The top performers in our review are the Silver Bullet, the Gold Award winner; KNK Zing Air, the Silver Award winner; and Pazzles Inspiration, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a die-cutting machine to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
For quilters, scrapbookers and crafters, making precise cuts on fabric, paper or other materials can be a nightmare. Handheld tools like hobby knives and scissors can be unwieldy and tedious for large or complex projects. If you find yourself frequently cutting small intricate pieces or you need many pieces of a similar shape, you may want to consider adding a die cutting machine to your crafting kit. However, it can be hard to choose the right one because these machines come in a wide variety of prices, sizes, power levels and capabilities.
Die cutters work best for cardstock and paper across the board, but tougher models can cut low-strength materials such as rubber, fiber, foil, cloth, paper, fiberboard, paperboard, plastics, foam and even sheet metal. Even the simplest die cutters can cut and emboss, but more advanced models can draw, print, weld and scan. If you're the crafty type, check out our reviews on other crafting supplies like sewing machines and scrapbooking software. For even more about these machines, take a look at our articles about die-cutting machines.
When it comes to selecting a die-cutting machine, there are several things to consider. Die cutters come in a wide price range, from simple rolling presses to advanced models that print, scan, cut and more. Because of this, you want to think about how frequently you craft and the level of detail you want in your work. For example, high-end automatic models allow you to create your own designs and store them as templates for later use. Simple press models typically have premade metal dies that press into the crafting material. In addition, think about the material you work with most. Quilters need a more advanced die cutter to handle cloth of different textures and consistencies while scrapbookers can get by with most models.
Die cutters, manual and automatic, are often used for labels, stamps, stickers, card pieces, quilting and scrapbooking. The best ones can create delicate lace patterns that are extremely difficult to make with a knife or scissors. Each piece of paper or cloth you insert into the die cutter should return with your design cut neatly and uniformly.
Manual models are composed of a rolling base connected to a side crank. This base moves like a conveyer belt under the die-cutting press and blade. With these models, you put your material under metal dies that press, cut or emboss designs into the paper or foam.
Automatic models are similar to printers or scanners. Your materials sit on a sheet of light adhesive paper to keep them stable while the die-cutting blade carves your designs. More advanced models let you create designs on a computer, then send the design to the cutter. While vinyl lettering and scrapbooking pages are common, today's machines can do much more, like engraving and embossing a wide variety of materials, including sheet metal, fabric and leather.
To evaluate each machine, we tested the die cutters with standard vinyl and medium-weight cardstock. We looked for smooth edges on our cuts, whether cutting out shapes or letters. Especially intricate designs can rip easily if the die cutter doesn't achieve the correct speed or pressure.
Typically, die cutters do more than cut. They also pierce, engrave and emboss, as well as draw premade or custom designs. The lower the pressure, the better the die-cutter is for thin material. Products like the Silhouette Cameo have a low cutting force, making them ill-suited for tough materials like leather but a good fit for cardstock and other paper.
The best digital cutters have quality customer service behind them. These machines take some getting used to, even if you have used other die cutters before. The best manufacturers provide easy access to customer reps through telephone, email, FAQs and tutorials. If you're new to crafting, the best die cutters come with online or prints of ideas and patterns.
The purchase of a digital die-cutting machine represents a significant investment for most folks. The units that made the cut with us offer a great deal of versatility and value. We think our favorite die-cutting machines can help you reach new artistic heights for years to come and won't be outclassed by up-and-coming cutters anytime soon. Like crafters, the best die-cutting machines are powerful multitaskers. They are able to manipulate a wide range of materials, are easy to use and come with great customer support in case you need it.
The Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner is the Silver Bullet. This die cutter has the most cutting force of any of the models in our lineup. With up to 1,250 grams of pressure, the Silver Bullet can cut a range of materials from thin tissue paper to tougher materials like sheet magnet, wood and leather. This die cutter is admittedly hard to use compared to its competitors because it has so many features. Beyond cutting, the Silver Bullet can weld, draw, pierce, emboss and engrave premade or custom designs into materials.
The KNK Zing Air earns our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award because it's a good fit for custom and predesigned shapes. While it produces less cutting force, it can still slice through tough materials like leather or rubber. In addition, we were impressed by how easy it is to use. You can use this die cutter with Make the Cut software for your own designs or operate it independently of your computer.
The Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award goes to the smooth operating Pazzles Inspirations Vue. This die cutter has four wheels to stabilize cutting under the high force of the blade. The Inspirations Vue produces up to 1,000 grams of pressure to the material, but it has issues with tough material like sheet metal. This is an especially good die cutter if you have a crowded craft room. It's light, easy to use and comes with tool storage for small pieces and extra material. In addition, it comes with design software to create custom crafts all your own.