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Everything you need to know about die cutting

  1. Read time: 8 minutes
  2. Written by: Crafter's Companion

New to the crafting and curious to find out what die cutting is all about? This is the post for you! 

Here at Crafter’s Companion we are dedicated die cutters, we love that it’s such a fantastically versatile technique and can be used for pretty much any kind of project or occasion. In fact it’s so popular that there is an almost overwhelming amount of information out there.

So we’ve come up with this handy guide to the what’s, whys and how’s of die cutting and die cutting machines. 

What is die cutting?

Die cutting is using a machine that applies pressure to cut out delicate shapes from paper, card fabric and other materials.

By die cutting you can achieve amazing intricate cut out pieces that you wouldn’t usually be able to create with scissors or craft knives. You can use your die cut shapes to embellish and decorate your crafting creations in card making, scrapbooking, gift box and gift tag making, home décor, quilting and more!

What is a die?

A die is a metal shape with a sharp cutting edge which is pressed into your chosen card or fabric when it goes through the die cutting machine – a bit like a cookie cutter. They can be used over and over to create the same shape, each with exactly the same dimensions – giving you an amazingly professional finish on your crafting projects. 

They come in all shapes and sizes for a whole host of occasions. From words, numbers and sentiments to delicate lace borders and starbursts, adorable animals and sweet treats to blooming florals and whole landscapes – the world really is your oyster! 

What is a die cutting machine and how do they work?

Die cutting machines are amazing devices, they come in all shapes and sizes and apply pressure evenly to cut out shapes from metal dies. 

All you have to do is make a ‘sandwich’ using cutting plates (more on those below!), your chosen card or other material and feed it through the machine to cut amazingly intricate designs.

Which die cutting machine should I use?

Die cutting machines come in all shapes and sizes, with something to suit all levels of interest and ability!  

The Gemini machines are a go-to favourite among crafters around the globe, offering amazing power and pressure throughout the whole range. You can choose to use an electronic machine or a hand-powered manual machine.

All of the electronic machines feature pause, resume and reverse buttons. So, if you’re concerned you’ve put an incorrect sandwich combination through – you can simply pause it and reverse it out to check!

Check out and compare the full range of Gemini machines here

Can I emboss as well?

Yes! The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted from the titles above that Gemini machines can also emboss. Embossing is the process of adding a raised image to your papercraft projects. All you have to do is choose your Embossing Folder, select the card or paper you’d like to use, pop it inside the folder, create a ‘sandwich’ according to the included instructions and roll through your machine!

You can choose between 2D Embossing Folders, 3D Embossing Folders and Cut & Emboss Folders to add amazing depth and dimension to your projects! Some metal dies include embossing detail, so you can also use them to create embossed detail!  

What are cutting plates?

Cutting plates are needed to make the die cutting ‘sandwich’. This is a combination of cutting plates, dies and materials that are put together to roll through your machine. 

The plates provide a surface for the die cutting machine to press down on, to ensure even pressure, from edge to edge so you can achieve amazing results. Cutting plates are essential tools for effective cutting. This means they’ll take quite a lot of use and will need to be replaced from time to time. 

There are quite a few different types of cutting plate to choose from. But don’t worry we’ve laid them all out so you can take a look and see which are right for you! 

How do I know which cutting plate to use?

Each different combination creates a different effect using different cutting plates – take a look through our list of Gemini Cutting Plates and accessories:

  • Clear Cutting Plates – These form the ‘bread’ for your die cutting sandwich! You need two clear cutting plates, one for the top and one for the bottom to protect the contents and provide a surface for machine to press together. 
  • Metal cutting plates – These are perfect for more intricate designs. Imagine a pair of scissors and the two metal blades coming together for a crisp cut – that’s how this works with metal dies! You’ll see a much more defined cut with this plate included in your sandwich.
  • Plastic shims – This is a durable plate that adds an extra layer to your sandwich, creating a better fit in the machine and a level surface.
  • Magnetic shims – Like the plastic shim, 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 – This nifty 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.

Make sure you get the right sized cutting plates and shims for your die cutting machine. With the plates and shims, it’s vital to remember to flip and rotate them after each use. This will help to prevent bowing, but it’s always good to have some extra in your stash, just in case. 

Can I die cut fabric?

Yes! With Multi Media dies you can cut through a range of fabrics including cotton, denim, faux leather, corduroy and felt! So you can cut out perfectly accurate pieces for quilting, bag making or clothes projects in a snap! Multi-media dies will cut a whole host of materials as well, including:

  • Foil – perfect for adding a metallic effect 
  • Vellum – translucent paper for a soft and elegant look
  • Chipboard – offers extra stability 
  • Vinyl – perfect for stickers! 
  • Cork – adds instant texture 
  • Foam – add underneath paper die-cut shapes for extra height and dimension

What are Multi Media dies?

Multi Media dies are thicker than standard metal dies, with a more pronounced cutting edge. This means they can cut through thicker and more ‘difficult’ materials, as well as multiple layers of fabric! Multi Media dies are perfect for so many soft crafts, including patchwork, applique, bag making and more! 

Caring for your die cutting machine

Die cutting machines are so versatile, you’re bound to be using them all the time! It’s important to take proper care so they’ll keep you crafting for years to come! Here are a few die cutting machine maintenance tips: 

  • 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.
  • Always use the correct sandwich or plate configuration that is recommended by the machine manufacturer, otherwise you could cause damage to your machine.
  • Never force your plates through!
  • Make sure you clean your machine periodically. Removing small bits and dirt will help the performance of your die-cutting machine. (Please note if you take the machine apart, your warrantee will be void.)

If this post has got you thinking about all the things you can do with die-cutting why not tune into the below episode of The Craft Class on Crafter’s TV to find out even more about how to create amazing effects!

We hope this ultimate guide to die cutting machines has answered your questions and helped de-mystify this wonderful craft technique!  Why not start your first project today? 

We can’t wait to see your die cut delights, so make sure you let us know and share your project photos with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram using the hashtag #crafterscompanion 

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