What Is Die-Cutting?

With regards to cardmaking, Die-cutting is using metal shapes known as dies in an array of shapes and designs to cut out paper, card or in some cases other materials such as fabric. One side of the die is sharp and with pressure it will efficiently cut through the material creating a perfect die-cut shape, sentiment or design over and over again!

A freshly cut die-cut ready to be glued to a card

Dies were first used in making shoes, they were created for cutting out the leather more efficiently and accurately than by hand. The process has since evolved and die-cutting is used by many industries. It has also become a favourite technique for cardmakers and crafters as it enables us to very simply cut out shapes and designs for use on cards.

There is probably not a shape or design you can think of where there isn't a die available giving you so much more scope for creativity than using punches. Join for free and explore CraftWorld for a huge archive of die-cutting projects and tutorials to try - Die-cutting inspiration

Sewing machine card created from multiple die-cut elements

What are die-cutting machines?

In order to create the pressure needed for the metal dies to cut you need a die-cutting machine. You can buy machines in many different shapes and sizes and from lots of crafting brands. There are machines aimed at beginners right the way through to industrial machines that will cost thousands.

Die-cutting machines are also used for embossing, where an impression is made rather than a cut - find out all about embossing in our complete guide to embossing techniques article.

Manual die-cutting machines

The simplest form of die-cutting machine is essentially like a mangle. You create a simple sandwich between plates and put the die in with the sharp edge face down on the material. Then you wind the handle and the pressure is applied across the whole die, cutting through the card or paper as it passes through.

Electronic die-cutting machines

You can also buy die-cutting machines which don't have a handle, the process of cutting is automated. You still need to create the sandwich but these machines can be great for people who find manual die-cutting hard work on their arms and wrists.

A Cricut die-cutting machine

Computerised die-cutting machines

Computerised die-cutting machines are not in reality die-cutting machines at all! They do not use a die to cut, instead they have a blade which works more like a printer as it moves around the card, paper or fabric cutting out the design.

Die-cutting basics for manual machines

Die-cutting Basics
  • Create the 'sandwich' using the plates that come with your machine. With each machine this will vary, refer to your machine instructions to get your sandwich correct. You may want to tap down your die to keep it from moving around.
  • Turn the handle until the whole die has passed through your machine.
  • With most dies it's a good idea to run it back through another time to ensure a clean cut.
  • If it still hasn't cut you might need to add a shim to help get the pressure of your andwich right, this could be a few sheet of card or you can buy metal shims.
  • Using a 'pokey tool' or similar you'll need to gently remove the die cut shape this can be fiddly with intricate dies. Pokey tools which are made for the job have a small ball on the end to avoid making any marks on the card. You can add a layer of greaseproof paper between the card and die to make this process easier.

What other tools and essentials do I need for die-cutting?

A pokey tool used for releasing die-cuts from dies and many other uses for fiddly small details!
  • Pokey tool / Craft Pick
  • Metal Shim
  • Masking Tape or Washi Tape
  • Magnetic sheets for storing dies

Different types of dies - check before you buy!

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.

Intricate Die-Cutting techniques
Off-the-edge die-cutting tutorial
Positive & negative die-cut masks
Partial die-cutting video tutorial
Spotlight die-cutting tutorial
Floating die-cut tutorial
Hinged die-cuts tutorial
Stitched die-cuts tutorial
Die-cut letterpress tutorial
Pyramage die-cutting tutorial
Layered die-cuts tutorial
Inlaid die-cutting tutorial
Stacked die-cutting tutorial
See through die-cut cards tutorial

Die-cutting fan groups to join on CraftWorld

If you have die-cut cards that you would like to share and get feedback on why not upload to one of our die-cutting groups on CraftWorld. You may find your card gets featured in Die-cutting Essentials Magazine!

Die-Cutting Card
Die-Cutting Essentials Readers Gallery