The first-ever machine from Cricut, the Cricut Explore, was the one that introduced crafters to Design Space. This excellent designing platform made it possible to customize projects by offering a wide variety of customization. The Cricut Expression 2 was specially designed as a standalone cutting machine and has made crafting and cutting much quicker and more convenient.
Many details set the Cricut Explore 3 and Cricut Expression 2 apart. To determine which of these two machines is king, we need to compare their features, including;
- Design & Style
- Ease of Use
- Material Compatibility
- Special Features
- Kit Contents
Both of these brilliant cutting machines from Cricut have a lot to offer to DIY-ers and crafters alike. This head-to-head article will take an in-depth look at each machine’s functionality to determine which of their features makes them stand out above the other.
Cricut Expression 2 Vs Cricut Explore 3: Design & Style
This section compares the looks, style, and size of the Cricut Explore 3 and the Cricut Expression 2.
Cricut Explore 3
Cricut has upgraded its style since the Cricut Explore 2 by designing the Cricut Explore 3 with cleaner lines and a beautiful soft mint green case cover. The storage cup and tray compartments for your tablet or phone at the top of the machine help keep things organized.
Cricut Expression 2
Also, an attractive machine, but in terms of size, the Cricut Expression 2 is wider, longer, and higher than the Cricut Explore 3. Therefore, you require a bigger working space for the Cricut Expression 2. Both machines are portable and lightweight, with the Cricut Explore weighing slightly more at 21 Lbs and the Cricut Expression 2 weighing in at 16.6 Lbs.
Cricut Expression 2 Vs Cricut Explore 3: Interface
The interface is an important feature because it allows the cutting machine to access and interact with the design platforms and other systems.
Cricut Explore 3
The Cricut 2 had a material setting dial that they have removed from the new design of the Cricut Explore 3. You can access materials on the Design Space Website, which some crafters prefer using over the set dial.
For example, poster cards, leather, cardstock, vinyl, and other thick material’ cutting settings will be much deeper than thinner materials such as paper. This feature also has a “Custom Setting,” which allows you to modify the software.
Cricut Expression 2
The feature that sets these two machines apart is the interface. The Cricut Explore does not have an on-machine screen, whereas the Cricut Expression 2 features a full-color LCD touchscreen. Using the stylus tool, you can navigate the screen to edit everything you need to prepare the material for drawing or cutting.
Cricut Expression 2 Vs Cricut Explore 3: Ease Of Use
The ease of use makes a huge difference to crafters, especially beginners who have yet to find their way around their cutting machine’s functions.
Cricut Explore 3
The Cricut Explore cannot function without a computer because it requires the Design Space software access. However, the machine’s ease of use and many possibilities make it the perfect addition to any DIY-er who loves to personalize gifts, décor, accessories, clothing, and many more.
This software is quite complicated to use initially and may take a while to get used to. You will also have a problem when you don’t have an internet connection because Design Space is an online software program.
Cricut Expression 2
The Cricut Expression 2, on the other hand, is great for beginners due to its ease of use. The large touchscreen allows easy access to all the different settings. You do not need a mobile device, computer, or internet access to use the Cricut Expression 2. This cutting machine was designed to be standalone.
The editing and menus screen allows you to select, rotate, flip, and resize any of the 800 pre-installed images and designs and gives you a preview of what it will look like on the mat. This makes it super easy to properly arrange your materials on the mat before you start cutting.
On the downside, they discontinued the Cricut Craft Room software in 2018, and since then, you can only use cartridges for this machine, and they aren’t always easy to find. The lack of software also limits your choices if you are looking for variety.
Cricut Expression 2 Vs Cricut Explore 3: Compatible Material
To most crafters, this may just be the most important feature of the machine. The more materials you can cut with your Cricut, the more projects you can make.
