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Beginner’s Guide to Die-Cutting

From the tools and materials you need to how to use them, this beginner’s guide covers everything you need to know about die-cutting.

Introduced in the 1800s as a solution to cobblers having to cut leather soles for shoes by hand, die-cutting machines are now staples in craft rooms across the world. They are efficient, multifunctional machines that work with dies to produce cut-out designs for crafts. Just as the first industrial die-cutting machines did, today’s die-cutting craft machines allow you to cut repeat designs with precision and speed, making them an integral part of the crafting world.

Die-Cutting Machines: How They Work

There are 3 types of die-cutting machine for crafts: Manual, Electronic, and Computerised. Some crafters prefer working by hand, while others enjoy crafting with technology. With these 3 types of machine on the market, there’s something for everyone.

Manual / Electronic Die-Cutting and Embossing Machines

Manual machines are hand operated using a crank lever. Electronic machines work with dies in the same way as manual machines, but instead of using a crank system, they’re operated by a motor.

Die-Cutting with a Manual or Electronic Machine

Place your die facing raised-side up on the bottom die-cutting plate. Layer over the material, such as white card, and add the top plate, creating a die sandwich. Pass the entire ‘sandwich’ through your machine’s mouth. Once it has passed through, remove the plates and carefully remove the cut-out from the die.

When purchasing dies, it’s important to consider your machine’s mouth size. Most machines will take most standard dies, but there are exceptions. It’s important to know your machine’s platform depth too, as this also determines the dies and plates it will take. If the plates and dies are too thick, they won’t fit. Read your machine’s manufacturer’s manual to confirm which dies and plates it can take.

Manual machines and electronic machines aren’t limited to just die-cutting. They can also emboss paper and, depending on the machine, thin metal using plastic embossing folders.

Embossing with a Manual or Electronic Machine

Place a piece of paper in your embossing folder, sandwiched between the embossed side and the debossed side. Sandwich the folder between two embossing plates and pass this ‘sandwich’ through your die-cutting machine. The pressure applied onto the embossing folder by running it through your machine will press the raised design towards the debossed side, permanently moulding the design into the paper.

Computerised Die-Cutting Machines

Computerised die-cutting machines are digital cutting systems that use designs available on a graphics program, a USB, or in-built software, instead of a physical die. These designs are known as digital dies.

Die-cutting USBs are easy to use and provide a huge amount of designs all in one place. Some USBs contain cutting designs for different occasions and themes throughout the year, while others are design specific - there are USBs containing designs for Christmas, celebratory occasions, the seasons, and even Disney fans!

Discover how you can craft your favourite Disney characters using Disney’s E-DIES™.

Die-Cutting with a Computerised Machine

Set up your machine following the manufacturer’s manual. Place your material on the tacky cutting mat to secure it and insert it into the machine. Following the instructions, select a design from the machine’s graphics program or a USB, then let it do the cutting for you. The order in which you set up and program your machine for cutting will depend on the machine, so you must ensure you read the included manufacturer’s manual.

Computerised machines have near-limitless design possibilities and can cut an incredible variety of materials at an exceptional speed. They grant minimal physical work, whilst providing speed, accuracy, and greater design versatility.