Die cutting is a broad term, but in crafting, the act of die cutting refers to a process in which you use a machine to mass-produce cut-out shapes. You can create the same shape, with the exact same dimensions, over and over without using scissors, stencils, or a craft knife.
The Die Cutting Machine can cut all sorts of materials: paper, card, felt, foam, fabric, thin plastic, cake icing – and even up to three layers of cotton! An A4 size machine, like the A4 Xpress Die Cutting Machine, works with a whole range of different-size materials.
Die cutting machines are machines that cut shapes out of paper, chipboard, fabric and other materials. Most people who die cut regularly have personal die cutting machines that are about the size of a toaster oven. These machines can sit on top of your crafting table or work space or can be stored in a small area and brought out when needed. Just like any other appliance or tool, there are a variety of brands of die cutting machines, and each differs slightly from the other. Machines include Sizzix Big Shot, We R Evolution, Spellbinder, Gemini, Big Sisters and Cuttle Bug.
Digital die cutting machines are powered by electricity and are controlled by computer software or cartridges. Digital cutters do not require steel dies because they have a blade inside the machine that cuts the paper or other materials. You can select the shape you want to create via a software program on your computer, or a cartridge. The most popular digital die cutting machines are made by Silhouette, ProvoCraft's Cricut Explore, and Brother Scan and Cut. Digital die cutters look like consumer printers and connect to your machine through a USB port, similar to a printer or other accessory.
In die cutting, dies are metal-shaped objects with a raised, sharp area for cutting. They are similar in appearance and effect to cookie cutters - the shape of the die is the shape that will get cut out on your paper. There are a few different types of dies. Steel-rule dies are sharp and protected with foam or plastic material (for your safety). They are typically more durable as they are designed for cutting thicker materials, or multiple cuts all at once. Thin metal dies are not as sharp and can't cut quite as thick of materials as steel-rule dies can. They look more like your traditional cookie cutter- a metal shape, without any surrounding foam or plastic and are lighter and easier to store. Dies come in a wide array of sizes and styles - from circles and squares, to intricate lacy ones, animals, words. With so many dies to choose from, there’s a die for every purpose and occasion.
Historically, however, dies were used to stamp or impress objects like coins. By definition, dies are engraved stamps for impressing designs upon a softer material. Today, in manufacturing, dies are used to create all sorts of products, from small items like paperclips to complex pieces used in machinery.