If you have ever tried to cut out letters or intricate designs from paper with a regular pair of scissors, you know how difficult it can be. Trying to cut out the center of a circle without folding the paper or punching a hole in the middle? Forget about it! This is where die cutters come in.
Hand-crank die cutters are manual machines where a pre-made pattern (die) is loaded into the machine and a crank is turned that feeds paper through the machine, cutting the pattern out of the paper. These machines are best-suited for paper or cardstock projects, as they cannot cut through thicker materials. They are also small and inexpensive — perfect if scrapbooking is your hobby of choice. However, you have to buy and store a die for every pattern you want to use.
Electronic die cutters are simply cutters that plug in and are run by the push of a button. Some manual die cutters have an adapter to make them electric. Digital, or computerized, die cutters have a computer interface and usually do not use dies. Instead, you download your pattern to the machine. Some digital cutters allow for the use of both dies and digital patterns. Computerized die cutters accept a wider range of media and a nearly endless supply of patterns. Some even have scanners that allow you to scan in a hand-drawn sketch and transfer it to just about any medium you desire. Many models even have Bluetooth capability for wireless crafting.
Among the first in the crafting industry to introduce computerized, personal die cutters was Pazzles. Its most recent iteration is the Pazzles Inspiration Vue.
Pazzles Inspiration Vue Creative Cutter
The Pazzles Inspiration Vue can cut custom designs from just about any medium — from paper and cardstock to balsa wood, thin metal and even pastry. A variety of add-on tools allows not only for cutting, but for drawing, embossing and engraving.
You can download pre-made designs from Pazzles’ extensive image library with the InVue software or print your own designs or photos, and the Inspiration Vue will cut them out of your chosen media in sizes from one-eighth of an inch up to 12 x 24 inches.
The key features of the Pazzles Inspiration Vue are as follows:
- It accepts virtually any medium, including vinyl and fabric.
- It's lightweight and portable, at just over 11 pounds.
- It has one of the strongest cutting forces at 1,000 grams.
- It has five different speed settings.
- It's Mac and Windows compatible.
In addition, you can purchase various kits for creating rhinestone designs, iron-on appliques and rubber stamps. You can buy the Pazzles Inspiration Vue directly from the manufacturer’s website and choose from three different pricing options. Unfortunately, Pazzles items are not carried in chain craft stores, so you will have to buy accessories and consumable items (such as cutting mats, which need to be replaced periodically) online.
Specifications and Pricing
The Pazzles Inspiration Vue measures 21.25 x 9.5 x 7 inches and weighs just over 11 pounds. It comes with a 12 x 12-inch cutting mat but a larger 12 x 24-inch mat can be purchased. The suggested retail price is $399 with a six-month free membership to the Pazzles Craft Room — an online community for asking questions, sharing projects and ideas, and using resources such as classes, project instructions, tutorials and a large library of downloadable images. Alternatively, you can purchase the Inspiration Vue for $199 when you purchase a one-year subscription to the Craft Room for $19.95 per month, or you can purchase the Inspiration Vue for $99 when you purchase a two-year subscription to the Craft Room.
Overall, users like the Pazzles Inspiration Vue because of the variety of media accepted and the ability to use your own custom designs. However, many found the software to be difficult to use and the documentation to be lacking. The Inspiration Vue comes with a one-year limited warranty on parts and labor and one year of free technical support. Members of the Craft Room receive unlimited free technical support.
How It Compares
Sizzix has a range of manual die cutters, but the eClips2 is its computerized model. It can cut shapes down to one one-hundredth of an inch and will auto-select the correct speed and pressure for the material you select. With only 600 grams of force, it may be difficult to cut through thick material. Another downside is that the eClips2 cannot emboss or engrave. It can, however, use pens and markers for drawing.
The eClips2 starts at $299.99, with a Bluetooth-capable model at $349.99 and a model specifically designed for cutting fabric at $479.99.
Ease of Use
Most users found the eClips2 easy to use, but you have to download additional software if you want to use your own custom designs.
Many users found their machines breaking after two years of use, and there are no replacement parts available, so they had to buy new machines.
Sizzix offers a one-year limited warranty on parts and 90 days on labor.
The Cricut Explore Air and Explore Air 2 are affordably priced and have many features of their higher-priced competitors. Both are computerized and can use Cricut cartridges, which is a plus if you are upgrading from a Cricut manual die cutter and still have die cartridges. The Cricut line of die cutters can write and score but cannot emboss or engrave.
Both Explore Air models are reasonably priced, at $179.99 for the Explore Air and $249.99 for the Explore Air 2. Both cut a wide range of materials, including cardstock, vinyl, leather, denim and cork board.
