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Best die cutting machines 2021

Best die cutting machines 2021
(Image credit: Cricut)

The best die cutting machines are the ultimate device for any keen crafter, capable of cutting, scoring, and drawing and therefore the perfect tool for a large range of projects. There are a few distinctions in the different types of die cutting machines, with size, power, and functions all being considered within this guide, so even if you’re a beginner, you can assess the best machine for you.

The size of your die cutting machine relates to how much power it can give you when cutting through materials. Bulkier machines are best for those looking to cut through more difficult fabrics, such as denim or leather, and will probably become a permanent fixture on your desk or crafting table. Smaller, more portable models tend to have narrower cutting paths but are perfectly capable if you’re working with cardstock or other thin materials. You can customize your die cutting machine by buying additional attachments to suit different functions, which enable you to deboss, score, foil, and transfer onto your materials. Some machines have these extra functions built-in, so it’s worth considering splashing out on a more capable machine, to begin with, if you need those capabilities.

It’s also important to consider how you will control your die cutting machine. Now that they tend to be digital instead of manual, most die cutting machines connect wirelessly to your phone or laptop so you can select the exact shape you want to cut. Some people still prefer to use a USB connection to hook up their machine, and we’ve noted the options in this list that can connect in that way too. 

In terms of the computer software for controlling your crafting, most machines come with a free, limited version of their full range of fonts and patterns. You’ll likely need to pay for full access to get everything you need, or you could alternatively check out the best greeting card software or best graphic design software and process your patterns that way before sending them off to your machine. 


 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 

Silhouette Portrait 3: Best value die cutting machine

(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 

Cricut Explore Air 2: Best die cutting machine for beginners

(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 

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 

Cricut Joy: Best portable die cutting machine

(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 

Silhouette Cameo 4: Best die cutting machine for paper

(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?

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

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)

There are several criteria to consider when selecting a die-cutting machine. Die cutters come at a wide range of prices; they can be simple rolling presses or advanced models that print, scan, cut and more. Because of this, consider how frequently you craft, as well as how detailed and customized you want your designs to be.

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.

Keep it automatic

Automatic models are like 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 them to the cutter. While it is common to use these machines for cutting vinyl lettering and paper for scrapbooking pages, today's machines can do much more, such as engrave and emboss a wide variety of materials like sheet metal, fabric and leather.

Material Types

Die cutters are often used for labels, stamps, stickers, card pieces, quilting and scrapbooking. The best die cutters can create delicate lace patterns that are extremely difficult to cut 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.

Depending on the projects you like to work on, pick a die-cutting machine that cuts the type of materials you use most. The most common materials are paper, vinyl and fabric, but some die cutters can also cut materials such as rubber, fiber, foil, cloth, fiberboard, paperboard, plastic, foam, leather and even sheet metal. Quilters need more advanced die cutters to handle fabrics of different textures and thicknesses, while scrapbookers can get by with most models.