If you are new to die cutting, or even consider yourself an ‘intermediate’ level die cutter, it can be tricky and often throw up new problems you have to creatively work around. With new products always available, new techniques and new craft projects always on the horizon, it is wise to consider die cutting a constant ‘learning process’ in order to ensure you are always getting the best possible results for your efforts.
Here are some top die cutting tips to help you:
At The Very Beginning
There’s no way around it, a die cutting machine is a big investment, so you must take care to choose your machine carefully. Think about what you want the machine for and what it ‘needs’ to be able to do, before you get enticed by all the bells and whistles of more advanced machines. Some machines are larger than others so think about the amount of space you have to accommodate the machine. Are you working in a small craft area? Do you have a specific craft area or will you be getting the machine out to use, in which case, consider its weight and flexibility for transport. You also need to ensure the dies you buy for the machine will work in the machine. Some brands of die will only work with machines of the same brand. You may also want to look into the brand you are buying to check they offer a large selection of dies and products for you to choose from. Sizzix is known to be one of the biggest, most popular and reliable brands on the market, selling die cutting machines, Sizzix dies, binders, books and more.
It may seem like you’re thinking far too much about the product, but you will be thankful when you purchase it and know it will fit where it needs to, and do what you need it to do. From pre-planning comes lots more enjoyment than finding out it is too big for your craft area, or that is doesn’t create what you need it to, after you have purchased it.
It is important you always ensure you are using the right sandwich for your machine. Never force the wrong sandwich as the wrong combination of plates inside the machine could damage it beyond repair, which is a costly mistake to make. You should also try to ensure you place the dies towards the outside of the plates when cutting more than one die at a time. This is to ensure you take advantage of the areas of the machine where the rollers have the most pressure on them. If at any time during use the sandwich feels as though it needs excessive pressure to get it to go through the machine, avoid forcing it as this may cause damage.
As an additional tip, consider using a magnetic shim in your machine if you aren’t getting a clean cut first time round. It works in the same way as adding extra paper under your die, but also holds the dies in position within the machine.
Dies – The Infinite Choice
As a general rule – experiment, experiment, experiment! Different brands of dies offer different things, and you owe it to your creativity to experiment. It is also worth remembering that an individual die is much more versatile than it might appear. For example; if the die isn’t themed to a certain season or occasion, try using different paper or material colours with it and you will find it looks completely different. Or if it is themed to a specific season, using different colours could be a great way to give you the same ‘theme’ but with slight variations, so the cards are still personalised to each recipient, but not so much you have to work hard to individualise each piece.
As above, experiment, experiment, experiment! Don’t get stuck in a rut with the material you use. A different feel or texture to your material could completely change your project in many different ways. Many die cutters will take vinyl, paper, cardboard, fabric and much more. Always check the manufacturer’s details to check the materials suitable for it before you experiment, to avoid any unnecessary damage to the machine.
Remember your priority should be truly getting to know your die cutting machine first, then experimenting. The more you understand what your machine can handle, the more you will be able to experiment and find out the many different things it is able to do.