What Is Die-Cutting?

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What Is Die-Cutting?

Die-cutting is the ideal way to give a professional look to invitations, cards, posters and albums, or to decorate and personalise a keepsake or other special item. The practice of die-cutting emerged from the Industrial Revolution in the mid-19th century, along with many other manufacturing developments designed to implement mass production. It was first used to cut leather moulds in shoe manufacturing and has since developed into one of the most convenient manufacturing processes of fabricated goods.

In the domestic context, die-cutting emerged with the popularisation of scrapbooking and the need for increased efficiency. A die-cutting machine facilitates a professional approach and effectively makes obsolete all the manual handling that consumed so much time in the past. Not only that, but many die-cutting machines also include other features, such as embossing, engraving, drawing and printing capabilities.

Those with a penchant for paper crafts may wish to investigate the benefits of utilising the convenient and time-saving facilities of die-cutting. The choice is broad, however, and choosing the right application for the job at hand requires an understanding of the functionality, limitations, and capabilities of each die-cutting machine.

Definition of Die-Cutting

To die-cut something is to cut a shape out of a material or cut one into it. This basic principle applies to all die-cutting processes, whether for large scale factory operations or small scale, home-based craft work. Die-cutting is related to the printing process. As with printing, large or small scale production runs of a given job may be made, but instead of a printing plate, a steel blade called a die is used to score out the specified shapes and patterns of a particular material.

Large and medium scale industry uses die-cutting as a fabrication device for efficiently mass-producing various stocks. In these cases, die-cutting involves cutting preprogrammed shapes and sizes for materials, such as leather, vinyl, corrugated fibreboard, foam, wood, plastics, and sheet metal. Other mass-produced items, however, include such paper items as stamps.

In a domestic setting, die-cutting is generally limited to the use of paper and stencils and a small die-cutting machine to create decorative scrapbooking effects for photo albums, cards, and other paper craft with professional results. On occasion, however, some die-cutting machines designed for home use facilitate the cutting of heavier materials, including thin metal.

Home Use Die-Cutting

Within home-use die-cutting applications, there are several functions that the die-cutting machine can perform, depending on the chosen type and model. Some machines perform a cut only action, whilst others draw, cut and emboss. Still other models engrave and print.

The types of materials a die-cutting machine can cut also depend on type and model. There are those that are designed to handle only various paper weights and certain fabrics, and there are models that effortlessly cut through other materials such as leather and soft timber. Other heavier duty home use die-cutting machines even cut sheet metal.

The type of craft a customer wishes to engage in should determine the type of machine they purchase. Among the many die-cutting brands with their various features, there are essentially two types for home users.

Manual Die-Cutting

The most basic and inexpensive die-cutting machines employ the use of a handle to manually control the cutting action. These manual die-cutters generally perform a single action at a time, either cutting or embossing.

Manual die-cutting machines are a good option for those wishing to perform basic cutting and embossing, such as card making. These machines are especially handy for these and other limited edition jobs but may become tiresome if a large production run is attempted. Some manual die-cutting machines also letterpress, making them a versatile tool to suit general purpose craft operations.

Electronic Die-Cutting

Electronic die-cutting machines vary in their features and capabilities, according to make and model, but some are capable of carrying out highly varied multiple tasks simultaneously. Another feature of electronic die-cutting machines is their versatility.

Various Features

Depending on type, some machines have additional features that enable it to draw, engrave, pierce and print, as well as emboss and cut. Many electronic die-cutters are also able to cut through more solid materials than what could be expected from a hand-operated manual machine.

Additionally, many types are wireless and facilitate operation from a PC or laptop, in which case, there may or may not be many controls on the die-cutting machine itself. This depends on whether computer operation is simply another option or the designated platform for the die-cutting operation.

Newer electronic die-cutting machines are available in a range of different sizes, which feature various sized cutting beds. For larger scale projects, a customer needs to employ the use of a machine with generously sized cutting beds to facilitate such projects.

Stencils and Templates

Some electronic die-cutters use cartridges and others do not. For both manual and electronic die-cutting operations, various stencils and templates are available to purchase separately. These stencils and templates comprise of various themes, including shapes, animals, letters, symbols, flowers, and many others for the appropriate decorative applications.

Manual and Electronic Die-Cutting Machine Difference Chart

The following chart illustrates some of the main points of difference between manual and electronic die-cutting machines. The differences between the two may be greater or less than indicated, depending on the specific type of die-cutting machine used and its features. The asterisk denotes that these features are not available on all models.






Handle crank action

Cutting; *embossing; *engraving

Short production runs


Touch screen or button

Cutting, embossing, drawing, *engraving, *printing

Longer production runs

Indicated differences in this chart are only the beginning. Customers may note other variations between the two in terms of its physical characteristics, such as weight, portability, and handling.

Domestic Die-Cutting Applications

The sort of work a customer may use a die-cutting machine for includes anything that requires a professional and precise execution of cut shapes or other surface manipulation work for decorative purposes. eBay contains a large assortment of the kinds of machines popularly sought after for domestic use by the home craftsperson and which are also popular accessories for school craft classes. Some typical applications for die-cutting are listed below, although the possibilities for its use are virtually limitless.


Greeting cards are given a professional edge with the use of die-cutting for creating effects with collage, embossing, stencil, and print. In fact, most of the various approaches to card making benefit from at least some features of the die-cutting process.


Die-cutting is ideal for making decorative calendars or diary covers. They are popular pursuits among hobbyists and school children. For this application, it is recommended the die-cutting machine have a generous sized cutting bed to accommodate A3 paper.


The various different scrapbooking applications typically employ the use of die-cutting to achieve the desired results. Photo albums, journals, memoirs, posters, and children's books can all be enhanced with die-cutting to add personality and warmth.

How to Buy a Die-Cutting Machine and Accessories on eBay

Purchasing a die-cutting machine from eBay is a great way to save and a good place to acquire any needed accessories to go with it. When you have designated the type of machine you need to achieve the results you want, search for the item with relevant keyword selection criteria. This is particularly helpful if you have a preferred brand. For example, you could enter search keywords, such as Cuttlebug cutting machine, into the search bar and go through each applicable item. Or alternatively, you could search for it with the available filters, which narrow down items into subcategories. For any accessories you might need, enter a search request pertaining to that accessory, such as die-cutting punches.

Once you have found a few selected items that interest you, read all relevant information that explains the features, functionality, and other product specifications. When you are satisfied of its suitability, carefully go through the terms of sale and returns policies. This is a worthwhile check to make in case the item fails to meet the advertised claims. It is also a good idea to look through the seller's other pages or eBay shop if they have one. Also, check for feedback from previous buyers. This gives you a good indication of the seller's reputation.


Die-cutting can add a whole new dimension to the craft of scrapbooking and card making. It not only takes the hard work out of the equation, but it also finishes the work cleanly and presents the piece to a professional standard. Although the manual handmade scrapbooking method certainly has its place and a charm of its own, the consistent cuts and printing evenness of the die-cutting machine can hardly be overlooked in terms of quality, particularly for work that is presented publicly.

eBay lists several of the most popular home-use die-cutting machines. Without doubt the fastest and most time efficient way to carry out a variety of craft work, die-cutting facilitates both basic and additional features to increase versatility and output. The experience of die-cutting leaves a permanent mark on the user. The customer who die-cuts their next set of greeting cards is soon likely to forget where they keep their scissors.

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