Picture of cut any arbitrary complex design with a craft cutter
Update:  wow, bummer.  Turns out ProvoCraft (the makers of the Cricut)  sued "Make the Cut" and "Sure Cuts A Lot" so that they can no longer sell their products to work with the Cricut.

Here are some competing products which can be used with Make the Cut software though I have not tried these products specifically, they look like they do about the same thing

Klic-N-Kut computerized craft cutter
Pazzles Inspiration amazon
BossKut Gazelle amazon
USCutter MH/Lazerpoint

I just discovered that the cricut machine can be used to cut arbitrary shapes without having to purchase preloaded cartridges.  This revelation came to me from another instructable:  How to make custom scrabble tiles to whom I am grateful!   A search turns up these other instructables with similar information using different software: create solder paste stencils with cricut, and cut out hearts with cricut

Step 1: Materials

Picture of materials
1 craft cutting  machine.  I'm using a Cricut, but because of the lawsuit, you should probably use a different craft cutter, like the brands mentioned on the first page.

Windows computer.  I'm using Windows Vista home edition.  (Please no flack from the anti-windows peanut gallery.  Yes Linux is cool and so is Mac.  Let's all try to get along).

"Make the cut" software.  $59.00  Windows only.  This is what I'll be using for this instructable.  There is a trial version that also works, but creates a big diagonal slash cut through the finished artwork.

There is a competing program called "Sure cuts a lot" that works on MacIntosh, though I have not tried it.  There may be other competitors as well. 

USB cable with standard type A and standard type B connectors  (Not included with the cricut.)

USB serial driver which comes with the free trial download of Cricut Design StudioYou'll need to download this in order to get the appropriate USB driver to make this work.  I'm not sure if the driver can be distributed separately.

Inkscape. A  free vector drawing program that lets you work with SVG (scaled vector graphic) files.  You can also use Adobe Illustrator or other programs that can export SVG format.  Update:  Actually the 'Make the Cut' software has it's own vector drawing ability which you can access through the File->Import->Pixel Trace which actually works even better than Inkscape.

Cardstock or bristol board. 


ctdahle2 months ago

You have written a wonderful Instructable.

It is disgusting that ProvoCraft has responded to people who WOULD have been a powerful sales force by extending their giant middle finger.

I bought the machine planning to use it to create model railroad buildings and scenery from card stock, a use which was completely possible until ProvoCraft sued the third party software creators and locked down the Cricut machine so that customers cannot cut out their own original artwork. This is one of the sleaziest acts of corporate arrogance I have ever seen.

I hope that some lawyer out there is working up a class action that drives them not only into bankruptcy, but also eternal despair.

Browncoat7 months ago
Has anyone figured out a way to do this sort of thing since the original software won't work any more?
foobear (author)  Browncoat6 months ago

The version of the Make the Cut installer that used to work was 3.2.0. So... if you can find that one you might be halfway there. I'm not sure about the firmware part though whether that is still available somewhere. Good luck.

foobear (author)  foobear6 months ago

The cricut firmware it uses is::

Cricut Expression 2.3.4

Cricut Create: 1.5.4

Cricut Personal Cutter: 1.3.4

Browncoat7 months ago
Has anyone figured out a way to do this sort of thing since the original software won't work any more?
hardlec3 years ago
I was going to purchase a Cricut. That won't happen now. I am looking for a good way to cut out complex shapes.
arrrrgon4 years ago
After you have done this with your Circut are you able to still use your cartridges?
foobear (author)  arrrrgon4 years ago
I'm sorry, I just found out that the makers of the Cricut (ProvoCraft) sued Make the Cut software so that this solution won't work anymore.

I am bewildered at a company that wants people to NOT use their product (I know their short sighted thought is that they will sell more of their cartridges). I was ready to go buy one on sale at wal-mart till I found out how restricted they are. (not a shot at you or your instructable, just lamenting ProvoCraft's closed thinking)
The SCAL software interfaces through the Cricut's USB port (the reason that you need the design software is for the windows drivers). It does not modify the Cricut in any way, so the cartridges still work.
foobear (author)  arrrrgon4 years ago
That's a good question. I never wanted to use cartridges with it, so I haven't tried. I will try out the cartridge that came with it (if I can find it) and let you know.
This looks fantastic, It would be great for getting rid of the frustrating fiddly stencil making step during silkscreening. A Craft Cutter and make the cut software has officially been added to my wish list!
gtoal4 years ago
A very easy next project, having got to this stage, is to use your cutter to etch glass. Cut a shape (eg someone's name) out of contact paper vinyl (much cheaper in big rolls from Walmart than the stuff that's sold custom for Cricut, and for many projects it works just as well) and then keep the hole (as in the image above) rather than the cut-out letters. Attach this to something like a 1 pint beer mug (must be a smooth cylinder, and not have lumpy bits!) as a mask, and paint the glass that's exposed with a special glass etchant available from Hobby Lobby, Michaels etc. In about 6 minutes hose it down with the garden hose and remove the vinyl - you have a nicely etched beer mug with someone's name on it, ready for a Christmas present! Fast and cheap, and looks great!

(WARNING: The etchant is based on hydroflouric acid and must be handled with adult care.)
gtoal gtoal4 years ago
And done, just in time for a New Year's pint :-)

foobear (author)  gtoal4 years ago
nice idea!
gtoal4 years ago
Great to see the floodgates have been unlocked and Cricut instructables are appearing! Thanks, JL! Just placing a reminder here for a later instructable on how to refresh the sticky mats rather than buying new ones. Until then - if your mat dries out, another option is to spray the back of your card with something like artists spray mount from 3M.
foobear (author)  gtoal4 years ago
that sounds good, I can how the sticky mat might get less tacky over time. Mine has already collected cat hair and little bits of paper and dust and who knows what all over it! I've no idea how to handle it. =)
gtoal foobear4 years ago
There are two causes of lack of stickiness - the existing glue is blocked by accumulated dust etc - that's easily curable by simply washing in soapy water and perhaps scrubbing with one of those rough green plastic kitchen scrubber things; the other is when the glue is all gone - in which case this video shows an easy fix.
foobear (author)  gtoal4 years ago
cool, that's awesome, thank you
rimar20004 years ago
This is awesome.

I ate all my fingernails, for envy!

foobear (author)  rimar20004 years ago
hee hee hee. hey it's not that expensive if you get one on sale. And the little version is even cheaper.
I live in Argentina, these devices may be sold here in three years or more, at a price three times higher than there.. Do you understand my envy, now?
foobear (author)  rimar20004 years ago
oh! excuse me! I'm sorry I had no idea.
craftydan4 years ago

With this and a few register points, you can pre-cut card model patterns on the printed paper.

That's simply awesome!
foobear (author)  craftydan4 years ago
Yes registration points is a good idea. The tshirt potential looks like fun to me! =)