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9 Best Die Cutting Machines: An Easy Buying Guide

die cutting machine

123RF (Sergii Mostovyi)

Nothing reduces my stress like crafting which is why I love my die cutting machine, but choosing a die cutter can be anything but relaxing. I’m going to break down the top machines available so you can feel confident that you know which is the best die cutting machine for your needs, just as I did for embroidery machines and t-shirt press options.

What Are the Best Die Cutting Machines?

Mint colored Cricut Explore Air 2 machine Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Electric, digital, and Bluetooth
  • Not limited by dies
  • Can create custom designs on their free software
Price: $250.94 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Brother ScanNCut machine Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Converts your drawings into dies
  • Senses and auto-selects materials
  • Trusted brand in crafting
Price: $389.16 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Die cutter starter kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Comes with everything you need
  • Traditional design
  • Knob for material thickness
Price: $159.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
White Silhouette Portrait 2 machine Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Electric digital die cutter
  • Wired or Bluetooth connectivity
  • Auto-senses material thickness
Price: $199.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
White Sizzix Big Shot machine Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Trusted brand
  • Electric version of traditional machine
  • Cuts and embosses
Price: $205.69 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Gemini Twin Junior cutter Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Electric traditional die cutter
Price: $158.45 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Small hand crank die cutter Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Traditional design
  • Affordable
  • Cuts and embosses
Price: $103.12 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Sizzix Vagabond cutting machine Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Built for travel
  • Trusted brand
  • Electronic traditional cutter
Price: $195.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
White manual die cutter Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Affordable
  • Traditional die cutter
  • Compact
Price: $69.80 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. EDITOR’S CHOICE: Cricut Explore Air 2

    • Trusted brand
    • Electric, digital, and Bluetooth
    • Can make fully custom designs
    • Several bundle options
    • Adjustable to cut over 100 materials
    • Can cut and draw
    • Large community of users
    • Colors to choose from
    • More expensive than some
    • Need to be comfortable using a computer
    • Their design software could be streamlined

    The Cricut Explore Air 2 is more than a die cutter, it’s a smart cutting machine and the best on the market. The system allows for limitless creativity with a device that is fast, accurate, and adaptable. I pair this with my mug printing machine to create custom mugs that like I bought them from a store.

    I received a media sample of the Explore Air 2 with no promise that I would give a positive review or even do a review at all if I didn’t love the product–but if you’re getting into die cutting and you have the budget, Cricut is who you should go with. 

    The Explore Air 2 is user-friendly and has nearly endless potential for projects. If you’re artistic, you can use their free software to upload your original designs to create dies. If that’s not your strength, their online store has loads and loads of designs you can buy and download. 

    Using Bluetooth, you connect to your Explore Air 2 and choose your design. With their free software, you can adjust the size and rotation of the design as well as preview it on a range of templates like how it would look on a tee-shirt which I’ve found really useful to help me get the right size image. 

    It has two different cutting modes: fast mode for when you’re on a schedule and normal mode which is slower but more accurate and perfect for intricate designs. This machine not only cuts, but it also has a tool holder for the Cricut pen which allows the machine to write on your materials as well making it perfect for custom cards.

    With manual machines, you have to deal with figuring out which shims you need to cut different materials but the Explore Air 2, there’s a simple knob that controls the pressure allowing you to cut through over 100 materials from paper to fabric to cork and vinyl. 

    This set comes with the machine, Cricut blade, Cricut pen, cutting mat, and two-week free trial of their Cricut Access which includes over 130,000 downloadable designs and fonts. 

    You can also choose to pick up a bundle that includes the Explore Air 2 as well as 40 sheets of vinyl and three cutting mats or the ultimate bundle that comes with the machine as well as their basic tool kit, one roll of vinyl transfer tape, and one roll of vinyl. 

    Plus it comes in a range of colors including mint, matte black, lilac, blue, and cherry blossom.

  2. 2. Brother ScanNCut Cutting Machine & Scanner

    • Trusted brand
    • Operates through a color touchscreen
    • Can scan images to convert into dies
    • Sensor determines thickness and adjusts pressure
    • Over 600 built-in images and fonts
    • Comes with lots of tools and sample cardstock
    • Women's choice award
    • Quiet operation
    • No need to pair with your computer
    • Pricier than others
    • Harder to get new designs
    • Not for beginners

    If you like the idea of being able to instantly convert physical designs into dies, check out Brother’s ScanNCut. With this machine, you can scan drawings and handwriting and the machine will turn that into a die. This is a lovely feature for artists and those who want to preserve their children’s writings and drawings.

