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How to Choose a Die Cut Machine

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Die cutting machines come in different sizes from mini to full size

Die cutting machines come in different sizes from mini to full size

About Die Cutting Machines

Die cutting is basically the cutting of multiple shapes using either a manual or electronic machine. You create the same shape with the exact same measurements every time. The shapes are consistent and look professional.

Die cutting machines are the tools that create these die cuts. They can cut different types of materials like paper, cardboard, fabric and lots of other materials.

How A Die Cut Machine Works

The die-cutting machine uses a combination of rollers and cutting plates to put pressure on a die and push it through the card or paper to create a shape with neat and precise outlines – this shape is called a die-cut.

The cutting plate are lined up specifically for each machine as the manufacturer directs. The layering of these plates, the dies, and materials is referred to as a sandwich.

There are three types of die cutting machines


These machines have a crank that operates the machine. The crank moves those plates forward as pressure is applied to the plates to force the die into the material. The force causes the cut of the design. No computer needed.

These machines come in different sizes with different plates available in the size that fits the machine.


Instead of a hand crank, these die cutting machines use electricity to push the plates forward through the machine creating the die cut. The sandwich is fed into the machine, The machine moves the sandwich forward to create the die cut. No computer needed

Electronic Cutting Machine

Instead of using a die and plates, the electronic cutting machine uses an internal software program to create and cut shapes and designs. You need to take some time to understand and use the computer program. But once you have this knowledge you can create unique die cuts. You need a computer, tablet or phone to use the computer program.

What Can A Die Cutting Machine Be Used For?

  • Quilts
  • Stickers and decals
  • Greeting cards
  • Embellishments
  • Scrapbook pages
  • Journals

Materials That Can Be Die Cut

  • paper
  • felt
  • fabric
  • wood
  • leather
  • vinyl
  • cork
  • foam
Craft dies create beautiful embellishments for all kinds of papercraft projects

Craft dies create beautiful embellishments for all kinds of papercraft projects

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Die Basics

Many manufacturers include one or two dies with the die cutting machine. Beyond that, you will need to purchase additional dies to expand your die cutting experience.

The dies are the tools that press into the paper or other material to create the cuts that form the shape of the die. The die is made of metal with a raised edge on one side. That raised edge is the cutting side of the die. The shape of the die is the shape that you will get when you use it.

Types Of Dies

Steel Dies

Steel rule dies are the heaviest dies. These are used to cut thicker materials. They can be used to cut through multiple layers at the same time.

Stand Alone Dies

These are dies that are used with nothing other than their design. Think of things lie butterflies and flowers

Coordinating Dies

There are coordinating die and stamp sets that are offered by manufactures. Some dies and stamps are offered as packages. Others are offered as individual items. These sets are nice because you can stamp and cut the stamps easily to create dies.

Nesting Dies

Nesting dies are sets of the same kind of shapes in different sizes that nest together. The dies can cut a simple shape, a frame and layered shapes.

Corner Dies

These dies are used to make fancy or intricate corners for greeting cards, scrapbook pages or journal pages. They are usually sold in dets of two with the same design.

Place dies towards the outer edge of the plate instead of the center when you want to cut multiple dies simultaneously, to get a cleaner, better cut.

Edgeable Dies

These dies give a fancy touch to the edge of your cards. They are also used to create standup cards. They add a custom design wherever you apply them in a single cut. You can also use them on photo mats.

Thin Metal Dies

Thin metal dies are made to cut just a single layer of material. They are not as sharp as the steel rule dies.

Dies come in many shapes and sizes. You will want to create a collection of does to use on your greeting cards, journals, scrapbook pages and other kinds of paper crafts.

There are word and sentiment dies that come is different sizes and fonts. Some are sold as individual dies, others come as sets. They are often themed, and others are sets that have sentiments in specific fonts.

When buying dies you need to make sure they are compatible with your machine, all machines have different sized 'mouths' so you'll need to double check, especially if buying online when it can be tricky to quickly assess the size of the die.

The best way to store your dies is to store them on magnetic mats in plastic envelopes.

There are a variety of die cut plates available for each machine

There are a variety of die cut plates available for each machine

Die Cut Plates

Along with the die and materials that they cut; the die cut plates are used to create the pressure that causes the dies to cut.

