Whether you’re a scrapbooker, artisan or designer looking to make some unique products for your clients, a good die cutter can be quite beneficial. However, with the many brands and models available on the market, deciding which one to settle for is not always easy. We tested different die cutters and have determined that, indeed, no two or three machines work exactly the same. Here’s a run-down of the best die cutting machine options and what makes each one of them great (plus the downsides of each one of them).
Best Manual Die Cutting Machines
Manual die cutters remain a top choice for hobbyists. The truth is that you can never run out of options whenever you have one of these with you. Some top picks in this category include:
1. Cricut Cuttlebug
Cricut Cuttlebug is a cracking little machine which is also widely thought to be the best die cutting machine for beginners. As little as it seems, it actually houses a powerful system that allows you to cut and emboss shapes like a pro. On the flipside, though, it uses a manual rolling technology and that means you have to be willing to spend some energy cutting the dies.
Fortunately, this miniature machine is big on flexibility. In fact, it accommodates a wide variety of dies and can work on different crafting materials. Planning to travel soon? This machine can provide you with the best company all thanks to its compact profile (fold-n-store). What’s more, it has a pop-up handle that empowers you to take it anywhere with you, easily.
It’s easy to see why the Cuttlebugger has continued to dominate the under $100 market for so many years. Once you get it, you will stand to benefit from its small and portable size alongside ample cutting & embossing power.
- Small in size and highly portable
- Capable of embossing a wide variety of materials
- Delivers professional-looking results
- Compatible with most top dies and folders
- Can emboss leather, ribbon, foils and even tissue paper
- Small in size and capacity
- Uses relatively old technology
2. Sizzix – Big Shot Machine (White & Gray)
Known for being stylish and compact, the Big Shot offers the capacity to emboss a wide variety of materials. So, whether you’re working on home decor, scrapbook pages, altered art, quilting, fashion or one-of-a-kind cards, you can rest assured to get the job done, awesomely. Coming alongside the machine itself is a pair of cutting pads and an extended multipurpose platform. Thanks to this well thought-out design, the machine comes across as thinner than average which is a big plus if you’re planning to carry it with you to your next crafting party.
Another attractive aspect of this machine is that it boasts the ability to accommodate different types of dies. You can even use Acquiquilt, QuicKut or even Spellbinders dies on it. However, you should note that this machine has a 6-inch wide opening which means it only accommodates small dies. If you intend to use bigger dies then you may need to consider upgrading to its bigger brother, the Big Shot Pro.
- Highly versatile and easy-to-use
- Accommodates dies from different companies
- Reasonably priced
- Helps you access the entire Sizzix product library
- Can die cut a wide range of materials including paper and fabric
- Weak screw for the crank handle
- Limited working capacity
3. Spellbinders PL-001
Strength and elegance are the only two words that can best describe what this manual die cutter is all about. For starters, the PL-001 boasts the ability to accommodate a wide range of dies, from steel rule dies to water-thin dies. What’s more? It is made in such a manner that it can accommodate a wide set of dies including from rival such as Sizzix.
Generally, the machine’s exterior is made of plastic and its interior solid steel. And while that makes it superior and strong, it also leaves it a bit heavy. Due to this added weight, it is less portable and this, therefore, makes it less attractive than other lighter models. Worth noting, however, is that the additional weight also comes with additional cutting force. So, if you’re concerned about your manual die cutter not being able to make some deep and precise cuts, this machine will definitely offer a good alternative to it.
Indeed, this is one of the few machines that can comfortably cut through tens of different materials like a sharp knife does through butter. In fact, in some cases, it can cut up to 8 layers in a single cut especially if you’re using steel rule dies.
- Solid steel core construction
- Can cut through a wide range of materials
- Cuts through leather
- Offers larger-than-average cutting area
- Its 8 1/2 wide cutting area makes it a poor fit for 6-inch standard plates
4. AccuQuilt GO Fabric Cutter
The savvy machine boasts the ability to cut up to 6 layers of fabric at once. Indeed, to achieve this feat using ordinary scissors would require several hours of routine cutting and this can be a major issue for anybody with arthritis, fibromyalgia or carpal tunnel syndrome. Therefore, the AccuQuilt Go presents you with a highly powerful and practical option that’s capable of turning your life around. On the flipside, though, this machine weighs a generous 15 pounds and that can be quite heavy to carry around.
- The machine is super-easy to use
- Comes with a free, 20-page pattern book
- Compact when closed up
- Convenient and user-friendly design
- Ability to cut through a wide range of materials
- Quite heavy and, therefore, not easily portable
- May waste fabric because it lacks welding and re-designing capacity
Best Electronic Die Cutting Machines
Times have changed and the world of die cutting is fast advancing toward digital technology. The beauty about going digital is that you get to enjoy more flexibility. You access unlimited designs online, edit them and arrange them accordingly in order to save on material space and express creativity.
1. Silhouette Cameo
Although the Cameo may not have the power to cut through leather and balsa wood, it still stands out as the best die cutting machine under $300. Why so? Because even if it doesn’t cut through leather, it handles most craft projects quite well. This is a plus especially if you’re just looking for a machine to use at home and not for commercial purposes.
One incredible aspect of it is that it is cartridge-free which means you require less time to set it up and also less effort to maintain it. Besides that, if you want to make your cut off-line, you simply need to load your designs on a jump drive – the machine will do the rest of the job for you. And as far as usability is concerned, this printer is a boon for many, thanks to its full-color touchscreen.