    It has a built-in LCD color touchscreen used to operate the machine similar to Brother’s embroidery machines but it can also synch up to your computer via WiFi. You get a lot of functionality here from the ability to cut, emboss, and write using your own designs or the over 650 built-in images and nine fonts. 

    I love that you don’t have to worry about choosing the right thickness or material setting as it has a built-in sensor that auto-detects the thickness of your materials and adjusts accordingly making it easy to switch from cardstock to fabric to leather.

    It comes with a standard mat, auto blade with holder, pen and holder, cardstock samples, a touchscreen stylus, a spatula, starter guide, and an accessory storage bag.

  3. 3. Bira Craft Die Cutting Starter Kit

    • Comes with everything you need to get started
    • Traditional hand crank design
    • Doesn't need electricity
    • Folding design is compact
    • Affordable
    • Knob to adjust for material thickness
    • Cuts and embosses
    • Not digital
    • Have to crank it
    • Have to manually adjust for material thickness

    If you’re looking for a set that gives you everything you need to get started, go with the Bira Craft Starter Kit. It comes with the machine, platform, cutting mat, die adapter, embossing folder, eight cutting dies, steel ruled die, and eight pre-cut sheets of cardstock.

    It’s a great choice for beginners because you don’t have to run out to the store and make a bunch more purchases to give die cutting a try. I like that it has a knob for adjusting the pressure needed depending on the thickness of the material you’re cutting instead of needing shims. It might take some trial and error if you’re new, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be set. 

    The machine folds up for a compact footprint that’s easy to store. 

  4. 4. Silhouette Portrait 2

    • Auto-senses materals and adjusts
    • Compact, space-saving design
    • Bluetooth connection
    • Cutes a wide range of materials
    • Includes free software
    • Not as fast as others
    • Easy to get frustrated if you don't read instructions
    • Maxes out at 8.5 inch paper

    Those who don’t have a lot of space to spare for a digital cutting machine should consider the Silhouette Portrait 2. It’s compact and is controlled by your computer via Bluetooth so there are fewer wires to deal with. If you don’t like using Bluetooth, it also includes USB connection cord.

    The Silhouette has an autoblade that automatically senses the thickness of the material and adjusts the pressure without you having to change anything. The autoblade allows for easy cutting and moving between materials like cardstock, vinyl, fabric, magnet paper, and vellum. 

    It’s great for those who work with smaller projects but those who tend to work with a large surface area (greater than eight inches wide) will need to go with a larger machine. 

  5. 5. Sizzix Big Shot Express

    • Motorized movement
    • Electric tradtional cutting machine
    • Uses traditonal dies
    • Backwards and forward movement
    • Trusted brand
    • Affordable
    • Good compact size
    • Not digital
    • Doesn't come with any dies
    • Requires shims to adjust with material thickness
    • Doesn't also draw

    Digital machines aren’t for everyone so if you’re looking simply for an upgrade to the traditional crank die cutter model, check out Sizzix’s Big Shot Express

    Sizzix took their classic Big Shot cutter and switched out the hand crank for a quiet motor making it easier to use, especially for people who may have hand or mobility issues. It moves your plates through the press with a simple switch with both forward and backward functions. 

    It comes with two cutting pads and an extender platform for working on longer pieces. It’s compatible with a range of Sizzix dies and embossing plates. 

  6. 6. Gemini Junior Twin-Function Cutter & Embosser Machine

    • Traditional die cutter
    • Motorized movement
    • Several models in different sizes
    • Works with thin dies from several brands
    • Compact
    • Forward and backward motion
    • Cuts and embosses
    • Set includes dies, shim, and embossing mat
    • Requires shims
    • Max width of nine inches
    • Not digital

    The Gemini Junior is a sleek traditional die cutter with motorized movement so you don’t have to mess with a hand crank. It’s a compact machine at an affordable price that’s great for folks who need a travel model or simply don’t have a lot of space for a larger machine.

