What is a vinyl cutter used for?

One of the main things that I find in the world of vinyl cutters is that people really don’t know what they are for so one of the first things I get asked is what they can use them with and what can they do.  I guess the fact that they are such well rounded machines means that they aren’t well known for just one craft and since they can be used in so many ways it can get confusing about how to classify them

What is a vinyl cutter used for?

A vinyl cutting machine is used to cut out your designs on a variety of different mediums.  Sometimes they use computers in the case of the electronic cutting machines or sometimes they use dies which have the pattern needing to be cut out on them in the case of the manual die cutting machines.  These manual machines can also be used to put textures and embossed marks on materials as well

As you can see they also come under a few different names.  You’ll find that vinyl cutting machines are also called:die cutting machines, craft cutters, cutting machines, vinyl plotters and also (mostly for manual machines) embossing machines.

The designs that you make and cut can be used for many different crafts – you can make vinyl decals, banners, stickers, t-shirt designs, it can add great touches to your scrapbooking and paper crafts and also many different fabric crafts like quilting.  It’s used for so many different things – it’s even good for starting up your own business dealing in personalized goods.  I’ve known many people who have set up and run successful Etsy stores after getting a vinyl cutter!


What does a vinyl cutter do?

When you decide what you want to be cut and send the information to your vinyl cutter to process (which you do either by computer or by manually selecting a die) then the machine will start to take your material and cut the image that you want it to do.

An electric cutting machine looks a little like a printer, albeit on a slightly larger scale.  The material you have chosen to be cut is placed on a cutting mat and the machine will pull it in and begin cutting it.  Again it looks a little like a printer when it gets started.  Once it’s finished you’ll be able to peel away your completed cut and carry on with something else if you need to.

A manual vinyl cutting machine needs you to select a die (a metal shape), place it on top of the material to be cut and then normally sandwiched between some plates.  Depending on what your machine is and what material you’re cutting you might need to fiddle with which plates you use to get the right pressure.  The whole ‘sandwich’ then goes through the cutting machine, normally using a hand crank to roll it through, and the pressure allows the die to cut your image out of the material.


What materials can be cut on a vinyl cutter?

Vinyl cutting machines can cut a variety of different materials as well as vinyl!

You can use it for:

  • paper
  • cardstock
  • felt
  • fabric
  • leather
  • thin metal
  • balsa wood
  • vinyl
  • adhesive backed paper
  • amongst many more!


If you’re looking for a starter machine or you’re not sure where to look for some advice on buying a vinyl cutting machine then I suggest you start by looking at my Vinyl Cutting Machine Buyers Guide

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