Cricut | Software

How to Use Sure Cuts A Lot With Any Cricut

Cricut | Software

Written by Ali Fields | Updated: October 17, 2020

Using Sure Cuts A Lot on a Laptop

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A complete guide to using Sure Cuts A Lot with any Cricut machine (I just updated this article in September 2020 with a new keys.h file!)

I get a lot of questions about how I use Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL) with Cricut machines.

Many people think that it no longer works, and that they’re forced to use Cricut’s Design Space for their designs. Others previously used the discontinued Craft Room software and are looking for something else that could work.

Well, it’s actually pretty easy to set it up and SCAL is one of my favorite programs to use.

If you’ve never used Sure Cuts A Lot Before, I’ll briefly explain what it is and then go into setting it up to work with your Cricut (whether it’s a Maker, Explore Air 2, Expression, etc.).

What is Sure Cuts A Lot?

Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL) is a beginner-friendly program for cutting pretty much any font or shape with an electronic cutting machine. You can combine fonts, pre-existing shapes/artwork, or draw your own. The latest version, SCAL 5, brings new effects including a stencil tool so that you can easily create stencil bridges.

One of the big advantages it has over Design Space is that you can use it even offline. Not only do you need an active internet connection to cut from Design Space, you also need that connection to even design. That’s why a lot of crafters have relied on SCAL over the years.

If you want the newer features of SCAL 3/4/5 available to your Cricut Expression, Maker, or Explore Air 2, fear not, I have two easy solutions for getting it to work.

In this tutorial, I’ll go over how to use Sure Cuts A Lot with any Cricut machine (even the Expression). I’ll cover all of the common issues which might come up.

Let’s do it!

(If you’re not sure which Cricut to buy, I have an article reviewing my favorite new machine, the Cricut Maker. If you’re looking for a comparison of Cricut vs Silhouette, I’ve reviewed those as well.)

Using Sure Cuts A Lot with a Cricut Explore Air (or Explore Air 2)

If you have a Cricut Explore Air or Cricut Maker it’s your lucky day: you can skip most of this tutorial!

You’ll need to click here and download SCAL5.

With the Cricut Explore Air + its Design Space software, we can easily import images and convert them into cuttable shapes.

Since Design Space supports importing SVG graphics all we need to do is export an SVG from SCAL 5 and then import it into Design Space. If you’ve done this before you’ll already know that it’s pretty painless and one of the better features of the Explore Air model.

If you haven’t imported an SVG into Design space, here’s a quick video to walk you through the steps:

For the rest, read on!

Using Sure Cuts A Lot with a Cricut Expression (Method 1)

I just updated this method in September of 2020 with a new keys.h file as people were having issues with the previous one. If you tried this before and didn’t have luck, please try the new file.

The first method lets us use SCAL with a Cricut directly by adding a plugin called libcutter.

I recently discovered this method on the official Cricut message boards and verified that it works. If you’re a little tech-savvy and want the latest features, this is the method for you.

If it seems a bit intimidating, don’t worry because I have a second method below.

  1. Download and install Sure Cuts A Lot 5. (If you aren’t sure which version to use, make sure you download the 32 bit version of SCAL 5.)
  2. Download and install the latest USB Driver
  3. Download libcutter plugin.
  4. Unzip the downloaded libcutter-master.zip and you will now need to copy the needed plugin files to your SCALCutPlugins folder which will be located in your Documents folder. If the SCALCutPlugins folder cannot be found you will need to run Sure Cuts A Lot so all the default folders for the program get created and then quit the program.
    • – For Windows, copy libcutter-master\Windows\Build\LibCutterPlugin.dll and libLibCutter.xml to C:\Users\{USERNAME HERE}\Documents\SCALCutPlugins
    • – For Mac, copy libcutter-master\Mac\Build\libLibCutterPlugin.dylib and libLibCutter.xml to {MAC DRIVE}/Users/{USERNAME HERE}/Documents/SCALCutPlugins
  5. Start Sure Cuts A Lot and go to the Cutter menu and choose Manage Cutters. You should now be able to choose Cricut from the Company/Brand drop down list and click <– Add to list
  6. Sure Cuts A Lot should now be able to make a connection to your Cricut, however in order to cut correctly, a valid key file is needed. This is not included with the plugin due to the DMCA rules, however it can be found elsewhere. The key file must be named keys.h and also be placed in the SCALCutPlugins folder we just copied the libcutter files to in step 4. The new keys.h file may be found here and should be named keys.h!

