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This guide aims to help you get to grips with the basics of papercraft machines, looking at the different types of machine available for specific techniques and how they could benefit your crafting. After all, buying a machine shouldn't be so complicated!
Papercrafting can be broken down into many different techniques, each of which use paper as a base. Many of these techniques can be completed by hand – for example, stamping requires stamps, card and ink, calligraphy requires paper and pens, and book folding simply requires a book and a pattern/instructions.
However sometimes in papercrafting, a machine is needed to complete specialist techniques – most notably in die-cutting, embossing, hot foiling, letterpress stamping, sticker-making and laminating. Therefore, to help you gain an understanding of what happens during each process, we're going to have a look at the machines associated with these papercraft techniques, explaining how each machine functions.
Die-cutting is the process of cutting out designs from cardstock using templates. Die-cutting machines are split into three core categories: Manual, Electronic and Computerised – all of which perform differently.
The process itself requires you to form a 'die sandwich' in which you place the die on your card, then press them both between cutting plates. This whole ensemble is then passed through the machine with pressure, and the design is cut out.
But how do manual and electronic machines differ? It's simple. Manual machines use a crank system so that you can manually pull the sandwich through by turning a handle, while electronic machines have a motor so automatically pulls it all through for you.
Although computerised machines produce the same outcome as manual and electronic machines, the process itself differs entirely. Firstly, these machines don't require physical dies. Instead, they have designs built into the machine or are linked up to a computer or USB to transfer designs over to the machine.
Secondly, these machines use cutting blades instead of pressure. Instead of making a 'die sandwich', you simply put your cardstock or paper into the machine, choose a design using the touchscreen or software installed on your computer, then programme the machine to cut – it'll do all the hard work for you!
For a more in-depth explanation of the history of die-cutting, the die-cutting process, and the machines available to you, click here to view our Die-Cutting Guide.
Embossing is the process of creating raised patterns and texture in paper or cardstock using embossing folders with an embossing machine. Embossing folders are made of plastic and feature one side with a raised design and another debossed side – your card will replicate the pattern once embossed.
The process itself requires you to form a sort of 'embossing sandwich in which you place your cardstock in the folder, then sandwich the folder between two embossing plates. This whole ensemble is then passed through the machine, which applies pressure, and the cardstock is moulded into the pattern on the folder.
But what embossing machine are available? The best thing about this technique is that it uses pressure in a similar way to how die-cutting does, so they're often combined into one machine. Consequently, single-function machines solely for embossing are non-existent – instead, manual and electronic die-cutting machines are built to handle embossing folders.
For a more in-depth explanation of the history of embossing, the embossing process and the machines available to you, click here to view our Embossing Guide.
Hot foiling is the process of using heat and pressure to apply a layer of foil to cardstock. As this technique is relatively new to craft, there are only two foiling machines currently available – each functioning differently.
Firstly, there's our TODO machine. This Multi-Functional Crafting Machine can not only hot foil, but letterpress, die-cut and emboss too. To hot foil, it requires a Hot Foil Plate (a metal plate featuring an intricate design), your choice of foil, and some cardstock. Once the machine has heated up, place foil over the template, then layer some card on top. Finally, the 'A plate' goes on last. Turn the handle to pull the roller over the ensemble, applying pressure to it. Take all the components apart, peel away the foil, and you'll be left with an exact replica of the template – but foiled!
Secondly, there's the Minc Foiling Machine by Heidi Swapp. Designed with the sole function to foil, this machine is seen as a fantastic at-home alternative to professional foiling. This process requires Minc paper (a white sheet featuring a design in black toner), your choice of foil, and a transfer folder. Once the machine has heated up, place a sheet of Minc paper inside the transfer folder, put some foil on top, then close the folder. Feed the folder through the machine – it'll pull the rest through automatically as it applies heat and pressure. Open the folder, then peel back the foil to find foiling where the toner was!
For a more in-depth explanation of the history of hot foiling, the hot foiling process and the machines available to you, click here to view our Hot Foiling Guide.
Letterpress printing is the process of debossing designs onto paper or cardstock using a printing plate, brayer and ink with a letterpress machine – your cardstock will replicate the pattern on the printing plate with an almost stamp-like effect.
The process itself requires you to form a sandwich of elements. Thoroughly ink your letterpress plate using a brayer, then carefully place it on your cardstock – taped down to secure. Sandwich this ensemble between a base plate and top plate then run it through your machine, which will apply pressure. The letterpress plate pattern will be debossed into your cardstock, complete with ink accenting in the relief.
There are few machines designed for use with letterpress, but the TODO Multi-Functional Crafting Machine is a firm favourite. There's also a fantastic range of letterpress and hot foil plates available, providing a great deal of design options. Other than this, you'll need to get yourself some oil or rubber-based ink of archival quality, plus a soft rubber brayer up to six inches wide.
Sticker making is the process of creating your own stickers with paper, a refill cartridge and a sticker machine, while laminating is the process of overlaying a sheet of paper with plastic using a refill cartridge and a laminating machine. You'll often find that larger sticker machines are multifunctional and allow you to perform both of these techniques – but you should always check the product description before purchasing!
The processes of making stickers and laminating require you to pre-print a design onto a cut of paper or card, place it into the front of the machine, and turn the knob – the design will come out the other side with adhesive applied to the back, or plastic film adhered to either side, depending on your choice of setting.