- Enhanced user-friendliness
- Quite portable
- Comes with 50 pre-loaded designs for you
- Helpful customer support
- Not powerful enough for leather and metal cutting
2. Gemini Embossing Machine by Crafter’s Companion
As far as die cutting is concerned, it is nearly impossible to find a machine that combines fastness with quietness. This is because, for a cutter to work fast, it needs to have a bigger engine and that means the probability of more noise being produced is always higher. The Gemini is, however, quite different owing to its ability to house a massive engine that operates smoothly and silently. You can use this machine for cutting intricate dies especially when speed is of the essence.
In addition, this cutter is open for use of third-party embossing folders and dies. So, no matter which part of the world you are in, you’ll never have to worry about keeping the machine going for whatever reason. And needless to say, its large platform size gives you the freedom to cut multiple dies at once – a big plus for busy folks.
- Comes with user-friendly buttons
- Low profile design for improved portability
- Fast and quiet
- Accommodates different die varieties
- Excellent quality of results
- Struggles accommodating Cuttlebug die
3. Silhouette Portrait 2
Launched in May 2017, the Silhouette Portrait 2 stands out due to its competitive pricing. At well under $200, this is definitely one of the best budget die cutting machine options. The digital machine is equipped with a Studio Designer software which allows you to create and tweak your designs efficiently and fast.
The only gripe we could pick with this machine is that its cutting power, at under 210 grams, is quite limited. So, you’ll want to avoid cutting heavy items like leather and balsawood with it. On the other hand, it does a pretty good job of handling vinyl, tissue paper, craft foam and lightweight fabric. Why go for a pricey machine if you’re not planning to cut any of the heavy-duty materials? If you’re a beginner, looking to make a few awesome crafts from the comfort of your home, the Portrait 2 is certainly a great bargain for you.
To top it all up, this die cutter comes with PixScan technology which makes it possible to take pictures with your smartphone and get them printed. Of course, this is a helpful feature for newbies or anyone who does not have the whole day to spend designing stuff.
- Great job at cutting light materials
- Can cut up to 10 feet of lined media
- Loaded with an array of colored pens (24)
- Comes with free access to Silhouette’s Studio Designer software
- Can be operated offline
- Limited cutting power
- Lacks dual carriage functionality
Thanks to its 300-dpi scanner, this machine takes innovativeness to a whole new level. In fact, you can even capture images with your camera and feed them to this embosser to have them produced in real-time.
Of course, the machine is a steal to anyone who may not want to spend the whole day creating designs. Hello beginners! If you’re just getting started, this machine makes the ride incredibly smooth for you. Besides the scanner, it comes with a fully loaded starter kit that is compatible with MAC and Windows computers.
So, let’s just say that this is one of those machines that specifically focus on speeding up your ROI. It even comes with thousands of pre-loaded stock images that you can use to simplify your work. As if that’s not enough, the machine comes with 700 ready-made designs (editable designs), 140 quilt patterns and 5 fonts for free. As you’ll agree with me, this is just the kind of support you need to get started off the blocks.
It is not clear just how much cutting power this machine packs up since the manufacturer has not specified this in the specs’ list. However, if its performance is anything to go by, then we can categorize it as a medium powered unit. It certainly has the power to handle most cardstocks and thin metal sheets.
- Allows for on-screen editing
- Allows for seam allowance in 1/4-inch increments
- A powerful scanner that can scan almost anything
- Incredible, space-saving auto layout capabilities
- Weighs slightly above 8 pounds which is pretty light-weight
- Excellent customer support
- Struggles printing materials over 1 millimeter thick
5. Cricut Maker
Strength and precision are the two defining factors that make this machine tick. The newly launched cutter cum embosser comes with a whole new dose of power something that makes it close to 10x more powerful than its Explore counterparts. One thing that makes this unit really superb as a die cutter is the fact that it uses a special knife blade as well as a rotary blade. Although the Maker is best known as a vinyl cutter, these two blades give it immense die cutting power meaning you can use it to attack tough leather and metal.
At the same time, you can still downsize its power in order to handle lighter stuff such as tissue paper and glitter paper. In other words, no matter where your creative energy takes you, this machine has enough power to help you deliver top-grade results.
The Cricut Maker’s design is quite compact and stylish although we think it lags behind the Cricut Cuttlebug as far as portability is concerned. What, however, gives it an edge over the competition is the fact that it is quite digital-savvy. Thanks to the patented Design Space software, you can now feed your designs using an intuitive interface which is easy for anyone, including newbies, to master. What’s more? Each unit comes with an extensive collection of free designs that you can tap into to make some quick wins.
One thing that worries many people about die cutting machines and especially ones from Cricut is the need to keep up with the latest gadgets on the market. Lately, the manufacturer has been on a product launching spree and that has left many good machines (especially from the Explorer family) obsolete. The good news with the Cricut Maker is that it’s a futuristic cutter. It comes with an adaptable tool system which makes it possible to tap into new technologies as they come. Isn’t that so cool?
As a die cutting machine, the Maker offers you the Fast Mode and Precision Mode options. Under the Fast Mode, you’ll be able to make cuts and prints up to 2 times faster without compromising on precision. This is the ideal mode when you want to beat deadlines without breaking a sweat. The Precision Mode, on the other hand, enables you to cut tiny designs and deliver key details.
- Impressive cutting power
- Cuts as deep as you’d like it to
- Preserve the crispiness of each line made
- Unparalleled workflow efficiency
- Provides the capacity to make personalized projects
- Relatively new on the market
- Not as portable as its smaller brother the Cuttlebug