“Casual Crafter’s Dream”: Cricut Joy

A Deceivingly Powerful Crafting Tool in a Pint-Size Package

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4.5

Cricut Joy

Cricut Joy

The Spruce Crafts / Stacey L. Nash

What We Like
  • Small size is easy to store

  • Long cutting lengths

  • Cuts 50+ materials

What We Don't Like
  • Cricut Design Space is difficult at first

  • Comes with limited tools and supplies

  • Easy to waste materials

Bottom Line

Easy setup and convenient storage are the Cricut Joy’s best virtues, but it’s also a versatile DIY machine that only cuts and draws.

4.5

Cricut Joy

Cricut Joy

The Spruce Crafts / Stacey L. Nash

We purchased the Cricut Joy so our writer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.

The Cricut Joy enters the crafting market as one of the smallest electric crafting machines. Crafting machines these days can do much more than just die cut. As Cricut, Silhouette, and Sizzix compete for a growing number of DIYers, the technology used in these machines has grown increasingly sophisticated. That also means many of them have grown in size. 

The Cricut Joy offers impressive cutting and drawing abilities that rival many bigger models, but it doesn’t require nearly as much storage space. I thought it might be a perfect fit for me. I like to create and take on a DIY project here and there, but I don't want to devote a room to it. I tested to see if the Cricut Joy could enhance my creativity and how easy it was to set up and use. 

Cricut Joy

The Spruce Crafts / Stacey L. Nash

I’ve used larger, older versions of the Cricut, so when the Joy arrived on my doorstep, if you heard me as I opened the box, you'd think I had just gotten a fuzzy baby animal. I was cooing, “Isn’t it cute?” and “It’s so tiny!” If you’ve seen the larger machines, you’d understand how pleasantly surprised I was by Joy’s small box and size.

I mention the box because it’s easy to store. The box is only a couple of inches larger than the Joy, which measures 8 by 5 by 4.5 inches. It's tiny and perfect for storage in a closet or cupboard and highly portable. I moved it to and from my kitchen table and my office several times. It only weighs 4 pounds, so all you have to do is unplug it and go. 

Cricut Joy

The Spruce Crafts / Stacey L. Nash

A downside is that the smaller size can only cut designs with a width of up to 4.25 inches. However, unlike the Explore Air 2 and the Cricut Maker, which have an 11.5-inch cut width, the Joy can cut repeated designs of up to 20 feet long and continuous designs up to 4 feet long. 

The Cricut Joy runs through the Cricut Design Space app. There’s not even an on/off button. First confession—I wasn’t excited that the Joy only works through an app. A glitchy app can ruin the design process and make the machine worthless. I set up a Design Space account and had no problem connecting. I have a slow internet connection at my home and have had past issues with robotic vacuums that rely on WiFi. However, the Joy connectivity got a big thumbs up from me.

Devices that only run through an app or WiFi connection usually lack instructions. I had to look up everything about getting started on the Cricut website. It wasn’t that complex to get it set up and ready to go. Design Space, for the most part, guides you through the process. 

The Cricut Smart materials (an additional purchase) are fantastic.

Once connected, I was ready for the first cut. Second confession—I’d never used a Cricut (Joy or otherwise) without an experienced user next to me. The Joy is perfect for people like me. It’s not meant for the dedicated crafter and DIYer. It’s great for families who want to make an occasional birthday card, label their water bottles, or create a fun iron-on for a T-shirt once in a while. 

I like to take on a project now and then, and I’m often scrounging through my drawers looking for a last-minute thank you or birthday card. I also like keeping organized. That’s why one of the first projects with the Joy was creating a series of labels for my husband’s closet storage bins. 

For me, it’s a great choice—size matters. I didn't want it taking up space for a device I’ll only use once every few weeks.

It seemed like a simple project when I started. All I needed to do was create the shape (I chose an oval) and add the text cutouts, right? Not right or easy. Set up with Design Space may be easy, but doing a project that’s not pre-designed is difficult. Design Space is not as intuitive as I had hoped. I’ve used Photoshop, Publisher, and Canva before, and though not a pro, I can understand “group,” “ungroup,” “flip,” and “mirror.” 

Terms like “weld” and “slice,” not common in graphic design programs, were throwing me off. I couldn’t figure out how to get Joy to cut the lettering inside the shape I wanted. The Help option in Design Space didn’t help either. So, I gave up.

I called in reinforcements the next day (my sister-in-law has used Design Space before). It wasn’t hard, but the Design Space help tutorials and overall app need more work. Cricut has some tutorials on their website, and independent crafters do tutorials too, but you have to leave the Design Space app to access them.

Cricut could certainly make Design Space easier to use.

I got my designs to weld together and then did the placement next, which was difficult using Design Space. You create the design in a workspace, but you have to place it on the cutting surface before the Joy cuts. It wasn’t easy and is a skill I’ve yet to perfect.

Once I knew what to do, it took about 30 minutes to make 20 custom labels. The first four were oval with a cute script. Unfortunately, for my husband's closet, I didn't want cute. So, I recut the first four, changed the shape to a rectangle, and swapped out cute for practical. It suited his closet perfectly and only cost me about 10 minutes to make the change. 

