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Die-Cutting Explained: What is Die-Cutting & Will it Transform my Crafting?

Die-Cutting Explained: What is Die-Cutting & Will it Transform my Crafting?

If you’re new to the world of papercrafting, you’ve probably heard seasoned papercrafters waxing lyrical about die-cutting… and wondered what on earth they could possibly be talking about! To put it simply, when we talk about die-cutting, we refer to the art of cutting out intricate shapes in one fell swoop, with the use of metal cutting shapes called dies… think cookie cutters for paper! But that’s not all – because dies eradicate the need for scissors when it comes to creating cut paper shapes, the opportunities to produce stunningly intricate designs are almost limitless! Read on to discover exactly how to use dies to create show-stopping papercrafts, what die-cutting machines are and how to use them, and what you’ll need to get started.

What Is Die Cutting?

Die Cutting Machines:

In order to use your dies, you will need a die cutting machine. What is a die cutting machine? In a nutshell, your die cutting machine is the device used to cut your chosen shapes out of paper, vellum and other compatible materials. Die cutting machines come in three varieties: manual die cutting machines, electronic die cutting machines, and digital die cutting machines (more on these later!)

Manual and Electronic Die Cutting Machines:

As the name suggests, manual die cutting machines are controlled manually by the crafter using a crank system, and do not require electricity. These are usually the most affordable, and are a great entry point into the world of die cutting! If however, you’d like something that requires a little less physical effort, then an electronic die cutting machine could be the perfect choice for you.

They are similar in functionality to manual die cutting machines, but use a motor rather than a manually operated handle to run your die and paper through the machine and produce your cut-out design. Both manual and electronic die cutting machines require you to create a ‘sandwich’ – that is, to place your chosen die, and the crafting medium you wish to cut between two cutting plates, so that these can be passed through the machine and compressed to create your cut-out design. Computerised die cutting machines, however, work a little differently…

Computerised Die Cutting Machines:

Instead of using physical metal dies,  these machines feature digital cutting designs which are either built into the machine itself, or uploaded via a USB storing the digital cutting files, or a computer storing compatible cutting files or images. To use these machines, no physical die is required – instead you simply load the machine with your chosen medium (paper, vellum, etc.), select your design via the machine’s touch-screen controls or via a linked computer, programme the machine to cut… then wait for your perfectly cut shape to appear!

Read more about the different types of die cutting machines, and how they work, here.

Dies – Physical and Digital:

The type of die cutting machine you own will have a direct impact on the kind of dies you buy.  Manual and Electronic die cutting machines require physical metal dies, whereas a computerised machine instead requires digital cutting files, which you can purchase on handy USBs. Physical dies require careful storage, whereas the added benefit of investing in  die USBs, is that you can own hundreds of designs, all stored in one tiny place – freeing up space in your craft cupboard for lots of other goodies!

Check out our incredible range of dies here.

Decoupage Dies:

These exciting new dies enable you to create stunning layered decoupage designs, with intricately cut designs. Use these fantastic dies to cut 3+ layers in one pass!

Read more about Decoupage Dies here.


E-Dies feature intricately thought out designs (all stored on a handy USB!) delivered layer by layer, enabling you to complete stunning paper piecing projects with ease.  Every layer has been thoroughly thought through to give the most accurate detail; the number of layers used to create each image can vary from as little as 16, all the way up to 89!

Read more about E-Dies here.

So what do you need to get started? A die-cutting machine and your very first die, and you’re away! Transform a simple sheet of white paper into an elegantly cut snowflake, create 3-dimensional paper-piecing projects, steal the show with decoupage cardfronts and elegant envelopes… the list is endless!

Don’t have a die-cutting machine? Discover your new papercrafting partner in crime right here!

Lisa at Create & Craft
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