Before I started searching for the best die cutting machines, I had no idea they even existed! I discovered them was back when I found crafting and wanted to cut hundreds of circles out of fabric. SO forkin frustrating to by hand! Not to mention how long it took to get raggedy circles cut out. Sitting on my floor, holding these scraggly pieces of crap thinking “there’s no way I can add these as part of a gift”. It’s not freakin’ amateur hour over here!
So, I grabbed my laptop. Tappety tap. Now I’m sharing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g that I discovered.
So, What are die cutting machines used for?
Die Cutting is what you do to cut paper or material an exact shape with the help of something called a die. It’s quite similar to cutting cookies, except you can cut a wide range of materials, including icing for cakes (there’s a machine for that!).
How do die cutting machines work?
For cutting a lot of different objects and quickly, the machines use steel rule dies. Using scissors demands a lot of patience and can take a very long time, depending on the project. Die cutting makes the mind-numbingly boring job of cutting various shapes much faster and easier. Not only that but saving your hands. Holy smokes. Manually cutting 200 circles? Ah, no thank you.
To find out who could benefit from a Cricut Machine, check out this post: The 10 Types Of People Who Would Benefit Like Crazy From A Cricut
My journey to the Cricut Explore Air Machine
My first die cutting machine was a Sizzix Big Shot, and I loved it! Especially the plates that you can purchase for cutting out flowers. I had about five different plates that cut approximately eight different flower shapes.
Unfortunately, I suffer from chronic illnesses that means I have zero energy and strength so I had to quickly progress onto a laser cutting machine. The first electrical cutting machine that I owned was the Silhouette Portrait machine as I was on a budget. I loved this machine!
A while after I purchased the Silhouette Portrait machine, I bought a 3m long extension cable so that I could sit comfortably on the couch in my craft room and still reach the die cutting machine. It was working a treat apart from the trip hazard!
Cricut then contacted me and I wasn’t tempted to switch, that was until they offer me the giant machine that was WIRELESS. Omg is right my friends. A wireless die cutting machine.
Luckily, I was also sent a set of the tools, and I couldn’t believe that I ever thought that using a credit card to remove bits from the sticking mat was a great idea. Sure, I saved money by not purchasing the tools, but I ruined more pieces than I would care to admit; I ended up wasting more expensive card and using more electricity, so did I save money?
The brands mentioned above are the most prominent brands available in die cutting machines.
Now to the question….
Which Die Cutting Machine Is Best?
I’ve decided to split this section up into digital die cutting machines and manual die cutting machines because there are so many makes and models available, it would end up turning into a book.
Top Electronic Die Cutting Machines
3 Of The Best Cricut Machines Available
Holy smokes batman! This die cutting machine is ah-mazing!
One thing that Cricut made clear when they released this machine was that they want it to be the go-to machine for cutting fabric.
My Cricut Explore Air 2 was alright for cutting fabric, but I’ve messed up more blades and mats than I would care to admit!
Behold The Cricut Maker
The brand new Rotary Blade has been designed to cut through virtually any fabric. This rotary blade brings infinitely customizable, precision fabric cutting to the world of home sewing crafts for the first time. With its gliding, rolling action, this unique blade cuts through virtually any fabric quickly and accurately – without the need for a backer material. Holy flip that’s HUGE!!
I went through 5 sheets of felt before I realised I needed to add a backing. FFS! I may as well have thrown my money in the toilet.
The blade is only compatible with the Cricut Maker.
Cricut Explore Air 2(the machine that I own- not that awesome colour 😏)
I include this machine because It’s great. If you can’t afford the slightly pricier option of the Cricut Maker, then this is an excellent option. However, if you primarily want a Cricut to cut fabric, then get yourself a Cricut Maker.
Why I Love The Cricut Explore Air 2
- Embedded Bluetooth for wireless cutting
- Dual carriage for cutting and writing or cutting and scoring in one step
- Upload your own images for free (.svg, .jpg, .png, .bmp, .gif, .dxf)
- Cuts over 60 materials from vellum to wood https://home.cricut.com/materials-lis
- Smart Set dial for easy material settings,
- Free Cricut Design Space online software and iPad app
- Cut Smart precision cutting,
- Works with all Cricut cartridges
- Integrated storage compartments
Parts of my Cricut that I’m not so crazy about
Unfortunately, the print quality is deficient. I’m not sure of the exact dpi, but it is a low resolution. The Cricut Explore is a GREAT die cut machine. But if you’re looking to do a lot of print and cut – get a Silhouette (the software is also better to use if you design your graphics and printables).
What’s Included in the Cricut Explore Air 2 box:
- Cricut Explore Air machine
- Storage bag
- USB and power cords
- German carbide premium blade
- 1 Standard Grip cutting mats (12″ x 12″)
- Accessory adapter
- Metallic silver pen
- Getting started guide
- Iron-on, cardstock and vinyl samples
If you want to make your stickers to print and cut out:
You’re better off with the Silhouette Cameo. The Cricut cuts beautifully, but when you export your document to print, it pixelated your image. With the silhouette, it prints at 600dpi which leaves crisp and clean printing quality! Print it from your printer and then cut it with the Silhouette.
What’s the deal with The Explore One Machine?
