Does die cutting make you think of a hair salon? Well, think again! This process is actually used to make all kinds of things you know and love, like stickers, coasters, and even the shoes on your feet.

If you’ve got a few minutes, read up on this fascinating process. You might just give it a shot for your next big project!

What Are Dies?

Dies are metal shapes, words, or alphabet letters that can be used to cut images from a material. They’re made of metal and come in all kinds of fun shapes and sizes.

Aside from just regular die, there are also specialty dies you can use including:

  • Nesting
  • Corner
  • Edgeable

Nesting Dies

The die set comes in the same shape, but includes a variety of sizes. Think of it like a nesting doll, where each die inside is slightly smaller than the last.

Corner Dies

The die rests in the corner of the material so you can create an intricate design in that area. This is a particularly great blade to invest in if you want cool designs around your photos for a scrapbook.

Edgeable Dies

This style is similar to corner dies, only these run down the edges. This is a great way to add cool details to the edge of a gift box or greeting card.

What is Die Cutting?

Die cutting is a process in which you use a machine to mass-produce cut-out shapes, kind of like a giant cookie cutter. The coolest part is it can be done in a factory or right at home.

Three different types of die cutting machines exist:

  • Manual
  • Digital
  • Industrial

#1: Manual

A manual die cutter comes equipped with an easy cranking lever that activates steel dies that cut the material. These machines are typically smaller in size, which makes them the perfect fit for your craft table at home.

#2: Digital

This is another die cutter that you can operate at home. It’s powered by electricity and relies on computer cartridges with pre-loaded images to work. Rather than a steel die, a sharp blade is used to cut the material.

#3: Industrial

Industrial die cutters are designed for mass production. The entire process of cutting the material is automated so more shapes can be produced at a faster rate.

These machines are fitted with either:

  1. Rotary Cutter: The shapes are formed via pressure applied to a rounded anvil that presses down onto the die.
  2. Flatbed Cutter: The shapes are formed as the material passes through a hydraulic press.

Unlike scissors, a die cutter helps you get the exact same measurement every single time you want to cut something. This is valuable when you need fabric squares for your quilt, little hearts for the reception table at your wedding, or thousands of t-shirts to sell at your store.

This video shows an industrial die cutter in action! It’s being used to create product packaging.

Which Materials Can Be Used in a Die Cutting Machine?

Be sure to use only thin materials like paper, fabric, or foam sheets in your die cutting machine. The last thing you want to do is to break something because you tried to cut the wrong item.

Here’s a full list of materials you can use in a die cutting machine:

  • Paper
  • Adhesives
  • Chipboard
  • Corkboard
  • Leather
  • Thin Fabric
  • Felt
  • Vinyl
  • Rubber
  • Thin Plastic
  • Sponge
  • Foam Sheets
  • Thin Wood
  • Thin Metal

Quickly scan to see all the materials you can use!

  • Paper

  • Adhesives

  • Chipboard

  • Corkboard

  • Leather

  • Thin Fabric

  • Felt

  • Vinyl

  • Rubber

  • Thin Plastic

  • Sponge

  • Foam Sheets

  • Thin Wood

  • Thin Metal

When in doubt, be sure to contact the manufacturer or read the instructions included when you purchase the die cutting machine. Some craft stores even have helpful labels that tell you whether or not the material is die-cutter friendly.

What Are the Different Things a Die Cutter Can Do?

Die cutters can do so much more than simply cut shapes from a material. The best machines will also be able to crease, perforate, blank, emboss, and add engravings.

Here are the most popular die cutting techniques:


The die cutter slices the material so as to make it completely flat.


Multiple rows of cutting teeth come together at once to cut through an extremely thick material.


The die cutting machine creates a fold line on the material, which in turn, increases its flexibility.

Cutting By Color

The die cutting machine will first trace colors and then cut around those colors.


The die is fitted with a marker rather than a blade in order to draw an image rather than cut one out.


The machine creates raised designs onto the material that form a 3D effect.


A design or shape is etched directly into a material like wood, foam, or cork.


The die cutting machine is used to form the material into round cylindrical shapes.

Kiss Cutting

The die grazes the surface of the material, but doesn’t cut all the way through to the other side.


Holes are made in the material through pressurized force. This is also referred to as piercing or coining.


The die leaves a small indent or partial cut on a single stress point on the material.

Through Cutting

This is when the die goes all the way through the material to the other side.

You don’t have to be a pro to use these techniques. Check out the user’s manual and see what your machine can do!

What is the History of Die Cutting?

