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Best die cutting machines 2021: For precise craft cutting

Best die cutting machines 2021
(Image credit: Cricut)

The best die cutting machines offer a variety of features that help you up your craft game. They let you make precise cuts in attractive patterns to create memorable designs. These unique patterns can be incorporated into various projects, from home decoration to event invitations and thoughtful handmade gifts. The designs can also put a professional stamp on homemade businesses, if you’re looking for a way to make your product stand out. 

This versatility means that die cutting machines can appeal to all manner of people. Many of these machines are also easy to use even for absolute beginners, making them a great choice for those seeking a new hobby. 

The best die cutting machines work with a variety of materials including fabric, leather, denim, etc. Different machines work well for different materials but some of the options we listed below work with as many as 300 material types. Such comprehensive machines can be a great pick for experienced users while offering much variety to new learners. 

The best part? Many die cutting machines are quite affordable, so you can find a suitable pick for every budget. The only caveat is that cheaper and smaller machines may not offer advanced digital features or only work with a small number of materials. 

So how do you know which option is the right fit for you? Which features should you prioritize? What are the best die cutting machines in the market? Let’s find out. 

If you’re interested in taking your craft practice a step further, browse through our guides to the best greeting card software and best graphic design software


 1. Cricut Maker: Best die cutting machine overall 

(Image credit: Cricut Maker)

Cricut Maker

With a huge range of features, this is the best die cutting machine you can buy.

Weight: 23 pounds | Connection: Bluetooth and USB | Cutting width: 12 inches

Huge range of functions
Easy to use
Fast and quiet
Expensive

The Cricut Maker is the most premium die cutting machine we reviewed, and it’s also the best. This die cutting machine has an immense range of functions, including debossing, foil transfer, and scoring, and it allows you to tackle 300 material types. This includes balsa wood, vinyl, denim, and even leather. It’s also got a 12 inch cutting width, which is wide enough to power through most projects including shirts and posters. 

If you’re a keen crafter who doesn't want to be limited by their die cutting machine, then the Cricut Maker is about as good as it gets. It’s expensive, though, so if you want something for more basic tasks, you may not need to spend so much. Some of the optional extra blades include wavy, scoring, fine-point, and rotary blades, and there’s an assortment of pens available to make the most of its drawing features. Users love this machine for its accuracy and how easily it cuts through tough fabrics. It’s also really quiet, so if you’re setting up a business or want to use it for prolonged periods of time, the Cricut Maker will save your ears.


2. Silhouette Portrait 3: Best value die cutting machine 

Best die cutting machines: Silhouette Portrait 3

(Image credit: Silhouette)

Silhouette Portrait 3

The Silhouette Portrait 3 is smart and easy to use, and it's budget friendly too.

Weight: 3.5 pounds | Connection: Bluetooth and USB | Cutting width: 8 inches

In-built storage
Works with 100 materials
Quick and accurate 
Software access costs extra

The Cricut Explore Air 2 is Cricut’s most popular die cutting machine. While it looks similar to the Maker, it’s cheaper and less heavy-duty. That said, it can still tackle 100 material types and cut, draw, engrave, and score. For all the attachments there’s also on-board storage, making this die cutting machine easy to take on the go. 

As with all Cricut machines, you’ll get access to the free version of its Design Studio software when you buy. There is a paid version with hundreds of fonts, illustrations, and patterns, but users do complain that this software costs extra. With the Cricut Explore Air 2 you’ll get Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and it weighs 14 pounds which isn’t bad but definitely not the most lightweight. 


3. Cricut Explore Air 2: Best die cutting machine for beginners 

Best die cutting machines: Cricut Explore Air 2

(Image credit: Cricut)

Cricut Explore Air 2

This is a fast and accurate die cutting machine that’s sure to be a hit with beginners.

