Wondering how you can use a die cut machine? Don’t know how to get started with using one?
If you recently purchased a die-cutting machine, you may be eager to get started. Using a die-cutting machine is fairly simple, but there are some things you’ll need to know to get started off on the right foot.
Here’s our guide to how you can use a die-cutting machine as a beginner.
What is Die-Cutting?
Die-cutting is a type of crafting in which an identical shape can be cut and easily reproduced using a variety of different materials. A die cut machine will be used to easily cut materials into specific shapes.
A die is a metal tool that functions in a similar way to a cookie-cutter. Using the tool, you’ll be able to cut a piece of material into a design. Popular materials options for die-cutting include paper, fabric, rubber, and foam, but many different materials can be used.
While once there were only manual machines to use for die-cutting, many people now use digital die-cutting machines that allow for increased efficiency and ease of use.
All kinds of projects can benefit from the use of a die-cutting machine. From wrapping Christmas gifts to making custom sticker labels, the possibilities are endless.
What is a Die?
When using a manual machine, there are different types of dies that can be used. The two main kinds of dies are thin metal and steel rule dies, but there are a few other types as well.
Thin-cut metal dies are made from etched metal and lack a center. They have flat backs and a raised area that cuts material into a design. They tend to be used for complex designs.
Steel rule dies are a bit different and are more similar to cookie cutters. Steel rule dies have better durability and feature stronger cutting capabilities. These dies are best for handling thicker materials.
You may be surprised to learn that there is really no such thing as physical dies with digital die-cutting machines. Digital machines use digital files with patterns to tell a machine precisely what should be cut. SVG files and JPEG files are commonly used with these machines, but some manufacturer’s machines use other file types as well.
What Supplies Are Needed For Die-Cutting?
To get started with die-cutting, there are few things that you’ll need to have. Be sure that you get the basics below if you want to try die-cutting for yourself.
- Die Cutting Machine: To get started with die-cutting, you’ll need either a manual or digital die-cutting machine. Most die-cutting machines will include a variety of materials to get started with as well.
- Dies: If you’re using a manual die cutting machine, then you’ll need some dies with shapes that you like. There are many different dies available to buy, so the options are endless.
- Cut Files: If you’re using an automatic die cutting machine, you’ll need to get some cut files to use. You can buy these digital files online and there are a lot of free ones available as well.
- Cutting Pads: You’ll also need to get cutting pads for a die-cutting machine as well. Cutting pads will be placed between a machine and a die that is being used to prevent damage and keep things in place.
- Platform: You’ll also need a platform for a die-cutting machine. This will usually be included, but there are a variety of different sizes that you can get as needed. A platform can help to keep the material as close as possible to the machine and will allow for a smoother cutting process.
Manual vs. Digital Die-Cutting Machines
By now you may be asking yourself whether a manual or a digital die cutter machine is the better option. They both have different strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll want to consider the specifics of both when making your decision.
One of the big differences to think about is price. Manual machines tend to be a lot cheaper than digital machines are, at least initially. The difference is that with digital machines you can use digital files and you won’t have to buy new dies every time you want to make a new design.
Furthermore, many people prefer manual machines because they’re able to emboss paper and thin metal using something known as a “folder”. With a manual machine, you’ll get more simplicity. Many people prefer not to use a computer for crafting. These machines will be hand-cranked and are typically smaller and a bit more portable than their digital counterparts.
With digital die-cutting machines, everything is very easy, especially for people who are tech-savvy. A digital machine works similarly to a printer and you’ll simply plug it into your computer and get to work. A digital die cutting machine will cut materials automatically and you’ll simply need to download a design on your computer or create one from scratch.
There’s no definitive answer of which type of machine to buy, so you’ll want to research each type thoroughly and think about how you’ll use a machine once you have one.
Basics of the Die-Cutting Process
Die-cutting is a fairly simple process and it won’t take you too long to get the hang of it. Here are the main steps you’ll take during the die-cutting process.
For Manual Machines
The first thing to do when using a manual die-cutting machine is to gather all your materials. Be sure to give yourself enough space to work.
To start, you’ll place a material that you’re using on the die-cutting machine’s platform. The die will go on top of the material and then a cutting pad will go on top of the die.
At this point, you’ll be fully set up and ready to go. You’ll need to turn the lever of a die-cutting machine and add a bit of pressure to the cutting pad. The cutting pad will press down into the die and will slice the material that you’re cutting.
For Digital Machines
For digital machines, the process will be very similar to manual die-cutting machines, but with a few key differences.
First, you’ll want to gather your materials and ensure that you have plenty of space to work with. Then, you’ll want to place a cutting pad on top of the platform. Place the material that you’ll cut onto the cutting pad.
You’ll then need to follow any included instructions for your specific die-cutting machine to make a cut. Be sure to follow any necessary instructions for preparing the digital file that you’ll be using.
After following all of the machine’s instructions, you should have cut the material successfully.
Pro Die-Cutting Tips
If you want to have an easy time cutting and want to get used to the process more quickly, you should be sure to use a few tips and tricks. Here are a few more tips you can use when die-cutting.
1. Use a Stable Surface
A key thing to remember when die-cutting is that you should always keep your machine on a stable surface.
Place your machine on a surface such as a strong table and ensure that there’s enough space for you to work. This will make the process much easier for you and will help ensure that the material is cut correctly.
2. Run a Die Twice if Necessary
Keep in mind that you can always run a design through a machine a second time if it didn’t cut completely through your material the first time around.
You may want to add a metal adapter plate or a piece of cardstock to ensure that the pressure is adequate for cutting.
3. Rotate the Material
To get a cut done cleanly and correctly, you should run the material through the die-cutting machine and then remove it. Then, rotate the die.
To attach complex die cuts to a project, you can use spray adhesive or fine glue pens.
4. Use a Poke Tool
To remove the shape that you have cut out from the die, you can use a poke tool. A poke tool will help you to carefully remove the negative space and release it.
For more assistance with this, you can place wax paper or baking paper between the cardstock and die.
Using a Die Cut Tool Effectively With These Tips
If you want to get used to using a die cut machine in no time at all, be sure that you take it one step at a time. Make sure that you use these tips if you want to become a die-cutting machine pro.
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