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Cricut Mini and Craft Room design tool – a re-cap

If you read only one of my week’s worth of posts on the Cricut Mini and the Craft Room design tool, read this one.

Would I buy a Cricut Mini?

No. Not until the price comes more in line with the price I see on the US sites of £50 (ish) with free shipping.  £120+ is just out of line for my pocketbook.

Setting aside price, What functionality is missing from the Mini that informs this decision?

The Cricut Mini can only be used with Craft Room.  I can see no way to plug-in a cart and make it cut.  There is no keypad for selecting the design. So if you buy a Mini you have no CHOICE but to use Craft Room.

Would I be happy to use Craft Room on the Mini or any other Cricut machine?

No.

Using Craft Room has some built-in issues, I have to assume by design, that limit your use of carts you buy.

  • to get the most out of it you need to register your ownership of the cart in Craft Room.  That offers huge benefits – you can use it without plugging in the cart, you can cut a design you created using elements across many carts, and your carts are always available to you, even at a crop, provided you bring a laptop or have an internet connection to use the online-only version of Craft Room. (not tested.) Plus there are the freebies Cricut provides each week.

and to update slightly, I’m told via a UKS comment that you can’t CUT with the online version of Craft Room, only design!

  • registering your cart in all probability kills the resale value of that cart.  Once YOU’VE registered it, can a buyer then register it?  Based on what I have read about a similar situation with the Gypsy, no. So only the original buyer can register the cart in Craft Room.
  • you cannot import a design from any other source (including your font library) and trace>cut nor can you export a design in anything other than the proprietary Cricut .ccr format.

I should mention that the Cricut End User Agreement for cartridges would SEEM to state that you are not allowed to sell a cart on (or share it with a friend, or cut a design for someone else, if my reading of the legal-ese is accurate):

2.6 Transfer of Cartridge and Content. You and Your users will not sell, rent, lease, or transfer, or attempt to sell, rent, lease, or transfer, the Cartridge or Content or any portion thereof (including operating a software‐as‐service, application service provider, service bureau or equivalent service using the Cartridge or Content to any other person, without the prior express written permission of Provo Craft) in any manner whatsoever.

I’m not going to comment on that other than to say I am not aware this has actually been tested in court.  But be aware of it.

Using Craft Room with an old Cricut that runs the original firmware (1.1 for sure and maybe 1.2) that lets you use SCAL (Sure Cuts A Lot – purchased before the legal prohibition on its sale) MAY force your Cricut to update the firmware, making SCAL unusable.  Once you update your firmware I am unaware of any way to revert to the older version. I have a call out for confirmation from anyone this has happened to to get in touch so I can state this is the case unequivocably, rather than state it MAY happen.

NOTE:  I can update this slightly!  a comment on the UKS thread says:

I’ve tried using Craft Room with a Cricut Create that has firmware v1.54 on it. Craft Room will detect that there is a newer version (1.65 for the Create), and gives the option to either upgrade or skip the upgrade. I skipped the upgrade, and was able to cut to the Create without any problems.

Still no confirmation from the original source to say whether the original firmware that works with SCAL ALSO offers you the option to skip the upgrade or not, although the original comment I was seemed to say with that version it upgraded automatically.

Final thoughts:

Have I enjoyed playing with the machine?  Absolutely.  Have I enjoyed playing with Craft Room.  Absolutely. Am I impressed with the ability to create my own unique stencils and stamps in addition to the usual paper cutting? Absolutely.  Why then would I not buy a Mini and buy into Craft Room??

Putting aside everything else, both the machine and the Craft Room Tool are fine, good even.  Problem is I CAN’T put everything else aside.  And the devil is in the details, as they say.

