Without a doubt, the steepest learning curve when getting started with a new Cricut machine is mastering the software, Cricut Design Space. Although it’s not difficult to use, some things are just not as intuitive as we’d like them to be. However, you will soon see that Cricut Design Space does in fact include everything you need to create amazing projects, AND that there are lots of great shortcuts to help you do so! This guide breaks down 20 of my favorite Cricut Design Space tricks. These tips come from spending HOURS in the program myself, and are sure to save you tons of time and stress so that you can create anything your heart desires with ultimate ease and confidence!

iMac showing a Cricut Design Space screenshot of a green flower

These beginner Cricut Design Space tips and tricks I’m sharing today are applicable to all Cricut machines (Cricut Maker series | Cricut Explore series | Cricut Joy); and they are broken down into two categories:

  1. For the Design Canvas – where you create your projects and edit/manipulate your designs.
  2. For the Cut Screen – the series of screens (after you send the project to your machine by clicking the green “Make It” button) that allow you to set cut settings.

NOTE: These tips and tricks are specific to the desktop/laptop version of Cricut Design Space. However, most will also apply to the iOS and Android Cricut Design Space apps should you be working on other devices such as an iPhone, iPad, or tablet.

Cricut Design Space Tips for the Design Canvas

1. Optimize for Your Machine

Cricut Design Space screenshot of machine selection

There are now several different Cricut machines available for purchase. And while many of the functionalities are the same across the various models, there are also some design nuances specific to each machine. In order to load the correct design tools within Cricut Design Space, make sure your machine is selected from the dropdown arrow in the upper right corner of Cricut Design Space.

TIP! If you ever see a “yield” sign next to a single layer in the right-hand Layers Panel, it is usually for one of three reasons:

  • Your image is too big and you need to re-resize it.
  • The selected “Operation” (e.g., Cut, Score, Draw, etc) isn’t supported by your machine and you need to change it to one that is.
  • The selected “Pen” color or type isn’t supported by your machine and you need to change it to one that is.

2. Experiment with Your Search Terms

Cricut Design Space screenshot of image search

The search function in the Cricut Design Space Image Library can be a little…particular. A fairly generic term that should yield all sorts of images sometimes won’t. However, if you change a single word or letter, suddenly more images will populate. As such, I recommend playing around with a lot of different search terms in order to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Try these specific tricks:

  • Leave off the “s.” If you type the word “Dots” into the search bar, it yields about 115 images. But if you type in the word “Dot,” it yields over 200 images. As a rule, leaving off the “s” in searches yields a lot more results.
  • Search by synonym. To find as many options as possible, use various synonyms for each search. For example, if you are looking to cut labels, use label, tag, rectangle, circle, and square to find all possible images.
  • Filter By Operation. If you need an image that will be cut, drawn, printed, etc, use the “Operation Type” filters to narrow down large searches results.

TIP! You can select as many images as you want across various searches. Any image you click will line up along the bottom row of the Image Library and can be placed on your canvas all at one time once you hit the green “Add to Canvas” button.

3. See More from the Same Image Set

Cricut Design Space screenshot of Image Sets

When you use the general search function, you may find one image you love amidst a whole variety of other images that you don’t. What do you do when you want to see more images similar to the one you like? The best place to start is with the “Image Set” it came from.

To quickly and easily access the Image Set:

  • Click the small information icon (i) in the bottom right-hand corner of any image within the Cricut Design Space Image Library.
  • Click the green “View Images Sets” text to see the full set of images.

TIP! Image Sets can also be searched by clicking the “All Images” button and then selecting “Image Sets” in the bottom left-hand column.

4. Utilize Free Images & Text

Cricut Design Space screenshot of free image selection

I am a HUUUGE fan of the Cricut Access memberships if you are a habitual crafter. However, I realize that many people, especially newbies, may not want to spend money just to practice cutting on their machines.

To keep your crafting costs to a minimum, be sure to utilize the FREE resources within Cricut Design Space. There are now hundreds of free images, shapes, and fonts you can use without a membership or additional charges.

  • Free Images. Filter by “Free” at the top of the filters menu in the Cricut Design Space Image Library.
  • Free Shapes. Click the “Shapes” button on the left side of the canvas to see a wide variety of basic shapes you can use for free.
  • Free Fonts. Choose “My Fonts” from the font menu filter to see fonts you can use without charges.

Learn more:

5. Re-Color Quickly with the Color Sync Tool

Cricut Design Space screenshot of color sync

When you place several designs onto your blank canvas, you may end up with various shades of the same color (e.g., three different greens, four different blues, etc.) Whether you want consistent colors across your project or need to quickly change layers to a particular color, the Color Sync Tool is the quickest and easiest way to do it!

Navigate to the Color Sync Tool along the right-hand side of the design canvas. Here, you will see all the colors currently in use on your project, and you can simply drag-and-drop any layer into another color already represented.

