WARNING: This post is incredible long….
For those of you that don’t know what a Cuttlebug is, it’s essentially a small manual powered roller pressure press. The pressure that this little machine provides allows you to emboss, deboss, letterpress and die cut.
It is compact so I can store it easily, and when opening it on a flat table it automatically suctions the cuttlebug down. This prevents the machine from moving around when rolling the plates through.
There is no front/back end so the machine can be used easily by both lefties and righties. And if you ever need more pressure or some buffer you can easily add a few shims as required.
Please don’t use any excessive force to push the plates through the machine. If they aren’t going through you need to change your sandwich up.
Cons: Anything bigger then A5 in portrait mode wont fit through the opening. So any dies, printing plates, embossing folders, paper etc… Need to be slightly smaller then this. So you just need to be conscientious about checking the measurements when buying accessories from different brands.
Some clarity (heaven knows I needed it when I first started…)
Emboss: Provides a raised image on the paper.*
Deboss: Provides a sinked image on the paper.*
Letterpress: Inked debossed image, traditionally with an oil/rubber based ink on thick cotton paper.
Die Cut: Normally a thin, fancy shaped piece of metal with a cutting edge.
Shim: Pieces of card stock or paper used to buffer any extra space in the plate sandwich, or if you want slightly more pressure.
* Most embossing folders that are sold provide both an embossed and debossed side on the same piece of paper. It is up to you to choose which side you would like to use for your project. (Pictures with demo further down**)
The cuttlebug by default comes with the following:
1 x Cuttlebug Machine
1 x User Manual
1 x A Plate (Thick white one)
2 x B Plates(Clear thinner ones)
1 x Embossing/Debossing Folder – I got simple flowers.
Plates that come with the machine.
If you would like to use dies with the cuttlebug you will need to buy thicker ‘C’ Plate.
C Plate and Dies
If you would like to use deboss your die cuts with the cuttlebug you will need to buy a rubber mat. The rubber mat will also allow you to use stencils as embossing/debossing tools.
Rubber Mat & Stencils
If you would like to make your letterpress life easier I would suggest buying the L Letterpress platform, there is a hack for this using the base plates already provided, and just buying a few additional items and printing plate – but it doesn’t always come out looking perfect.
All additional dies, embossing folders and letterpress plates need to be purchased separately.
So what can be done straight out of the box? Embossing and debossing, yip that’s it… everything else requires additional purchases. So in my case I received a simple flower embossing/debossing folder. Your required sandwich for embossing/debossing is: A plate, B plate, embossing folder with paper inside, B plate.
Normal emboss/deboss sandwich.
And roll it through the machine.
Rolling through the machine.
This is the result:
You can also ink the inside of the embossing folder, thereby getting a very rustic letterpress effect(not the hack). Like so:
Using an ink pad to colour the folder on one side.
Run it through the cuttlebug using the same sandwich formula as before and tada. 🙂
Inked folder result.
If you would like to cut out paper into intricate shapes easily you will need to buy dies and a ‘C’ Plate. In my case I purchased these two sets.
The sandwich for using dies is as follows: A plate, B plate, Die with sharp side in contact with the paper, C plate.
and roll through the machine. Now just pop the paper out and voila, so cute right?
The machine cuts the shapes right out.
*Please note that you will hear ominous cracks and your plate will come out scared… The sound is the die cutting through the paper and into the plastic plate. I have found, that it doesn’t matter, if the sharp side of the die is facing up or down. I just prefer to limit the damage to the ‘C’ plate, mostly because it is thicker then the ‘B’ plate, so in my mind should be able to take the abuse better.
Pop them shapes out.
*Now if you would like to deboss the cut out you have just made, you will need the rubber mat. This basically just makes your cut out pop a bit more. First off, you need to keep your paper in the die template. Take the A plate, B plate, die with the paper still in place – cutting side facing the rubber, rubber mat, B plate.
Embossing the die cuts sandwich formula.
