This guide aims to help you get to grips with the basics of die-cutting, looking at its beginnings all the way through to the different types of die-cutting machines available, and how each one functions. After all, being a rookie needn't be so intimidating!
Essential for use with every type of die-cutting machine, paper and card are the most popular materials used in die-cutting, providing a base to cut designs into – take a look at our Paper and Card Guide to find out more! But other than this key element, what machine-specific accessories will you need to buy?
If you're using a manual or electronic machine, you'll require a selection of dies compatible with the machine – and there's an incredible range of styles and sizes available, from big-name brands like Tattered Lace, Couture by Create and Craft, Tonic Studios and Spellbinders. These die-cutting experts provide designs for practically any occasion you can think of – from floral and animal designs to geometric shapes and sentiments, we've no doubt you'll always find exactly what you need.
An optional extra is a metal shim, which can be included in your 'die sandwich' when feeding it through the machine for added pressure, thus producing a more defined cut-out design. Shims aren't always required, but could come in handy if you're cutting an especially tricky material or an extremely detailed design. A pokey tool is another popular accessory – this useful tool has a wooden handle and a long, fine metal point to quite literally poke out stray pieces of material from your cut-outs, ultimately releasing the designs.
However, it's not just the die-cutting process that should be considered – how you store your dies is just as important! Dies are intended for repeated use, so the last thing you want is for your favourite dies to get damaged from being kept in a drawer. This is where die storage comes in – from die cases and die storage folders to magnetic sheets and binders, there are so many storage options available, each preserving and protecting your dies whilst keeping them neat and organised.
As computerised machines use graphics programs or built-in software, you won't need to buy physical dies. Instead, you have the option to purchase more designs using the manufacturer's online software store or, alternatively, buying a USB stick with designs pre-loaded onto it. If you decide the latter, you must double check that your machine is compatible with USB devices first!
Other than designs, there's a whole host of other optional machine-specific accessories to purchase to enhance your cutting experience. These can include cutting blades, pens, project books, mats, tutorial DVDs and more, however many computerised machines will already come with a selection of these accessories.