Tips for Cutting Paper

My day job involves working with paper crafts, so I’ve learned a fair bit about how to cut paper by messing up and making messes. I figure I can help out the world by sharing a bit of what I’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to make some messes of your own, that’s how you’ll learn.

For cutting paper, it’s important to start with the right supplies. With a lot of DIY projects there are places you can make do with whatever you find cut corners, use what works. But when we’re talking about actually cutting corners, this is the necessary equipment that you shouldn’t skimp on:

Supplies

  • Self-healing cutting mat. Absolutely essential. A cutting mat will protect your work surface without dulling your blade. (So you can stop cutting on a pile of old magazines)
  • Craft knife. X-Acto knife, cutting knife, scalpel, whatever you’d like to call it. This will be the handle for your blade. It should hold blades that come to a fine point and are a little flexible. I use an X-Acto knife with #11 blades, but it’s best to find one that is comfortable for you to hold.
  • Blades. You will need replacement blades for your craft knife. Make sure to write down what size blade came with your knife, so you can buy more of them in the future.
  • A metal ruler. A wooden ruler with a good, strong metal edge works as well. You need a straight edge to cut along. And if your blades are sharp enough you’ll shave off pieces of anything plastic, wooden, or cardboard that you try to use.

Fundamentals and Tips

  • For straight lines, cut along the metal ruler. Hold the ruler firmly in place with one hand, and pull the blade carefully towards you with the other.
  • For curved lines, it works best to rotate the paper around your blade, rather than moving your blade around.
  • Go slow. Especially around curves. Take your time, and work one section at a time.
  • Don’t press too hard with the blade or you may tear your paper or break your blade.
  • It may take multiple passes to cut all the way through the paper.
  • Box cutters are not flexible. This means they work okay for cutting straight lines, but they aren’t great for curves or any delicate work.
  • Blades are cheap. If you think your blade might be dull or isn’t cutting quite right, change it out for a fresh one.
  • Use a giant cutting mat. At least have one that’s big enough for your projects. You shouldn’t have to keep moving your project to get it onto the mat. I like to have one that covers my entire table top.
  • Practice like hell. Yes, the best practice for cutting paper is to practice. Don’t expect to be great right at the start.

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