Cricut Explore 3 (Over 100 Compatible Materials)
|Adhesive Foil||Foil Iron-On||Metallic Leather||Premium Vinyl-True Brushed|
|Adhesive Foil, Matte||Foil Kraft Board – Holographic||Metallic Poster Board||Printable Fabric|
|Aluminum Foil||Foil Paper – 0.36mm||Mylar||Printable Iron-On, Dark|
|Butcher Paper||Foil Poster Board||Natural Wood Veneer||Printable Iron-On, Light|
|Calibration Paper||Fusible Fabric||Notebook Paper||Printable Sticker Paper (Clear)|
|Cardstock (for intricate cuts)||Genuine Leather||Oil Cloth, Bonded*||Printable Sticker Paper (White)|
|Cardstock, Adhesive Backed||Glitter Cardstock||Paint Chip||Printable Vinyl|
|Chalkboard Vinyl||Glitter Craft Foam||Parchment Paper||Shimmer Leather – 1 mm|
|Construction Paper||Glitter Iron-On||Party Foil||Shimmer Paper|
|Copy Paper – 20 lbs.||Glitter Mesh Iron-On||Patterned Iron-On||Silk, Bonded*|
|Copy Paper – 24lbs.||Glitter Vinyl||Pearl Paper||Smart Iron-On|
|Copy Paper – 32 lbs.||Grocery Bag||Photo Paper||Smart Iron–On–Glitter|
|Corrugated Cardboard||Heavy Cardstock-100 lbs.||Polyester, Bonded*||Smart Iron-On – Holographic|
|Craft Foam||Heavy Patterned Paper||Premium Outdoor Vinyl||Smart Paper, Sticker Cardstock|
|Cutting Mat Protector||Heavy Watercolor Paper – 140 lbs.||Premium Vinyl – Permanent Glossy||Smart Vinyl – Matte Metallic|
|Deluxe Paper||Holographic Iron-On||Premium Vinyl – Removable Matte||Smart Vinyl – Permanent|
|Deluxe Paper Foil Embossed||Holographic Iron-On Mosaic||Premium Vinyl-Frosted Glitter||Smart Vinyl – Removable|
|Deluxe Paper, Adhesive Backed||Holographic Sparkle Iron-On||Premium Vinyl-Frosted Gray||Smart Vinyl – Shimmer|
|Denim, Bonded||Holographic Sparkle Iron-On Mosaic||Premium Vinyl-Frosted Opaque||Smooth Glitter Paper|
|Duct Tape Sheet||Holographic Sparkle Vinyl||Premium Vinyl-Holographic||Sparkle Paper|
|EVA Foam||Infusible Ink Transfer Sheet||Premium Vinyl-Holographic 3D Texture||SportFlex Iron-On|
|Everyday Iron-On||Kraft Board||Fine-Point Blade||Stencil Film – 0.4mm|
|Everyday Iron-On Mesh||Kraft Cardstock||Premium Vinyl-Holographic Art Deco||Stencil Vinyl|
|Everyday Iron-On Mosaic||Laser Copy Paper||Premium Vinyl-Holographic Bubbles||Sticky Note|
|Express Iron-On||Light Cardstock – 65 lbs.||Premium Vinyl-Holographic Crystals||Tattoo Paper|
|Faux Leather (Paper Thin)||Light Chipboard – 0.37mm||Premium Vinyl-Holographic Rose Bubble||Transparency|
|Faux Suede||Light Patterned Paper||Premium Vinyl-Holographic Threads||True Brushed Paper|
|Felt, Wool Bonded||Magnetic Sheet – 1.0 mm||Premium Vinyl-Mosaic||Vellum|
|Felt, Wool Fabric||Magnetic Sheet – 0.5 mm||Premium Vinyl-Pearl||Washi Sheet|
|Flat Cardboard||Matboard (1.5 mm)||Premium Vinyl-Shimmer||Washi Tape – 0.06mm|
|Flocked Paper||Medium Cardstock – 80 lbs.||Premium Vinyl-Textured||Wax Paper|
|Foil Acetate||Metallic Iron-On Mosaic||Premium Vinyl-Textured Metallic||Window Cling|
Cricut Expression 2
- Light, medium, and heavy cardstock
- Cricut stencil material
- Fabric including felt (use with fabric stabilizer)
- Cricut magnet material.
- Cricut stamping material
If you want to use your machine to cut thicker materials, you need a deep-cut blade. Combined with this blade, you can use your Cricut Expression 2 to cut the following thick materials;
- Stamping material
- Thick cardstock
- Stiffened felt
- Thick foam sheets
- Thick cardboard
Cricut Expression 2 Vs Cricut Explore 3: Special Features
Both of these cutting machines have fantastic features that make them unique. The Cricut Expression 2 and Cricut Explore 3 special features include;
Cricut Explore 3
- Cuts intricate details with ultimate precision, such as spider web, fine snowflakes, holiday décor, and lace stationery designs.
