What Is a Die Cutting Machine & What Is It Used For?

Last Updated: June 13, 2022

How would you like to cut out your shapes with a machine instead of by hand? It's called die cutting, and it’s made possible with a die cutting machine! Die cutting machines come in many forms, given that the process of die cutting is used across all kinds of industries. You can guarantee that almost every item in your household has had its parts gone through a die cutting machine before it is assembled into the finished product that you see.

In paper crafting, a die cutting machine is usually a small, portable device that can cut out shapes quickly to save time on your paper crafting projects. They are a go-to tool for creating multiple handmade pieces or producing large numbers of cutout shapes with the same design. Die cutting machines can also be used for crafting techniques like embossing, debossing, and hot foiling techniques! So they are a multi-functional tool worthy of a place in every crafter's studio.

Colorful die cut flowers made with Altenew Die Cutting Machine.

Die cut flowers made with Altenew Mini Blossoms Die Cutting Machine

How Does a Die Cutter Work?

There are two types of die cutters or die cutting machines: manual, hand-cranked die cutting machines, and digital or electronic die cutting machines.

There are electric powered or motorized manual die cutting machines too! These are different from digital or electronic ones where you’ll need the help of a computer to make these work. Motorized or electric manual die cutters still need to be manually operated. However, instead of a lever, you press a button for the machine to start cutting.

A manual die cutter works by cutting shapes through pressure. These typically use a roller mechanism manually operated by a handle or crank to put pressure between dies and die cutting plates to cut out the designs.

A digital die cutter works by using programmed blades or even lasers to cut shapes. They are far more complex than manual die cutting machines. So both differ significantly from each other despite being used for basically cutting out shapes!

In the paper crafting industry, a manual die cutter is typically used, and it works by sandwiching paper or cardstock between the cutting plates with a die to create a die cut. These machines sometimes are bundled with die cutting tools which include metal shims and cutting plates along with the dies. 

To use a manual die cutter for paper crafting, simply place a die on a stamped image or on a cardstock. Then place them between two cutting plates and put them all through the machine to get a clean cut.

A bunch of watercolored floral die cuts laid on top of a green surface

Die Cutting Essentials for Paper Crafting & Card Making

What Are the Advantages of Die Cutting?

Paper crafters, hobbyists, professionals, and various industries see the value of die cutting tools. That’s because die cutting offers many advantages for getting projects done more efficiently! Below are some of the main reasons why die cutting is used:

1. Consistency or Uniformity - Using a die cutting machine instead of cutting by hand allows you to have multiples shapes of the same design. You don’t have to worry about one piece being different from the rest!

2. Speedy & Efficient - Die cutting helps you cut shapes much quicker than cutting by hand. Because of this, your efforts are reserved, and you become more efficient with time!

3. Less Waste & Cost-Effective - Using a craft cutting machine gives the advantage of cutting and layering multiple shapes together. Because of this, you can arrange your die shapes close to each other to utilize your paper or cardstock fully. Less paper wasted, more designs created!

A bunch of watercolored floral die cuts laid on top of a green surface

Die Cut Flowers and Cats

4. Seamless Cuts - When you use a die cutting machine, there won’t be any curving and bowing on the edges of your die-cuts. Because these machines cut shapes uniformly, all edges of the shape are spared from any curves you’d typically get when using a scissor or blade cutter.

5. Achieve Complex Shapes - Using a die cutter, cutting shapes with tiny curved details and intricate outlines is quick and easy.

6. Promote Creativity - Die cutting is a process that essentially reduces much of the time, labor, and costs of creating shapes for you. You’ll get more headspace for figuring out what to do with these die-cuts!

7. Multiple Cutting & Layering - As mentioned, die cutting offers a considerable advantage in mass-producing the shapes you want. You can create at least two or more of the die-cuts you need!

What Does “Die Cut” Mean?

Die cut is simply the cutout shape produced by a die cutting machine and die. They are the pieces of paper, leather, fabric, wood, etc., that have been cropped using the metal shape or mold (called dies). When you layer your chosen medium and die together and pass them through a die cutting machine, you produce die-cuts!

Hand holding a die cut flower in front of a mint green back drop

Gorgeous Red Die Cut Flower 

How to Use Die Cuts in Paper Crafting

6 Card Making Ideas With Die-Cuts

Die-cuts are an elegant way to embellish cards! You can even customize your die-cuts with different coloring techniques and arrange them through different styles. Below are some of these techniques and styles that you can try on your next (or very first) card project:

1. Make Your Die-Cuts Three Dimensional!

When arranging your die-cuts, you can leave some parts unglued. You can angle these unglued parts away from the cardstock, making a 3D effect! You can also use foam dimension tape to achieve a 3D look.

Die cut orange leaves with the sentiment "hugs"

Gold and Orange Die Cut Pieces

2. Create Beautifully Textured Die Cuts

Add texture to your die cuts through layering and coloring effects. In the second image, you can use washed-out watercolor to mimic the texture of a petal.
Die cut purple and violet flowers arranged on top of white cardstock

Watercolor Die Cut Card Embellishments

3. Add Glitter Die Cuts as Accents

Another way to texturize die cuts is by gluing the top layer of a die cut and sprinkling on some glitter or heat-setting with embossing powder. You can also use glitter cardstock like our designer Erum did.