Run the sandwich through the machine and pop the dies out.
Before and after:
Embossed Die Cut Vs Normal Die Cut
*You can also use stencils, and thinner cardstock this way to lightly emboss the stencil onto the paper. Your sandwich would be the same as above, just instead of the die you would have the stencil. A plate, B plate, a stencil with paper on top, rubber mat, B plate.
Stencil Emboss/Deboss Sandwich.
Running the sandwich through the machine result in the following:
Debossed Stencil Result
Embossed Stencil Result
As you can see some crinkling of the paper has happened. In this case it is because the stencil was so much bigger then the paper.
And lastly my personal favorite… Letterpress, but really anything with ink and good paper tends to make me happy – so totally biased. Letterpress paper is thicker and softer then normal paper, therby allowing you to create a nice deep impression. You won’t get the same effect using normal paper, thick and soft is key here.
Letterpress ink is tacky, has a similar consistancy to toothpaste. It needs to be worked out on a block and thinly applied using a rubber roller. It also stays tacky for a very long time, unless it is pressed into the cotton paper, then it reacts with the paper and dries insantly.
Don’t even think about writing a message in fountain pen ink on this paper though, sadly with any waterbased inks it acts like a sponge.
The plates for letterpress are also diffrent to the embossing folders. You can use one side of the embossing folder as a letterpress, and it does work – but you will also get an impression of the folders border. So unless you want to letterpress the whole card in the design, the effect is ruined. Letterpress plates dont realy have borders, and are slightly deaper cut. So the impression is created cleanly.
Letterpress Printing Plates Vs Embossing Folders
As I said, the kit for me is the best way to get started. But if you can’t go the kit route then you need the following: A rubber brayer, piece of plastic to work the ink, letterpress ink, letterpress paper, double sided tape and either a printing plate or an embossing folder. In this case i’ll be using small designs of both a embossing folder and a printing plate, so you can see the diffrence.
Flower Letterpress Printing Plate
Sizzix Embossing Folder
So doing letterpress using the cuttlebug plates requires you to be slightly more pedantic then normal. On the one ‘B’ plate you need to attach your printing plate/embossing folder(raised side facing down) using double sided tape. Your other ‘B’ plate will have a piece of letterpress paper facing up.
Setting up the plates to letterpress.
These two plates need to be aligned so that your design and paper are aligned correctly on both plates.
Aligning the plates together.
Once you happy with the alignment, you need to ink the design. Make sure you clean up any stray ink.
Inking the design
And here is where the tricky part comes in, once you touch the ink to the paper – so placing the two B plates together. You cannot move the design until you have rolled it through the machine. Well you can, but then you will have additional ink smudges all over your design. I’ve mentioned i’m not ocd right? Seriously i’m not, but letterpress paper is seriously expensive in my opinion.
Inked and ready to roll through the cuttlebug.
Your plate sequence is as follows: A plate, B plate with the letterpress paper, B plate with the embossing folder/printing plate. Run it through and hopefully you should have a pretty letterpress design.
Letterpress Printing Plate Flower
You can see the some extra ink lines where I slightly moved the design. You will use the embossing folder in exactly the same way as the printing plate. The only difference is that the folder needs to be left flat.
Letterpress using an embossing folder.
As you can see below, the design came out nicely, and if I hadn’t moved the plate so much – it wouldn’t have smudged. The thing I don’t like about it is that it creates a ‘folder’ line.
Folder Letterpress Results
If the whole paper fits into the folder then you wont have this line, but that limits you to only creating full backgrounds textures.
Letterpress with cuttlebug plates and embossing folder, Letterpress with cuttlebug plates printing plates, Letterpress with letterpress kit plates.
All in all I find my cuttlebug to be really useful. But i’m not a super user or anything – i’m sure people who do scrap booking and arts and crafts regularly would prefer a machine that can at least handle A4 paper and larger dies. For me this one is more then adequate.
You can find almost all of these products here: Scrap-a-doodles