It's already been an adventuresome week around here and it is only Tuesday! So today's tip will be references to other people's great tips. Cheating, I know but I hope it helps you as much as it did me when considering a cutting system.
I decided to purchase the Cricut Expression over other cutting systems because of the size of the cutting area (up to 12x24"), the ability to resize letters and shapes from 1/4" to 11 1/2", the ability to cut thin chipboard. Ideally I would have liked to cut heavier chipboard but the other advantages were more important to me.
Another strong factor in the Cricut's favor was the 3rd party software - Sure Cuts A Lot or SCAL from Craft Edge. You can (and I am) of course using cartridges to cut designs on the Cricut. However, I didn't want to have to purchase so many font cartridges to get a variety of fonts for my scrapbook pages. With SCAL, I can use any TrueType font on my computer including Dingbats and cut letters, even welded words on my Cricut. Dingbats are fonts like Wingdings, Webdings and countless other ones you can download from the internet that contain shapes. These shapes can be enlarged using SCAL and then sent to cut on the Cricut. I can also draw images in a drawing program like Photoshop Elements and have SCAL trace the image and cut it with my Cricut. I can arrange multiple images and cut them together. Between some basic cartridges and SCAL, I have a HUGE array of items I can customize and cut!
In the layout here, I used the Plantin Schoolbook cartridge that came with the Cricut to cut the tag and the letters "Riverbend." This is called Endcaps. I also cut Park with this cartridge. For the other letters and the @ symbol, I used Sure Cuts a Lot and the font Andy. All the paper here is Stampin' Up! cardstock. I have my speed, pressure and cutting depth at 4.
Before purchasing my Cricut, I watched several videos on the use of SCAL and the basics of the Cricut. These helped not only with the purcasing decision but in getting me up and running - Fast! I truly went from a boxed Cricut to making my first cut with a cartridge in 15 minutes! (I had a hairstylist appointment and had to rush :-)
Here are the resources I used:
For learning the basics of the Cricut: http://www.cricut.com/ under Education, Videos, Intro. This is a long video that can't be fast forwarded so have about an hour free when you watch it.
robynstamps channel on Youtube - http://www.youtube.com/user/robynstamps#g/a
Numerous videos from the basics to specific projects. Her basics start at Episode 72.
Sure Cuts a Lot software can be purchased via their website at http://www.craftedge.com/. You can download a trial version which is recommended to be sure the software works with the firmware (preloaded software that makes your Cricut work) before you purchase. It is very simple software to learn. I've only had one question and tech support responded in less than an hour to my e-mail. There are also Youtube videos on this software as well to give you an idea of how it works.
The one other thing I did was read various opinions on message boards such as Splitcoaststampers forum and at Two Peas in a Bucket. I was looking for how happy people were with the Cricut versus the Silhouette or the Big Shot.
Hope all this helps anyone considering the purchase of a Cricut. It is an investment but so far, I'm really happy with mine.
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