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LEARN TO USE THE PRINT THEN CUT FUNCTION ON YOUR CRICUT LINKE A PRO SO YOU CAN MAKE DETAILED CARDSTOCK PROJECTS, STICKERS, LABELS, AND SO MUCH MORE!
The world of Cricut crafting is as exciting and fun as it is intimidating at first. So many terms, tools, options, etc. It’s a lot to take in! Before I got my first Cricut machine, I thought “no bid deal, I’ll figure it out!” and then I plugged it and and thought “now what?”
Yup! That was humbling!
I picked it up really quickly once I got started but I vividly remember how it felt when I first started and how confusing some features seemed. For example, Print then Cut. How was this Cricut machine supposed to print? I don’t see any ink cartridges… Oh how far I’ve come! (and you will too by the end of this post!)
I’ve gotten so many questions about how and when to use Print then Cut and I constantly see it come up in Facebook support groups, so I thought… Why not write a blog post explaining it all!
So if you’re new to Print then Cut and want to know what it’s all about, how to do it, and what’ it’s best for… read on!
Better yet, be sure to pin and share this post to share the love and info!
Alright, let’s dive into the amazing world of Cricut Print then Cut!
Quick Links to Information in this Post
What is print then cut
Print then Cut is a Cricut function that allows you to print a design and then cut it out. At first, I thought this meant that the Cricut machine would print and cut it, that’s not quite right. Maybe that’s why it’s called Print THEN Cut!
When you choose the Print then Cut feature, Design Space will send your design to a printer that your PC is connected to. You then stick the print out to a Cricut mat and feed it through your Cricut machine. The Cricut machine will then cut your design out based on the settings you chose in Design Space.
While this is a very easy and extremely useful process, there are some tips, tricks, and troubleshooting stuff you need to know so read on!
Print then Cut Uses
Before we get into HOW to do Print then Cut, let’s take a moment to talk about why you might want to use this function. What are the print then cut uses after all?
Well, if you’re reading this post you’re either just really curious or you’ve already encountered one of these uses… but let’s go through a few of the most common ones anyway!
Typically people use Print then Cut when they want to cut something that has lots of colors and they can’t just cut their project out of one sheet of paper or one piece of vinyl.
Here are some examples:
- Print then Cut stickers! This is often a crafter’s first encounter with Print then Cut. Say you want to make stickers to place on your product packaging with your logo – you’d use Print then Cut to make those stickers! Or maybe you want to make a customer sticker sheet for your kid – you’d use this function!
- Print then Cut Cricut Iron On – This seems to be the second most common use for the Cricut Print then Cut function! Let’s say you want to make T-shirts for your kid’s birthday party and you have an elaborate birthday themed SVG with los of colors… you Print then Cut iron on Vinyl so that you won’t have to worry about layering multiple layers of HTV! So much easier! Or maybe you want to make a shirt for Grandma that has a picture of her grandkids on it… Print then cut your own image onto HTV!
- Then there’s the more general Print then Cut Cricut vinyl option. Yes technically making stickers in my first bullet is using this method on vinyl but I often see people ask – “can you print then cut on vinyl?” so I thought it warranted it’s own bullet since this can be used for so much more than just stickers! Being able to print custom designs with lots of different colors on vinyl and then stick them to just about anything opens up so many doors! From mugs to laptops and so much more – this opens so many doors! If you like to refinish furniture like I do for example, you could make your own appliques for your furniture! Or even create a vinyl image to place under a coat of epoxy! So many options!
How to Prep an Image for Print then Cut
When you want to Print then Cut something using your Cricut machine, it’s key to setup the design correctly in Design Space. There are two things that you must make sure you do:
- You must switch the “Operation” option to “Print then Cut >> Standard” itch setting from “cut”
2. Then you need to click “Flatten” on the bottom right.
The most common mistakes people make when it comes to this is either they flatten first which often doesn’t work OR the layers are out of order.
You need to make sure that your layers are set right otherwise thigs could get hidden. For example, if some details that need to be seen are on a bottom layer and you click “flatten”, they will basically get covered up and won’t be visible anymore.
Note that “Flatten” is not the same as “Attach”. Think of it this way… when you attach, everything is treated the same and it all becomes one color. When you flat, they get combined like with attach but each layer’s colors stay as they are. This is important when you’re going to print it.
How to print then cut With A Cricut?
Alright so now that we know a litle more about what Print then Cut is, let’s move on to – how do you print then cut on cricut machines? Here’s the steps you’ll take to use this function:
- Upload the image you want to work with or create your own design.
If you don’t know how to upload an image or SVG to work with, you can read most of my tutorials (like this one!) for a very detailed step-by-step. If you need a quick overview how to make a simple design in Design Space, this tutorial could get you started!
- Check that your layers are ordered correctly.
You want your biggest bottom layer to be at the bottom, and the smallest details that need to show at the very top for example. Look at the layers on the right side to make sure everything is where it needs to be. You can adjust the order of the layers by dragging and dropping them where you want. If Design Space doesn’t let you drag a layer, chances are that your layers are grouped. If that happens, right click on your design, click “Ungroup” and try again!
