Die cutting has quickly become one of the most popular techniques in paper crafting. There’s something almost magical about being able to die cut so many wonderful and unique shapes out of simple materials.
Whether you create cards or scrapbook papers, design in a clean or vintage style, are a novice or expert, die-cutting is fabulous technique that can be used in any project. While there are many die-cutting techniques, one of the simplest ways to change up your die-cutting shapes is to vary the material you die cut.
Images via Julia Stainton
Paper has got to be one of the most commonly cut materials out there. Each die-cutting machine has a different set of instructions on how to layer the cutting plates, but the most basic setting will always be for paper. In fact, it may seem redundant to even mention paper, but many paper crafters forget that you can cut all different kinds of paper. By changing up the paper type, you can give your die cuts a beautiful, unique look.
Images via Julia Stainton
Card stock is perhaps the most popular paper for crafting. A heavyweight matte finish paper that comes in a myriad of colors, it’s defined as anything from 50 lb. to 110 lb. paper. The heavier the paper, the higher the quality. Using the heaviest or highest-quality card stock is preferable when die cutting, especially when cutting intricate designs. The heavier weight holds together best when removing the die cut from the die.
2. Patterned Paper
Patterned paper can be any weight when die cutting, but once again, the heavier paper is best. Mixing up patterns gives a great look to die cuts and can all more interest to a design than the simple solid color of card stock. Choose the style of paper to suit your project design.
A translucent paper product that is often card stock weight, vellum is reminiscent of parchment made from animal skins. But these days, vellum has the same look but is created from paper pulp. Its translucent properties make vellum a beautiful alternative to heavier opaque papers. Vellum brings a soft and elegant touch to any project, and die cutting it makes a stunning addition to any project. Vellum can be die cut like any paper, but take care when adhering it: adhesive can often show through the paper. Try stitching vellum die cuts, using specialty adhesives or adhering the piece in places that will be layered over are great ways to attaching vellum die cuts.
4. Foiled paper
Metallics, especially gold, have been a hot trend in fashion, home decor and of course, paper crafting. Foil paper isn’t exactly new, but it has become more widely available over the past couple years. While foil paper is lovely on its own, it really shines and adds beautiful detail to a project when die cut. Be careful not to scratch the foil when die cutting and take care when adhering it to your design, as adhesive on the foil is not a great final look.
5. Chipboard or cardboard
Chipboard and cardboard may seem rather heavy to die cut, but don’t overlook them! Most chipboard and cardboards will cut easily with steel rule dies and some will even cut with low-profile dies. Die cutting chipboard will add great stability to a larger project, while die cutting corrugated cardboard adds instant texture and interest to a project. Go ahead and try it if your die cutting machine manufacturer says it will cut this heavy material. Always be care while cutting and don’t force the die through if it is taking too much force.
6. Glitter paper
Adding glitter to die cuts gives them shimmer and shine, but adding this detail can also be time-consuming and messy. Glitter paper is a wonderful solution to getting this look on die cuts without all the hassle. Glitter paper is available in gold and silver, and you may even be able to find other colors as well.
The precision of the steel dies makes cutting out detailed shapes from fabric a breeze. Fabric die cuts can be used in all manner of crafts such as cards, layouts and sewing projects.
7. Woven fabric
Woven fabrics include almost every fabric: denim, silks, burlap, canvas, cottons and twills are all woven fabrics. This means that the fabric is created by weaving threads together to form a cloth. Thinner fabrics are easiest to cut, especially with low-profile dies, but even heavy fabrics such as denim can be die cut with a steel-rule die. If stretching and distortion become a problem when die cutting fabrics, iron on a stabilizer to the reverse side of the fabric to firm it up.
Felt may be one of the oldest textiles known to man, and is created by condensing and pressing fibers together. This makes a great fabric that does not easily tear or unravel. The matte surface and cozy appeal of felt make it a lovely addition to any crafting project. Felt cuts easily in a manual die cutting machine. When using felt die cuts that are intricate, take care not to pull the felt too firmly so that it doesn’t break.
Vinyl is a hugely popular with digital die cutting machines, but is often overlooked when using manual machines. This remains a mystery to me, as die cutting vinyl is so simple in any machine. Vinyl die cuts can be used in home decor projects and make great stickers, as vinyl typcially comes with an adhesive backing. Use alphabet dies to create your own alphabet stickers, decorate a laptop surface or even create your own vinyl removable adhesive stencil for masking techniques.
Cork adds instant texture to a design and is to cut. Your local craft store may sell cork in sheets, and it is sometime available with adhesive backing. This has the added advantage of making your cork die cut into a sticker.
11. Wood Veneer
Wood veneer makes a stunning paper alternative when crafting, adding a natural aesthetic to your projects.
Foam is another fun material that you can die cut. Create your own foam die cuts for children’s crafts by simply running the foam through your machine. But it’s not just for children: Placing die-cut foam layers under paper die cuts is a great solution to making your die cuts pop off the page. You can even die cut your own stamps from foam. Adhere the foam die cuts to acrylic blocks, then ink and stamp away.