Using SCAL with all other Cricut machines (Method 2)

For this method, I’ll walk you through using an older version of the software, SCAL 2.

Downloading SCAL 2

If you don’t already have SCAL 2 downloaded, you can visit SCAL’s support page here and enter your name and software serial number to log in. If you’ve lost the serial number, visit their Serial Number Retrieval Page where you’ll need your email address on file.

Sure Cuts A Lot download page

If you can’t locate your serial number or your email address on file, you also have the option of purchasing a copy as either a digital download or a CD. They only have the Windows version available, so if you’re on Mac OS you’ll have to contact SCAL directly.

If you’re happy using the features of SCAL 2, just follow their installation instructions and you’re all set. If you need any of SCAL 4’s newer features (stencil tool, brush, freehand utility) we can use them side-by-side by importing our finished designs from SCAL 4 into SCAL 2.

Importing from SCAL 4/5 into SCAL 2

  1. Use SCAL 4/5 to create a design like we normally would.
  2. Start SCAL 2 if it is not already running.
  3. Select Send To -> Sure Cuts A Lot 2 from the file menu.
  4. The design is now transferred over to SCAL 2 and ready to be cut!

Sure Cuts A Lot 3 interface to export for Cricut machines

If you haven’t used SCAL 2 before, here’s an easy tutorial now that you have it downloaded and installed:

FAQ

Why don’t recent versions of SCAL work with Cricut?

Provo Craft (makers of Cricut) moved to take legal action against Craft Edge (the makers of Sure Cuts A Lot) back in 2011. They alleged that Craft Edge violated the copyright and trademarks of Cricut. The lawsuit was settled and as part of their agreement future versions of SCAL would no longer be compatible with their Cricut machines. Hopefully, in the future, they work this out!

What software does the Cricut Expression 2 use?

The Cricut Expression was designed as a standalone machine that uses Cricut cartridges instead of CAD software. It used to be compatible with Cricut’s Craft Room software but it’s being discontinued in June 2018.

Where can I find free images to work with SCAL?

I have a huge collection of free SVG cutting files (15,000+) that will work for Cricut/Silhouette machines. Check it out!

What’s the best Cricut machine to use with SCAL??

I just reviewed the best Cricut machines of 2020, so check that out.

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Our Expert
Ali Fields

Ali Fields is a DIY enthusiast and the founder and editor of Cut, Cut, Craft!, a DIY crafting blog.

She's a mechanical engineer by trade and the mother of two delightful kiddos. 

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106 thoughts on “How to Use Sure Cuts A Lot With Any Cricut”

  1. OK, did the above step. However, my computer does not recognize my cricut machine at all, acts like nothing is plugged into it – What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
    • Hi!

      There are a few things that could give you trouble, so I’ll start at the beginning: which files do you see in your SCALCutPlugins folder?

      Also, are you using Windows or Mac?

      ~Ali

      Reply
      • I am using a MacBook Pro running High Sierra 10.13.6. In my SCALCutPlugins folder are libLibCubberPlugin.dylib, keys.h, lib.Lib Cutter.xml

        -Karen

        Reply
        • I’m running 10.12.5, so one thing I’ll try tomorrow is updating and seeing if it still works for me.

          Did you download the keys.h file, or create a file in the folder and copy the text in?

          I’ve heard some people have trouble because of hidden file extensions, so you can wind up having a file named keys.h.txt (where the .txt is hidden by default).

          Another thing to check is if you created your own SCALCutPlugins folder, or if one was created for you by SCAL 4. I used the pre-existing one.
          If you downloaded the file, that wouldn’t happen, however.

