What is a Cricut Universal Keypad Overlay?

What is a Cricut Universal Keypad Overlay?

by Sean Curran

Did you know that you only need one Universal Overlay for all square-shaped cartridges? These cartridges were all launched after August 2013. Sometimes they are referred to as "SM" cartridges, or just "small" cartridges. Because you only need one universal overlay for these 80+ cartridges, it means just one overlay to learn, organize, and store!

*The Universal Keypad Overlay is sold separately. It is available for purchase here.

Universal Keypad Overlay explained:

In this post we will be breaking down the differences between the two styles of cartridges and why you need to be using all cartridges to maximize your creativity. It is important to note that ALL Cricut Cartridges will work with ALL Cricut Machines (with the exception of the obsolete Cricut Mini Machine). But as you probably know, there are two different ways to use Cricut Cartridges, depending on if the cartridge was designed before August 2013 (traditional way), or if it was designed after (updated way), and also depending on which Cricut Machine you are using. There are new Cricut Cartridge users everyday and this is one of the trickiest things to understand as they get started, depending on which style of cartridge they are first introduced to. Yet both the traditional way and updated way are super easy to use, and neither slow down Cricut creators from finding their inspiration.

Traditional Cartridges: Designed before August 2013. These cartridges work with all Cricut Machines.

Every Cricut cartridge prior to August of 2013 was made with its own unique keypad overlay and instructional handbook. It's easy to tell which cartridges will have their own overlay, versus requiring a Universal Keypad Overlay. It's pretty easy to spot the traditional way of designing with Cricut. One indicator is the cartridge storage binders will be tall and rectangular shaped, and its dimensions are about 8x4x2 inches. Another hint would be that it includes a keypad overlay, and the overlay is specifically designed for the cartridge it came with. The keypad overlay will be included when you purchase one of these cartridges. An example of one of these titles is Wrap it Up Cricut Cartridge. These cartridges will work with all Cricut die-cutting machines, but you particularly get the most use out of them with legacy machines; Expression, Expression 2, Personal Cutter, Create, Imagine, and Cake Machines. The Expression 2 and Imagine will not use overlay in general, as they have touchscreen keypads built into the machines.You can also link all of your Cricut Cartridges to Design Space by using a USB Cricut Cartridge adapter and connecting it to your computer. That way the content on the cartridges are compatible with machines such as Explore and Maker.

Updated/Small/SM Cartridges: Cricut Cartridges designed after August of 2013 require a Universal Keypad Overlay. These cartridges work with all Cricut Machines.

These cartridges are easy to spot. The cartridge binder is half the size as the traditional cartridges, which is great for saving space. They come in a square-shaped storage binder, which is about 4x4x2 inches. Inside is the cartridge and a square-shaped instructional booklet that will give you step-by-step instructions on how to use the cartridge with the Universal Overlay. The Universal Overlay is not included inside the cartridge binder, it is sold separately. You can purchase one here. The good news is you only need one Universal Overlay. Your Universal Overlay is compatible with all square-shaped cartridges. One example of these cartridges is 3D Floral Home Decor Cricut Cartridge. These newer cartridges have the same amount of great content as the older cartridges, they just take up a lot less room on the craft shelf. It's nice to save some space with these cartridges, and its great to have this universal approach where you can expect consistent and efficient instructions and tips for your Cricut. Each cartridge has its own instructional handbook that goes hand in hand with the Universal Keyboard Overlay. These newer cartridges will work the same way as the older ones as far as machine compatibility. These cartridges will work with all Cricut die-cutting machines, but you particularly get the most use out of them with legacy machines; Expression, Expression 2, Personal Cutter, Create, Imagine, and Cake Machines. The Expression 2 and Imagine will not need the overlays, as they have touchscreen keypads built into the machines.You can also link all of your Cricut Cartridges to Design Space by using a USB Cricut Cartridge adapter and connecting it to your computer while logged in to Design Space. That way the content on the cartridges are even compatible with the Cricut Maker, as you link them to your Design Space account. Cricut Explore Machines all have a Cartridge port where you can plug in your cartridge to the machine and it will load it directly into Design Space. No need for an additional Cricut Cartridge Adapter unless you are using Maker.