Die cutting was first invented to help streamline the process of shoemaking in the mid-19th century. The soles could be cut out with dies, which helped save time, money, and effort. This also meant that the footwear could be given standard sizes for the first time, which was completely revolutionary! Can you imagine a world of squeezing into too small shoes if you have giant feet?

Today, die cutting is a process that we simply couldn’t be without. Overall, it’s paved the way for better crafts, better products, and overall better manufacturing.

What Can Die Cutting Be Used to Make?

Die cutting can be used to make a wide variety of useful items from the clothes you wear to the décor you use for parties. The full list includes:

  • Shoes
  • Stickers & Labels
  • Coasters
  • Packaging
  • Bag Handles
  • Greeting Cards
  • Notebooks & Note Pads
  • T-shirts
  • Quilts
  • Magnets
  • Party Decorations
  • Business Cards


As mentioned, the history of die cutting began with making shoes. This is a process that’s still used to this day, whether it’s for Nike Air Jordans or Converse All-Stars.

Stickers & Labels

It would be painful to cut stickers or labels out by hand with scissors. A die cutter makes this process way less tedious and way more precise.


Many boxes are made with an industrial die cutter, from the cereal you buy at the store to the Amazon package that shows up at your door.


Custom dies make it possible to get coasters in any shape imaginable. You’ll find flowers, stars, and even house-shaped ones.

Greeting Cards

Birthdays and holidays aren’t complete without a card from Grandma and a check for $10. Those cards, and even the envelopes they come in, are all made with a die cutting machine!

Notebooks & Note Pads

Those note pads you use for school and work can be made with a die cutter. This is especially true if your notebook is in an unusual shape or size.

Bag Handles

Die cut handles are found on certain totes, lunch boxes, and purses. It’s a stylish touch that makes these bags extremely comfortable to carry.

Party Decorations

Banners, décor, and party hats can all be made with a die cutter. Just don’t try and use one to slice up that delicious birthday cake!


The sleeves and the collar of your favorite t-shirts are cut using a die cutting machine. If it wasn’t for this technology, you’d be wearing a tube top!

Business Cards

Your business cards should always look professional. A die cutter ensures yours are neat, clean, and uniform in size.


Who wants boring magnets on their fridge? Die cut shapes like puzzle pieces add a bit of fun personality to your kitchen.


A nice patterned quilt makes a great gift for everyone! The square patches are extra precise when you use a die cutting machine.

Die Cutting Tips and Tricks

Are you die cutting by hand at home? You can make your projects look extra great by using the machine correctly and being sure to take care of your blades.

Here are the best tips and tricks for using a die cutter:

Follow the instructions

The manufacturer likely included instructions with your die cutting machine. Use these when working on your next project!

Don’t freak out over the crackling noise

It’s perfectly normal for your die cutting machine to creak and groan as you roll your material through the machine. Just play some loud music if it’s really annoying!

Replace your dies when they’re worn out

Your die cutter will be less effective if your blades are dull. Be sure to spot-check the dies and change them out if they’re no longer sharp.

Store your dies in CD cases

You’re probably listening to Spotify anyway, so you don’t really need your CD cases. Use them to store small to medium-sized dies that may otherwise get misplaced.

Run your material through the machine twice

Some materials are stubborn and don’t want to cut right away. If you run into this issue, simply send the material through the die cutting machine one more time.

Cut out extras

The more intricate the design, the more room there is for mistakes. For this reason, always have a few extra shapes on hand, just in case.

Never force the plates through

You should never have to force the dies to cooperate. Being forceful could end up damaging your machine!

Clean your machine

Don’t let your machine sit there collecting dust! Getting rid of dirt and grime will help with the machine’s overall performance.

The Bottom Line

You don’t need to be an expert crafter to work a die cutting machine. They’re easy to use, whether you’re working on a photo album or printing 1,000 branded coasters with your company’s logo. So it looks like Bruce Willis had it right – go ahead and Die Hard!

References Top Die Cutting Questions & Answers. Retrieved from,

International Cutting Die. Everything You Need to Know About Die Cutting. Retrieved from,

Personal Die Cutting. Introduction to Die Cutting. Retrieved from,

Velarga, M. (2016, October 15). The Die Cutting Process in Packaging. Retrieved from,

Ronquillo, R. Understanding Die Cutting. Retrieved from,

Craft Stash. (2018, February 22). Die-Cutting Tips and Tricks. Retrieved from,

Correa, L. (2019, July 30). Die Cut Basics: Tips and Ideas. Retrieved from,

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.