          Reply
        • Hi I need to upgrade my expression 2 I heard the it used to be available with cricut sync software which I cant find anywhere. I did all the steps in your article everything did good and my pc started to install the device but just got stuck I figured since my machine was still 1.1 or something….firmware this was maybe the issue. Can you help tried different usb ports my only issue is getting the circut to communicate with my windows 8.1. Thanks

          Reply
      • Hello thank you for the info! Am I able to use the internet at all with my cricut Create, or does it only use the cartridges? Thanks again!

        Reply
  2. I bought SCAL 2 and it recognized my machine but it can’t load the mat. Do yo you know how to get the mat to load on the cricket expression without a cartridge?

    Reply
    • Hi Heather!

      Try doing everything the same way but make sure to keep a cartridge in the machine (even though you won’t be using it). Let me know if that fixes it!

      Ali

      Reply
      • I did get it to work with the cartridge in, however it is cutting wrong. If I have the image in the upper left corner in SCAL 2 it cuts in the upper right and the image is turned 90 degrees to the right ( so basically the machine interprets the mat is turned 90 degrees to the right. have you had this happen before?

        Reply
  3. I right clicked on the link and saved as key.h file. I used the pre-existing folder created by SCAL. And, no, Mary. Still having the issue.

    Reply
    • Hi Mikey —

      I’m hearing from a few people that it’s not working for everyone right now, so let me try to debug this for you!

      What operating system are you using?
      Are you using a cartridge inside of the Cricut Expression?
      Which version of SCAL are you using?

      Hopefully we can get this sorted out!

      Ali

      Reply
  4. Hi Ali,

    I am a newbie Cricut Maker owner, and I am was told to purchase scal 4 to work with rhinestones . how ever I am so confused now as to if it still works with the cricut maker an if so what version to get, plaese help and thank you in advance

    Reply
  5. Your article title says “any Circut”. However, after reading everything, do I understand correctly that SCAL2 will not work on the Expressions 2? I have the SCAL cd and used it with my personal cutter but I can no longer get it to power up 😢. I bought the Expressions 2 a few years ago hoping to be able to use it, too, but was told It would not work with SCAL. WHen I saw your title, I was hoping you had found a a way around it.

    Reply
  6. How come Expression 2 customers will use it without Craft Room if they bought this machine because it had that interface? Offering USD75,00 to upgrade to a newer one? How about international customers? If that had happened here in Austria, I am sure Cricut would had been forced to do a free recall.

    Reply
    • I agree I think they should recall since the cricut company does not even hold the rights to the software for this machine and gave no warning that they where going to sale the rights to it

      Reply
      • I just purchased SCAL2 for my Cricut Expression and it’s functioning fine. The ONLY thing I’m struggling with is cutting stickers.
        I have to manually line up my printed paper onto the mat in order to get the Cricut to cut…but if I’m off in placing my paper, the cuts are off.
        Is there any way to create registration lines that my Cricut will read????

        Reply
  7. Hi I am wanting to purchase SCAL 2 but can’t seem to find one compatible with my Macbook. I can only find Windows compatible. I don’t want to purchase the wrong program. I have the original circuit expression. Any help would be appreciated 🙂

    Reply
  8. Hello Everyone,
    I hope somebody can kindly help me.
    I bought a new notebook recently and did a mistake transferring files from the old one which resulted in losing the drivers and the updater for my mom’s cricut expression 2.
    Can anybody tell me where to find them? Cricut.com doesn’t have it anymore.
    Does anybody know if there is a cartridge with lamp shade designs?
    Any help will be much appreciated. I don’t live in the US.
    Thanks a lot.

    Reply
  9. I’ve dug out my original Cricut Personal Cutter (on version 1.34) and I have an original Sure Cuts a Lot 2 disc that I have downloaded onto my laptop.
    Each time I try to cut, it freezes on the “Checking Mat…..”

    Can this be sorted or is it a lost cause?

    Many thanks

    Reply
  10. Hello and thank you for this info!

    I too am a Mac user and am having the issue where it doesn’t recognise my Cricut Expression :S

    I didn’t see an option for 32 bit for Mac, only for Windows. Am I missing something?

