Which one do I choose?

A Cricut machine is a wonderful thing, but the fact that you are tied to cartridges and only the shapes on the cartridges can make it very limiting. It doesn’t have to be though. I’m going to spend the next four days telling you all of your options for making the most out of your Cricut while not always having to buy cartridges. Over the next three days I’m going compare Cricut Design Studio with two third party software programs Sure Cuts A Lot and Make the Cut, so you can decide which one is best for you without more time and money than necessary. On the fourth, I’ll tell you about the Gypsy.

Design Studio

This is probably the one everyone turns to first and that’s fine. It’s Cricut’s own software and it is an amazing tool. For starters you can download the trial version for free and in it is a list of each Cricut cartridge available as well as the images on each one. So even if you don’t end up purchasing it, I definitely recommend getting the trial version as this is an invaluable resource.

Design Studio is a software program that allows you to manipulate the shapes on each cartridge to create your own shapes. You can bend, stretch, and resize each image and then layer and weld them with other images to create your own design.n With all the different carts and shapes out there, it’s pretty safe to say with a little bit of time you can come up with almost anything. You can use as many different cartridges as you like on each image. The possibilities are practically endless.

Scallop border for free design ribbon_trims

Well, not so fast. You can create any image you want, but you’ll need each cartridge you use to create it to cut it out with your Cricut. So unless you actually own each cartridge, the line for what you can design and CUT ends with what the cartridges you OWN. It’s understandable of course. It doesn’t make any sense for Provo Craft to create software that sells for the price of one cartridge to allow users to be able to cut from all of them, they’d never be able to sell new cartridges, essentially putting themselves out of business. So while Design Studio is a very useful program, if you don’t own a lot of cartridges, it’s might not be for you. It’s also not the easiest program to use from the start so if you’re totally computer illiterate you will be frustrated at first, guaranteed. My Design Studio is one of my most popular Cricut classes for just that reason. People get frustrated after trying it and want to give up.

The image below was made using only the George and Basic Shapes cartridge (not by me!).



  • Excellent trial version allows you to view each cartridge’s images. If nothing else, it’s a great free tool to help decide which carts you want before you buy.
  • Trial version allows you to design anything with any carts (You can cut on the trial version using Plantin Schoolbooks with your Expression, George with the Baby Bug and Don Juan with the Create).
  • No time limit on the trial. You can design tons of images and save files before making the decision to purchase the software or cartridges.
  • There are tons of free files out there (even some on this site). You will still need all the cartridges used to cut them, but if you aren’t much of a designer or don’t want to take the time, this is always a good option.
  • Provo Craft has never charged for a software update.
  • It’s made by Provo Craft. They created the program and you know it will always work with your Cricut machine unlike third party software (more on that to come!)


  • You must own the cartridges to cut. So even if you use one tiny image for your design, if you don’t own the cartridges you can’t cut it out.
  • It’s not especially user friendly software. It’s gonna take time to learn it, and even once you know what you’re doing, there are still errors in the software that make it frustrating.
  • Not a lot of updates. I am a die hard Cricut fan and I’ve spent a lot of money on their products so I hate to sound negative, but I’m being honest here. Cricut and Provo Craft don’t seem to listen to their customers when it comes to this. There are still features which need fixed and the software is still buggy. These are things which should have been fixed early on.
  • No Mac version. Yes, I know there are a lot more Windows users than Mac but once you start talking to people, it’s amazing how many people use a Mac for crafting.

Bottom line? Everyone who purchases a Cricut machine should go to cricut.com and download the trial version. Play around with it, take your time, use the trial with the correct cart and  cut a thing or two out. It won’t cost you anything and at the very least you’ll have a great resource. If all you want to do is weld your current fonts and do light image work, this software is probably all you need. If you want to do more, check out the other options. Just remember that if you start making designs with all kinds of carts you never planned to buy and then must cut them out, this could turn out to be quite an investment.

Tomorrow we’ll go over Sure Cuts A Lot, so don’t forget to come back to compare!

If you can think it… You can Cri-cut!

One Response

  1. cvansyckle Says:

    Thank you Amy…I totally agree with you! I still use Design Studio occasionally, but tend to use my Gypsy more as I don’t have to search for my Cartridge. But I have to admit I have Sure Cuts A Lot and LOVE IT! There are a ton of great freebies out there and you can buy some great inexpensive svg cuts from sites like svgcuts.com too! No cartridges to search for (you just have to have one in your machine…any one you want to make it run).

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