As we’re all crafting this holiday season, the Brother ScanNCut DX offers endless possibilities for DIY decorations. The ScanNCut is a CNC-style cutting machine designed to create shapes in paper, vinyl, and even thin wood. It also includes a small spatula for removing the stickers from the mat.
The device consists of a sharp stylus connected to a print head. The head cuts pieces out of a sheet of material that’s pressed onto a cutting mat. It’s good for making, say, a lot of star-shaped confetti or creating those “live laugh love” signs you see on Etsy.
The real draw of this device is its scanning functionality. You can draw a design on a piece of paper—I made a Mandalorian-themed t-shirt for my son—and the scanner will turn the design into a cuttable pattern.
Basic shape cutters aren’t unusual or very expensive. The $180 Cricut, for example, cuts out patterns into paper, but requires software to load and create the cuts. So I tested the most interesting feature of this Brother’s cutter: the ability to make your own designs without an app.
The little touchscreen display shows two functions: pattern and scan. The pattern option lets you create cuts from a set of built-in patterns or fonts.
The patterns are fun and include inspirational designs and holiday-themed shapes. You can select an item and drag it around using the touchscreen, a feat that is honestly pretty impressive. In most cases, you don’t actually need a computer to create a pattern.
You can also type out your own messages (“Dance like no one is watching”) and resize them. This makes it easy to make motivational signs (“Eat the Rich”) and name tags.
To test out the scanning product, I made a simple design, shamelessly stealing a graphic from TikiRob and a meme from Shepard Fairey. My goal was to create something that was messy enough to put the cutter through its paces.
You’ll notice that this image has a lot of parts, from the complex Grogu to the scratchy handwriting under his name. Cutting this out was sure to be difficult but, hey, if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing. I scanned it in and got this:
So that wasn’t ideal. You’ll notice the lines and hairs and whatever else got stuck to the mat. Unfortunately, the cutter actually cuts through the paper and into the matting, which creates a messy surface. At that point, I had to move the design over to my computer.
While I could have done a great deal of fine-tuning on the device itself—including removing all the artifacts—I used the CanvasWorkspace app to quickly cut out all the junk. I had to modify the image slightly, adding a circle around the O in “posse” and resizing the design, but it was trivial once I transferred the scan to my computer.
A button press later and my T-shirt design was ready to cut into a sheet of heat transferrable material. Six minutes later and the masterpiece was complete.
The resulting pattern is ready to be removed from the sticky mat and placed on the T-shirt. The mat holds the cut parts well enough that nothing fell off as I removed the excess material. Removing the individual parts and placing them on a shirt is obviously going to be its own brand of hell but, as you can imagine, cutting out a simpler design would make that process much easier.
I’m definitely not the target market for this product, and none of my kids are into crafting, so believe me when I tell you that I had a blast with this thing. Creating vinyl sticks, cutouts, and iron-ons is really fun, and the whole product was easy enough to use without even reading the manual. You can go from zero to “Bless This Mess” in a few minutes. As Etsy fans can attest, people will pay a lot of money for a sticker on a piece of old barnwood, so you could easily make your own fun crafts (and maybe make a little side cash) with this thing. You can even make stuff like this long vinyl wall sticker or whatever this is—basically a much longer and more complex print—with the optional $90 roll feeder. A
At $350, this cutter is a bit pricey, but it is fully-featured and very powerful, especially given its scanning and design capabilities. In other words, you could give this to someone with very little design or computer experience and they could be crafting in a few hours.
While I will never be able to sell my amazing Grogu T-shirt, it was a fun experiment with a cool tool, and if you’re in the market for something that helps you make snowflakes, flowers, and rustic lettering, this is definitely the cutting machine to get.
- A mid-priced cutter that offers high-end features.
- You won’t be able to create a massive Etsy empire with this thing, but you will enjoy being able to make clever designs on vinyl, cloth, paper, or wood.
- Don’t attempt to mass-produce and sell my bootleg T-shirt because then we’ll both get in trouble.