most shapes will have all the same operations available to them as other shapes. For instance, basic cut, pen, engrave, etc.

There are 18 free shapes available as well as a score line. With Cricut Access you have the option for many more shapes.

To change the shape of a shape 😂 you Unlock the constraints, and then use the size tool in the top toolbar (or use the size anchor on your selected image) to adjust the height and width independently of each other.

Otherwise, with the lock on, your height will automatically adjust to the width, keeping uniform proportions. (So a square will always be a square and never a rectangle.)

One more thing to note is that you can now import a score line under the shape options menu and change its operation. This makes adding a cut line to a card for an insert WAY easier than in the past!

How to Upload an Image in Cricut Design Space

You can use your own uploaded photos, SVG designs, PNG designs, and more into your Cricut Design Space canvas. There is a list of compatible image files available right on the screen.

Step One: On your canvas click the Upload icon on the bottom left of your left-side toolbar. This opens up the Uploaded Images Gallery. Click Upload Image.

Step Two: Choose Your File to Upload with either Drag and Drop or Browse.

Step Three: In your files on your computer, located the file you want to upload. Click to select it, and then hit the blue Upload button at the bottom right of your screen.

Step Four: This starts the Image Upload Process in Cricut Design Space. First, you’ll select the image type. I usually recommend Complex, as I’m not entirely sure why they have you do this (maybe tosave space on their servers). But you want the crispest upload that you can get, especially for print then cut.

Click to select image type, and then hit the Continue button.

Step Five: If you’re using a file that has an unwanted background, you’ll need to remove that background. Cricut did just release an automatic background remover. But, you can do it with a couple of extra steps using the magic wand selection tool and erase.

One handy option here is to use the Preview Cut Image option, where you can double-check that you have everything removed that you want removed.

Note: The checkered background you’ll see means transparent.

Step Six: Select the Upload Type by clicking on the one that works for your project. Give it an Image Name, and Upload.

Note: One thing to be aware of here is that you can change the operation of your image on the canvas. This means you can save it as a Print then Cut but still change it to a cut image under the operations.

Step Seven: Add to Canvas. To do this simply click on the image(s) to insert into the canvas.

Step Eight: Images often import larger than needed and you’ll see a warning sign next to the layer that means it’s too large.

With the images still selected (more on this below) you can change the size in the top toolbar to something more manageable.

Step Nine: Select a single layer by clicking on the image layer in the Layers Panel.

The Layers Panel is the area at the far right of your screen.

Each layer is arranged in order from top to bottom. This means that if you were to stack them, the one at the top would be the first layer in the Layers Panel.

When you Select an image layer it becomes gray in the Layers Panel.

You can also select a layer by clicking on that image on the screen. You will also see that you have different things you can now do with that image layer, including changing the size, operation, position, rotation, etc.

When an image is selected, it gets a Selection Box around it. This selection box has four different anchors at each of its corners that have an action it can do. You can

  1. Unlock the constraints (bottom-left)
  2. Rotate the image (top-right)
  3. Change the size(bottom-right)
  4. Delete the image layer (top-right)

Step Ten: When you have things sized the way you want, you can change the operation. The operation is on the far right of the top toolbar and has a drop-down menu with the options available for this project, based on your machine selection.

In the image below, I’m changing my selected image from Basic Cut to Pen.

Step Eleven: Once your image is sized, has the correct operation, and everything looks good you can go ahead and Save your project. Really, you can do this at any point, but I usually make sure I mention it before you hit Make it. Then, next to the Save is the green Make It button- click it and we’re on to the next stage!

Step Twelve: On the Mat Preview Page you’ll see a representation of the different mats you’ll be using with your images on it. You have a few options here, such as Material Size, Mirror, and Project Copies. On this page the mat that is selected is white, and that is the mat that will be first.

To change the Material Size and turn on the Mirror you have to click on each mat and make the changes.

Here is an example of the material size options.

And here is an example of the Mirror function.

The Mirror option is something you will use for projects where you need the mirror images of your design because it’s going to be flipped in the application. For example, an iron-on project or an infusible ink project you would be sure to mirror because you’re going to flip it upside down to transfer it as you heat press it.

Once you’re done, hit the Continue in the lower-right corner of your page.

Step Thirteen: Now it’s time to Create! You’ll just choose the Material Setting and then be prompted to load your mat. Then, it will tell you what blade to use, and you’ll be told to hit the blinking “C” (or go button) on your machine.


Other Helpful Actions on the Canvas

Besides everything we covered already, I just want to call out that you can Undo/Redo your latest action with the arrows at the top left of your screen. There are also keyboard shortcuts for these actions as well.

Get More Cricut Design Space for Beginners Tutorials

There are other tools/functions in Cricut Design Space that you’ll use as you progress in your Cricut journey.

You can Slice, Duplicate, Contour, Offset and Weld as well as what I’ve shown you here today.

In my tutorials, I get into those actions and more as the project requires. SO be sure to check out my Cricut Project Tutorials.

I also have beginner posts for How to Engraving with a Cricut, Sublimation Made Simple for Cricut Crafters, and a Beginner’s QuickStart Guide to Procreate.

And check back soon for the tutorial on how to make Sip n Paint canvases with your Cricut. If you wondered, that’s what I was doing in this post’s photos! 🥰


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Thanks for Reading,

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