Thinking of getting started in die cutting? The kind of die cutter you settle for can significantly affect how you enjoy this age-old activity. So, whether you want to engage in it as a hobby or are considering making a full-time career out of it, you need to start out with an ideal machine. So, to help you make that all-important decision, we have compiled a list of the best electronic and manual die cutters.
On that note, please keep in mind that electronic cutters use software programs and razors for the job. They’re quite easy to use provided you’re up to speed with the latest technology e.g. the use of mobile apps, design software and so forth.
The manual die cutters come with manual handles and operate by means of dies and cartridges. Unlike their electronic counterparts, these ones require a bit of manual effort to operate.
We’re going to provide you with examples from these two camps so you can make an informed verdict.
Top Electronic Die Cutting Machines for Beginners
1. Cricut Explore Air
The Explore Air from Cricut is renowned for its ability to cut different kinds of materials ranging from wood to leather, provided it’s used with the right settings (chosen through a user-friendly dial). As such it opens the doors wide for you to get creative.
Indeed, the truth of the matter is that you can do a lot more than just cutting with this machine. And the icing on the cake is that this machine allows you to insert both a pen and a blade at the same time. So, you can have the machine draw patterns and cut at the same time. Read full review here.
- The ability to draw & cut simultaneously
- Modern features
- Has labeled settings for ease of use
- No Android app provided
- No offline access to the Design Space software
2. Silhouette Cameo 3
Although the Cameo 3 isn’t as powerful as the Explore Air (it actually struggle to cut through balsa wood and leather), it still stands out with its beginner-friendly features. To begin with, its cartridge-free meaning less time is required to set it up. What’s more? Very minimal effort is required to maintain it.
So, you basically need to load your designs through the jump drive and the machine will handle the rest of the process for you. And even if you know nothing about operating a die cutting machine, the Cameo 3’s friendly full-color touchscreen user-interface will certainly make things a lot easier for you. Read full review here.
- Boasts widely enhanced user-interface
- Highly portable
- You get 50 free designs with it (pre-loaded)
- Not ideal for cutting through leather and metal
3. Cricut Explore Air 2
The Explore Air 2 boasts the unique ability to cut through different materials at twice the speed of its sibling, the Explore Air. On top of that, it boasts wireless connectivity which makes it extremely easy to set up and use even if you’re a beginner.
The machine packs the renowned Design Space software which can either be accessed through Mac/Desktops or iPhones. As with all other devices from this manufacturer, there’s no Android app available as of yet.
That said, every unit comes with 100+ free images and 50+ free design projects. That’s alongside a helpful “Getting Started Guide.” As such, we find the Explore Air 2 as the friendliest piece of equipment especially if you’re looking for a versatile system.
And thanks to its Smart Set Dial, you can comfortably use it to devour different kinds of materials. Some of these include fabric, paper, vinyl, cardstock, foam, leather, and metals. Note: You may need a deep cut blade for the tough materials. Read full review here.
- Cuts faster than Explore Air
- Easy to set up and use
- User-friendly dial for selecting the material you want to cut
- Good looking design
- No android app available for it
- It’s louder than the Explore Air
4. Brother CM350DX Electronic Cutting Machine
If you’re looking for a hassle-free die cutter, the Brother CM550DX is bound to surprise you with what it has to offer. To begin with, it packs a full starter kit which can work with and without a PC. Another aspect of it that stands out is that it lacks dies and cartridges.
As such, it’s pretty easy to set up and operate. And the best part is that the machine offers several advanced tech features. For instance, its LED screen can be operated with a Stylus Pen. So, you basically can use it to directly edit images, weld shapes, move objects and so forth.
And if you like freebies, this machine provides you with 700 built-in designs for free. That’s alongside 140 quilt patterns and 5 free fonts to get you started. How cool is that? Read full review here.
- Interactive touchscreen
- Easy to set up and use
- Eliminate the need for a computer, space saving
- Only cuts up to 2 millimeters deep
5. Sizzix Eclips2
The Eclip2 hasn’t received as much attention as its main rivals but if good value for money is what you’re looking for, you needn’t look any further. First off, this good-looking machine packs a decent 600 grams worth of cutting force. And for that reason, some users have lauded it for cutting like butter.
Besides that, it doesn’t require cartridges and runs pretty quiet too. And if convenience is your craving, the fact that there’s no handheld controller involved here means you can focus on bringing those awesome designs home.
On the flipside, though, its cutting force is still quite limited. In fact, a 600-gram force is only capable of cutting tough paper and cloth. It would struggle with leather, sheet metal, and rubber. So, it’s safe to say that the Eclip2 is quite competitive although not really a showstopper. Read full review here.
- Well-made scoring feature
- Substantial cutting force
- Relatively easy-to-use thanks to eCAL lite software
- Comes with pre-designed shapes for free
- Struggles to cut through rubber and leather
Best Manual Die Cutters for Beginners
1. Sizzix Big Shot
Does the Big Shot live up to its name? Well, all we can say for now is that if you’re looking for a machine that’s dependable, this one would be worthy of your attention. To begin with, it packs a 6-inch wide opening which does a pretty decent job of cutting and embossing.
The Big Shot also comes with relatively large sides which provides you with more than enough space to work with. And that way, you’ll be able to work with super large dies. It goes without saying that despite its small stature the Big Shot has a huge cutting power.
And the best part is that it’s extremely easy to use. You simply need to place the material you need to cut right at the opening. The multipurpose platform provides you with all the instructions you need to follow and choose the right thickness. Read full review here.
- Great cutting power
- Can be used with different kinds of dies
- Easy to maintain
- Limited cutting width
- Its sides aren’t foldable, making it less portable
2. Cricut Cuttlebug
Cricut is a close competitor to the Big Shot although it’s a lot lighter and easier to carry around. Indeed, this little guy has sides that can be conveniently tucked away for enhanced convenience. What’s more? The moment these sides are folded up, a suction located underneath the machine is automatically activated providing even more stability.
Besides being this little monster comes with superb cutting power. In fact, it can be used to tame thin metal, thin wood, chipboard, and even some fabrics. But while at it, it’s important to keep in mind that the Cuttlebug only cuts materials of up to 1/8-inch thickness. So, you should be careful not to force materials through it. Read full review here.
- Easily portable
- Provides you with a relatively stable cutting surface
- Easy to maintain
- Generally easy to use
- You’d need a C Plate for it
- Can only cut up to 1/8-inch thick materials
3. Spellbinders Platinum
Yet another one of the compact die cutters is this one from Spellbinders. Indeed, the Platinum has foldable sides which make it easy to fold up when being transported. It also comes with a friendly carrying handle that makes it extremely easy to move around.
The machine’s outside is made of plastic. Its interiors are made from solid steel which besides being heavy is quite strong. So, you need not to worry about any gears breaking when operating this tiny, cute rig.
On the flipside, though, its high-end gears make it a bit difficult to move around. But on a positive note, its heavy weight makes it quite stable. It doesn’t wobble when one is cutting different materials and that’s a pretty good thing.
And versatility is the name of the game when using the Spellbinders Platinum cutter. This unit is capable of cutting over 40 different materials of varying thickness. That’s in addition to the fact that it can cut up to eight layers of materials in a single pass. Read full review here.
- Can cut multiple layers of paper and fabric
- Great looks
- Compact and durable design
- Bigger and heavier than your average die cutter
- You can only cut materials that are 8.5-inch wide with it
So, do you like the idea of going fully electronic or remaining conservative with a manual die cutter? Depending on your budget and your preferred die cutting style, it’s important to find a machine that works for you. Hopefully, the list provided above will help you arrive at an informed choice.