Cricut Joy

The Spruce Crafts / Stacey L. Nash

The Cricut Joy only comes with a sample piece of Permanent Smart Vinyl. It doesn't come with any other tools. You can buy a tool bundle, which I recommend. I spent an additional $100 on supplies so that I could do thorough testing. The Joy can impressively cut 50-plus materials. Again, I’m not super crafty, so I tried out the materials I thought I would like or use—cards, stickers, removable vinyl, and iron-on vinyl. 

The Cricut Smart materials (an additional purchase) are fantastic. Traditional Cricut machines, namely the Explore Air 2 and Cricut Maker, require a sticky mat. The mat holds the material in place while it goes through the machine. You then use a weed tool to peel the material off the mat when you’re done. Smart materials do not require the use of a mat. I used the Smart vinyl, both removable and permanent, as well as the Smart Iron-on Vinyl. It took out the steps of lining the materials up on the mat and peeling off the materials.

Cricut Joy

The Spruce Crafts / Stacey L. Nash

Design Space offers 100,000 free pictures and designs. Most are relatively basic, but you could get by using only these designs. You can also buy more complex and branded designs, like Disney or Star Wars. If you use Design Space a lot, you can buy a monthly subscription to Cricut Access. Since I’m not going to craft enough for a monthly subscription, I separately bought two designs to use as iron-on T-shirt transfers (Star Wars and a dinosaur).

I relied on the Cricut website to learn how to use the iron-on materials. It’s a little more complicated, like mirroring the design to read correctly on the shirt and making sure the iron is at the right temperature for the materials. Despite a little trial and error, I figured it out and had two custom-made t-shirts. 

I also made a birthday card, name labels, and many, many stickers. My kids loved making stickers. Their binders are now covered in custom stickers. The drawing feature is fun too. It can cut and draw but not at the same time. It’s super easy to switch out the blade for a new one or take out the blade and put in a marker. This device would also be a handy tool for a scrapbooker. More complex machines can score, cut wood and fabrics, and engraving. But those aren’t things I would ever do, so the Joy is sufficient for my needs. Overall, the Cricut Joy is fun to use, and it works if you want a simple, family-friendly crafting device. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Cricut Joy use materials efficiently?

There’s a lot of potential waste when using the machine. It’s not easy to tell where your cuts will be made even when looking at the design and cutting area in Design Space. Even after I figured it out, many projects ended up with wasted materials. I tried to place designs in configurations that minimized excess use, but it wasn’t easy.  

Does the Cricut Joy come with any materials?

The Joy only comes with a small sample piece of permanent Smart Vinyl. The starter bundle, cutting tools, markers, Smart materials, and mats are purchased separately. I made an insert card, which required a separate card mat. I bought paper stickers, iron-vinyl, and removable vinyl for testing. 

Can you upload designs to the Cricut Joy? 

Yes, I uploaded designs into Design Space and used them on the Joy. You can also make your designs in another program like Canva, upload them, and cut them with the Joy. You will need to save them in a format recognized by Design Space. It’s versatile as long as all you want to do is cut and draw. 

Is the Cricut Joy worth the price? 

The Joy is the least expensive of the current Cricut options but is still pricey. It's compact and versatile but doesn’t offer the wide range of cutting options as the more complex machines. For me, it’s a great choice—size matters. I didn't want it taking up space for a device I’ll only use once every few weeks. In that sense, it’s a screaming deal. It can do everything I want to do. If your craft/DIY style sounds like mine, then it’s worth it. 

Cricut Joy vs. the Competition

If you weigh the pros and cons of similar Cricut products, the Joy is the most basic of the current models. It offers cutting and drawing features only. It works through the Cricut Design app like the Explore Air 2 and Cricut Maker. 

The Explore Air 2 is the middle-of-the-road machine meant for more serious crafters. It offers greater functionality, cutting options, and material choices, including fabrics (perfect for quilters). It cuts materials up to 11.5 inches wide but not as long as the 4 to 20-feet like the Joy. It costs more than the Joy but isn’t as expensive as the Maker. 

The Cricut Maker is the top of the line Cricut machine. There’s not much it can’t cut. It offers more blade and material choices, can engrave, deboss, score, and perforate. This machine is for those who craft on a daily to weekly basis. If you run a business or are continually trying out new ideas, this machine is better suited for you. It’s an investment, but for a dedicated DIYer, it’s likely worth it. 

Final Verdict

Yes, buy it if you're an occasional crafter.

It's a good buy if you’re low on space but like to make custom cards, labels, and other fun stuff on occasion. It’s pricey to start even though it’s the smallest, most basic of the Design Space-connected models. You’ll also need to invest in tools and materials, so count on spending more than just the price of the Joy to get started.

Specs

  • Product Name Joy
  • Product Brand Cricut
  • UPC 093573997594
  • Price $179.99
  • Weight 4 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions 8 x 5 x 4.5 in.
  • Warranty 1-year limited warranty