The bottom line is that the reason I have had such a good experience with the Mini and Craft Room  is because I was lent the machine  (at no cost) and more importantly access to virtually every single image on every single Cricut Cart (at no cost.)  I had the entire (impressive) library of images to play with.  Had I had to BUY every cart I used in my play it would have cost me £100s.  My pockets are simply not that deep. Had I been limited to the carts I do own (four, old ones) would I have enjoyed it anywhere near as much? Probably not.   Is Craft Room good enough to give up the increased functionality I enjoy from SCAL? Nope.

Who MIGHT want to buy the Mini and buy in to Craft Room?

  • People who already own a lot of Carts may love Craft Room as it’s the only real way to “design” with carts. Craft Room supports many versions of the Cricut. Craft Room is a decent design tool.  Sometimes it’s slow to enact commands, but what you can DO with it is pretty impressive.
  • People who are happy with the limited use of carts and the price structure, and never plan on selling their carts on
  • People who want to design ONLY with Cricut cart images, and don’t have any other design tool  or machine
  • People who need to replace their old Cricut machine with a new version – the Expression is £350ish. The Mini is clearly a cheaper option at £120ish.  The Mini cuts fine.  It’s not hugely loud, the cuts are clean and accurate, from my experience, and the size of the machine is perfect for my room.  It works with a Mac – that is huge for me.

If you have read all this and nothing that I see as an issue is an issue for you,  you will probably love both the Mini and the Craft Room design tool.  Go for it and enjoy it.  I hope all my comments have at least made you think about the machine and the design tool rather than jumping to a quick decision. If I’ve done my job, at least you will be making an informed decision!


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Designing with Craft Room (and cutting with the Cricut)

I thought I would talk a bit about  designing with Craft Room.  I have commented before that sometimes it is quite slow, but I have to say that although these are pretty image-intensive designs, I didn’t have near the issues with s l o w  going I did when using the medallion or the PL cards designs  I mentioned a couple of days ago.  I do know the comments on the UKS thread have mentioned the slowness of Craft Room.  I noticed it most in:

  • designs across multiple carts
  • super detailed designs, like medallions IF YOU DUPLICATE THEM. Stand-alone, they are OK
  • multiple images welded

The letter stencil I did? Dozens of individual letters?  Not slow at ALL, but then they were all from one cart and not welded.  They did need a fair bit of processing, first loading up the letters

hidden

hiding the outer box

hiding

then laying them all out as a full sheet, but it was still quick enough for me

lettersheet

 

The problem is I have no idea what else impacts using Craft Room – is it the speed of my computer? the version of the OS I am running? Is it to do with my internet connection?  As ever, with technology YMMV.

Remember this design from yesterday?

woyww224a

It was really easy to create.  Since I made this a few days ago, I didn’t have it on my screen so I had to go back and find the image to say which cart it was from. I hunted and hunted for this shape in the library of images, even doing a search for FRAME (which brought up a gajillion images to look through, NONE of which were from the When I was a Kid cartridge , where this can be found  – more on how I eventually found it in a bit.

Anyway..can you see that stencil design came from this?

simpleshape

All I did was hide a few lines, duplicated the bits I wanted, did some GROUPing and FLIPing and scaling …

createdesign

and there you go.  I just think it would be entirely too tedious to grab the process screen by screen but I hope you can see how I got to the above design once you see the simple shape it grew from.

Now, how I eventually found that image.  Craft Room allows you to SAVE a project.  Thank goodness I opted to save this one!  To save one of your designs, click MY  PROJECTS at the top and follow the steps

saving

And you can then see any saved projects there, and reload them

saveproject

I cut that bit off but there is an EXPORT button that will save your project to your home machine as a proprietary .ccr file, which will only open for the Cricut (so don’t think you can design something then send it to a friend who has a Cameo so they can cut it!) I am assuming the only way to cut a saved file is thru Craft Room.

Worth noting that if you are working with images, and you have one on your mat but have moved on to a different cart, you can easily find out where the image came from by RIGHT-Clicking on it.

cart

 

Interesting to note that I had to click on the outer image.  The info on the cart does NOT come up if I click on the rotated image.  Maybe because the one I clicked was a piece of the original image and all the rest were duplicated and scaled or rotated? That would be my guess.