If the cartridge storage binder is rectangular-shaped then it was designed with its own unique keypad overlay. If it is square-shaped then it will require a Universal Keypad Overlay when using it with specific Legacy machines. The Universal Keypad Overlay is the new way of designing and cutting with Cricut Cartridges and Cricut Machines. You only need one Universal Keypad Overlay as they work with all of the small, square-shaped cartridges and legacy Cricut Machines (i.e., Cricut Expression Machine, Original Personal Cricut Machine V1, Cricut Create Machine, and Cricut Cake Machines). The cartridges made before 2013 are taller and rectangular-shaped, and come with a keypad overlay designed for that specific cartridge. The smaller, square-shaped cartridges like the ones made by Anna Griffin, for example, are designed to work with the Universal Keypad Overlay. In total there are 450+ Cricut Cartridges. The last 100 or so cartridges that released are these updated, small, square-shaped cartridges made after 2013 that will work in conjunction with the Universal Keypad Overlay. Each handbook is inside the cartridge binder and it will explain how to use the Universal Keypad Overlay. There are also many tutorials online.

Cricut Machines that require the use of a cartridge and overlay:

  • Cricut Personal Electronic Cutter
  • Cricut Expression
  • Cricut Create
  • Cricut Cake Expression
  • Cricut Cake Mini

Cricut Cartridges that require a Universal Keypad Overlay:

*Cartridge titles with links below will take you to the item available for sale on CraftyCartridges.com.

Cricut Cartridges were designed with (and include) their own unique keyboard overlay. These cartridges are not compatible with a Universal Keypad Overlay.

