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Introduction To Die Cutting

For crafters of any level of experience, cutting out and shaping can be an arduous and painstaking task, particularly for intricate or small designs. Whilst there are a plethora of manual tools available to the crafting community, sometimes using a machine is simply the best solution. Unfortunately, high tech printing and cutting machines can be expensive and out of the price range of many amateur crafters. This is where die cutting comes in; allowing hobbyist crafters access to machine levels of precision at an affordable price. 

So what is die cutting? And how can it be used to improve your card making?

A die cutting machine is one that has been specifically designed to cut papers, fabrics and even some metals to a certain shape or design. They can cut intricate designs to high levels of precision and accuracy, meaning you can easily reproduce quality designs over and over. There are two types of die cutting machine.

Firstly, manual die cutters use detachable dies, which determine the shape and design of the cut out. These dies can be purchased from specialist such as and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The crafter attaches the die he or she wishes to use, places the card, paper or fabric into the machine and then operates the machine to cut out the design. In crude terms, the dies can be thought of as cookie cutters for you crafting materials. Most manual die cutters come equipped with the embossing features too, to create a raised look to your cards.

Over the past decade or so, digital die cutters have become more affordable and popular with amateur and hobbyist crafters. With a digital die cutter there is no physical die. Instead, designs are loaded into the cutter via a portable cartridge or downloaded from a PC using specialist software. Top of the range digital die cutters are capable of embossing and piercing card and fabrics as well as simply cutting out designs.

Both forms of die cutters can be used to cut to minute tolerances (tenths of a millimeter and more in some cases) meaning intricate designs or designs that require very fine cuts are far easier to create. The very best die cutting machines are accurate enough to cut through just a single layer of laminate, making them ideal for cutting out labels, stickers and stamps.

The machines have become incredibly popular due to the fact that they take all the leg work out of otherwise arduous cutting tasks. They have has become a staple tool in the arsenal of scrap-bookers, card makers, T-shirt designers and a whole host of other crafters alike. In any situation that requires careful concentration and intricate snipping, a die machine can save time whilst producing as good or even better results. The fact is, owning one has become a bit of a no-brainer.

For those of us who enjoy working with computers and computer aided design software, a digital die cutting machine can literally revolutionise our home-workshops. Suddenly, no design is too intricate and no design out of the realms of possibility. Now, instead of carefully drawing out a design before cutting out with scissors or a crafting knife, we can draw up a design on special software and let the printer do the rest.

The magic isn’t out of the reach of those less tech-savvy either. There are thousands of dies available for manual die cutting machines, meaning your imagination is usually the limit when it comes to finding a design for you next card or project. What is more, some specialist die manufacturers will even create a design for you if you have one in mind that you are unable to find elsewhere.

The cost of die cutting machines varies quite significantly, with entry level machines available for around £20-£30. Naturally, a top of the range digital model complete with software is likely to cost considerably more than that, although don’t be put off as there are models in everyone’s price range.

When looking to buy a machine, have an idea of what you are looking for as certain models and manufacturers cater for specific crafts over others. Not all machines will cut paper, fabric and metal to the same quality so ensure you choose one that handles what you will be cutting.

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