Questions All Die Cutting Beginners Have

Cricut Machine

I joined Create and Craft January this year, and eight months on I’m still classed as a newbie. I won’t lie, I didn’t realise how big the crafting world was nor the different styles of crafting. I’ve heard of your generic crafting like sewing, cross stitching, card making and so on. However, the one that blew my mind was die cutting. I had so many questions!  Whether you’re new to die cutting, need some clarification or wanting an answer, hopefully you can find your answers here!

What is die cutting?

In crafting, die cutting refers to a process in which you use a machine to create a cut out of shapes. You can repeatedly create the same shape with the same dimensions, without using scissors, stencils, or a craft knife. Essentially it makes your cut out shapes look professional and uniformed every time.

What is a die?

Dies are metal shaped objects with a raised, sharp area for cutting. They look like cookie cutters, so the shape of the die is the shape that you will get when you cut out on your paper. There are a few different types of dies:

  • Steel rule dies are sharp and protected with foam or a plastic material. Typically, they are more durable, as they have been designed for cutting thicker materials or for multiple of cuts.
  •  Thin metals dies are not as sharp and can’t cut thick materials. They aren’t protected with foam or plastic, but they are lighter and easier to put away.

There a huge selection of dies to choose from, like your basic shapes, words, florals, lace, animals, and much more. Essentially there is a die for every occasion and theme you can think of!

Woman using machine

What is a die cutting machine?

Die cutting machines cut shapes out of paper, chipboard, fabric, and other materials. These machines can sit on top of the workspace where you craft. There are many sizes available including machines that fold!

Manual machines

Manual machines are operated with an easy to turn lever and uses specialized metal shapes to cut paper or other materials. As the material and metal die passes through the rollers, it applies pressure, and the die cuts the paper or material into the shape of the die.

Here are some of our popular manual machines

Digital machines

As you probably guessed, digital machines are powered by electric and controlled by software that you can use on computer, phone, or tablet. Another difference between a manual and a digital machine, is that the digital cutting machine has a blade inside the machine, so a metal die isn’t required. This means you can create the shape you want via the software on your device.

Here are some of our popular digital machines

What can I make with a die cutting machine?

Originally, I thought they can only be used for making cards. How wrong was I?! You can make stickers, envelopes, gift tags, themed favours, pillow boxes and more! A machine can be used by paper crafters, general crafts, scrapbookers and quilters.

What are cutting plates?

Cutting plates create the die cut ‘sandwich’, which means you layer all the components and materials for your machine. The machine presses down on the pad and pushes the die in to the paper. Cutting die plates come in a variety of different sizes. Over time, the plates will need replacing due to wrapping. Don’t worry, this is completely normal!

What do you need to start die cutting?

Basically, you only need a few essential items. When you order a machine, it comes with everything you need to start straight away (except for dies as these are sold separately).  For manual machines you will get the machine, a platform and cutting pads. For digital machines, you will get the machine and software.

Each machine will come with detailed instructions, explaining how to use the machine and accessories. An important thing to remember, is if you buy a manual machine then you will need at least one due cutting die. You can find a wide range and styles of die cutting dies here. Lastly you will need paper or card to cut your shapes from.

If you still need help there are videos online, including our free online John Lockwood craft course, that teaches you how to get the most from your die cutting machine.  

Which die cutting machine is best?

This really depends on what you are looking for. Our most popular brands are Sizzix, Cricut, Kit N Caboodle, Brother ScanNCut, and Spellbinders. However, there are many different machines with my many different features. When considering purchasing a die cutting machine, be sure to read the product descriptions and the reviews so you know the pros of the machine and people’s experience.

If you are thinking about purchasing a die cutting machine, you can find our selection here.