  • 3 Birds Life’s a Party
    3 Birds on Parade
    9 Months
    A Child’s Year
    A Frightful Affair
    A Quilted Christmas
    Accent Essentials
    All Mixed Up
    All Occasion Collection
    All Sports
    All Wrapped Up
    Animal Antics
    April Showers
    Art Deco
    Art Nouveau
    Ashlyn’s Alphabet
    Autumn Celebrations
    B is for Boy
    Baby Shower
    Baby Steps
    Base Camp
    Beep, Beep
    Best Images of 2006
    Best Images of 2007
    Best Images of 2008
    Best Images of 2009
    Best Images of 2010
    Best of Cricut Cards
    Beyond Birthdays
    Birthday Bash
    Birthday Cakes
    Block Party
    Boho Graphics Iron-on
    Boys Will be Boys
    Bridal Shower
    Brooklyn Iron-on
    Bump in the Night
    Cake Basics
    Cake Everyday Sampler
    Calligraphy Collection
    Camp Out
    Campin’ Critters
    Car Decals
    Celebrate with Flourish
    Cherry Limeade
    Children Around the World
    Chip Decor
    Chore Chart
    Christmas Cheer
    Cindy Loo
    Classically Modern Cards
    Close To My Heart – Art Philosophy
    Close To My Heart – Artbooking
    Close To My Heart – Artfully Sent
    Close To My Heart – Artiste
    Close To My Heart – Artistry
    Country Life
    County Fair
    Creative Cards
    Creative Memories – Be Young
    Creative Memories – Cheerful Seasons
    Creative Memories – Divine Wedding
    Creative Memories – Holiday Frames and tags
    Creative Memories – Reminisce Accents
    Creative Memories – Stork’s Delivery
    Creative Memories – This & That Cricut Cartridge
    Creative Memories – Tiny Treasures
    Creative Memories – Tis the Season
    Creative Memories – Total Sports
    Creative Memories – Traveler
    Cricut Alphabet
    Cricut Classic Font
    Cricut Decals
    Cricut Essentials
    Cricut Font and Basic Shapes
    Cricut Office Help
    Cricut Sampler
    Crocs Rule
    Cupcake Wrappers
    Cursive 101
    Cuttin’ Up
    Damask Decor
    DC Comics – Batman: The Brave and the Bold
    DC Comics – Superman
    Designer’s Calendar
    Dino Play
    Disney – Hannah Montana
    Disney – Mickey and Friends
    Disney – Mickey Font
    Disney – Pooh and Friends
    Disney – Pooh Font
    Disney – Princess Dreams Come True
    Disney – Princess Happily Ever After
    Disney – Tinker Bell & Friends
    Disney Pixar – Best of Pixar
    Disney Pixar – Cars
    Disney Pixar – Toy Story
    Don Juan
    Dr. Checkup
    Easter 2010
    Elegant Cakes
    Enjoy the Seasons
    Everyday Paper Dolls
    Everyday Pop-Up Cards
    Extreme Fonts
    Fabulous Finds
    Fancy Frames
    Fast Food
    Father’s Day
    Feeling Groovy
    Floral Emporium
    Florals Embellished
    Flower Shoppe
    Folk Art Festival
    Forever Young
    Formal Occasion
    Four Legged Friends
    Frame of Mind
    French Manor
    Freshly Picked
    From My Kitchen
    Fun in the Sun
    Garden Soup
    George and Basic Shapes
    Giant Flowers
    Girl’s Makeup Party
    Give a Hoot
    Go Canada!
    Going Places
    Graphically Speaking
    Greeting Cards Inside & Out
    Groovy Times
    Handy Man
    Happy Graduation
    Happy Hauntings
    Holiday Cakes
    Home Accents
    Home Decor
    Home for the Holidays – Fall & Winter
    Hoot ‘n’ Holler
    Independence Day
    Indie Art
    Inspired Heart
    Jolly Holidays
    Joys of the Season
    Just a Note
    Just Because Cards
    Kate’s ABCs
    Lacy Labels
    Learning Curve
    Letter Envy
    Live Simply
    Locker Talk
    Love is in the Air
    Love You a Latte
    Lovely Floral
    Lyrical Letters
    Makin’ the Grade
    Martha Stewart Elegant Cake Art
    Martha Stewart Seasonal Cake Art
    Mini Books
    Mini Monograms
    Mini Monsters
    Mother’s Day 2010
    Mother’s Day Bouquet
    My Community
    My Quiet Book
    My World
    Nate’s ABCs
    New Arrival
    New Testament
    Nickelodeon – SpongeBob Squarepants
    Nifty Fifties
    Noah’s ABC Animals
    Nursery Rhymes
    October 31st
    Old West
    Once Upon a Princess
    Opposites Attract
    Ornamental Iron 2
    Out of Character
    Over the Hill
    Pack Your Bags
    Paper Doll Dress Up
    Paper Dolls Teen Scene
    Paper Lace
    Paper Lace 2
    Paper Play
    Paper Pups
    Paper Trimmings
    Pet Shop
    Pink Journey
    Pirates & Mermaids
    Plantin Schoolbook
    Pop-Up Neighborhood
    Potpourri Basket
    Pretty Pennants
    Princess Party
    Printing 101
    Printing Press
    Pumpkin Carving
    Quarter Note
    Ribbons & Rosettes
    Robot Party
    Rock Princess
    San Serif
    Sanrio – Hello Kitty Font
    Sanrio – Hello Kitty Greetings
    Scandinavian Christmas Cards
    Shall We Dance?
    Simple Cards
    Simple Cut Collection
    Simple Pop-up Cards
    Simply Charmed
    Simply Scarecrow
    Simply Sweet
    Slumber Party
    Snow Day
    Snow Folks
    Snow Friends 2009-2010
    Something to Celebrate
    Something to Remember
    Speaking of Fall
    Speaking of School
    Speaking of Winter
    Splish Splash
    Sports Mania
    Spring Cottage
    Spring Fever Seasonal
    Spring Holiday Cards
    Spring Seasonal
    Stand and Salute
    Stone Script
    Straight from the Nest
    Street Sign
    Stretch your Imagination
    Sugar and Spice
    Summer Bliss Seasonal
    Summer Celebrations
    Summer in Paris
    Summer Vacation
    Sweater Weather
    Sweet Shop
    Sweet Tooth Boxes
    Sweet Treats
    Tablescapes Fall & Winter
    Tablescapes Spring & Summer
    Tags, Bags, Boxes & More
    Tags, Bags, Boxes & More 2
    Team Spirit
    Tear Drop
    Teddy Bear Parade
    Teresa Collins – Chic & Scary
    Teresa Collins – December 25th
    The First Few Years
    Tie the Knot
    To the Cabin
    Trick or Treat
    Trim the Tree
    Twinkle Toes
    Ultimate Creative Sampler
    Varsity Letter
    Victorian Romance
    Walk in My Garden
    Wall Decor and More
    When I Was a Kid
    When It’s Cold Outside
    Wild Card
    Wild Card 2
    Winter Frolic
    Winter Lace
    Winter Woodland
    Winter’s in the Air Seasonal
    Word Builders 1 A Word Party
    Word Builders 2 A Garden of Words
    Word Builders 3 An Ocean of Words
    Word Collage
    Word of Mouth
    Wrap it Up
    Zoo Day

Cricut Cartridges designed to ONLY work with the Cricut Imagine Machine and Cricut Expression 2 Machine. These machines are NOT compatible with Cricut Cartridge overlays., as they have a built in digital display/touch screen.

  • Ancestry
    Baby Boutique
    Berries & Cream
    Best Friends
    Better Together
    Black and White
    Blast Off
    Bubblegum Stripes
    Christmas Wish
    Contemporary Nature
    Country Carnival
    Hey Diddle Diddle
    Imagine More
    Industrial Glow
    Kate’s Kitchen
    Lori’s Garden
    Mr. Frosty
    Mystical Garden
    Notebook Doodles
    Nursery Tails
    Santa’s Village
    Snapshot: Everyday
    Snapshot: Nature
    Snapshot: Texture
    Snow Angel
    Space Party
    Spring Chic
    Vintage Damask
    Vintage Papers

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