    It combines traditional dies with electric movement with forward and backward functions and it can emboss well as cut. It’s compatible with thin metal style dies from several brands as long as they are under nine inches in width.

    I love that it comes with a set of dies, plastic shim plate, rubber embossing plate, 3D embossing folder, and two cutting plates.

    If you like the design but need a bigger unit, check out the original Gemini. 

  7. 7. Spellbinder’s Platinum 6 Cutting & Embossing Machine

    • Traditional hand crank
    • Cuts and embosses
    • Cuts over 40 materials including tin
    • Compact fold-up design
    • Includes embossing folder and mat
    • Works with other brand's thin dies
    • Max width of six inches
    • Hand crank powered
    • Not digital

    The Platinum 6 by Spellbinders is a compact machine that folds up making it easy to store away and transport. It’s a hand crank machine that works with thin metal dies from several brands as long as they are under six inches in width.

    Six inches isn’t going to be wide enough for everyone but for beginners and folks who only need it for smaller projects, you can save some money with this smaller machine. If you need something a little bigger you can look at the full-size Spellbinder Platinum.

    It includes two cutting plates, platform, embossing plate, and rubber embossing mat. 

  8. 8. Sizzix Tim Holtz Vagabond Travel Cutter

    • Trusted brand
    • Portable
    • Clever suitcase look
    • Traditional die cutter
    • Electric motorized movement
    • Cuts and embosses
    • Not digital
    • Fairly small
    • Still needs to be plugged in
    • Doesn't come with dies

    If you need your tools when you travel or simply don’t want to give your hobby while on a trip, the Sizzix Tim Holtz Vagabond is created just for you. It’s styled to look like a suitcase and opens up to become an electric traditional die cutter.

    It uses dies to cut and emboss so if that’s your comfort zone you can bring it with you. Do keep in mind that it’s fairly small compared to other cutters with a maximum width of six inches. 

  9. 9. Big Sister Die Cut & Emboss by Cheery Lynn Designs

    • Affordable
    • Doesn't need electricity
    • Cuts and embosses
    • Takes some other brand's plates
    • Compact
    • Max width of six inches
    • Hand crank
    • Not digital

    The Big Sister by Cheery Lynn Designs is a good option if you’re just dipping your toe into die cutting for the first time. It’s affordable, compact, and uncomplicated. Plus it’s compatible with cutting and embossing dies from several bigger brands so if you decide to upgrade, you may be able to take those dies over to your new machine.

    The Big Sister is a traditional cutter with a hand crank. You place your plates, die, and material on the platform and crank the handle to run it through your machine. You’ll have to manually adjust the machine for different material thicknesses but I much prefer that to having to add shims. 

    I like that it folds up and is easy to store away when not in use. 

What Is a Die Cutter?

A die cutter is a machine that allows you to cut uniform shapes. They can be manual or digital machines but the end goal is the same. 

  • Paper cutting machine vs paper cutting guillotine.

When you hear "paper cutting machine" you may think of that device with a long blade used to make long, straight cuts in paper. These are not like that. Sure, they cut paper, but they cut it into shapes like circles, stars, or letters of the alphabet. 

Should I Get a Manual or Electric Machine?

It really depends on what you need your machine to do. If you only need a few shapes you might be able to get by on a manual machine. 

Manual die cutter pros:

  • Doesn't need to be plugged in
  • Great for folks who are less tech savvy
  • Cheaper

Manual die cutter cons:

  • Requires some arm strength
  • Not as fast
  • Manual cutters are limited by the dies you have

If you want to cut out the shape of a shamrock, you'll need to buy a shamrock-shaped die. 

Electric/digital die cutter pros:

  • Does the hard work for you
  • Practically limitless die shapes

Digital machines allow for custom die shapes

Electric/digital die cutter cons:

  • More expensive

What Can You Use a Die Cutter Machine For?

Die cutting is great for a huge arrange of crafts both for commercial use or stress relief including:

  • Scrapbooking
  • Custom stickers
  • Custom business cards
  • Cutting out ink-jet t-shirt transfers
  • Labels
  • Cutting fabric
  • Cutting vinyl shapes for iron-on or sublimation printing
  • Greeting cards
  • Pop up books
  • Party favors
  • Paper art

Fun fact: We've been playing with pop up and moveable books for about 800 years.

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