Die cutting is the process by which a machine punches a hole or other shape into a piece of paper. There are several advantages to die cutting; it saves time and it produces identical paper cutouts. This process is often used in manufacturing. Die cutters produce the windows in window envelopes and the tabs in tabbed folders. There are several alternatives to die cutting available to both manufacturers and home crafters.
When die cutting is unavailable or when the cutting pattern is delicate or detailed, manufacturers employ the use of a laser. In this process, computers focus a beam of light which cuts through paper. The computer-controlled beam is moved over the surface of the paper to cut out a precision design. This is particularly useful when manufacturers are cutting out intricate designs that a die cutting machine may not be able to produce. The manufacturer can also change the focus of the beam so that it simply engraves, rather than cuts through the paper.
Home crafters who do not have access to either a die cutter or laser can use a utility knife as an alternative. Paper or cardstock is placed atop a cutting mat which protects the surface of the work table and prevents dulling of the utility knife blade. Dragging and pressing a very sharp utility knife over a pre-drawn design assures that the crafter is cutting through the paper. A ruler is used to guide straight cuts. The utility knife is particularly useful for cutting tiny designs within designs.
Scissors are perhaps the most obvious alternative to die cutting. Large sharp scissors are used to cut out designs, while smaller scissors are used to cut out small detailed designs. Patterns are used to trace designs onto the paper before cutting.