The plates are made with different materials, thicknesses and sizes depending on the specifications of that particular machine.

A shim is an item designed to fill extra space and add pressure when needed. In die cutting, a shim is usually a piece of cardstock or two that can help keep your die from moving and provide additional pressure on the die as it passes through the machine. This helps get a cleaner cut (see the next question as to when you might need a shim).

Most manufacturers give you the basic plates when they sell the die cut machines. Some additional plates may be an additional cost. Make sure that you understand what is included in the package of the machine you are considering.

Types Of Plates

Clear Cutting Plates

You need two of these plates-one for the top and one for the bottom.

Metal Cutting Plates

This is a type of plate that may be added to create more pressure for cutting your dies.. A metal shim is designed to help you cut intricate dies in your die-cutting machine.

Plastic Shims

This is a durable plate that adds an extra layer to your die-cutting sandwich, creating a better fit in the machine and a level surface.

Magnetic Shims

this shim adds an extra layer into your sandwich, but as it’s magnetic, it also helps to keep your dies in place while they’re rolled through the machine.

Rubber Embossing Mat

allows you to use dies as embossing tools as it creates a softer impact. Instead of applying enough pressure for the die to cut through the card or paper, it reduces the pressure to result in an embossed image or pattern.

Plate Tips

  • Always use the correct sandwich or plate configuration that is recommended by the machine manufacturer, otherwise you could cause damage to your machine.
  • Switch back and forth from using both sides of your pad but turning it upside down or backward - your pad can be run through your machine in any direction (size allowing)
  • Try to die cut away from the center of your cutting plates, as this is where the weakest amount of pressure is.
  • Don’t cut in the exact same spot on your pad every time (use the middle and the edges
  • If you’re running a cutting plate through your machine more than once, you’ll need to flip the plate each time to prevent bowing.

More Plate And Sandwich Guide And information

What Features Are Important In Die Cutting Machines

Power And Speed

You might not necessarily think about power and speed when it comes to manual machines, but it is an important factor. These die cutting machines operate with pressure which is exerted when you use the hand crank. You want that crank to exert the right amount of pressure with a smooth and easy motion.

As you move into the electronic die cutters and the electronic cutting machines, you also want some speed. Finding the ultimate power and speed for your needs takes some investigation. So, look into your options so that you are not disappointed after your purchase. Read reviews and give your purchase some careful thought.

Ease Of Use

You do not want to spend months leaning how to use the machine. Once you get that machine home, you will want to get started right away, So, while the electronic cutting machines offer a lot of bells and whistles, many crafters want to keep it a lot easier. You may opt for a manual or electronic die cutter.


Make sure that all of the components of the machine you are considering are built to last. You want to get your money's worth!


As you are considering price, you need to add in the tools and materials that you are going to need to get started as well as those you will need down the road. Most machines are packaged to get you started out of the box.

In the case of manual and electronic cutting machines, you will get the cutting plates, a die or two and an embossing folder or two. You will wind up adding extra dies, some tools, and some embossing folders.

Finding The Die Cutting Machine That Is Right For You

There are a number of things to consider when you get to narrow down your choices:

  1. Is the machine user friendly? How much time and effort will you have to expend to use the machine? Are there tutorials and support to help you?
  2. Is it affordable? Is the cost within your budget? There are many with all kinds of bells and whistles. each of those additional features add more o the final cost
  3. Will it accommodate both large and small projects? Does it fit into your needs?
  4. Does the package include some tools and accessories so that you can use the machine right out of the box?
  5. Do you need it to be portable? Do you need that function?

What To Consider About Die Cutting Machines

There are a few things that you should consider when you are thinking about buying a die cutting machine.

Ease Of Use

Starting with the most simplistic manual machines to the most sophisticated electronic cutting machines, you want to consider how easy or difficult the machine you are considering is to use.

The manual machines are easy to use from the standpoint of having no software involved. But they utilize a hand crank that may become tiresome for some to use.

The machines that use electricity also have no software involved, but still have the ease of use of the manual machines, without the hand crank

The electronic cutting machines use software, but you are not handling dies. Most of these machines are easy to learn. These types of machines have more features than the other options. So, learning the software may be a viable option.


Carefully read everything about the model you are considering before you click that "buy now " button.

