Printer Paper

The paper we all have lying around, you can buy reams of 500 for anywhere between £2-£6 and it’s one of the most common questions in paper cutting, Can I cut printer/copier paper?

Confession time – other than using it to do this test yes I have I tried it when I first started cutting I decided then it was too thin and before I really started I gave in on it. I also used it to make a stencil to draw something for a lino cut I hate cutting this but I wasn’t going to use nicer paper on a throw away stencil.

Printing

Since the paper is designed to go through a printer it is really easy to print on, but it’s thin so full black is going to show through.

Drawing

The standard HB pencil is best as harder leads will indent the paper and soft pencils will easily smudge.

Cutting

It’s difficult to get the blade going right in this paper, new blades can go through a bit too fast and you can be sure there will be “fluffy bits” in the tight edges. But if you take it slow you can get somewhere near your intended cut. In this test cut the area where the roses are isn’t very clear and looks messy though the larger area of the tail didn’t fair to badly.

Blades

Copier paper seems to blunt the blades quite quicker than heavier papers I really didn’t get much done with one blade especially compared to some of the other papers. If you try to get a bit more out of a blade this is the point where you end up with tears.

Price

As mentioned before copier paper is pretty cheap, at an average of £4 for 500 sheets.

Conclusion

Yes its possible to cut printer paper but its hard. When you understand all the principles of when to change your blade, how much pressure to use, etc. then you are going to get a half decent cut. It’s OK to use as a throw away template for when cutting on black papers that you can’t print on, but I’d use tracedown before attempting to double cut.

It doesn’t look that pretty either, lets face it you aren’t going to gift or sell something made on printer paper, it just doesn’t look the part.

Certainly not for new cutters! If you are thinking you might have a go a paper cutting as you have printer paper in the house you will tear your hair out trying to learn with this.

Glass vs Self Heal

What should you be using as a mat for your paper cut art?

Like many paper cutters I started on a self heal mat. I used the one my husband had on his desk, many of the starter kits come with self heal mats and I do believe these are probably the best option for new cutters.

Though now I mostly I cut on glass, after my brief stint on the self heal and feeling like I wasn’t really getting anywhere I grabbed the glass chopping board out of the kitchen, gave it a clean and had a go with that. Personally I found it a lot easier. I have yet to break a blade on the glass and I can certainly cope with the blades blunting slightly faster in favour of the beautiful curves it gives me. It wasn’t long before I traded up the kitchen chopping board for a huge A3 glass mat from Tonic Studios, a few months later I also picked up a bargain 13″x13″ x-cut glass mat.
However I do still have a little self heal mat, for when I want to use a swivel blade rather than a fixed one. I don’t use it that often but if I put the swivel blade on the glass mat it’s like dancing on ice, the blade goes everywhere but where I want it to.

Weighing up the pros and cons of both types seemed a good idea;

Pros and Cons

Self Heal

Pros

Cheap
Good to learn on
Easily replaced
Up to A0 size
Better for straight lines

Cons

Blades dig into the mat
Slower to cut
Paper harder to move
Shorter lifespan

Glass

Pros

Paper easy to move
Better for curves
Longer lasting
More stable surface

Cons

Larger Outlay
Blades blunt faster
Blades may snap easier
Limited sizes
Can loose control easier

Cheaper Alternatives

There is no doubt that glass mats can get expensive and if you are looking to just have a go with one to see if you like it then it’s a large outlay. A smooth glass worktop saver is a cheap way to try out a glass cutting surface.

Conclusion

As you can see from the pros and cons there is possibly no right or wrong answer to the debate between self heal or glass as a cutting surface, while I enjoy better results from a glass and find they last longer than self heal so justify their cost there are many papercut artists out there that will swear by the self heal.

I would still recommend beginning with a self heal mat, even if it is to just get used to the actions involved in paper cutting.

While you can’t get the huge mats in glass like you can with self heal, it is probably rare that you would use anything larger than A3 anyway, unless you have the space and plan to cut large pieces.

If you are concerned about a glass mat being fragile, mine have held up to transportation and toddlers, I think they are robust enough to handle most things.

What do you find best and which quality makes that the cutting mat for you?

Types of Blades

If you are cutting with a scalpel then there are a few blade shapes you can choose from. For this article I will only be covering the main five blade styles that are most commonly used.