- Select all the elements of your design.
I use a PC and do CTRL+A but you can click and drag like or use any other method you’re comfortable with to select everything.
- Change the Operation to Print then Cut.
Operation is on the top left of your screen in Design Space. Chances are that it says “Basic Cut”. Click the downward arrow and click on “Standard” just below “Print then Cut”. Now your design will switch to right function, but we’re not done yet…
- Flatten your layers
Now you need to click “Flatten” to make sure that all your layers are considered one item and your Cricut machine doesn’t end up cutting out each individual layer.
- “Make it!”
Now you’re ready to “Make it”. You’ll see some unusual prompts but follow them according to how your printer is setup. The first thing it will have you do is print your design. When I say Print… I mean print it on your printer. It does not “Print” using your Cricut machine.
- Print your design
Design Space (the software on your PC) will now send your design to your printer to print. Place your printable vinyl or HTV in your printer facing in the right direction so that your printer prints on the top of the vinyl (this differs for all printers). Once it prints, the first thing you’ll notice is that your design will print with a big box around it – that’s okay and perfectly normal! You may also notice that your design looks a bit thick and maybe blurry around the edges. This is the “bleed” and I’ll explain what that is soon – so don’t worry about it! Spoiler alert though – it’s a good thing in most cases! Once your design is done printing, remove it from your printer tray and move to the next step.
- Prep your printed design to cut
Now we need to get your design ready to cut. Place your vinyl, printed side up, on a light or standard grip mat. I like to place it on the top left of the mat but it may not matter. If you’re using a glossy sheet of vinyl, you’ll need to do an extra step which I’ll discuss later in this post. If not, just load your mat into your printer by pressing the flashing double arrows and then press the flashing C.
- Scan the registration marks (the box)
If you’re brand new to print then cut, you’re about to see something brand new! Your Cricut machine has a sensor on it. When it’s using the sensor, a light will turn on! I had never seen this until the first time I used print then cut on my Cricut machine!
Your Cricut will start the cutting process by scanning the black box (also called the registration lines) on your printed sheet. It uses this box to determine where your design is and basically calibrate itself so it cuts in the right spot.
If you’re using a glossy sheet and an Explore series Cricut machine, you may find that your machine has a tough time during this step and may not work. If this happens to you, check the “Tips” portion of this post for an easy hack!
Otherwise, your machine will scan your sheet and immediately switch over to cutting when done.
- Cut your Print then Cut project!
Once your Cricut machine is done sensing, it will start cutting just like normal! You’ll notice though that if you left your “bleed” option on and checked, your Cricut will appear to cut INSIDE the shape, not on the edge. That’s normal! This is because the bleed is there to make sure that your design goes all the way up to the edge of your cut! So it prints a bit extra just to make sure your cut looks clean and professional!
That’s it! That’s all there is to it!
Now your design is ready to unload from your machine by clicking the double arrows and you’re done! Just remove your vinyl from the Cricut machine and use it however you’d like!
Best materials and products for print then cut projects
When you’re ready to begin your first Print then Cut project, you’ll want to make sure that you have all the right products on hand. Here’s what you’ll need.
You can easily grab these items on Amazon using my shopping list! Click here!
Cricut Standard Grip Mat
You can also use a light grip mat if that's what you have on hand.
Printable Vinyl (Glossy)
I love using these to make stickers! They work great!
Printable Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) Paper for Dark Fabrics
I love this one! I use it on white and ight fabric too and I think it gives you the most vibrant colors!
Printable Vinyl (Matte & Waterproof!)
These are amazing for labels!
Epson EcoTank ET-2720 Wireless Color All-in-One Printer with Scanner and Copier
Any printer will do but this is a great high quality printer that works reliably every time! Plus the ink is fairly well priced too!
Cricut Explore Air
The maker works too but I've used my Explore Air 2 to make stickers and labels multiple times!
The Maker is the top of the line so it of course works too!
Print then Cut Cricut Tips
- If after your complete your print then cut steps, you notice that your Cricut machine cut out some extra shapes, check your layers! You may have a shape or a part of the design at the very bottom. When you flattened your layers it got picked up and included in the cut.
- If instead your Cricut cut each individual layer, chances are that you forgot to flatten your layers. Go back, select everything, and flatten.
- If this is the first time you’ve done Print then Cut with your Cricut or your printer, or if you haven’t done it in a while… calibrate, calibrate, calibrate! You will want to calibrate your Cricut machine AND your printer to make sure that both are working perfectly. If your print isn’t nice and crisp, or your machine cuts a little off, you won’t be happy with the results so this is a really important step.
- For most cases, use the “bleed” setting! This makes sure that the ink will go all the way to the edge of your cut. Without it, it’s possible that you could end up with some unwanted white on the edges of your print then cut project.
- When you’re following the Design Space prompts to make it using the Print then Cut operation, make sure to choose the right material. For example, if you’re using Vinyl, make sure to use vinyl! You want to be sure that it doesn’t cut all the way through and ruin your cut! (Unless you’re making stickers and want to cut it all out – in which case you could choose something like cardstock so that it will cut all he way through!)