    I am using Mac OS High Sierra 10.13.6
    I’ve tried it with and without a cartridge
    SCAL 5 for Mac

    Please help!

    Reply
  11. I have a Cricut Expression 2. With Provocraft’s recent decision to deactivate the Craft Room in favor of their other software, I am not able to use the Craft Room to cut with my Expression 2.

    I am not able to tell from your information whether I can use an older version of Sure Cuts A Lot to use my machine with software. Without software, I am left to just plug in cartridges… ick!

    Can you give more details on whether SCAL will work with an Expression 2, if so, what version, where to find, any other files I need, etc.

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  12. I am stuck on step 4.. I cannot paste in SCALCutPlugins…what Am I doing wrong!

    “Unzip the downloaded libcutter-master.zip and you will now need to copy the needed plugin files to your SCALCutPlugins folder which will be located in your Documents folder. If the SCALCutPlugins folder cannot be found you will need to run Sure Cuts A Lot so all the default folders for the program get created and then quit the program.

    – For Mac, copy libcutter-master\Mac\Build\libLibCutterPlugin.dylib and libLibCutter.xml to {MAC DRIVE}/Users/{USERNAME HERE}/Documents/SCALCutPlugins”

    Reply
  13. For those of you looking to use this article to resurrect the Cricut Expression2, I’ve done as much research as I’m willing to do on the product. In my conclusion, the instructions above DO NOT work with the Expression2, unfortunately.

    Not only did I conclude this from following the instructions above but after thoroughly researching forums, others have made it a point that these instructions do not include the Cricut Expression2 and 3 other models that I don’t remember.

    For those of you interested, I got as far as selecting the actual Cricut Brand from the SCAL 5 drop down list and the brands that it showed as models included Expression but not Expression2. In my opinion the main problem is SCAL 5 being able to communicate with the Expression2 (a driver issue). This is separate from the USB driver installed from the instructions above. I know others could ask the question whether or not using older software versions would yield different results but the only one I believe would matter is the LibCutter plugin and I highly doubt that would be fruitful because there’s nothing online when searching LibCutter plugin for Expression2. Had it existed surely the search would’ve yielded something.

    Well that’s my two cents, I’ll update this if I find something else.

    Reply
  14. Hi Ali- I have been working on getting my Cricut Expression connected to Sure Cuts a lot v5. I get the message “Cutting Data was sent to the machine” and the machine reads USB connected but it never prints the image. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  15. Hi Ali
    I have the cricut explore one and I want to buy the SCAL but from what I have been reading it’s not compatible with the newer CAL versions. What will you advice

    Reply
  16. After working on this all day. Here are my results.

    All starting with a $9.99 Cricut Expression (NOT EXP 2)purchase at goodwill.

    Cricut is a horrible company for effectively pulling the plug on all these machines so I will crack this box once and for all.

    I have upgraded the Firmware to Cricut v2.34 This probably eliminates me using SCAL 2.0 work around but oh well. the reason I did so was Make the Cut V4.11 was complaining about Firmware needing an upgrade.

    The make the Cut work 4.11 around works. Not sure if I can buy a key for that version.
    V4.6.2 pops up a warning that it will not load the Cricut plugin which is the – PCCPlugin.dll file added to C:\Program Files (x86)\Make The Cut!\Plugins

    SCAL 5 Results
    After the V2.34 firmware upgrade, I could at least send cut commands to the Cricut but any cuts are greatly distorted. I think this might be something with the keys.h file, as the commands are encrypted so maybe this file is not quite right. There are several different versions of this file floating around on the internet I found.

    I will continue to work on this SCAL v5 or V4 whatever I can get working.

    Alternate Work around – Caveman Method
    Using Make the Cut 4.11 in demo mode. Cricut V2.34 Firmware. Cricut Expression (NOT EXP 2)
    Once it is done cutting, pull the power BEFORE it makes the X through your work of art.

    If you are doing 2 pass cut with a circle and a square in the program, it will 2 passes on a Circle, then two passes on the square
    Then X through all the pieces. Pull the plug after the first pass on the last object.

