Today, we are continuing with the learn about Cricut series. I often get asked, “What tools and accessories do I need to use a Cricut?”. This will depend on what types of projects you plan to do. If you are a paper crafter, your needs may be different from someone who is mainly going to use the Cricut for home decor. The wonderful thing is your Cricut Explore will be ready to use to create a project right out of the box. 

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The Basics

There are several tools and accessories that I would consider basics for using your Cricut Explore. You will use these for every project. Any Cricut Explore you buy will come with at least one cutting mat and a cutting blade so you can start creating right away!

Cutting Blades

There are three types of cutting blades – the regular blade that comes with the machine, a German carbide premium blade, and the deep cut blade. I like to keep a couple replacement blades on hand. I keep one blade that I use only for fabric. You can see how I cut fabric to look like lace on this ruffled tote.

Cut fabric with the Cricut Explore - lace ruffled fabric tote

Note: I craft on a weekly basis with my Cricut and usually only have to change out the blade once or twice a year.

Cricut sells a German carbide blade. It is designed to cut light- to midweight materials. This blade resists wear and breakage for a longer life.

Cricut® German Carbide Premium Blade

When working with thicker materials you will need to use a deep cut blade. You will use this blade for cutting magnet, chipboard, stamp material, stiffened felt, foam sheets, cardboard, and some fabrics. The first time you use a deep cut blade you will need to purchase it with a special housing. After that, you can simply buy replacement blades.

Cricut Explore® Deep Cut Blade With HousingCutting Mats

There are three types of cutting mats – light grip, standard grip, and strong grip – available in two different sizes (12″ x 12″ or 12″ x 24″). Your machine will come with at least one cutting mat. Over time, you will need to purchase a new mat when it is no longer sticky or you find your material shifting around while cutting.

Cutting Mat Variety 3 pack

Variety 3 Pack 12

It is important to choose the correct grip mat for your project. This will ensure a nice clean cut while making it easy to remove your material from the mat. I find it easiest when removing my materials from a Cricut mat, to turn the mat over (upside down) and pull the mat away from the material. This helps to prevent the ends from curling up.

  • Light Grip Mat – office paper, light cardstock, vellum
  • Standard Grip Mat – cardstock, pattern paper, embossed cardstock, iron-on, vinyl – this is the mat you will probably use most often
  • Strong Grip Mat – specialty cardstock, glitter cardstock, chipboard, fabric with stiffener

Helpful tip: When you purchase Cricut materials, like cardstock, vinyl, iron-on, etc. it will tell you right on the package which blade type and cutting mat is recommended, as well as the setting to use for the Smart Set Dial.

Scraper and Spatula

You could probably get by without the scraper and spatula, but they are so helpful for removing materials from the cutting mats, that I consider them essential. 

Tools Scraper and Spatula

The spatula tool helps you to precisely remove your material from the cutting mat.

The scraper is used to scrape and clean the cutting mat. When you are done removing your material from the cutting mat, there are often a lot of little bits and pieces left over. Simply use the scraper tool to push them all off the mat so you are ready for your next project.

Now that you know the basics you will need for any project, I am going to talk about specific tools you may find helpful for particular types of projects.

Paper Projects

Paper projects are one of the first things I created using my Cricut. You can make cards, banners, shapes, letters, numbers, party decor, and more. Depending on the project you may need any or all of these tools.

Scoring Tool

The scoring stylus is used to score fold lines on cards and envelopes, boxes, 3D projects and more. The Cricut Explore allows you to have both a cutting blade and scoring stylus installed at the same time, which makes these projects very quick and easy.

Tools Scoring Stylus


Did you know you can write with your Cricut Explore? There are Cricut Fonts that were created just for writing, and you can also use any font you have downloaded onto your computer. Cricut makes tons of different pens to use with your Cricut Explore. And you can have both a cutting blade and pen installed at the same time to create a project easily. I used a pen to create the writing on my Disney Frozen invitations.

Writing using a Cricut Explore on Frozen invitation

Cricut offers many different types of pens specifically made to work with their machines –  gold, calligraphy, fine tipmetallics, and just about any color of the rainbow. My favorite starter set to use is the Everyday Collection Pen Pack. It includes 3 medium point gold-pens, 3 medium-point silver pens, and 4 fine-point black pens.

Explore® Pen Pack - Everyday Collection - Pens - Accessories - Supplies

Note: You can use other pens with the machine with some trial and error to find the correct sizes to fit in the accessory holder, but I find the Cricut pens tend to work the best.

Vinyl and Iron-on Projects

Vinyl and iron-on projects both use similar tools while creating projects.

Vinyl can be used to decorate and personalize items like mugs, vinyl decals for the wall, frames, and more. You can also use it as a stencil for hand painting items like this pallet sign.

DIY hand painted pallet sign

Iron-on (or heat transfer vinyl) is used to embellish fabric. I love to make customized t-shirts like this Harry Potter Expecto Patronum shirt.

Expecto Patronum T-Shirt


The weeder is used to pick out small pieces from your project, including the negative pieces of vinyl and iron-on from the backing sheet.

Tools Weeder

Transfer Tape

The new transfer tape from Cricut is clear so you can easily see your vinyl project and where you are placing it.

How does it work? Once you have cut out your design and weeded the excess material, you apply the transfer tape to your vinyl with the paper backing still in place. Then, you peel off the transfer tape with your vinyl attached. Finally, you place your transfer tape with the vinyl on your project and then peel the transfer tape away. 

Clear transfer tape from Cricut

This ensures your design stays in place while transferring. You won’t have to worry about pieces sticking together or trying to line everything up perfectly.

Other Tools and Accessories

I wanted to share just a few other tools and accessories you may need or want to use with your Cricut depending on the project.

Bluetooth Adapter

The older Cricut Explore machines didn’t come Bluetooth Enabled. However, you can purchase the wireless Bluetooth adapter to plug in your machine and use it wirelessly. I love being able to keep my Cricut in my craft room and use it wirelessly with my laptop or iPad.

Explore® Wireless Bluetooth® Adapter

Tool Kits

The most economical way to get the tools you will use most often is to purchase one of the toolkits. The basic tool kit comes with tweezers, weeder, scissors, spatula, and scraper. This is great if you are primarily going to be doing vinyl or iron-on projects.

Tools Basic Set

The essential tool kit comes with everything in the basic toolkit plus scoring stylus, paper trimmer, and replacement blade for the trimmer. This is the perfect kit for paper crafters.

Essential Tool Set, Mint - Tools - Accessories - Supplies

Cricut Explore Air 2 Bundle

If you don’t yet have a Cricut machine, you can get some great deals on purchasing a machine with extra supplies. As of today (3/29/2017) you can get this Cricut Explore Air 2 Mint Machine + Ultimate Machine Set for only $299.99!

Explore Air™ 2 Mint Machine + Ultimate Machine Set - Cricut Explore Air 2 - Machines

This particular bundle comes with the machine plus:

  • Cricut Explore® Deep Cut Blade With Housing
  • Cricut® Tools Scoring Stylus
  • Cricut Explore® Candy Shop Pen Set
  • Cricut® Tools Basic Set
  • Cricut® Cutting Mat Variety 3 pack
  • Cricut® Window Cling, Black

I hope you now feel comfortable knowing what you will need to use your machine. My suggestion is to create a few projects with your new machine and from there figure out what will be helpful for your particular project needs. You can see all my Cricut related posts on my Cricut Project Page.

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