Paper Stocks

While the most traditional use of digital die cutting machines is to die cut cardstock for scrapbooking, cards and more, there are a number of other sheet materials you can cut for a variety of applications. From thin foils and films to thicker paperboards and even thin metal   with the right blade, pressure and speed (and the right die cutting machine), you can cut just about any sheet materials up to 1mm thick. Some die cutting units are even capable of cutting thin balsa wood or foam by cutting the same lines multiple times.

Thisglossary of paperstock types will give you a basic guide to some of the more popular sheet materials often used with digital die cutting machines.

Craft acetate sheets are more of a transparent film, used in various thicknesses to create clear tags, layers or a window look.



Cardstock is the heavier, thicker paper used for a number of crafts. Also known as scrapbook paper, cover stock or pasteboard, cardstock is more durable than traditional printing paper, and it's the most common paper stock used in digital die cutters. Think of business cards, playing cards or postcards. Cardstock comes in all sorts of colors as well as a huge variety of printed patterns.

Chipboard is a type of paperboard that is made from pressing multiple sheets of recycled paper together. The ply is the number of layers in a sheet. Many die cutting systems can handle thick cardstock.


Metal sheets like aluminum foil come in a variety of thicknesses but are typically pretty thin and so need to be cut more delicately with lower speeds to avoid tearing. Metallic foil paper can come in traditional hues (silver, gold, copper) but can also be colored. Some foils come preprinted or patterned.

Paper Thickness
Measured in points that give the thickness of the sheet in thousandths of an inch, paper thickness (not to be confused with paper weight) measures the physical thickness of a single sheet. So a cardstock that is 9pt is actually .09 inches thick.


Paper Weight
Measured in pounds and usually represented with the # sign, paper weight is measured by weighing a ream (500 sheets) of paper. Unfortunately, this is based on a specific size of paper that isn t always what you d think it would be   not to mention it isn t consistent across paper types.


Think of the material that makes up Styrofoam coffee cups. Styrene is a lightweight foam material that is somewhat flexible and actually composed of mostly air. 



While true vellum is actually dried and stretched animal skin, the paper vellum of today is a synthetic. Vellum is typically light colored and translucent, and often used as an overlay for wedding invitations.


This vinyl used by crafters is a thin plastic sheet material that is often adhesive-backed and commonly used for home d cor, window clings, signs or other decals.




And how about some of the embellishments you can add to paper and other sheet materials? More than just cutting, the best digital die cutting machines also have attachments available for drawing, embossing, engraving and more. The following glossary of embellishments will help you learn about the various methods and applications for paper embellishments.

Distressing is used to make something look older. For paper products, distressing usually involves rubbing the paper with an abrasive tip.



Drawing is of course similar to printing, but in the world of die cutting it involves replacing the blade of your die cutting unit with a pen. The die cutting machine will sketch any pattern it could cut.


The end result of embossing is a design that is raised above the paper. To do this you use a special tip to press down on the paper on the reverse side, thus raising the finished design from the paper.


Opposite from embossing, engraving cuts (or presses) into the paper layer during the die cutting process. The recessed design is actually pressed into the paper.



Perforation involves creating tiny holes. After you perforate a material it maintains its original form and shape, but makes it easy to tear along a line. Think of a roll of stamps or a tear-off coupon.


Similar to perforating, piercing is simply punching a hole (or more likely a series of holes) into the material during the die cutting process. Piercing is often used in die cutting to add decorative elements, embellishments or to create the holes for stitching.


If you want a crisp, clean fold then you score the line to be folded. The most common way to score is to cut partway into the paper. While it s very effective for preparing paper to be folded, it also requires precision to get the right balance where it folds, but doesn t break.



To finish up, we ll share a few tidbits of information on fonts. While not the only thing you can cut with electronic die cutting machines, they re one of the most popular. To help you better understand fonts and some of the commonly used terms, here is a brief glossary of fonts.

Dingbats are characters, or picture-based fonts used for decoration. Typically each letter of the alphabet is associated with a different symbol or shape, with variations available on lowercase and uppercase letters.



Serif fonts have small details at the ends of the strokes that make up a letter. While some contend that serif fonts are easier to read (particularly in longer texts), for craft purposes they are often seen as a very decorative element that follow a certain style.



Fonts without the additional structural typeface details are called sans-serif (without serif).



TrueType Font
TrueType fonts are standardized computer fonts that are vector-based, outline fonts. They are the standard font format used on both Mac and Windows operating systems. Electronic die cutting machines that allow the use of TrueType fonts let you use any TrueType font you have on your computer, and there are several fonts available for free. Learn more about fonts with our reviews of online font services.

OpenType Font
OpenType fonts are computer fonts similar to TrueType, but have more advanced features and details at the most intricate level. The OpenType format is from Adobe and Microsoft, but isn t as popular as TrueType yet.



One way to think of welding is it turns any font into cursive. Welding letters together is a popular effect used for die-cut letters, partly because it is classy, but most importantly because it is easier   keeping a word together as opposed to cutting each individual letter. For most electronic die cutting units you have to use software to weld letters together.

Wingdings is a popular TrueType dingbat font from Microsoft that includes basic shapes, arrows and symbols. Some people mistakenly use the term "wingding" to refer to any dingbat font.



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