- The Scoring Stylus creates perfect fold lines for 3D paper, crafts, envelopes, boxes, cards, acetate pinwheels, and more.
- Features over 370 fonts to choose from.
- Features over 100 000 images to choose from.
- Features over 920 printable patterns and 50 000 printable images in Design Space.
- Compatible with Cricut Roll Holder – supports up to 22.8m (75ft) rolls of Smart Material.
- Bluetooth Wireless Technology
- Docking slot for built-in storage & mobile devices
- Compatible with 6 tools for writing, cutting, foiling, and more
- 2 x Faster than its predecessor; the Cricut Explore 3.
- Free design app for Android, MAC, Windows, and iOS.
- Compatible with Smart Material cuts 12ft in one go.
Compatible Smart Materials Include;
- Available in a wide variety of effects, colors, and material lengths in permanent and removable adhesives.
Smart Paper Sticker Cardstock
- No glue required
- Peel & stick
- Backed with double-sided adhesive
Cricut Expression 2
- Easy-to-use features include independent vertical/horizontal image flipping, image sizing, and image rotation.
- Cricut’s image library has a limitless number of fonts, numbers, and images available for you to use.
- Comes with 2 pre-loaded cartridges and immediate access to 110 layered images, 40 phrases, and 3 fonts.
- Additional features: Quantity & Auto Fill – cuts multiple of the same image, which is ideal for printing in batches for party favors, invitations, place settings, and many more.
- The Cricut Alphabet cartridge is a font cartridge that allows you to create beautiful, striking images, letters, and numbers.
- The Cricut Essentials cartridge allows you to add a personal touch to all your projects.
- Comes with over 800 pre-loaded images.
Cricut Expression 2 Vs Cricut Explore 3: Tool Compatibility
You can use various tools for different projects and different materials. Let’s explore the tool compatibility of the Cricut Expression 2 Vs. Cricut Explore 3.
Cricut Explore 3 (6 Tools)
Premium Fine-Point Blade (Gold)
- Designed for the most intricate cuts from thin to medium-weight materials such as poster board, iron-on, paper, vinyl, and more.
- Made with premium German carbide steel.
Deep-Point Blade (Black)
- Performs very intricate cuts on thicker materials such as stamp material, stiffened felt, cardboard, chipboard, magnet, foam sheets, and more.
- Features a 60-degree blade angle.
- Made from hard, durable steel.
Bonded-Fabric Blade (Pink)
- Provides the functionality of the fine-point blade and matches the distinct pink of the FabricGrip mat.
- Used for intricate cuts on fabrics with an iron-on backer or bonded fabrics.
Foil Transfer Tool
- Adds foil effects to projects (used with foil transfer sheets).
- Features 3 x interchangeable tips (fine, medium, and bold).
- You can use it for simple outlines and intricate designs.
- Scores fold lines for 3D projects, cards, envelopes, and many more.
- Using the Scoring Stylus and cutting blade together enables you to score and cut simultaneously without having to change mats.
Roll Holder For Smart Vinyl
- Keeps rolled material aligned to ensure clean & precise cuts.
- Features a built-in trimmer to cut a straight edge every time.
- Fits 4 – 75ft (3 – 22.8m) rolls of Cricut Smart Materials.
Cricut Expression 2 (3 Tools)
Standard Blade (Fine-Point Blade)
- Wear and breakage resistant German carbide steel
- Cuts most light-and, medium-weight materials, such as vinyl, cardstock, and faux leather.
Deep Cut Blade
- Used for cutting thick materials such as cardstock, foam sheets, magnet, stamp material, stiffened felt, fabric, cardboard, and many more.
- Features a 60-degree blade angle with shorter housing (blue) for thick materials (up to 1.5mm thick).
- Accepts deep-point replacement blades.
Scoring Tip With Housing
- Creates score lines instead of cutting.
Additional Cricut Tools Required (For Both Machines)
The Cricut Explore 3 and the Cricut Expression 2 need the following tools to assist them with their crafting process;
- Removes small negative cuts.
- Ideal for iron-on and vinyl.
- Perfect for creating home décor, decals, and more.
