How to Make & Use a Test Cut in Cricut Design Space

PLUS: How to Use Custom Material Settings

Have you upgraded to the Cricut Maker yet? This re-vamped cutting machine first appeared in August 2017 and boasts a sleeker style, more cutting tools, and the ability to cut fabric (which we tested in this blog post.) Part of what makes this cutter so sleek is the removal of the Smart Set Dial. The dial is featured on the Cricut Explore One, Explore Air, and Air 2 and allows you to choose from popular material presets. With the removal of the dial, the process to select your cut setting is different than before. Keep reading to see how to change cut settings in Cricut Design Space, how to determine if that cut setting is best, and how to edit the Custom Material settings!

Cricut Explore Air 2 has the Smart Set Dial while the Cricut Maker does not

While I do have a separate blog post on cutting HTV with the Cricut Explore Air, this tutorial goes over how to edit the presets in the Custom Material window which is beneficial to know when using the “Custom” setting on the Smart Set Dial. 


How to Make a Test Cut in Design Space

Cricut Design Space does not have a built in test cut function, so the first thing to do is create a cut file that can be used as a test cut. The Silhouette Cameo cuts a triangle in a square as their test cut, so I replicated the shape in Design Space.

How to insert shapes into Cricut Design Space


After inserting the square and triangle, select both shapes and use the Align Center tool to stack them evenly. While they’re both still selected, use the Attach function (it looks like a paperclip) to lock the shapes in place. You can also use the Slice tool, however you’ll have to delete out the extra triangles that are created in that process.

How to Align shapes in Cricut Design Space

The purpose of a test cut is to try out cut settings while only wasting a small amount of material. So after centering and attaching the shapes (if the paperclip now has a line through it and says Detach then you know the object currently selected is attached), drag the arrow in from the bottom right corner to shrink the shape until it’s about a half inch.

How to attach and resize shapes in Cricut Design Space

After, resizing you’re ready to try out your test cut! Click “Make It”  in the top right and the mat preview screen appears. Move the test cut into a corner to save as much material as possible and select “Continue.”

Adjust test cut placement on cutting mat preview screen


How To Select Cut Settings In Design Space

Now you can finally choose your cut setting! All the presets from the dial are available to use, but you have to navigate to them differently. Select “Browse All Materials” for a full list of available materials to cut.

How to select material cut settings for the Cricut Maker

If you use a certain preset very often you can save it as favorite and avoid browsing the entire list of materials.

This brings up a full list of all the materials the Cricut Maker can cut. The recommended setting for each Siser HTV is available on the product pages of our website. Take EasyWeed® for example. Our suggested setting is Iron On (Since the original date of this post Cricut has changed their terminology from “Iron On” to “Heat Transfer (Non-Cricut)”), so you could scroll through the list or type “Iron On” in the Search box to find this setting.

Browse or search through the list of materials the Cricut Maker can cut

This is the same process you’d go through if you used an older Cricut cutter on the “Custom” setting of the Smart Set Dial.

However, depending on the age and wear of your blade, Iron On (AKA Heat Transfer (Non-Cricut)) may not be the best setting for you. Fresh, new blades are sharper and will require a lower cut setting while older, duller blades need higher cut settings. The test cut will help you determine if you should stick with the suggested setting or adjust it.

If you need to adjust, select “Material Settings” at the bottom, and the Custom Materials window will appear. Now you can see exactly how much pressure is applied for each preset. You can choose a preset that’s higher or lower than your current setting (I’ve cut HTV on the Tattoo Paper setting before because that’s what worked best. It’s not about the setting name, focus on the amount of Cut Pressure used.)

Edit cut pressure in the Custom Material Settings window

Or you can edit the setting directly, and adjust the pressure up or down manually. Select save when you’re finished.

So now that you know how to adjust your cut settings in Cricut Design Space, let’s look at what makes a good test cut and what you should avoid.


How To Place HTV On The Cutting Mat

Heat Transfer Vinyl is always cut with the shiny, carrier side down on the mat. This leaves the adhesive side exposed to the blade, and is the reason why cut files need to be mirrored or flipped horizontally when cut from HTV. EasyPSV® however, has different cutting directions. This post explains how to put EasyPSV on a cutting mat.

Cut heat transfer vinyl with the shiny side down on the mat


Align And Load Cutting Mat

Place the cutting mat under the white guides which ensure the mat is centered under the pinch rollers. The guides and rollers keep the mat secure while it moves back and forth during the cutting process. Select the button with arrows on the Cricut Maker to load the mat for cutting.

How to load the cutting mat in to the Cricut Maker


Weed It Out & Check It Out

Click the flashing Cricut button on the Maker when you’re ready to send your test cut. Unload the mat after cutting, and use your Siser® Weeder to pick out the triangle. If the test cut was successful, then the triangle and square will weed away easily.

Weeding a successful test cut with the Siser Weeder hook tool

After weeding, double check that you can see cut lines on the carrier. You want to ensure that each line is smooth and connects at each corner of the triangle. Placing something darker in the background helps to see the cut lines more clearly. Lastly, feel the cut from the smooth side of the carrier. If you can feel the cut lines from the front then you’re getting dangerously close to cutting through the carrier and should consider lowering the pressure.

Use a dark background to assess your test cut

If the cut lines appear dashed or you can’t see them at all, then you need to try a higher pressure. Even though the test cut on the right weeded ok, the cut lines are practically non existent. I could end up with areas of my large design that aren’t cut through, so I’m going to increase the pressure and test cut again.

One test cut is two deep and the other too shallow

If the carrier is cut through, dial back the pressure significantly.

The test cut had too much pressure and cut through EasyWeed and the carrier

Within a few short test cuts, you’ll be able to dial your blade into the cut setting that best fits your project. Taking the time to do a test cut ultimately saves you from wasting more time, material, and tears in the long run. Trust me, I’ve skipped it before and I always regret it!

If this post helped you with your Cricut Maker, pin it to Pinterest!



If you’re past the cutting process and need tips on getting started with heat application, watch this video!

Do you own the latest and greatest Cricut cutter? The Maker is in a league of it's own! Get all the need to know tips before cutting Siser® vinyl on the Cricut Maker in this blog post.