A good manual die cutting machines with some essential dies is perfect for adding dimension to your paper crafts. A few cranks of the machine, and you have a perfectly die cut piece of paper or fabric. Perhaps you are the techie kind and prefer an electronic die cutting machine such as a the cameo or cricut machine. I’m here to better explain the process of die cutting for paper crafts whether you go electronic or manual.

Die Cutting Essentials for Scrapbooking and Card Making, craft, papercraft, tips, basics, scrapbook
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What is a Die used for in card making or scrapbooking?

Think of a die as a “cookie cutter” for paper and thin fabric in manual die cutting. You can cut out interesting shapes or words and adhere them to your project add some extra layers and dimension. Using dies allows you to have really pretty or perhaps really intricate shapes to your creation without you having to cut anything by hand.

Once you lay a die on top of your paper, you then must run the paper and die through a die cutting machine so the die can “cut” out your image. Similar to using a rolling pin over a cookie cutter and dough. You maybe have to run it more than once to get a nice clean cut.

Types of Dies

Typical dies to have in your collection include shape dies, word dies, and background dies.

Shape dies are just that, different dies to help you create different shapes or perhaps different cut outs of your projects. These are the shape die essentials that I would have on hand.

Word dies help you emphasize a certain sentiment. You can stick them anywhere on your project for that extra “pop.” I definitely recommend getting words dies you would use often such as “thanks”, “hello”, “love”. Here are some essential word dies I recommend.

Background dies are for the background of your project. Shape and words dies are typically used for the foreground as in you lay them on top of everything else. Background dies tend to be more expensive so definitely invest wisely. Get classic ones you can use for multiple projects.

What is a manual die cutting machine?

Your dies are no good without a manual die cutting machine to apply pressure to your die and paper. Typical die cutting machines have a crank and once you create your “sandwich” of things to be cut, you simply just crank it through. From the bottom to the top, the “sandwich” starts with your base, one of the cutting plates, your paper, your die, and then the other cutting plate. I love using my Sizzix big shot for cutting out simple shapes or matching dies from stamps I have. The Sizzix big shot is a highly recommend manual die cutting machine, and the most popular place to purchase it is on Amazon.


Along with your manual die cutting machine, I also recommend getting these tools to help you cut out dies, clean up, and poke out your paper from the die.


Embossing Folders
Embossing folders are used with your manual die cutting machine to make indentations or “emboss” your project. They’re great for adding texture. This is one of my embossing folders to have on hand.

Embossing Pad
This tool is great to stretch your supplies. You can use this along with your current manual die cutting machines and metal dies or stencils to do some dry embossing.

Craft pick
For poking out your project from your dies. This craft pick is the one I have.

Dryer sheet
Removes the static cling from your dies. These dryer sheets are the ones I use.

Die Cutters
For taking apart your metal dies. This cutter works great and is affordable.

Magnetic Vent Cover
To store your dies. I buy these vent covers and cut them down to size. I place the die on top and then put them in storage sleeves.

Metal shim for Die Cutting Machine
For use with intricate dies, so it creates more pressure to cut out the design. This metal shim works great.

Die Release Tool
Similar to a craft pick, except this awesome tool has a spatula on the end to help lift up designs also (among other attachments!).

What is an electronic die cutting machine?

If you’re comfortable with technology and software, you may want to go the electronic route. I have a silhouette cameo and love creating custom projects with it. It also cuts down on the amount of dies you have to own. I use it to cut on stamped images. You simply create what you want to cut out on your computer via the silhouette software. Then add paper to your cutting mat. Then run the cutting mat through the electronic die cutting machine, and the silhouette cameo does the rest.

Besides the silhouette cameo, here are other essentials if you want to to the electronic route.
A Pixscan mat
For use with the cameo, you can stamp your images then using the software and this pixscan mat, the machine will cut them out for you.

Embossing Tool
When you want raised designs on your paper, you can use this attachment to create those designs.

Sketch pens
You can also draw with your cameo using these pens.

Electronic Die Cutting Tool Kits
Use these tools with the mats to help peel off your design

Electronic Die Cutting blades
If you cut enough, you’ll need to replace your blades every so often with these new blades.