- Yields precise, straight cuts with its easy-gliding blade system.
- Features a dual-rail, allowing you to load, measure, and cut materials from both sides.
- Ideal for burnishing materials and cleaning machine mats.
- Makes applying the material to bigger surfaces much easier.
- Perfect for iron-on, paper, vinyl, and many more projects.
- Extents the life of reusable mats.
- Ideal for iron-on, paper, vinyl, and many more projects.
- Usually purchased with the Cricut Scraper tool.
- Required to cut the excess material.
- Removes delicate cut-outs.
Cricut Expression 2 Vs Cricut Explore 3: Kit Contents
Both of these machines come with different accessories and tools. Let’s take a look at what you will find when you unbox your Cricut cutting machine.
Cricut Explore 3
- 1 x Cricut Explore 3 cutting machine
- 1 x Welcome card
- 1 x Premium fine-point blade & blade housing
- 1 x USB cable
- Power adapter
- Enough material for a practice project
- 100 x Ready-to-make projects
- 1 x Free-trial Subscription to Cricut Access for new subscribers
Cricut Expression 2
- 1 x Cricut Expression 2 cutting machine
- 2 x Pre-loaded cartridges (Cricut Alphabet & Cricut Essentials), which allows you immediate access to 110 layered images, 40 phrases, and 3 fonts
- 1 x Cricut Expression 2 handbook (user manual)
- 2 x Cartridge handbooks
- 3 x Port covers
- 1 x LCD Screen protector
- 1 x Blade & blade housing
- 1 x Stylus
- 1 x Quick Start Guide
- 1 x Power cord
- 1 x USB cord
- 1 x 12” X 12” Cutting mat
Cricut Explore 3 Vs. Cricut Expression 2: Comparison Summary
|Cricut Machine Model||Cricut Explore 3||Cricut Expression 2|
|Dimensions||24.5” X 10” X 10.25”||23” X 9.4” X 11.3”|
|Software||Design Space||Cricut Craft Room (discontinued) – you have to download images from the image library or buy cartridges.|
|Cutting Versatility||Cuts over 100 different materials||N/A|
|Tool Compatibility||6 x Tools (scoring, writing, cutting, & foiling)||3 x Tools (scoring, cutting)|
|Connectivity||USB, Bluetooth||USB, Wired Bluetooth|
|Maximum Cutting Area||12” X 24”||12” X 24”|
|Weight||16.12 Lbs.||16.6 Lbs.|
|Able To Upload Own Designs||Yes||No|
|Price||View Latest Price||View Latest Price|
|Max Cutting Width||13 inches (33cm)||12” (30.5cm)|
|Max Cutting Length||12 Ft (3.6m)||24” (61cm)|
|Material Compatibility||Over 100 materials||N/A|
|Operating System||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android||Windows, Mac|
|Compatible With Smart Materials||13” Wide (33cm up to 22.8m)||No|
|Works With Home Printer To Print & Cut||Yes||Yes|
- The Cricut Explore 3 is more versatile and cuts more materials than the Cricut Expression 2.
- The Cricut Expression 2 is a lot easier to operate than the Cricut Explore 3 because you can plug your machine in anywhere and start crafting, and you do not need to use Design Space.
- Unlike the Cricut Expression 2, the Cricut Explore 3 allows you to create and upload your own designs.
- The Cricut Explore 3 is faster than the Cricut Expression 2 and cuts 8 inches per second.
As we can see, both of these powerful cutting machines have great qualities and features. So, how do we choose which one is the best? This answer depends entirely on the crafter and their specific requirements. If you do not need a machine that can cut over 100 different materials, then the Cricut Expression will certainly suffice.
However, suppose you are a professional crafting designer who requires a machine to cut many delicate and tough materials. In that case, you should skip right past the Cricut Expression 2 and get the Cricut Explore 3.
Bryan E. Robinson is the former owner of TshirtGrowth. He has sold t-shirts since 2006 through dropshipping, screen printing, vinyl printing, DTG, Print on Demand, and more. Bryan has created his own t-shirt designs through Photoshop, Canva, and other platforms, as well as worked with freelancers to create many of his designs. Besides t-shirts, Bryan has over 18 years of experience in online marketing with eCommerce, B2B SaaS, B2C products, and more.