6. The Hide Tool

Cricut Design Space screenshot of hide function

There will be times when you don’t need to cut everything on your canvas (e.g., if you need to recut a certain part of your latest t-shirt design). Instead of deleting items from your project, simply “hide” them by clicking the eye symbol next to the layer in the right-hand Layers Panel (notice how the black layer in the image above is “hidden”). Any image that is “hidden” is not removed from your canvas, but it will not be included when you send your project to be cut.

The “Hide” symbol toggles on/off, making it oh-so-simple to cut only what you need and/or keep your design canvas clutter-free without losing track of images you may still want to play with.

7. Operation Selection

Cricut Design Space screenshot of operation selection

Most designs from the Cricut Design Space Image Library will populate on your canvas as “Cut” designs. However, this can be easily changed to a different operation such as Draw, Score, etc. “Operation” is the designation for how a particular image will be created. Options are dictated by your machine and include things like Cut | Draw | Score | Print Then Cut | Engrave | Perforate, etc.

To change the operation of any layer on your canvas:

  • Select the layer.
  • Navigate to the Operations menu along the top toolbar.
  • Use the dropdown menu to select how you want that particular layer created on your project.

8. Manipulate Patterns

Cricut Design Space screenshot of pattern selection

With an individual layer selected, you can easily swap the color by clicking the square Color button along the upper toolbar. Clicking “Advanced” will allow you to explore all colors beyond the standard 28 options. However, you can also fill any layer with fun patterns. (NOTE: This is for Print Then Cut Projects only.)

To fill a layer with pattern:

  • With the layer selected, change the operation to “Print Then Cut.”
  • Click the Color square next to the Operations menu and select “Pattern” from the dropdown menu.
  • Choose from the countless pattern options.
  • Click “Edit Pattern” to adjust the scale and layout of the pattern.

9. Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Hands showing Cricut keyboard shortcuts

There are buttons on the Cricut Design Space canvas for almost every command you can think of (e.g., Duplicate, Delete, Copy, Cut, Paste, etc.) These buttons exist on the corner handles of the images themselves, the top toolbar, and in the right-hand Layers Panel. However, to save time, try using keyboard shortcuts that are standard in other computer programs.

Specifically, these shortcuts come in quite handy and can save you a lot of time when working on big projects:

  • Copy – control C
  • Paste – control V
  • Delete – delete button
  • Undo – control Z

*Control = Command for Mac users

10. Use Slice to Crop

Cricut Design Space screenshot of Slice function

One tool that may appear to be missing from Cricut Design Space is a cropping tool. Indeed…there is no tool that allows you to quickly and easily shave off parts of a design by sliding or dragging-and-dropping, as you can in many other programs.

However, you can use the Slice Tool in conjunction with free shapes to achieve what a typical cropping tool can do.

  • Start with a layer you want to crop.
  • Place a square from the Shapes menu on top, and then place it where you’d like to crop your original layer.
  • Select both layers and click “Slice” from the bottom right-hand toolbar.
  • Delete out the excess elements to reveal your cropped design.

New to manipulating images in Cricut Design Space? Check out these comprehensive tutorials:

Cricut Design Space Tips for the Cut Screen

Once you finish designing your project and send it to be cut via the green “Make It” button, you might think your ability to manipulate the project is through. However, there are LOTS of things you can do on the cut screen itself to not only save time but also save on materials. These 10 Cricut Design Space tips are some of the best things to know about Cricut Design Space, so let’s run through them!

11. Move Items Around on the Cutting Mat

Cricut Design Space screenshot of cutting mat

When you send a project to your machine, Cricut Design Space will auto-populate your layers onto mats based on color and size. However, each layer’s location may not be exactly where you want it. Simply by dragging and dropping, you can move a layer anywhere on the mat and even rotate it using the handles on the upper right-hand corner.

This not only allows you to scrunch images up tighter than the software originally suggests, but it also ensures your cut is precisely where you want it to be (like if you are trying to use a scrap or oddly-shaped piece of material).

12. Move Images from One Mat to Another

Cricut Design Space screenshot of Move Object function

In addition to moving images around a single mat, you can also move any image from one mat to another (without having to go back to the canvas to change its color).

To move an image to another mat:

  • Click on the 3 dots in the upper left-hand corner of any image on the cut mat.
  • Select “Move to another mat.”
  • Cricut Design Space will then allow you to choose another mat for that layer.
  • The image will land on the upper-left corner of the new mat, so you will likely need to adjust its alignment so it doesn’t overlap other cuts.

This feature not only allows you to condense same-color images into fewer mats, but it’s also a great way to quickly change the color of any part of your design without having to exit out of the cut screen and change the color manually on your canvas.

13. Adjust Project Copies

Cricut Design Space screenshot of cutting mat preview

Let’s say you create a new project on your design canvas, but you need 18 copies of the same design. You do not need to duplicate your design 18 times on your canvas!