Ease of Use
Most users found they were able to use the Explore Air models right out of the box. The Explore Air models require an internet connection, and some users found that there were connectivity issues that hindered their use of the machine.
Some users found that the Explore Air does not cut glossy sticker sheets or vinyl well, and sometimes the alignment is off. Overall, though, users find the Cricut Explore Air and Explore Air 2 to be good machines for a variety of crafting needs with clean cuts on cardstock, vinyl and iron-on appliques.
Cricut offers a one-year warranty on all of their machines.
The Silhouette Cameo3 can cut over 100 materials, including fabric and vinyl. It has AutoBlade technology that allows you to simply choose the material you want to cut, and then the Cameo3 automatically selects the optimal blade depth. It also allows for the loading of two tools at once and has PixScan technology to allow you to take a picture with your phone and turn it into a cuttable work of art. However, the Cameo3 is on the lower end of cutting force, with only 210 grams.
At $195.99, the Cameo3 is moderately-priced compared with its competitors and has a lot of features, which makes it an appealing choice for a variety of crafting projects.
Ease of Use
Most users find the touch-screen menu easy to use and intuitive. However, there are reports of connectivity issues when using Bluetooth and some found the documentation for the software to be lacking.
Users generally like the Cameo3, but there are many reports of the machine being very loud. Users cite having problems with the machine after only a few weeks or months, many of which are related to software issues.
Silhouette has a one-year limited warranty on all machines.
Brother has combined their expertise in scanning and printing with crafting in the ScanNCut 2 — the only computerized die cutter with a built-in scanner. Rather than importing a photo or image into a computer and then converting it to a cutting file, with the ScanNCut 2, you simply scan the image directly into the die cutter. The ScanNCut 2 can work with or without an internet connection. While it can cut fabric and other materials, it does not have additional tools for drawing, engraving or embossing.
The ScanNCut 2 can be purchased directly from Brother for $300, which is comparable to its competitors.
Ease of Use
Most users find the ScanNCut 2 easy to use, but the software does have a learning curve. Many people enjoy being able to use the machine without being connected to a computer, as you can operate it completely from the touch screen. Unlike some of its competitors, the ScanNCut 2 does not automatically select blade depth, so you will have to do test cuts to get the right settings.
The ScanNCut 2 gets high marks for quality and durability, but there are reports of the cutting mats losing their tackiness too quickly.
Brother has a standard one-year limited warranty on hardware and 90 days on consumables and accessories.
Advantages Of Pazzles Inspiration Vue
The Pazzles Inspiration Vue is the most versatile die cutter. Not only can you cut through virtually any material, including fabric, thin metal and chip board, but there are also additional tools that allow for embossing, engraving and distressing — something no other die cutter offers. It also has one of the highest cutting forces, which means it can cut through thicker materials. If you are interested in subscribing to Pazzles’ online crafting community, you can buy the Pazzles Inspiration Vue for only $99.
Disadvatages Of Pazzles Inspiration Vue
The software for the Pazzles Inspiration Vue has a somewhat steep learning curve and users found it to be an obstacle to using the machine. If you are not interested in paying for a subscription to Pazzles’ online crafting community, you will have to pay more for the machine, and its regular price is noticeably higher than its competitors, at $399. While the Inspiration Vue offers the capability of embossing and engraving, you must buy separate tools, which can get pricy. Also, Pazzles is not easily found in chain crafting stores, so you will likely have to buy all of the accessories online.
Conclusion: Pazzles Is Versatile and Affordable
In the world of crafting, nothing can be more frustrating than trying to cut intricate shapes and details from paper, fabric or any other material. Die cutters have largely eliminated this frustration by using lightweight and portable machines to make precision cuts in a wide variety of media. Many models have the capability of importing cutting files made from your own photos or scans of hand-drawn designs for the ultimate in customizable and personal crafting. However, this convenience does come with a sizable price tag, and you should be ready to spend approximately $300 on a quality die cutter.
Most electronic die cutters are simply that — they cut materials. What differentiates them is how well they cut; the greater the cutting force, the better. The Pazzles Inspiration Vue has one of the strongest cutting forces on the market, while the Silhouette Cameo3 has one of the lowest. For convenience and a user-friendly interface, the Brother ScanNCut 2 is a good option, with its touch screen and stand-alone usability. Brother is also a trusted name in sewing machines, printers and scanners. The Cricut Explore Air models are good options if you already have dies from older Cricut models, as they can still be used with their electronic counterparts. Also, CriCut is a well-known name in die cutters, and its accessories can be found in most major chain craft stores.
Overall, the Pazzles Inspiration Vue gets 4 out of 5 stars. While its software may take some time to learn and you need to buy a two-year subscription to the get lowest price, even at $399, you are getting one of the most versatile die cutters available. It's a cut above the rest!