Die Cutting: A Beginner’s Guide

Monday, December 31, 2018


arts, crafts, die cutting

Cricut. Spellbinder. Silhouette. Brother. Sizzix. Do any of these brands sound familiar to you, or do your friends mention using these? All of them are brand names of die cutting machines. Obviously, each brand has several different models, and maybe you are just dipping your toes into the die cutting pool. Maybe you want to create your own Christmas cards, birthday cards, wooden signs, or scrapbook pages. Well, here are some tools that you might consider having on hand as you start your crafting.

1. A die cutting machine

Now there are all kinds of machines, but the first thing you will need to decide is if you want an electric machine or manual machine. The electric machine would require software that has images that you can either purchase and/or download to your machine which will cut your design for you. A manual machine will require you to purchase die (see point below) and hand-crank your designs through the machine. Both options have their pros and cons. Your choice should depend on cost, what type of project you are creating, and how often you plan to use it. 

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2. Paper

The most common type of paper used with die cutting machines is cardstock. It is a very versatile and clean-cutting material. You can purchase it in different colors and thicknesses, depending on what type of project you are working on. 

Other types of paper include vellum and vinyl. Vellum is a somewhat transparent, delicate paper. Essentially, whatever is behind it will show through. Vinyl is another type of paper that die cut machines use. It is mostly used for making signs, including the wood signs that are so popular currently. You can make the sign using vinyl and attach the vinyl right to your wood or metal sign, or you can keep the negative of the vinyl and paint the quote on the wood or metal. 

arts, crafts, die cutting

3. Dies

Dies are the metal cutting implements that actually cut your paper. If you are using a manual die cutting machine, you will need to purchase dies with designs in them so that they will punch out the design onto your paper. These are placed on the paper and either stamped or rolled over with your manual machine to create the impression on the paper.

An electronic die has blades on it that freeform cut the design into the paper. While this might seem easier, these blades will have to be replaced.

As far as what types of dies you should look to use, you should look for many generic designs to begin. Look for floral designs, traditional shapes, lacy designs, and even die with quotes on them. Think about what type of designs and projects you plan to complete and get a variety of different dies to add to your collection.

If you feel like trying your hand at it, or if you want something truly unique, you can even try to create your own dies, as you can see here. This would be a great option for bigger dies or ones that you cannot find in the store. 

4. Accessories

While the die cutting machine and die are the essential parts to the process, there are also tools that will help make it all work more smoothly.

A hand blade is the first tool on this list. These can help poke out designs that didn’t cut all the way through the paper or even just popping stubborn patterns out of the paper. 

Another very handy tool would be a cutting pad. These come in different sizes and types, even self-healing. You place the pad under your paper as it goes through the machine, then the blades don’t tear up the machine or the table it sits on. 

Lastly, on the useful tool list would be some type of writing utensil and tape or glue. The writing utensil would be beneficial if you needed to draw your own design or plan your project. The tape or glue would help you put your project together.

That’s it! Now that you’ve read a little about the process behind die cutting, go get started on your first project!