Die Cutting and Embossing Tutorial 101:
Dies come in several types, and getting the most from your tools and equipment can be a tricky task. In this post, I describe the various types of die and embossing tool and give you some tips I have gleaned through many years of crafting.
Thick foam ejection type dies
Examples are Sizzix originals – these have a sharp steel blade recessed into a thick foam layer. They are capable of cutting several (3 or 4, depending on the intricacy) layers of cardstock at once, and are also suitable for cutting fabric, cork, EVA Craft foam, thin balsa wood etc. Most machines use these dies with just cutting plates in a ‘sandwich’ arrangement. The expression ‘Make a Sizzix Sandwich’ was a common way to remember that you started with one plastic cutting plate on the bottom ,followed by the die face-up, then the cardstock, then the second clear cutting plate.
Thin dies (eg Sizzix Sizzlits and Cuttlebug dies)
Sizzix Sizzlit dies (below left) are plastic backed with a thin foam covering, and are chemically etched dies – a metal layer contains the design. These dies are suitable for cutting one sheet of cardstock at a time. Usually, machines need an adapter plate to make up the difference in thickness between these thin dies and the steel rule dies described above. Cuttlebug dies (below right) are made from metal with a blunt blade covered with ejection foam. They can cut a couple of sheets of cardstock at once, and some other materials like EVA craft foam.
Ultra thin dies
These have become extremely popular. Brands include Spellbinders, Sizzix Framelits, Sizzix Thinlits, and many other brands. They are thin, light and compact to store. They cut one layer of cardstock at a time. Another advantage is that you can see exactly where you are cutting, so many stamp sets are available with a co-ordinating die set.
Getting the right cut
The critical factor with ultra thin dies is to get the pressure just-so for an even, complete cut. Magnetic base platforms are useful to stop them moving about. If you don’t have a Magnetic Plate, post it notes are a handy tip for holding dies right where you want them to go. You may need a Precision Plate (metal), or a series of shims to get a perfect cut, and every diecutting machine will be calibrated slightly differently. Experiment with your machine, if your cuts are incomplete, there is not enough pressure, or it is unevenly distributed. A sheet of cardstock, paper, thin plastic can be added to increase the thickness slightly. You can also run the die sandwich through the machine a few times to ensure a good cut. Changing the position on the platform can also help, as can changing the direction of the die from lengthways to sideways or vice versa. If you need to dig the dies out from the plastic cutting plates, there is too much pressure! Check you are using the right combination of plates, adapters and cutting pads. Storage for the Ultra Thin dies is a snap when you use magnetic sheeting like the Artbin magnet sheets.
These simple plastic folders add a whole extra range of possibility with your diecutting machine. A sheet of cardstock is inserted between the plastic layers, and rolled through your diecutting machine to create an embossed effect. Some folders are double sided, for twice the design opportunity in the same folder. There are also dedicated embossing only machines that are a little more compact than a die cutting machine like the Big Shot. I know some people even use a Pasta Machine for the purpose! There are a number of techniques you can use, including a faux letterpress style where ink is applied to the positive (embossed) or negative (debossed) side, applying colour to either the raised or sunken part of the pattern. Another way to create unique effects is to use embossing diffusers. These plastic plates enable parts of the folder to be left flat, to create a frame/space for an embellishment or stamped sentiment.
So, that’s it for now – did you find this tutorial helpful? If you have any burning questions or problems you would like to send, I’d be more than happy to try and answer them for you. If there are any other crafting tutorials you’d like to see, please ask! If you’re looking to add some new diecutting and embossing goodies to your collection, come and visit us at www.craftclearance.com.au