Die-cutting Tips & Tricks

In this post we have lots of great die-cutting tips and tricks for you, whether you are a beginner or more advanced there are always new die-cutting tips and techniques to learn. Die-cutting is fun, creative and there is so much inspiration available to help you make beautiful cards and craft projects.

Lots of you helped us with this post, when we put a shout out for help on our Facebook page. Thank you, you shared so many great ideas!

If you've arrived here on this post looking for new and exciting dies for your next project be sure to browse through our huge die-cutting range.

You can also find loads of fantastic cardmaking ideas and advice over at www.craftworld.com if you are looking for inspiration for your next project!

Top 5 Mistakes you're making when die-cutting

Our very own Lou Collins recently shared these tips on the CraftStash YouTube channel - be sure to watch these first to avoid making these basic mistakes when you are learning to use your die-cutting machine.

Die-cutting tips

A die-cutting machine is a considered purchase for a crafter. However, the dynamic capabilities of these machines can open up a whole new world of exciting techniques, ensuring that you get every penny’s worth of the investment. You will also find that dies and embossing folders from various manufacturers are compatible with different machines. Die-cutting is lots of fun and you'll get addicted really quickly, before long your main problem will be where to store all the dies!

If you have magazine subscriptions you'll often find free dies on the cover, so they needn't be expensive!  We stock a big range of papercraft magazines, so you get both the dies as gifts and all the inspiration to help you use them, perfect if you're a beginner.

If you have any tips you'd like to share please add to this Facebook thread! (just click it to go to the thread) - we've added a few of your die-cutting tips throughout this post. Thank You CraftStashers!

Here are a few tips that will help you get perfect results with your die-cutting every time:

1 Create your sandwich following the manufacturer’s instructions. It may also help to use low-tack tape or Washi tape to keep the die in place.

"Use copy paper to protect paper from old plates best thing I ever learned. Especially for mirror card" - Kerry Noon

2 Run the sandwich through your die-cutting machine.

3 Take out and rotate the die to ensure that it cuts through the cardstock completely. Sticking these intricate die-cuts to your projects can be tricky, but you can use a fine glue pen, spray adhesive or white glue, or even glue taken from a glue stick and applied using a cocktail stick. If you have a Xyron sticker machine, these work well. You could also try adding double-sided tape or adhesive sheets to your cardstock before cutting

die-cutting tutorial step by step pictures

4 If you can see that the die still hasn’t cut all the way through, run it through your machine again. You may need to add a shim (a piece of cardstock) or two. Alternatively, you can buy a metal adapter plate for some machines that help to get the right pressure.

"Invest in a metal shim for those hard to cut dies and if necessary run it through the machine twice, the die-cut will just pop out" - Marianne Fisher 

5 When your die is cut out it will look like this.

6 Carefully remove the die-cut shape from the die using a pokey tool. If you don’t have one you can make one by carefully pushing the eye end of a fine needle into a cork and securing it with glue.

die-cutting tutorial step by step pictures

7 Remove the negative space from the die-cut using a pokey tool. We suggest adding a layer of wax paper, greaseproof paper or baking paper between the die and your cardstock to help release the die-cut shape from the die.

8 After following all these steps your die-cut will look like this.

Using all the tips above you should be able to cut everything from thin parchment through to your favourite papers and mid-weight cardstock.

I keep my card " scraps" to use for sentiments, borders, flowers and smaller dies. I always check my " scrap" boxes first before cutting a new sheet of card. I nearly always find a piece in the colour I want to use - Hazel-Marie Bloomfield-Shaw

However, don’t feel the need to restrict yourself to cutting cardstock – many dies on the market are capable of cutting a range of materials, including cork, foam, fabric and felt. This introduces a whole new aspect to die-cutting, giving you the ability to create soft craft projects.

Die-cutting tips: embossing using dies!

In addition to die-cutting, these versatile machines are also capable of embossing. Using embossing folders or dies designed to cut and emboss is a simple way of adding texture to a project. It is also possible to emboss dies by creating an embossing sandwich and running a die through it. The edges of the die will impress into the cardstock. Some manufacturers provide an 'embossing mat' with their die-cutting machines while others require you to purchase one. Worth checking when you're choosing which die-cutting machine you want to buy. We have a large range of embossing folders, do ask if you need help when shopping for your next craft or cardmaking project.

Using different types of  Dies

Not all dies are the same, so check what you're buying before you check out!

Wafer-thin dies are more restrictive on the range of materials that they can cut. However, Sizzix Bigz dies and similar have a blade inside them which enables them to cut thicker materials such as chipboard, magnet, leather and fabric. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before trying a new material with a die and die-cutting machine.

"When cutting a large die (especially something with straight edges) put it on your cutting mat at and angle. If it goes in straight the machine has to work harder to get over the lip of the die in one go and it's a bit bumpy just like going over a speed bump in the road. With it, angle the machine take a gradual increase in width it needs to cut and it passes through smoothly" - Terri Marie Koszler

sizzix bigz butterfly and flowers

Sizzix Bigz - Butterfly Embellishments

Tips for die-cutting with intricate dies

Sticking intricate die-cuts to your projects can be tricky, but you can use a glue pen, spray adhesive or white glue, or even glue taken from a glue stick and applied using a cocktail stick. You could also try adding double-sided tape or adhesive sheets to your cardstock before cutting.

"I have a strip of self-adhesive tape magnetic tape on top of all my die cutting machines when using small dies just pop them on and you won't lose them on your desk" - Eleanor Shillan

"I’m one of those people who has lost dies by throwing them out with the waste! I bought a cheap magnetic knife block to pop dies on until I am ready to put them away. Works a treat!" - Dawn Robinson

Over on CraftWorld you can find a complete guide to the best glue for card making

Resolving die-cutting machine problems

All die-cutting machines are different and many only take certain types and sizes of dies (see our post on the best die-cutting machines). The effects of wear and tear mean that no two machines will ever cut the same. You’ll need to get to know your own machine and dies to learn how to get the best from them. So don't assume it's the fault of the die or the die-cutting machine, it could be a combination, there's usually a solution!

If you find that you’re having problems die-cutting, try the following:

1. Place your dies towards the edge of the cutting plates rather than the centre as there is more pressure there.

2. Use crisp cardstock or paper to prevent the fibres from stretching or breaking.

3. To prevent cardstock from sticking to the die, dust your die with an anti-static bag or talcum powder.

"Some dies, especially older ones, can be tricky to get the die cut out of. It helps if, before starting to cut, you wipe the die over with one of those fabric softener sheets meant for in the tumble drier" - Jane Willis

"Clean the glue off your mirror board die cuts by rubbing gently with a little benzene on a cotton bud. It doesn't ruin the gold or silver finish.Other solvents harm the finish! - Gillian Corcoran

die storage ideas

Die-cutting tips: storing your dies

There are lots of systems for storing your dies, plastic folders and magnetic sheets are a great way to keep them safe and easy to find.

Find our full range of die storage there are some really innovative products available to keep your craft stash organised.

"I keep my dies in a Self Seal Photo Album. I keep a picture of the die set on one side and the dies on the other. So you can even see where the dies go back after use" - Julie Stringer

"Fantastic storage tip I learnt was storing my dies in plastic CD pockets with a magnetic sheet and some scrap card to make it less floppy when storing in a basket. That way I can just flip through and get what I need. All though I've got quite a collection I'm going to have to make dividers and put them in categories so I can find stuff easier lol" - Jennifer Bruce

If you need more advice or tips on using your die-cutting machine or want to learn new techniques, there are many helpful videos on our YouTube Channel - CraftStash