Weight: 14 pounds | Connection: Bluetooth and USB | Cutting width: 12 inches

In-built storage
Works with 100 materials
Quick and accurate 
Software access costs extra

The Cricut Explore Air 2 is Cricut’s most popular die cutting machine. While it looks similar to the Maker, it’s cheaper and less heavy-duty. That said, it can still tackle 100 material types and cut, draw, engrave, and score. For all the attachments there’s also on-board storage, making this die cutting machine easy to take on the go. 

As with all Cricut machines, you’ll get access to the free version of its Design Studio software when you buy. There is a paid version with hundreds of fonts, illustrations, and patterns, but users do complain that this software costs extra. With the Cricut Explore Air 2 you’ll get Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and it weighs 14 pounds which isn’t bad but definitely not the most lightweight. 


4. Brother ScanNCut SDX125E: Best die cutting machine display 

Best die cutting machines: Brother ScanNCut SDX125E

(Image credit: Brother)

Brother ScanNCut SDX125E

The Brother ScanNCut SDX125E die cutting machine has an in-built LED display and auto detection.

Weight: 18 pounds | Connection: Bluetooth and USB | Cutting width: 12 inches

Touchscreen
Auto-detection
Comes with in-built designs
 Users report mat issues 

The super smart Brother ScanNCut SDX125E has an in-built LED touchscreen display that allows you to control it completely internet-free. It’s got USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and you won’t need a subscription to access plenty of free designs in the connected software. You can use this machine for quilting and cutting. The Brother ScanNCut SDX125E is limited to three millimeters cutting depth, so it can tackle the balsa wood, chipboard, foam, and felt, but nothing too thick. 

Users report issues with the Brother ScanNCut SDX125E mat, which loses tackiness easily and can cause issues. This is a shame, because the machine itself is excellent. It automatically detects the material used and adjusts its settings without instruction, making it really easy to use. It also has plenty of on-board storage to contain all the extras this die cutting machine comes with. This includes the pen and auto blade, and both respective holders.


5. Cricut Joy: Best portable die cutting machine 

Best die cutting machines: Cricut Joy

(Image credit: Cricut)

Cricut Joy

The Cricut Joy is a pocket-sized die cutting machine that’s perfect for taking on the go.

Weight: 3.6 pounds | Connection: Bluetooth | Cutting width: 5.5 inches

Lightweight 
Looks great
Cuts without the mat
Only works on Bluetooth

If it’s a compact die cutting machine you want, the Cricut Joy is your perfect option. It’s super small and lightweight, looks fantastic, and can cut or draw wherever you take it. This machine doesn’t tackle heavy duty materials though, it’s only suited to 50 materials in total. One of the standout features of the Cricut Joy is its mat-free cutting. You can buy mat-free Cricut materials online that come in up to 20 feet in length, and because you can open up the back of the Cricut Joy, it can do the entire length of these in one go. It is limited by width though, which is only 5.5 inches. 

The main drawback of the Cricut Joy is that it doesn’t have a USB connection, which means you’re dependent on Bluetooth connections to print your designs. If you have limited Bluetooth connection strength, this could make life difficult - especially because there isn’t so much as an “On” button with this machine.


6. Silhouette Cameo 4: Best die cutting machine for paper 

Best die cutting machines: Silhouette Cameo 4

(Image credit: Silhouette)

Silhouette Cameo 4

For card and stickers, this die cutting machine comes out with high quality results.

Weight: 13 pounds | Connection: Bluetooth and USB | Cutting width: 30 inches

Widest cutting width
Range of blades available
Touchscreen controls
Not the most powerful  

Card makers turn to die cutting machines to churn out a huge assortment of custom cards. The Silhouette Cameo 4 is our top pick for this, because it’s reasonably priced and reliable. We also think the Silhouette software is smart and easy to use. Like the Portrait 3, the Silhouette Cameo 4 comes with PixScan that can scan and remotely edit pictures and other designs. Although we think this die cutting machine is best used with paper and cardstock, it can work with thicker materials such as fabric when you buy the Rotary or Kraft blades. The tool type detection makes this even easier.

