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Everything you need to know about die cutting

Crafter's Companion – 10/02/21

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 whats, whys and hows of die cutting and die cutting machines

Whether you’re an absolute die cutting beginner or an experienced crafter looking to hone your skills, we’ve got the answers to those burning questions!  Read on to find everything you need to know about making die cuts, die cutting machines, tools and more!

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. Dies 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. 

Dies 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 die 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 die cutting machines are a cult 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!

Here’s a quick run down of the Gemini family of die cutting machines, take a look to see which will work best in your crafting world! 

Gemini Die Cutting and Embossing Machine
The original Gemini and also our largest machine. The platform edge (the opening you feed your die cutting sandwich through), measures 9” x 12.5” so this machine is pretty big and happiest staying in your craft space rather than being transported about. 
The Gemini will cut A4 sheets with edge to edge performance, and has space to cut multiple dies at the same time.

Gemini Pro Die Cutting and Embossing machine

The largest of our machines to date, the Gemini Pro is a whopper! With a huge 12″ x 12″ cutting platform, the Pro is perfect for working with larger projects. The larger opening means you can cut so much more in just one pass, perfect if you’re interested in batch making, or just looking to save time on your crafting creations!

Gemini Junior Die Cutting and Embossing Machine
The younger sibling of the original Gemini, the Gemini Junior is slightly smaller and has a more compact design with a 6” x 9” platform edge. This makes it perfect for taking to craft classes or short journeys, or if you have less space to play with in your craft studio! 

Don’t worry, the Junior may be smaller but it is mighty – with no compromise on the cutting power and edge-to-edge performance.

Gemini GO Die Cutting and Embossing Machine 
Tiny but not to be trifled with – the Gemini GO is our smallest electronic machine and is perfectly portable so you can take your makes on the move! 

With a smaller 3” x 6” platform edge this is perfect for smaller projects and more lightweight die cutting but doesn’t hold back on edge-to-edge pressure! You will need to make sure your dies and embossing folders are properly sized to work with the GO though. The GO has a power cable and can be used with a power bank so you can craft on the move.

Gemini Midi Manual Die Cutting and Embossing Machine
Manual die cutting machines require no power source other than your own elbow grease, so you can die cut absolutely anywhere you please! The Gemini Midi is ideal for beginners or those looking to craft on the go.

The Midi is the perfect compromise, it has a 6” x 9” opening so can be used for larger projects than the GO or the Mini but is lightweight and portable! The Midi is a powerful manual machine, each turn of the handle applies an even amount of pressure so you can enjoy the same crisp and precise die cuts as with larger, electronic machines.

Gemini Mini Manual Die Cutting and Embossing Machine 
The Gemini Mini is tiny and completely and utterly portable. Powerful, lightweight and easy to use this is perfect if you’re just starting out and want to have a go at die cutting before committing to a larger machine. And like the Midi there’s no need for a power source so you can craft wherever  you choose, ideal if you don’t have a dedicated craft space yet. 

With a 3” x 6” opening the Gemini Mini also needs properly sized dies and embossing folders. 

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 your dies to create embossed detail!

What are cutting plates?

Cutting plates are needed to make the die cutting ‘sandwich’ which is a combination of cutting plates, dies and materials that are put together to roll through the die cutting 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 die cutting so 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?

There’s a whole menu of die cutting sandwiches out there! Each different combination creates a different effect using different cutting plates – take a look through our list of Gemini Cutting Plates:

  • 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 die cutting machine to press together. 
  • Metal cutting plates – These are perfect for more intricate dies. 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 die-cutting 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. 

For more information on the different ‘sandwich’ combinations take a look at our full menu. And don’t forget, the correct plate combinations are also listed in the instruction manuals included with Gemini machines.

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!

And for a warm welcome to all sorts of craft techniques, join us for more episodes of The Craft Class on Crafter’s TV to unlock your creative potential!

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?  Browse our die cutting tools, and some amazing papercraft dies and get those creative cogs turning!

If you’re keen to know more and take a deeper dive into die cutting, here are some die cutting and craft guides for you to explore!

Which die-cutting machine is best for you?

This handy post that gives you all the details that you need about our different Gemini die-cutting machines.

The beginner’s guide to multi-media die cutting

Dive into the varied world of multi media die-cutting!

Embossing Folders 101

Embossing is the perfect way to add extra depth and dimension to your craft projects!

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 Facebook UKFacebook USA,  TwitterInstagram UKInstagram USPinterest UK or Pinterest US using the hashtag #crafterscompanion.