February 23, 2024

A lot of us are creative by nature. We love to make things and we love to gift those things to others. If you are a “maker of things” — or “maker” in common parlance — you likely have tools and machines around your house you can use to make something truly unique for your Valentine or for any other special occasion.

Here at CNET, we use myriad maker machines. From the latest Cricut vinyl cutter and the best 3D printers, to the high-tech world of laser cutters like the Glowforge, our workshops are littered with creative tools. We use them for testing, of course, but much of that testing is making beautiful things. Here is a list of some things we think would make an excellent gift that you’ve made yourself. 

And if you don’t have the time to make these, we have a list of great last-minute digital and physical gifts you can grab too.

The best gifts you can make yourself

A coffee mug covered in hearts with 3D printed roses in it
James Bricknell / CNET

Using your Cricut to make mugs is simple. With some Infusible Ink sheets and sublimation mugs you can make your loved one mug for every occasion. I use the HTVRont tumble press for my mugs as it lets me press two at a time. These mugs can be as simple or complex as you like. You can even use Infusible Ink pens to hand draw images you want to press on a mug if you really want to make it personal.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

There are many tutorials online about how to grab a chunk of Google Maps data and turn it into a laser-etchable image. We used this one, which was very thorough. It uses an online app called Snazzymaps, which has a handy set of image-optimization tools to turn any Google map data into laser-ready art. 

These coasters can be all of the same location or different locations that mean something to you and your Valentine. We used the Glowforge to make these, but any laser that can etch can make them too. You could even make these on slate coasters. That would look amazing.

Pink and orange printed roses on rock in the garden
James Bricknell / CNET

These beautiful roses by Lytta are 3D printed using a setting called “vase mode,” meaning you can print one in just 37 minutes on a 3D printer like the Bambu Lab A1 Mini. I printed a whole bunch for my wife to have on her desk and some for my Mum’s memorial tree. They never die and will look beautiful for as long as you want them.
I recommend the rose quartz filament from Flashforge for a beautiful pink with sparkles

To paper flowers in frames, cut on a Cricut
Kelly Uniacke

One of my favorite things to make on the Cricut are these intricate cuts that require you to layer different colors on each other. Each piece is cut slightly differently so you can see the movement throughout. My sister made an almost perfect example of this with an intricate lotus leaf. There are also easier ones like the other picture — both of them look stunning. Remember to put it in a shadowbox frame as well. A gift is better when it’s complete.

Red watch strap with rainbows and hearts on it
Russell Holly / CNET

Making pretty things with no function is great, and your gift receiver will surely love it, but what if you could make something they could actually use? These Apple Watch straps are designed to be etched on a laser cutter to reveal a rainbow color beneath. You can use just about any pattern you can think of to try to make them truly unique to the person you’re giving it to. 

A gold and rose gold 3d printed ring box with 2 rings on top
Shannon Swinfield

With roughly 10% of all US engagements happening on Valentine’s Day, you may be thinking of popping the question. If you are, these excellent boxes from Clockspring are a unique way to hide your ring away. They are 3D printed in several pieces and then glued together. The lid has a clockwork mechanism to hold it shut that looks amazing.

My daughter used one for her wedding to hold the rings and it looked fantastic. 

What’s the best 3D printer for making gifts?

3D printers don’t have to cost a fortune. You can pick up a really great budget 3D printer like the Anycubic Kobra 2 Pro for around $300. Not only can it print with excellent detail, it’s easy to use and is super fast for those last-minute gift needs.

What’s the best laser cutter for making gifts?

Laser cutters can be much more expensive than 3D printers but can also be used for more than just gift-making. You could easily set up your own small business making gifts for others. The Creality Falcon is an option for under $300, but it’s hard to use. The Glowforge Aura is around $1,000, but it has a much better ecosystem surrounding it. 

What’s the best Cricut vinyl cutter for making gifts?

Vinyl cutters like the Cricut machines have been around for a long time, so there are plenty to choose from. I like the Cricut Explore 3 as it’s balanced well in price an utility. You can make amazing things with a Cricut Explore and just regular paper, so it’s worth having one in your house.