- Cricut Explore® quality at an affordable price
- Ultra-precise cuts
- Upload your images and use your fonts for free
- Cut materials from vinyl to leather
- Smart Set® dial for 1-step material settings
- 25+ free 1-click projects and 50+ free photos
- Integrated storage compartment
- Free Cricut Design Space™ online software and iPad® app
- Works with Cricut® cartridges
- Cuts printable images
- Includes German carbide premium blade
- 12″ x 12″ StandardGrip Cutting Mat
The Cricut Explore One has one holder to be used by either a marker or a blade housing unit at one time. It has two holders, one for a marker and one for a cutter; they can both be used at the same time. The Explore One can be upgraded for Bluetooth by purchasing an adapter unit. It has the Bluetooth included. The Explore Air 2 is even faster than the Explore Air.
3 Of The Best Silhouette Machines Available
I’m ranking these by their consumer reviews and not by my personal experiences with them.
The Silhouette Cameo 3 with Bluetooth and Silhouette Mint Stamping Machine 1 Year Warranty.
From my research, I’ve gathered that the Cameo 3 is not the most user-friendly machine, but if you love Silhouette and you’re familiar with how the devices work, you’ll love it.
The Silhouette Cameo 3 also has software that I prefer. So I love the Cricut machine, not so crazy about the design space BUT loved the silhouette software. But for the wireless capabilities, Cricut offered me at the time; they won, hands down.
It can be challenging to figure out how the machines work, as one user, in particular, found it difficult to get clear instructions for use. When I first purchased my Silhouette Machine, I took a free online course which helped.
There’s supposedly the ability to “connect directly” with the Adobe programs, but that’s a little complicated and glitchy too.
If you are new to the world of die cutting machines and want to be able to cut your files for scrapbooking, the Curio is much easier to use than the Cameo listed in the previous listing.
- Brand New Silhouette Curio Machine Bundle 1 Year Warranty
- The machine is easy to load and to use
- Large assortment of Curio Accessories
- It has large media trays
- You also get to use 50 exclusive downloadable designs
- 8.5 in. x 12-inch base (includes four platforms)
- Cutting Mat (two sizes)
- Embossing Mat (two sizes)
As I said before, this was my first electric die cutting machine, and I loved it.
The Silhouette Portrait is an electronic cutting tool for personal use. Like a home printer, it plugs into your PC or Mac with a simple USB cable.
- The machine is a smaller, lighter version of the famous Silhouette Cameo
- You may register and cut printed materials
- The device has a good build and is well made
- However, instead of printing, it uses a small blade to cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, fabric and more, up to 8 inches wide and 10 feet long.
- The machine also can register and cut printed materials
- Comes with free Mac and PC compatible software
- The software is easy to install, and using it is super easy
The things I didn’t love:
- It wasn’t wireless
- It’s loud
- It was pretty difficult to get perfect cuts on detailed SVG designs (took 3 or 4 attempts on EXPENSIVE glitter card) oh yeah!
- Especially challenging to use with glitter card.
- Size limitations
The Best Sizzix Machines Available
I didn’t even realise that Sizzix had released a cutting machine to rival the Cricut and Silhouette!
At the time of my move from Sizzix to Silhouette, the only electric Sizzix machines were like electronic versions of the Sizzix Big Shot that still used the dies and didn’t get good reviews.
- Auto selection of speed and pressure for material to be cut; Laser Cut Preview offers sneak peak cut
- The gears are industrial-strong and make it quick
- Not very noisy
- You can cut almost any type of cut file using the trace and cut function
- Accurate cutting
- The machine comes with free eCal, lite software that helps you create many designs, shapes
- Can cut vellum, paper, cardstock and chipboard in preset and custom sizes
- Adjustable blade depth; Cut dimensions to nearest 1/100 of an inch
- Right Scoring; No more perforations and clean folds every time
- Precision Cutting; No more shapes with rounded edges
Some aspects that aren’t great:
The machine could improve its performances for the small details jobs
You are charged $60 for the usable version of the software required to run it.
User tip, keep the eCal Lite software and use Inkscape to make your files
The mats are a bit difficult to clean
The instructions say it will cut fabric, but there are no instructions on what settings to use to cut fabric, or how to use it for other items either.
It isn’t clear if I need different kinds of blades for cutting different mediums. It’s not clear how thick of an item it will cut.
This Sizzix machine is getting 4 out of 5 stars (so far), nothing less. If you already own lots of the dies, but you’re fed up with using the manual Big Shot machine, then you will love this.
Vagabond 2 works with our smallest dies to our big 6-inch wide plastic-backed treasures and embossing tools
All Sizzix Components thinner than a Bigz die are compatible with the Vagabond 2 machine
Measures approximately 12-1/2-inch by 4-5/8-inch by 9-inch when Closed
Easily opens up to reveal a portable yet powerful tool that takes you to imaginative new places with all-metal Gears and a stronger motor
Vagabond 2 Impresses for its uncanny ability to cut and emboss many different materials and thicknesses effortlessly
The last two Sizzix machines are great options if you’re starting out and don’t have a huge budget to invest in a die cutting machine.
If you can afford to, invest in the Cricut Maker. It is everything you could need in a die cutting machine and more.
If you want the bells and whistles, that’s where you’ll find them.