What is the Difference Between SVG Cut Files and How to Print Then Cut with a Cricut?

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Beginners tutorial to print then cut with your Cricut machine.

Learning how to use your Cricut machine can be both exciting and daunting. One of the biggest questions beginners ask is, how to Print Then Cut with a Cricut? And what is the difference between a Print Then Cut and a layered SVG cut file?

Today I’m giving you a specific understanding of the distinct characteristics of a Print Then Cut image versus an SVG cut file. Plus, I will show you how to convert an SVG cut file into a Print Then Cut using the Flatten Tool in Cricut Design Space.

Print Then Cut works with Explore machines and the Cricut Makers but does not work with the new Cricut Joy machine because of its compact size.

Cricut Design Space tutorial. Understanding Print Then Cut and the Flatten tool.

What does it mean to Print Then Cut with a Cricut machine?

The best way to understand Print Then Cut is to think of it like this, you printed a colored image out from your computer (for example let’s say a gift tag), and naturally, you would cut the printed gift tag out with scissors by hand.

Print Then Cut replaces the part where YOU have to do the cutting. Instead, your Cricut machine does the work for you with incredible precision!

How To Print Then Cut With A Cricut

The Print Then Cut feature of your Cricut machine is a fairly simple process. The most important thing is that you know which formats to use. Print Then Cut will only work with JPEG or PNG images. There is a way to convert an SVG to a Print Then Cut and later in this post when we explore the Flatten tool.

A JPEG or PNG image is a single layer image where all the colors have been flattened together; no layers are present – it is a blended pixelated image.

Once an image has been brought into the Cricut Canvas, the type of “cut line” or “type of image” is reflected in the Layer’s Panel to your right, which is the easiest way to tell what kind of image is on your Canvas.

How to recognize print then cut.

The basics of performing a Print Then Cut process

To upload a Print Then Cut image go to the Upload button in the Design Panel to your left and import a PNG or JPEG image. You will be able to tell what kind of image you are bringing in by hovering over it when browsing the files on your desktop to reveal the specs.

cricut design space

Cricut will ask if you want the image to be simple or complex. I always select complex so that no details are lost.

print then cut in cricut

Bring the image into the canvas of Design Space. The Layer’s Panel tells you it is a Print Then Cut image.

Note: Because there has to be room for the registration marks, Cricut only allows images to be scaled as big as 9.25 x 6.75 inches as a Print Then Cut. You will know if it is sized right because a yellow exclamation point will appear in the Layers Panel otherwise. Plus, Cricut will notify you that the project is incompatible if you try and go to the Cut Screen.

print then cut image

Click on the Make It button, and Cricut will layout your Print Then Cut images as it sees fit. Notice the black outlined box around the images on each page. These are known as Registration Marks, and this is how Cricut knows precisely where to cut on your mat!

print then cut registration marks

Next, send your images to your printer. You will need an inkjet printer. Click the Send to the Printer button.

Your printer settings box will open. Make sure you have selected your printer in the dropdown.

What Printer is Best for For Cricut?

Many crafters ask me which printer is best for Print Then Cut with your Cricut – the answer is actually not in the printer but the printer settings on your computer. In your printer dialog box, you need to change the Print Quality from Standard to High.

If you are in the market for a printer to use with your Cricut machine I love the HP Envy and Canon Pixma models.

print then cut

I almost always recommend that you keep the Add Bleed on – this means that Cricut will print your image will a little extra color around the edges, so once cut, it will be edge-to-edge color and not result in a thin white border around your design.
When you are ready and have loaded your printer with your paper or printable vinyl, click the green Print button.

Once the item has been printed, place it onto your mat (light blue or green works best) at the top left corner exactly as shown on the Cut Screen. Then load the mat into your Cricut after selecting your material on the cut screen.

Loving the woodland animal masks? Grab them here.

Click GO, and your Print Then Cut Cricut will cut out image!

Benefits of Print Then Cut

  1. It’s quick. Unlike layered SVG files, which take time to cut out many colors of material to complete the final project, Print Then Cut allows you to cut only once per image result while preserving all the colors of your design through printing.
  2. It’s colorful. Since you are using a printer any number of colors or blend of color can be used with your image.
  3. Less material waste. The colors are blended as inkjet printed images and therefore do not require several different pieces of colored material to complete the project.

