Cricut machines are pretty incredible. Not only do they open doors to create awesome custom crafts but if you really take advantage of the potential these machines hold, you can create some rather epic things. With that being said, going into my first Cricut project was pretty intimidating. The company sent me a package with the Cricut Maker, Cricut Joy and loads of vinyl and tools to discover. It is a lot to digest.
I won’t lie to you and say that I didn’t feel a bit overwhelmed by it all at first. Not knowing what tool does what left me feeling lost in a world of shimmering paper and refined blades. But I had a plan. Instead of tackling the basics at first like keyrings and shirts, I would make a giant lightbox and slap a smart globe into it for my gaming setup.
Watch this Cricut lightbox in action below
A gaming lightbox that sits at 26cm by 26cm is a rather ambitious project to start off with but I am glad I did it. I not only learned so much more about the Cricut range but I also stress-tested the machines to see just how much they can take before it becomes a challenge. A gaming lightbox of this size is also not the most practical thing to make. Sure, if you’re sitting doing simple designs it would be great but I went to town with some rather detailed images I put together.
By the time the project was done, I learned so much more than I expected from this project. For starters, I had no idea that cutting complex designs on the chipboard would take about sixteen hours to complete. Sure, this is great if you have simpler designs but if you’re cutting an image with dozens of shapes and objects, the machine is going to take a long time to work its way through all of the passes. You see, the blade doesn’t cut the entire board at once. Instead, it works its way through the chipboard layers but slowly slicing through each piece of cardboard layer by layer.
So the idea of a gaming lightbox revolved around six sizes. Four of them would sit on the outer side of the light. There was also a top lid and a bottom light holder. The thing you need to keep in mind about Cricut is that when you import something into the Design Space app, it cuts away white and leaves behind the black. So this sort of project won’t use any colour whatsoever. Instead, the characters and items I wanted to have were black and the background was white.
The same goes for the actual box design itself too. I designed each square with the ability to slot into the side faces by removing some black leaving a sort of clip behind. The bottom, for example, had 12 teeth that would slot into the three holes on each of the four walls. The walls featured larger teeth and smaller teeth so they also clipped into one another. The bottom also had a 4cm circle cutout where I screwed in the light fixture.
Designing the faces for this Cricut lightbox was probably the best part of the project. It was challenging to keep the blacks and whites organized and I also learned just how precise the knife blade had to be in order to cut out the design. I made my first Super Mario cut-out and had to redo it. I realized that some of the objects in the image were just too thin to cut. For example, Mario’s “M” on his hat was super thin and fell apart.
I then refined a lot of the image by painting in black to thicken the lines where they were too thin and erasing where they were too thick. Sure, in the end, this wasn’t perfect but the more I messed up, the more I kind of mastered the cutting process. I went with a full Nintendo lightbox because everyone knows and loves Nintendo. The first side was a Super Mario-themed face with Paper Mario being the centre point and his surroundings featured iconic Mario characters and locations.
The second was a Legend of Zelda one. This was a little more challenging because, unlike Mario, the Zelda series isn’t as cartoonish so items and objects are a lot more detailed. I had to completely rethink some placements of objects due to this. For example, The Master Sword’s hilt had to be simplified to avoid it being damaged while cut. I also had to rethink how I placed some objects at the top and bottom of the face.
The last cut was Pokemon. This one was the most challenging to do simply due to the detail in each Pokemon. The legendary birds, for example, were highly intracte and required some careful attention when cutting.
The biggest takeaway from this project was how it taught me so much about the Cricut machines. I learned that cutting chipboard isn’t a quick process. It also taught me how to approach a project like this while using a third-party design app like Affinity Photo to make the black and white PNG before importing it into Cricut Design Space.
I also learned that the chipboard, while being 28cm by 28cm doesn’t actually use the entire square. I had to resize each chipboard sheet, which was designed at 28cm by 28cm to 26.5cm each. I love the Cricut machines but I do think they waste so much material due to these restrictions. If I was able to cut out my full 28cm lightbox, it would have been bigger and the waste would be kept to a minimum.
I also learned that when creating designs, what you see on the screen doesn’t always come out perfectly when it is being cut. Especially when it comes to chipboard. Make sure you have larger white space than the image. For example, under Princess Zelda’s arms, I erased more space on the design so it looked proportionate when it was cut. Going a little overboard with the erasing and black painting on the PNG definitely helped a lot. You also have to be careful when it comes to objects that are too small and detailed. Often, these get completely destroyed when the cutting process is taking place.
I then used tissue paper which I ironed flat and glued it onto the faces. I then used super glue to glue all the faces together. Lastly, I made a stand using the Cricut machine too. I took two rectangle PNGs and squashed top of each one. I then made holes at the bottom of the box and slid these into them. As the rectangle got thicker, they got stuck in the hole and each shape acted as a leg. I used super glue to secure them in place too.
Lastly, the light is a Yeelight. This smart globe looks incredible in the box. Especially thanks to the dimmer presets that give the box a faint glow. Great for ambient lighting in the room.
If you are interested in learning more about Cricut, feel free to join the official Cricut South Africa Facebook group. The members are extremely helpful in explaining machines, materials and how to get what you want to be done with the machine.
For this project I used
- Cricut Maker 3
- Cricut Heavy Chipboard
- Cricut Knife Blade (needed to cut the chipboard)
- Yeelight S1 Colour