Common print then cut questions + troubleshooting
What is the Cricut print then cut max size?
Largest print then cut Cricut size = 9.25″ x 6.75″
This is because the standard printer can only print on 8.5″ x 11″ paper and you need to leave space for the registration lines (that black box) so that your Cricut machine can “read” your printed sheet. If you need to use print then cut to make something larger, unfortunately, you’re going to have to break it into multiple prints and cuts using the slice function.
How to print and cut on Cricut Explore Air 2 or 3?
So, can you print and cut with Cricut explore air 2, and if so how? I can say with 100% certainty that yes! You CAN print then cut with a Cricut Explore Air 2 and 3 and the steps you’d take with the Explore is almost exactly the same as the steps you’d take with a Maker machine! Just follow the steps above!
That said, if you are trying to Print then Cut with the Explore Air and are using glossy paper, you could run into some challenges during the sensing stage. Read on to find out how to deal with that.
Can you print then cut Cricut Maker machines?
Absolutely! In fact, I think it’s easier with the Maker machines because you don’t need to do anything special when using glossy paper! I have found that it can sense the registration lines on glossy paper just fine unlike my Cricut Explore Air 2 machine.
How do I print then cut the outline only?
The key here is to flatten ALL your layers! When using Print then Cut, you almost always want to cut just the outline of your design. To do that, you need to make sure that you select all your layers and then click “Flatten”. If you found that you did this but it still didn’t cut as you wanted, check your layers. You may have a layer hidden in there that you didn’t expect.
My Cricut print then cut is not working – what’s wrong?
There could be many reasons why your Print then Cut project is not working properly. Without knowing exactly what’s going wrong, I can’t exactly diagnose but here are the key things you should check:
– Did you change all your layers to the standard print then cut operation?
– Did you flatten your layers? (Not attach!)
– Have you recently calibrated your Cricut machine?
– Have you recently calibrated you printer?
– Did you press the vinyl or HTV into your sticky mat well so that it doesn’t lift up?
– Did you select the right material type in Design Space?
– Are you working with Matte vinyl or HTV?
If your answer is no to any of these, then that could be your problem. Scroll up and review the step-by-step instructions to make sure you got everything lined up!
Can you Cricut print then cut with a laser printer?
Absolutely! The key is o make sure that the printable vinyl or HTV you use is compatible iwth a laser printer.
I’m getting the “Error – Sensor cannot find registration lines” message. What is that?
Chances are that you’re using a Cricut Explore Air 2 and glossy Vinyl or HTV or you’re in a too bright or too dark space. You get this error when the Cricut’s sensor can’t clearly scan the black box around your design. If you’ve already adjusted the lighting in your room or the lighting is pretty standard, you’re going to want to reduce the glare on the registration lines.
Some people suggest applying matte scotch tape to the registration lines but I’ve got a less wasteful method. Use Elmer’s glue! Here’s a video showing how I do that! Basically, the white Elmer’s glue quickly dries and takes the shine off the registration lines!
Why is my printed image so thick and distorted?
If you’re experiencing this, you probably have the “bleed function” on which is great! Chances are you want that enabled! That said, if it’s enabled and then messing up your project. For example, let’s say you made a label for something and you go through the Print then Cut steps but the Cricut machine cuts each letter out… that’s likely not what you wanted! In this case, you need to add a shape like a rectangle behind your letter and then flatten it. This way the Cricut machine will cut the rectangle and not the letters. If you do this, you’ll notice that your letters no longer look thick and distorted because that’s not where it plans to cut.
So if you find that your image is thick and distorted in an area you don’t intend to cut, take a look at your layers and decide if maybe you need to add another layer or shape. If however that’s not the solution, then maybe removing the bleed option is best.
Can you print then cut with a Cricut Joy?
Nope! Unfortunately the Cricut Joy does not have a sensor to sense the registration lines.
Do you use transfer tape when you print then cut?
Typically no. That’s because it could accidentally lift some of the ink off your design. If you HAVE to use transfer tape with it for some reason, make sure it’s something that isn’t too sticky.
How do you print and cut labels?
It’s simple! Just add the images and/or text you want on your label to Design Space. Then choose the shape you want the label to be and add that shape. Make sure the shape is sized bigger than the images and/or text. Next center the two things and set the shape to the very very back. Now select all the layers and switch it to Print then Cut and then Flatten! there you go! Now you will be able to print the labels and cut the shape of the label out in one go!
Do you need a special printer to do Print then Cut?
Nope! Any printer you have will do but the better the printer the better the quality of your project!
Alright, I think that’s enough to get you going! Do you still have questions about how to Print then Cut with your Cricut machine? Post a comment below or post your question to ourFacebook group.
I’d love to see YOUR print then cut Cricut projects! Please share a photo in ourFacebook groupor tag me on social media with #analyticalmommycrafts or @analyticalmommy! I can’t wait to see how they turned out!