    I get it, these companies were threatened to be sued out of existence if they didn’t remove the method of interfacing with a Cricut device.

    One of them should have said F-IT and offshore some wholly owned “Open Source “Cricket” Software company, With there Version X of the Software then filed for bankruptcy leaving the software downloadable on some offshore data center oil platform for spite.

    Reply
    • If you purchase the latest version of Make The Cut 4.6.2, you will receive a key that works with all versions of Make The Cut. You can have more than one version of the software on the same computer. Open both 4.6.2 and 4.1.0, and you can copy and paste between the two versions. Design in the recent software, save as MTC, and open MTC file in 4.1.0. Or export file from 4.6.2 in SVG format, and import SVG into any older version of MTC.

      Reply
      • Hello Julia Flanagan. I currently have a Cricut Expression 1 and Make-the-cut 4.1. They communicate well but my cuts are offset. Like the center of an “e” or a”l” are shifted to the left. Any suggestions?

        Reply
  17. I have a Cricut expression and all my cartridges are linked to account, its not possible now connect to craft room. I read now its close. And to use a design space need monthly payment 10 dollars. Before was free. What option I have now to use SCAL in the computer and cutting with Cricut expression . If I don’t have option , what cutting machine you recommended buy.

    Reply
  18. I installed the trial version for SCAL 4 on my macbook 10.10.5 (Yosemite). I was able to follow and successfully complete all steps on your instructions. I connected my Cricut Expression (V 2.35) and it recognized it. It began cutting, but then froze. Is it supposed to be updated to a different version? I don’t want to buy scal if it’s not going to work :'(. Help!

    Reply
    • Scal2 is the only one that works with the expression. Scal2 does not work with a mac unless you have paralles or boot camp to run Windows on your mac.

      Reply
  19. I have successfully installed both SCAL 4 &5 on 2 of my pc’s/ laptop. Windows 10 , and it works wonderfully with both of my expressions 1 /V 2:43 machines.

    Reply
  20. Cricut expression is recognized by my windows 10, but when I press cut with cricut in SCAL5 it freezes. I cannot press any buttons on the circuit and the progress bar on SCAL5 doesn’t move. Any tips?

    Reply
  21. I have a Cricut Personal (the first one that came out) with SCAL 2. It worked well with Windows Vista, and upgraded firmware. My PC was fried by a lightning strike last night, and I cant get my laptop with Windows 10 to recognise it. It freezes at “Checking mat” screen. Do you know what I could do to fix this?

    Reply
    • Are you certain your PC is fried? Unplug it and press the power button a few times. Actually let it sit there a day afterwards and do it again. Then plug it in and see if it boots.

      Reply
  22. Hi! I have a new Cricut Maker and an older Cricut Explore. I would like to try SCAL… and by reading comments and this article, it seems that if I get the newer SCAL and export to SCAL 2 that I will be able to use the designs on the Maker. Is this accurate???

    Reply
  23. the link provided for “What’s the best Cricut machine to use with SCAL??” Doesn’t tell me which type to use. Maybe I missed it. What is the best version to use with a Cricut Maker using a Mac Pro. PLEASE HELP!

    Reply
  24. I have a cricut expression and scal2 original disk with new computer…..? is new computer will not recognize cricut not let me update filmware can someone help filmware is set to 2.0.

    Reply
  25. I was able to find cricut option on the cutter settings in scal5 but my machine wont connect for some reason (I have an expression) and the key file says its not found (link dead) please help

    Reply
  26. I just got a Cricut Expression. I followed the steps for Using Sure Cuts A Lot with a Cricut Expression (Method 1). I was able to add the model as the cutter. When I try “Test Connection” it does not connect through the USB to the cutter. Any ideas?