  • Understand the machine itself and how you would use it
  • Consider the size of the machine so that you know you will have the face to store it
  • Look at what is included in the package. In some cases, you may have to buy extra accessories to even start the machine.
  • Consider the warranty that is included with the machine
  • Understand what the machine may be compatible with. For example, if you want to consider foiling in the future what machine would work with your die cut machine.

Size And Portability

How large is your working area? This should be one of the first considerations that you should make. You need to know the dimensions of the machines that you are considering so that you will have the space to store the machine and the tools and accessories that go with each option.

You also need to think about the size of the materials you are planning to cut. Some of the mini manual machines have openings as small as 3". Make sure that you understand the size and width of the materials that you want to cut.

Consider the weight of the machine that you are considering if you are planning to travel with your unit.

Support And Customer Service

Consider the brand as you make the decision to purchase a doe cutting machine. . Some of the larger brands have customer service records than others. Especially when it comes to the electronic cutting machines where you may need to have someone available to answer questions, fix your problems or get your machine repaired or replaced.

Check out the customer service page of the brand you are considering look at the way you can access customer service to see if it would meet your needs.

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews can give you an overall picture of the product and how people have felt about using it. While some reviews might not be honest, you can see an overall idea of how people felt. Look for verified reviews. These reviews are from people who have actually purchased and used the machine.

Die Cutting machine Comparison Charts

Manual die cutting machines rely on a hand crank to move the sandwich through the machine

Manual die cutting machines rely on a hand crank to move the sandwich through the machine

Manual Die Cutting Machines

Manual die cutting machines use a crank or a lever to operate the machine. Some machines also have an electronic component that may be optional.

As the material and metal die pass through the machine's rollers, it applies pressure, and the die cuts the paper or other material into the shape of the die.

Advantages Of Manual Machines

  • You do not need electricity. You can cut and emboss anywhere
  • They do not use a computer They are simple to use-even for a beginner
  • Easier to use. You use the dies rather than creating custom dies
  • You want to cut multiple layers at the same time
  • You want a machine that is easy to use and is portable
  • Prices are budget friendly
  • Good for the environment-they do not use energy

Chose This Machine When:

  • You do not want to be bothered with a computer when you die cut
  • You do not need to create custom designs
  • You want to cut multiple layers of fabric
  • You want something easy, portable and simple

Tips For Using Manual Die Cut Machine

  1. With most dies it's a good idea to run it back through another time to ensure a clean cut.
  2. Tape down your die to keep it from moving around
  3. If it still hasn't cut you might need to add a shim to help get the pressure of your sandwich right, this could be a few sheets of card, or you can buy metal shims.

Manual Die Cutting Machine Reviews

Electronic die cut machines have become popular as an alternative to the hank crank machines

Electronic die cut machines have become popular as an alternative to the hank crank machines

Electronic Die Cutting Machine

You can take it to the next step with an electronic die cutting machine. These machines have all the features of the manual versions, rather than a crank to operate the machine, the machine is run electronically. They were built with the idea of making it easier for those with mobility problems.

Electronic cutting machines can run anywhere from $200-$1000. The more you spend, the more features and power you will get in the machine. You want to choose a machine that will meet your needs as well as your budget

Advantages Of An Electronic Die Cutting Machine

  • No crank-all of the processes are done electronically. Perfect for those crafters with hand or other disabilities.
  • No computer needed
  • No custom design options- just use dies or embossing folders
  • Prices are more budget friendly then electronic cutting machines

Chose This Machine When:

  • You want to create your own designs from scratch or import them
  • You want to be able to draw or stipple
Electronic cutting machines are an alternative that enables you to create custom die cuts

Electronic cutting machines are an alternative that enables you to create custom die cuts

Electronic Cutting Machine

Electronic Cutting Machines are also known as digital die cutting machine uses electricity to power them. They do not use dies but instead use blades to cut the designs for the projects that you create. rather than relying on the die, they allow you to customize the designs. They use software programs to create and cut the design. So, in order to use the program, you access it through a desktop computer, tablet. smart phone.

Advantages Of An Electronic Cutting Machine To Cut Die Shapes

  • No dies to purchase-designs are built into the software
  • Can cut multiple designs at once
  • Can size the designs as desired
  • Can customize cuts as desired
  • No cutting plates to replace

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