OK, this is important.  I think it is important that you hear from someone who is perhaps a more typical Cricut user.  I am most def. NOT that.  A commenter on UKS, who loves her Mini and loves Craft Room, said:

I was given a Mini for Christmas last year & I love it! However, I’m not the sort of person that creates my own designs so was not interested in being able to use SCAL. For my use I find the basic cartridges which are supplied are almost enough – I have supplemented with a few additional ones which I bought digitally – I don’t have any real cartridges. 

She also points out an additional benefit of Craft Room that I don’t see with the test log in – or maybe I DO see it, but buried in the mass of images just didn’t recognize it – of FREEBIE images provided to Craft Room Users, apparently for a limited time.

I do check the website each week to see what the freebies are (although these do appear in your list of cartridges anyway) and try to make use of them when they are free.

The fact there is this extra little sweetener for Craft Room users might tip the scale in its favour for YOU.

Tomorrow I will do a recap of all my thoughts on both the Mini and Craft Room. But do keep in mind they will be only MY opinions based on MY requirements.  You will need to read them with YOUR requirement in mind.

woywwheader


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WOYWW 224 – more of the same

I am still working with Craft Room, the Cricut design tool, and learning more and more about it every day.  You know I suspect people simply do NOT know what they are getting in to when they ask me to review something!  Is that why Julia put my name forth as a potential reviewer?  She knew I would work the thing to death, squeezing every last bit of info out of my play, and attempting to discover things to do with it that may not be immediately obvious?  And that I am only ever going to be completely honest in my reviews?  Will I ever get asked to do another?  Perhaps not LOL!

Anyway, if you read back you will see that I have been playing more with making TOOLS from the Cricut Mini more than projects or layouts or cards.  I’ve done a lot of cutting of stencils from report covers and even made a few foam stamps – not a perfect process, but certainly doable.  What is quite literally ALL OVER MY DESK and floor and side table is the results of my design and cutting.  I’ll share more about the DESIGN process in Craft Room tomorrow, but for WOYWW it seems better to show actual creative work!

So first we have a stencil I cut using a basic Cricut image that I duplicated, rotated, hid contours, etc. I used it for my Gelli Plate, pulling both thru the stencil and then again after removing the stencil.

woyww224

woyww224a

And another one, this one created from dozens of individual characters, but well worth the effort.  I really like it! Same deal – thru the stencil and once removed.

woyww224b

I think it would have been MUCH better had I used a lighter colour as the base, especially when I added the foam stamps in black – they would have stood out that little bit more. I also thing masking the center so the fist punching thru didn’t have the letters behind it would have improved the design.

woyww224e

I also sat looking at the waste left from one of the finger stamps and decided that while the finger were a bit thin, overall it would work as a second stamp:

woyww224c

And I think it did.

woyww224d

Now, it’s time to scamper around the desks and see what else will inspire me.  Life is finally settling down ever so slightly, so I hope to manage more than my commenters and the usual suspects that are on my watch list.  I try to get to at least a few people at random, but I have never once made it thru every name on the list.  One day….

Happy WOYWW!


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Hide Contours in Craft Room and cutting stencils

One more trick for you.  Perhaps the niftiest trick in Craft Room is the ability to turn off (not cut) areas of a design.  This is, I found, VERY useful when cutting a stencil from report cover plastic.  The first ones I cut were very floppy, due to the thin frame that gets cut as part of the design.  Turning that off leaves a larger area around the stencil design and makes the whole thing much more stable!

noedge3

 

Not all designs work flawlessly – for some the lines you might want to delete are part of a line you want to keep.  You’ll probably have to play around with it.

