Introduction to Die Cutting

What is a Die Cutting Machine?

A die cutting machine is a machine designed to cut materials, such as paper, fabric, or metal, to a specific shape. These cutout shapes can then be used for a variety of projects, such as scrapbooking, t-shirts, homemade cards, quilts, or decorations for a party.

Generally, there are two types of die cutting machines – manual die cutting machines and digital die cutting machines.

Manual die cutting machines are die cutting machines that work like a cookie cutter. Cutting dies are purchased separately to be used in the machine, which cut the desired material. Cutting dies come in all shapes, sizes, and designs. There are a few companies that specialize in custom dies.

Digital die cutting machines are die cutting machines that are digital and cut materials in a way similar to how a printer prints. Designs can be sent to a digital die cutting machine in two ways, either from a cartridge, which is a device preloaded with designs that plugs into the machine, or from a computer, where designs can be made or downloaded using special software.

Some digital die cutting machines can draw, pierce, and emboss along with cut.

Die Cutting Machine Operations

Some die cutting machines can do more than just cut. Here are a few capabilities that die machines can do depending on the type of machine:

CutCutting is a standard feature on most machines. Some machines can cut shapes as small as a quarter of an inch.
Cut-by-colorSome digital die cutting machines can trace colors and cut around them.
DrawOn some digital die cutting machines, the blade can be replaced with a type of marker to draw instead of cut.
PiercePiercing involves making holes in the material.
EngraveEngraving involves carving or cutting designs on a hard surface.
EmbossEmbossing is a standard feature on manual die cutting machines. It involves creating raised designs on a surface, giving the design a “pop-out” effect.

Die Cutting Machine Applications

One can make a variety of items with a die cutting machine. Here are a few ideas:

  • Scrapbook designs
  • Stencils
  • Magnets
  • Stickers and decals
  • Homemade cards
  • Fabric cutouts
  • Fun foam designs

Choosing a Die Cutting Machine

There are several factors to consider when buying a die cutting machine:

  • Type of machine – Manual or Digital
  • Cost
  • Materials and Capabilities
  • Ease of use – Software and Support
  • Size and Portability

If you are interested in purchasing a die cutting machine, the Manual Die Cutting Machine Guide and Digital Die Cutting Machine Guide sites will help you compare the most popular models on the market.

25 thoughts on “Introduction to Die Cutting”

  1. My friend in Israel wants a manual die cutting machine. What is available in her area without costing a lot in shipping costs?

    • Hi Susan, will you be cutting your own designs? A manual die cut machine like the Big Shot might be best if you just want basic shapes like flowers. If you want to create your own designs from scratch, then something like the Cricut Explore will work.

  2. I an looking for a machine that can cut my own designs in felt material. I was interested in the hand die cuts at it says its better for fabric and felt and I expect cheaper than digital, except you seem dependent on others designs is that right? I’m starting my own craft business using felt so I’m looking for something that can withstand a fair amount of use but I also dont have alot of spare cash.

    • I just bought a Cricut Explore Air 2. It can cut felt and fabric. The Cricut Explore Air is supposed to be the same machine, but just slower. It is a lot less expensive than the Air 2, if you don’t mind the extra cutting time.

  3. I have never used a die-cutter before, but am interested in one that allows me to create custom designs (primarily in vinyl). What would you recommend?

  4. I’m looking for a machine to cut out fan patterns for my specialized fans. What machine do you recommend?

  5. Planning a wedding and have decided that it may be cheaper, and more fun, to make my own invitations, signs, menu cards, etc. so am looking at purchasing a die cut/embossing/printing machine. I want the invitations to be the type with cut design sides that fold over the middle. What do you recommend? Is there one that can cut the wrap and print the inside card with embossed print? Can any do a gold foil embossing as well?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Sandy, sorry for the late reply! Did you end up picking out a machine?

      I’m thinking a manual die cut machine might be best. The only thing is, you’ll need to make sure there are dies and embossing folders for the designs you want. It seems like you’ll want to cut the invitations and emboss them after they are cut? If so, you’ll need the die and embossing folder. Typically, you can use the same manual die cut machine for both these tasks.

      If you are making a lot of invitations, a manual die cut machine will be a lot quicker compared to a digital die cutter. The advantage to a digital die cutter is that you’ll able to make your own custom designs.

      Hope this helps!

  6. I am starting out with paper craft, I need a macine to cut paper fancy edges shaped edges of pages etc I am a complete novice do I need a scan n cut machine or something like a Cricut. Or is there a cheaper alternative? As I said I am a newbie and want to make products look professional from day one but have not got a big budget. Also are the dies sold separately and from where . Thank you hope you can help me.

    • Hi Anna, has the blade been used a lot or is it newer?

      Another possibility is that the blade is fine but something is wrong in your settings. Make sure you have the right material. You can also try reducing pressure settings gradually and see if that helps.

  7. Any suggestions on the best machine for cutting designs for leather. I’m very new the the whole die cut/ cricket world. Thanks kindly.

  8. I’m trying to compare machines but am trying to find the best machine for engraving metal for personalized jewelry. What would you recommend? Thank you.

  9. Just started looking into getting some kind of machine that i would like to be able to create design and use pre made one to cut Vinyl with that I could use with something like the Cricut Easy Press 2 6×7. any advice would be greatly appreciated! thank you.

  10. I have a Scan N Cut2 and I absolutely love it! I have all of the “extras” that are purchased separately, except the Rhinestone Kit. But I love the dies that I see from like Tim Holtz etc… and now I’m wondering do I need a separate manual die/embossing machine for this reason? Still new to this type of crafting but am loving learning all the new things I can do with this category of crafting. I am a self taught crochet and I sew and hand and machine embroider so this is uncharted areas for me. Still on the fence about a separate manual die/embossing machine 😞

  11. Hi I want to make customized favor boxes and paper flowers I was wondering if I can do this with sizzix big shot plus I live in Uganda and I want something low maintainence that won’t need constant maintaining thanks

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