After you send your project to cut with the “Make It” button, there is a setting on the top left of the Cut Preview screen that says “Project Copies.” By increasing the “Project Copies” number, every layer of your project will duplicate that many times. The duplicates will then auto-populate on the correct color mats and be cut all at once.

TIP! A popular features from the (veeerry) old Cricut machines isn’t available anymore: Autofill. This single button on the Cricut Expressions machines allowed you to automatically fill an entire mat with the same image. Increasing the “Project Copies” until your mat is full is the best workaround I’ve found so far.

14. Set Mirror On the Cut Screen

Cricut Design Space screenshot of mirror function

There will be times, especially when you are working with Iron-On or Infusible Ink, that you will need to cut your design in reverse (aka: Mirror). Although you can horizontally flip your design on the design canvas, there is a quicker and easier option to Mirror your designs on the Cut Preview screen instead.

Under each mat in the left-hand column, there is a “Mirror” toggle switch. Use this button to turn mirroring on/off for that particular mat.

NOTE: There is no “universal” Mirror button. You must mirror each mat separately.

15. Using Several Machines

Overhead shot of Cricut Maker, Cricut Explore Air 2 and Cricut Joy

If you have more than one Cricut machine setup, you can connect both/all machines to your Cricut Design Space account at the same time via either Bluetooth or USB. And don’t worry about cutting the wrong design with the wrong machine. No matter how many machines you have connected, your very first step on the final cut screen is to select which machine you want to use from the top dropdown menu. In this way, you can always be sure you’re using the intended machine for your project!

16. Save Your Most Commonly Used Cut Materials

Cricut Design Space screenshot of material selection

Are you growing tired of searching through the 200+ custom material options to find the same Vinyl, Medium Cardstock, and Everyday Iron-On settings over and over again? Be sure you are utilizing the Materials “Favorites” function!

Once you locate a material you use frequently, click the star on the right-hand side of the row. This adds it to your Favorites tab under Material Selection. If you choose “Favorites” instead of “Popular” under Materials, you will see a mini menu of all the materials you cut the most often!

17. Edit Cut Settings for ANY Material

Cricut Design Space screenshot of Custom Materials specifications

One of the most amazing things about Cricut technology is that the machine is pre-calibrated to perfectly cut a wide variety of materials. But every now and then, you might find that a particular material doesn’t cut quite right. In these instances, you can adjust the settings for ANY material (including depth, blade, and how many passes the machine will make) right from the Materials menu.

Here’s how you do it:

  • On the final cut screen, select “Materials.”
  • Select “Browse All Materials.”
  • Down at the bottom, in small green letters, it says “Material Settings.”
  • Select any material, adjust the settings, and then save your specifications for future projects.

18. Easily Adjust Cut Pressure

Cricut Design Space screenshot of cut pressure selection

While it is awesome to be able to adjust specific settings of any material, sometimes you just need a little more or a little less pressure in order for your material to cut clean through. Using the “Pressure” menu is a great way to quickly and easily get your cutting depth right without having to fuss with custom settings.

  • After you select your material on the final cut screen, you will see a Pressure dropdown menu.
    • Default – current machine settings
    • More – a little more pressure than the default
    • Less – a little less pressure than the default
  • You can permanently save these settings by clicking the “Remember materials setting” checkbox.

19. Skip and Repeat Mats

Cricut Design Space screenshot of cutting instructions

One of the nicest things about how Cricut Design Space works is that you don’t have to pay much attention once you send your design to cut. As long as you feed the right color material into your machine just as it’s shown on the cut screen, the right colors will cut at the right time.

However, you may find that you don’t want to work in the pre-designated order and would prefer to change what mat is cut next, repeat a mat, or skip a mat altogether. To manually select which mat cuts next, simply click on the mat on the left-hand side of the cut screen. The mat will highlight white to indicate it’s being cut next.

TIP! If you do skip around, always double-check that the color you’re loading into the machine matches the highlighted mat on the cut screen.

20. Fool-Proof Instructions

Cricut Design Space screenshot of cutting instructions

Once your project is designed, Cricut Design Space will automatically provide step-by-step instructions for executing your project. On the final cut screen, you will see a variety of reminders including what materials to prepare, what Cricut Pen to load, etc. The key here is not to overlook these subtle instructions because they can save you valuable time and materials!

For example:

  • When you select “Iron-On,” you will be prompted to mirror your design and place the shiny side of your iron-on down onto the mat.
  • When you select “Chipboard,” you will be prompted to insert the Knife Blade, secure your material to the mat with tape, etc.

Whether you have a new machine or have been working in Cricut Design Space for years, I hope this post reveals some time- and sanity-saving tricks for you to try! Although these concepts aren’t hard, they can spell the difference between frustration and success on even the most basic projects. My best advice in working in Cricut’s design software, though?!? Simply get in there and play around. I promise the more you experiment, the more comfortable you will become with all of the design tools available to you!

See You Soon!
Megan