The Silhouette Cameo 4 has a 30-inch cutting width, which is one of the best ones we’ve seen. It can be powered by Bluetooth and USB, and the three millimeter clearance is great for most items, although will struggle with balsa wood or thick foam. 


Why buy a die cutting machine?

Best die cutting machines: Brother ScanNCut SDX125E

(Image credit: Brother)

It can be difficult for quilters, scrapbookers and crafters to make precise cuts on fabric, paper and other materials. 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. These machines come in a variety of sizes, with different prices, power levels and capabilities, which can make it hard to choose the right one for your needs.

Die cutters work best for cutting cardstock and paper across the board, but tougher models can cut low-strength materials. 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.

How we chose the best die cutting machines

Best die cutting machines: Cricut

(Image credit: Cricut)

Cutting Force

A die cutter’s most important specification is its cutting force, or the amount of pressure it applies to the materials it is cutting. This determines how well the machine can cut through a given material, leaving clean lines or only scored edges.

While the main purpose of die cutters is to cut, they can also pierce, some engrave and emboss, as well as draw premade or custom designs. The lower the pressure, the better the die cutter is for thin material. Some die cutters have a low cutting force, making them ill-suited for tough materials like leather but a good fit for cardstock and other paper. 

Ease of Use

While all die cutters are easy for most crafters to use, we took into account each machine’s weight, the setup and software installation process, and the overall ease of operation. We also considered whether the die-cutting machines come with the required software, as well as if they are compatible with the most common stand-alone software for die cutting.

Cutting width also impacted our ranking of the best die-cutting machines. Die cutters with narrower cutting widths limit the size of letters or images you can cut, and the average width is 12 inches.

Support Resources

The best die cutting machines 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 copies or prints of ideas and patterns.

How to choose the best die cutting machine for you

Cricut

(Image credit: Cricut)

When buying a die cutting machine, there are several important features to consider. Users new to crafts may want to prioritize machines that are easier to use, while experienced crafters might want to spend extra money to invest in a highly functional machine. Considerations like cost, available space, skill level, and ease of use can significantly influence which machine is the right fit for you. 

Let’s explore some of these in detail.

Cost
It’s tempting to say that cost is secondary to functionality, but when it comes to investing in a crafts machine, the budget can be an important consideration for many. Like we discussed earlier in this article, sometimes you may have to trade off advanced functions to get a cheaper, smaller machine if you are on a tight budget. 

Conversely, if you are an experienced artist, investing in an expensive machine with impressive high-tech features may further enhance your craft. Fortunately, many budget picks today work with a variety of materials and offer many of the desired features, so can use premium-like functions at a budget price. 

Design Flexibility 
While all the machines we reviewed allow you to adjust blade depth, pressure and cut speed, keep an eye out for additional settings like piercing and embossing. Die cutting machines with pierce features can punch through materials to create patterns or designs, and those with emboss features can press patterns into materials to create a relief.

Space
Sometimes which machine you choose comes down to how much space you have. Are you working out of a large room? Do you have a dedicated space for arts? Then you may want to go for the big machine with extra features. 

On the other hand, if you are working on a small desk in a compact room, choosing a smaller, portable model (like the Cricut Joy) may work better for your needs. 

Material compatibility
If you have flexibility in space and cost, the machine’s material compatibility may be a key consideration when making the final decision about which die cutting machine you choose. 

Here are some good questions to ask yourself:
- How many and which materials do I work with on a typical crafts day?
- How many and which new materials am I willing to try working with?
- Which materials do I never use?

Answering questions like this can give you a pretty good idea about the kind of material compatibility you should be looking for in a die cutting machine. For example, the Cricut Maker works with 300+ materials, but many new users don’t need that many options. 

Other important considerations can include ease of use, beginner-friendly design, accessibility features, aesthetics, and more. 

Millie Fender

Millie is a former writer for Top Ten Reviews who now works across Future's Home portfolio. Her spare time is spent traveling, cooking, playing guitar and she's currently learning how to knit. Millie loves tracking down a good deal and keeping up-to-date on the newest technology and kitchen appliances.