Disadvantages of Print Then Cut

  1. Smaller projects. One of the biggest downsides to Print Then Cut is the size. Because there has to be room for the registration marks Cricut only allows images to be scaled as big as 9.25 x 6.75 inches.
  2. Inkjet printer required. Owning or having access to a colored inkjet printer is what makes Print Then Cut possible. This may be an incurred cost if you do not yet own a printer. Laser printers cannot be used.
  3. Limited materials. With SVG cut files, you can use paper, vinyl, wood, fabric, iron-on, leather and more. However, Print Then Cut with a Cricut is used with cardstock, paper, waterslide, sticker paper or printable vinyl.

What is the difference between a print then cut and SVG Cut File?

An SVG cut file is a graphic format that stands for scalable vector graphics. In the world of Cricut, they are vital to crafters who wish to build a project from layers of materials in various colors, such as vinyl, fabric, paper, wood, etc.

Print Then Cut – Blended image where all colors are flattened and cannot be ungrouped. You will use ink from a printer to manifest the image result.

SVG Cut File – Each color is represented by a layer that can be ungrouped and cut out on a specific material and built into a final design. You will use a material such as vinyl or paper to build the image out.

When I load an SVG cut file of my fox animal mask above, the file is in layers, meaning to create this mask, I will choose paper, vinyl, or maybe felt to cut each colored layer out and assemble it. Here is what a layered SVG versus a Print Then Cut looks like in Design Space.

The difference between print then cut and layered svg files in Cricut Design Space.

And again, here is the SVG to the left with the layers UNGROUPED. Flattened Print Then Cut images can not be ungrouped.

Ungrouping layers of an SVG

In the image below, you will also notice how much different the Cut Screen is because of all the colored layers compared to Print Then Cut.

Layers ungroup on cut screen

How do I Turn an SVG into a Print Then Cut?

Cricut Design Space makes it super easy to turn any layered SVG into a Print Then Cut image with the help of the Flatten tool in the Layer’s Panel.

Here is how I changed my deer animal mask from a layered SVG into a Print Then Cut blended image.

  1. Bring in your SVG of choice using the Upload button.
  2. Select the image in full.
  3. Click the Flatten tool at the bottom of the Layers Panel.
Learn the important difference between SVG cut files and how to Print Then Cut with a Cricut machine. SVG files verses PNG or JPEG images for Cricut crafts.

That’s it! Now you can print this image out instead of cutting it in layers!

Converting a Flatten PNG or JPEG into a Layered SVG

To convert JPEG and PNG images into layered SVG files isn’t as easy. File conversion requires the image to be significantly altered.

If you are interested in learning how to do some one-click magic, review this post here.

Ready to customize and make your own SVG Cut Files?

Then check out this post I wrote on image conversion in Inkscape – this is intermediate and hedges on being a “crash course lesson.” If you need a full in-depth understanding, then dive into my exclusive program, FREE the SVG for in-depth teaching in Inkscape!

Where Can I Find the Best Images and SVG Files for My Cricut Crafts?

So the last question you might be asking is, where is the best place to find PNG, JPEG, or SVG cut files to use with Cricut?

The woodland animal masks above can be found here in my Etsy shop.

Here is a list of my go-to resources

Do you have any questions about Print Then Cut versus SVG cut files? Ask away below in the comments!

Learn the important difference between SVG cut files and how to Print Then Cut with a Cricut machine. SVG files verses PNG or JPEG images for Cricut crafts.

More Craftiness Awaits You!

Hey, Crafty bestie! I’m Abbi!

I’m thrilled you are here! I have spent the last 10+ years making messes and making magic in my home studio with the goal of making the world a more colorful place, one craft at a time! I’m on a mission to nurture the creative magic inside your soul and bring that bursting imagination inside you to life with easy-to-learn tutorials. If you haven’t yet, be sure to join the subscriber community to gain access to all my freebies or visit my signature design shop here!

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How to print then cut with your Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore machines.

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  1. Inkjet printers are not my favorite printer. Things from such printer can simply smudged if damp at all. I love the color laser printer I have. What makes it unusable for Print and Cut?

    1. Laser printers can be used with Cricut but depending on the image may not always cut successfully because the laser can be harder for the machine to read. Good quality printers like Canon Pixma or HP Envy have worked well for me and as long as I give it 2 minutes to dry I have never received any smudges. 🙂

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