Choosing a Die Cutting Machine

There’s a lot of questions people have when buying a die cut machine. People usually want to know, “which die cut machine is best”? The best die cut machine really depends on what the machine is being used for. A beginner crafter will be looking for different features than an advanced crafter. Before you pick a die cut machine, there should be a few things to consider, such as the type of machine, the cost, the durability, ease of use, software, versatility, and power.

Digital vs Manual Die Cut Machine

The most important thing when considering a die cutting machine is the type of machine. Choosing between a digital and manual die cut machine all depends on what you will be using the machine for.

Manual Die Cut Machines

Sizzix Big Shot - Manual die cut machine

Manual die cutting machines use a hand crank (or motor) to push material through a slot, where the material is then cut using a die or embossed using a “folder”. These machines are best when you only have specific shapes that need to be cut. The downside is you will need to buy a new die for each different shape.

Reasons you might want to purchase a manual die cut machine:

  • You don’t want to use a computer
  • You don’t need to create your own custom designs
  • You want to cut multiple layers of fabric.
  • You want something easily portable and simple

Digital Die Cut Machines

Cricut Explore Air - Digital die cut machine

Digital die cutting machines work similarly to a printer to cut materials. These machines plug into your computer just as a printer would, but instead of printing on paper, it makes cuts instead. There are some older machines, however, that use cartridges that plug into the machine instead of connecting to a computer. These older machines are no longer manufactured but are still available in some places.

The main advantage of buying a digital die cut machine is to create your own designs. Digital machines allow you to create designs from scratch, or import existing designs.

Reasons you might want to purchase a digital die cut machine:

  • You want to create your own designs from scratch or import them
  • You want to be able to draw or stipple


Die cut machines can cost less than $200, to upward of $1,000 and more. Typically, the more expensive the machine, the more powerful it is. If you plan on using a machine a lot, it’s important to find something that fits your needs that is easy to work with.

Materials and Versatility

Versatility is another important factor. Consider the projects you will be creating with a die cutting machine and what kinds of materials that will be cut. Heavy duty machines are able to cut a greater variety of materials. If you will be cutting mostly with paper-based materials, it might not make sense to invest in a heavy duty machine.

Ease of use – Software and Support

Even if you have a quality die cutting machine, it may be frustrating to use the machine if the software has a high learning curve or you can’t get support. Research the software that comes with the machine and see what kind of tutorials there are. Also, research the company selling the die cutting machine. Many companies have tutorials, forums, and phone and email support to help you get started in die cutting.

Size and Portability

Size and portability may be a factor. Do you have a small working area? Will you be cutting large materials that require a machine with a larger cutting width? Also, consider the weight of the machine if you will be traveling with the machine. Machines can range from 2lbs to large machines that are 40lbs.

13 thoughts on “Choosing a Die Cutting Machine”

  1. Thank you for the comparison on the two machines. I have been looking for what is the difference on them awhile. Did not want to make an incorrect decision where my money is concerned. I now know I need the 650W. Thank you again.

  2. I am cutting a 8″ by 11″ rectangle out of canvas material. I have 7 different colors and I am using a 5′ bolt of fabric. I am thinking a manuel die cut machine that will cut multiple layers canvas at a time would work best, so I could fold the 5′ canvas material over and cut multiple pieces at a time.
    Could you give me a recommendation on a machine for this?

    Also I am going to need a custom die made, how do I go about getting this done?

    • Hi Arthur,

      If you are doing a lot of cuts, a manual die cut machine is best, especially for fabrics. Sizzix is a good brand. Their Big Shot Plus machine cuts 8.5″ x 11″, which might fit your needs.

      For custom dies, you can visit the Sizzix Custom Dies page.

      • Hi

        Can you please help me choose between the cricut maker of the sizzix big shot pro. I cut lots of wool felt. i am looking for the most cost effect and durable machine. I cant seem to figure out which one will be better.

        thank you very much.


        • Hi Sihaam, the machines are quite different. The Sizzix requires you to buy physical dies to cut. You generally won’t be able to create designs from scratch unless you get your own design made. If you are only cutting basic shapes and want to cut shapes quickly, the Big Shot could be a good choice.

          The Cricut Maker, on the other hand, requires an internet connection and allows you to create your own shapes. Cutting will be slower but you will be able to cut more materials like Balsawood using the knife blade.

          Does this help you decide?

  3. Hi,

    I need assistance in choosing the best machine to cut lots of wool felt. I want something that is durable and cost effective. I am confused as to whether i should go with the cricut maker or the sizzix big shot pro.

    Your help in my decision to choose which one will be highly appreciated.

    Thank you.

  4. Hi, I’m looking for a personal machine to cut galvanized metal, or corregated galvanized sheet metal.
    Will the Vagabond cut this type of metal? If not is there a personal sized machine that will?

    • Hi Marina, how thick is the material you want to cut? Unless it’s really thin, none of the machines reviewed on this site will work.

  5. Hi Marina I am a 73 year old quilter and unfortunately have arthritis and find cutting materials more difficult now. I would like your advice on what machine would be suitable for me as my next project will be a flannelette rag quilt The squares will probably be 6 inches However I also do use larger squares and triangles in larger quilts in cotton fabrics

    • If you are not computer savvy or care not to use one, I suggest the Brother Scan N Cut DX. You can scan in your designs or choose from built in quilt designs. They are resizable right on the SNC screen. You can scan your fabric into the machine and place each design precisely where you want it or use the built in auto arrange. There is a 12 x 24 mat available. If you iron parchment paper on the fabric it comes off cleaner.

      All other cutting machines require you to start the process using their online (cloud based) software so you will require an internet connection and some require it to be connected to the cutter through the whole process. You never get to actually see the fabric when placing your designs.

      I would watch some YouTube videos and then decide for yourself.

  6. I have a cricut explore air 2 and have learned to cope with designs space limitations by supplementing the software with sure cuts a lot pro 5 but am still frustrated much of the time i like to design 3D paper crafts and am looking at supplementing the cricut with a silhouette am debating the cameo 3 with the curio with already owning the cricut is the curio the better option?????? any thoughts would be vastly appreciated thanks

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