Digital die cutting machines have become an irreplaceable tool for many card makers, scrapbookers, and paper crafters because of the unique combination of flexibility and versatility they bring to the creative process. Today, we'll explore the ins and outs of the world of digital die cutting to discover why these helpful machines have revolutionized the way in which many paper crafters create.
So, what exactly is a digital die cutting machine?
Simply put, a digital die cutting machine is an electronic machine that uses a small blade to cut custom designed elements.
While die cutting machines vary from brand to brand, most can cut a number of materials. Card stock is, of course, the most popular material to use, but did you know that many die-cutters can also cut craft vinyl, sticker paper, metallic card stock, fabric (backed with interfacing), magnet paper, vellum, and chipboard? Pretty cool, huh?
Types of digital die-cutting machines
The first die-cutting machines to gain popularity were cartridge based and only allowed users to cut the shapes included in purchased cartridges. The upside of cartridge-based systems is that they are standalone and do not require special software and a computer to operate. The downside is that you have a limited number of creative choices and the added expense of purchasing cartridges to create die-cut elements.
Software-based systems — like the Silhouette Cameo, Klick-N-Kut Zing, Bosskutt Gazelle, and Pazzles Inspiration — offer endless creative possibilities because you can import a variety of file types (.svg, .pdf, .jpg and .png, to name just a few) or create your own custom shapes. Many software-based systems come packaged with their own software. Third-party programs, such as Make the Cut and Sure Cuts A Lot, are designed to work with a variety of software-based systems.
Finally, hybrid cartridge/software based systems — like the Sizzix eClips and the Cricut Explore — offer the best of both worlds, allowing the user to cut elements from cartridges or to import/create their own.
What are digital die-cutting machines used for?
Digital die cutters can cut an incredible variety of elements, from simple shapes to ornate and delicate details that would be very difficult to cut by hand.
Cutting in bulk
Die cutters are also an invaluable tool for crafters who need to efficiently cut the same element repeatedly, such as favor boxes for a birthday party or embellishments for handmade holiday cards.
In addition, some die cutting systems, like the Silhouette Cameo and the Cricut Explore, can be converted to drawing machines, using pens and markers in place of cutting blades to create colorful patterns, sentiments, and shapes.
Print and cut
An increasing number of digital die-cutting systems let you pair your machine with your printer to create an infinite array of print and cut designs. The Silhouette Cameo, for instance, uses an optical eye to sense registration marks on a printed page, making a pixel-perfect cut around your design.
Print-and-cut is a fantastic way to make elements like journaling cards and labels with a pattern fill, and other pre-designed elements that contain details that might not otherwise lend themselves well to digital die cutting.
Because most die-cutting machines can cut fabric, it's also a handy tool for quilting, sewing and embroidery. When you want to create a complex appliqué design, for example, die-cutting the pieces can save time and make your cutting more accurate.
Paper flower designs
Yes, those flowers you see above are in fact made of paper! By cutting each layer and petal with a die-cutter you can achieve more consistent and realistic results.
Many die-cutters can create designs on vinyl adhesive, giving you a world of customizing opportunities! Just pick a font, write your phrase, print and cut the vinyl and apply to whatever you like.
This is just a short list of some of the many possibilities! It's no wonder that digital die cutting machines have taken the paper crafts world by storm. Die-cutting machines bring unmatched flexibility and versatility to home crafters, providing them with limitless potential to create custom elements for card making, scrapbooking, paper crafting and beyond.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2014. It was updated and republished in December 2017.