Die cut roses with glitter decals arranged on white cardstock

Focal Die Cut Layers

4. Colorful Floral Card With Die-Cuts Only

Create a card with vibrant colors and designs that stand out using only die cuts! Layer die cuts into your desired arrangement. Perhaps arrange them to look like a bouquet and top it off with a die cut sentiment, just like Aga did!

Die cut floral pieces of colored cardstock arranged to form a wreath

Die Cut Colored Cardstock

5. Marker Coloring Die Cuts

If you are running low on colored paper or cardstock, you can even color your die cuts by hand. Use alcohol markers for colors that truly stand out.

Layered rose die cut pieces decal for card making

Alcohol Marker Colored Die Cut Pieces 

6. Watercolor Monogram Card With Die Cuts Only

You can arrange your die cut pieces into a 3D wreath with a die cut monogram in the middle. This design instantly makes your card look minimalistic yet classy.

3 card ideas made with vibrant and colorful die cut layers

 Floral Die Cut Monogram DIY Card

3 Scrapbooking Ideas With Die Cuts

Die cuts for paper crafting can also be used as elements for your journals and scrapbooks. These are very handy for this type of paper craft as you can fully customize your design ideas through die cuts!

7. Create Scrapbooking Frames With Die Cuts

Create your scrapbook photo frames using die cuts. Die cut frames are perfect for scrapbooks, especially when you want a page to follow a specific theme or color palette.

Pastel scrapbook page with a photo of a lady and her dog

Cute Scrapbook Page Made With Die Cuts

8. Add Details to Your Everyday Photos

Aside from enamel dots and pins, you can use die cuts to add more fun designs to your scrapbooks!

Scrapbooking embellishments made from die cutting cardstock into floral decals

Die Cut Embellishments for Scrapbooking and Journaling

9. Make Shaped Cards & Tags

Die cuts can also be made as tags or mini-shaped cards. Use these die cuts for organizing your craft studio by hanging them as name tags!

Beautiful scrapbooking elements made with die cuts; Die cut name tags and monogram tags

Die Cut Shaped Cards & Tags 

5 Other Ideas to Use with Craft Die Cuts

Die cuts can also be used for crafting projects other than card making and scrapbooking. Below are some enjoyable and easy non-card projects that you can create using die cuts.

10. Create Ornaments & Decor with Die Cuts

You can customize your home and seasonal decor using die cuts! Create ornaments during your favorite seasons with their help.

DIY Papercraft Home Decor and Ornaments Hanging from a House Plant

DIY Paper Craft Home Decor

11. Easter Paper Ornaments with Pysanka Die

Easter paper ornaments are simple decors you can make with die cuts. Once you’ve got the hang of creating egg or oval-shaped ornaments, try out other shapes during other seasons and occasions too!

Die cut floral and lace pieces for gift wrapping

Die Cut Lace Details for Gift Wraps

12. Use Die Cuts As Gift Wrapping Accents

A unique way to wrap presents is through die cuts. Die cut your loved one’s favorite objects and use them to embellish your gift.

DIY Ombre Colored Papercraft Home Decor and Ornaments Hanging From a House Plant

Handmade Home Decor

13. Create Pop up Books With Die Cuts

Did you know that die cuts are also used in making bookmarks and pop-up books? Because you can tailor shapes with die cutting, you’ll definitely be able to create elements for these fantastic books.

Die cut bookmark laid on a wooden board

Cute Handmade Floral and Cat Bookmark

14. Turn Them Into Tapes, Stickers, Magnets, & More!

By adding tapes, magnets, wood, and other materials, you can also create trinkets like fridge magnets, stickers, die cut tapes, and keychains, to name a few! Give these as gifts to your favorite people.

DIY floral vellum stickers created by a die cutting machine

 DIY Vellum Floral Sticker

Craft Cutting Machines Should Be a Staple

There are a lot of exciting projects that can be achieved with die cutting machines. By learning how to use metal die cuts and a die cutter, you can turn these projects into reality! It’s one tool that every crafter must use. If you already have one, we hope that you get to try out some of the ideas shared in this blog. And if you are looking for more inspiration, you may visit our All About Crafting page to see what else you can do with die-cuts and a craft cutting machine!


  • Thomas Clarence

    It was informative when you mentioned that die-cutting is a process that reduces the amount of time and labor required to print something. It seems like companies would want to utilize die-cutting when it needs to create a banner or poster for advertising. Finding a printing service could probably go a long way in saving money and time. https://royalprinting.com/convention-printing

  • Victoria Addington

    I am glad that you discussed that you can have various shapes of the same design by using a die-cutting machine rather than cutting by hand. I’ll be sure to share this with my sister since it seems beneficial since you can be assured that all the cuts would be uniform, which would advantageous for packaging. I’ll make sure to check out retailers that would be able to help her in purchasing one.


  • Dee

    Where are dies sold : and what is the price?

  • Shammy Peterson

    You made a good point when you said that you could cut shapes quicker when you consider the use of die-cutting. This is something that reminds me of manufacturing companies that aim for the packaging of their products to be protected by foam. I could imagine how they could achieve their productivity goal when die-cutting is considered. https://quality-industrial.com/die-cut-foam-adhesive-parts

  • Anna Collins

    I found it quite interesting when you told us that die-cutting machines help create shapes much quicker and more efficiently with consistency and uniformity. I imagine if you need specific shapes for the foams needed for your manufactured products, it would help to consider die-cutting for it. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind while I check where we can find die-cut foam adhesive parts soon. https://quality-industrial.com/die-cut-foam-adhesive-parts

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