For this one, the outside border was easy enough to turn off

noedge2

 

revealing the cutting lines

noedge

 

and the final stencil!

noedgecut

 

This one was also a good one:

noedgecut2

 

and then I had a bash at designing one – this is two of the Ornamental Iron windows, one flipped, with a different one in the middle, stretched.  Then the frame that makes it a “window” was removed to produce this stencil

noedgecutgate

 

Kinda nifty, hummm?  Many of the Edge to Edge designs and the Paper Lace designs will work beautifully for stencils and the Craft Room Hide Contours function makes it possible.  I call that a BIG WIN, although I have to say that it was painfully slow to work with the design incorporating the three elements.  Lots of the spinning beachball of death, if you are a Mac user LOL! Does that tip the scales in favour of Craft Room?  It certainly increases the usefulness of the images a lot and makes designing with the images way more flexible, but you will have to consider that yourself and weigh up the pros and cons, depending on what is most important to you!

 


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Cricut Mini stamps – and warning for SCAL users

Let me give the warning first.  It has been mentioned to me that some people who have old Cricuts, running the oldest firmware (the version that is required to be able to use SCAL, if you bought it, like I did, before they were legally prohibited from selling a version that worked for the Cricut) may not want to use Craft Room.  I have heard as yet unconfirmed reports that running Craft Room with your old machine plugged in, may update your firmware without asking you if you want to do that, thereby making SCAL unusable.  I’ve asked the person who mentioned this to put me in touch with someone who had this happen to them, so I can verify the info and perhaps ask a few more questions about it.  Please do let me know via a comment (or email if you prefer, in the About Me section at the top)if it has happened to YOU.

Now, the stamp cutting. It is actually way easier than I thought.  The trick is don’t use sticky backed fun foam (ok, well maybe you can but I have to find some first to try it) and before you stick it to the mat to cut it, compress the foam by running it thru your die cutting machine, between two plates.

compress

Can you see how much thinner the light pink foam is??

Now I would not suggest trying to cut a hugely intricate shape, but I didn’t want to do just a triangle, so I did one of the American Sign Language hands.  It’s a bit complex but not super detailed.

When it is on the mat, you can look at the image and decide if you want to cut the whole thing.  That HIDE CONTOUR button will allow yo to edit the image – thanks to a comment and a blog link I now understand how it works!

stamp

When you click it you will see the image like so:

stamp3

If you click on the lines you want to delete, then will not cut!

stamp2

I used max setting for everything, and cut 4 times. See how the palm crease is missing from the cutting file?

cutsettings

Yes, the rollers will crease the foam, but just like the compressed foam springs back, the roller indents will spring back too.

howitcuts

Now, it is not cut 100% thru but it is very close.  See when I flex it?

howitcuts2

All it needs is a light tracing with a knife to complete the cut.  Easier for simple shapes, but even this took me only maybe 2 minutes. See the roller indent?

howitcutshelp

Just make sure the side of the foam that has the blade cut is the stamping side, and you stick the stamp to your “mount” on the rougher side.  That side is a bit raggedy.

howitcutsback

The foam does stretch, with these thin lines, but I just formed it around the cut out bit when I stuck it down.

howitcutsshape

I think they stamp just fine – I would say limit the rigorous washing (just blot with a baby wipe) and don’t let paint dry on them if you plan to use them for Gelli play or paint stamping.

stamped

I have some more tips on mask cutting coming up….

Oh, and et me also mention one other odd thing that happened.  I am using a Cricut machine and log in to Craft Room that was sent to me. Because the first one didn’t appear to work, I was sent a second log in.  The first one then did work, and I used it for all of my play.  Testing out something,  I had to close Craft Room then open it again and when I did, I used the second log in by mistake.  I got a strange message that said something like “You already have 2 machines registered with this account.  You may not link anther machine until ??? 2015” (not the exact wording, I closed it down and went back to the other log in before I thought to capture it, but that is pretty close to what it said.) I am guessing because that is a review/testers account maybe a few people have been given it, which is why it came up for me.  I suppose it might be strange if someone had 3 different machines but it is worth noting that there is a limit on the number of machines that can be tied to a Craft Room account.