    Reply
  27. Do you know if anyone has found a way round using the Cricut Mini yet. I’m desperate to try and use it again and am loathed to throw it out as it seems like such a shame when there was absolutely nothing wrong with it before the selfish [email protected]£@*#ds at Cricut decided to discontinue Craft Room! I hate the thought of the environmental impact too, such a shame 😢

    Reply
  28. Hi when I press cut it shows cutting with cutter but it don’t. Afterwards it says cutting data was sent to cutting machine. Please help

    Reply
  29. I used method 1 to connect my cricut expression to sure cuts a lot. The cricut cutter showed up and seemed to install correctly, but when I go to cut, it gives me an error message saying there is no recognized cutter and to check my USB connection, unplug the cricut and USB, wait 10 seconds, then plug back in. I tried both suggestions and am still getting the same error message. Do you have any advice of what I can try?

    Reply
  30. Hello! Did anyone get the issue resolved where all the files are in the SCALCutPlugins, it is shown as an option in the cutters, but then doesn’t respond when you try test connection? Thanks for your help!

    Reply
  31. First i want to thank you for taking the time to provide an option for all those sad and up to now, useless machines… and i was pretty impressed to get to step 5 on my own (spending to purchase the software). Now, I know it’s noted that the link is fixed since the previous requests but when I click on the provided link for the valid key step, all I get is gibberish. Maybe I just don’t know what to do with that info? Hope there’s a solution. Much appreciated.

    Reply
  32. I just got the trial version 4 and 5 of SCAL working on my Expression very 2.34.
    Here is key .
    KEY0 – 0x272D6C37, 0x342A6173, 0x3663255B, 0x2B265A4D
    KEY1 – 0x7D316E22, 0x4A4A7133, 0x5A3C5C5F, 0x78613A61
    KEY2 – 0x47302A23, 0x5D31482F, 0x3B257A61, 0x3671382F
    KEY3 – 0x303F6863, 0x71646D30, 0x4769457B, 0x6D342569
    KEY4 – 0x45356650, 0x3A386D69, 0x575A7037, 0x335F357D
    KEY5 – 0x343A2148, 0x614F3925, 0x753F6953, 0x47463626
    KEY6 – 0x3F62626D, 0x7E555F44, 0x7E29425A, 0x52246268
    KEY7 – 0x47302A23, 0x342A6173, 0x4769457B, 0x335F357D
    Copy and paste to a new text document. (Left click on desktop).
    Name it keys and save to say desktop. Left click on that to rename file from .TXT to .h and enter. Yes to warning. Find the SCAL_plugin folder in Documents, and drag keys.h from desktop to folder.

    Reply
    • I actually got better results with this key than the one that was just updated as of September 2020, but it’s only finishing about half the letter. Any chance you could provide insight on how to troubleshoot these keys?

      Reply
  33. I have a cricuit expression and use the original sure cuts a lot version software. I’m wanting to use more of the push encoded characters. What is the best option? Can I buy sure cuts a lot 5 and create then transfer to the sure cuts a lot version I already own? Looking for a solution with out having to buy a new machine.

    Reply
  34. My computer crashed. I have a Cricut Expression. When I reinstalled SCAL3 everything worked until I went to cut. It wants me to add my Cutter but obviously Cricut is not an option so I can’t cut.
    I read through your steps but I don’t see the work around for this.
    Can you help me?

    Reply
  35. How do I use the keys file? I am clicking on the link but it is just taking me to a webpage with plane text and nothing to download. Am I doing something wrong? Please help! 🙂

    Reply
  36. Hello, thankyou for taking your time on this tutorial. I did everything as mentioned but when I send to cut it only moves a few seconds and then stops. Is there a way I can fix it?

    Reply
  37. Great guide!

    I was able to setup everything easily with my Cricut Expression, but when I go to make the cut it comes out very angular, meaning no curves like it is in the preview from Sure Cuts A Lot 5. A circle comes out looking like an octogon. I was hoping this was just the demo version, but even after I paid $60 for the full version I get the same results so I am pretty bummed if I just wasted that money.

    Any suggestions?

    Reply
  38. Hello –

    I have a Cricut Expression, and I am going to try downloading the above links for it. I have one question, though. I have a Cricut USB cable to connect to Cricut and computer. Will that work with the software for the Cricut Expression or do I need to download the libcutter plug-in?

    Thanks!!

    Kathy

    Reply

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