11 ACM

The standard art, craft and model blade if you buy a craft knife this blade is most likely the one that is in it. They are very sturdy and offer little flexibility but have a rather nice point on the end. They are thicker than the surgical blades below so very small details can end up larger than you intend.
Personally I don’t get on with these as I find them too ridged for the actual cuts but they are fantastic for when you are cutting straight lines for backings or mounts with a ruler as they are the most rigid blade.
These are probably the most expensive of the selection though so not as cost effective if you are cutting lots.

11 Surgical

Probably the most used blade by paper cutters the 11 surgical blade offers flexibility which helps with cutting curves, it’s suitable for larger areas and small details. The downside would be that the point isn’t as steep as on other blades though I have never had an issue with that. The 11 is also the most widely available.
These are the ones I use and I buy them by the 100. Non sterile are cheaper and packaged in in 5’s. Sterile are more expensive but come individually wrapped.

10a Surgical

Not to be confused with the 10 (which has a rounded blade) the 10a is the middle ground between the 11 ACM and 11 Surgical. It has the point of the ACM but does offer flexibility. It wasn’t one I particularly got on with though perhaps because I never got on with the ACM for the main cutting. Due to the shape of the base to the blade it can be slightly more problematic to find a knife that will fit these blades after the flat surgical handles, however the Fiskars soft grip holds these well.

15a Surgical

A nice short, pointy blade. If you are particularly into detail and find a longer blade a but unruly then this is probably the best choice of blade for you. Because of the length it doesn’t have the same flexibility as the other surgical blades but offers a lot of control without the thickness of the ACM blade. These can be slightly harder to source though and as with the 10/10a the 15 is rounded so make sure you are looking at a 15a.

Swivel

This is the blade I use the most after the 11 a swivel blade uses it’s own type of handle (though I have not seen any particular make/model that is different so x-acto, x-cut, fiskars, jakar all use the same blade in their handles.) These are fantastic for curves though I wouldn’t recommend using them on a glass cutting mat as they do have a tendency to run away on those. Using a self heal you can easily cut beautiful curves in one smooth motion rather than with a fixed blade where you have to turn the cut to continue on the curve.

As with anything personal preference, your style of cutting and your style of design will all play a part in the blade you ultimately go for. There are also many other types of blades out there. Rounded blades do also have an advantage in that you are able to rock them over a line so for thicker paper or layers of paper they can be very useful.

160gsm Hammered – Paper Panda

This is THE Panda paper the one Louise herself uses so it was one that had to be tried right?

This is one of the few hammered papers that comes in different colours and there are 48 colours available. I got my hands on the 20 sheet multicolour mix. The texture is quite even I’m still not 100% sure I printed on the right side. I prefer the look of the side I printed on but the texture is clearly on the side I left as the front.

Printing

paper panda 160gsm hammeredSilly easy on the lighter colours it’s thick so no problems with the ink showing through but caution on the darker colours because it is double sided so it isn’t going to be easy to see print on the black.

Drawing

Very easy to draw on, take your preferred pencil and draw away, a softer pencil for the darker colours would be more visible.

Cutting

Yes it is harder going but arguably it does slow you down so you don’t run away with yourself when cutting. I found curves difficult to get first time but the paper allowed for corrections to be made. So long as you have gone through the paper the cuts are very clean.

Blades

You will go through blades faster, it’s heavier paper but it isn’t beyond the realms of what you would expect and I did get a fair bit done with one blade.

Price

It’s not cheap at £3.30 for 5 sheets, but if this is the paper for you 66p per sheet isn’t completely outrageous.

Conclusion

I can see why panda uses it, when doing smaller pieces the rigidity does help and you can fit numerous smaller cuts on one sheet which will even out the costs. It does take some getting used to though. For those that have the starter kits it’s pretty much all you will know and it probably helps with the learning curve.

You can buy this paper here or here for larger packs of the white and cream

90GSM Centura Pearl – Paper Story

This paper is very high on my list of paper I like to use and has been since I first began using it only a few weeks into my papercutting adventures.

Centura Pearl is a beautiful pearlescent finish paper that is single sided. If you want a single sided black paper this is the one I would point you to.

There are 10 colours available from light baby pink, blue and purple, lovely teals through to chocolate, deep purple and black.

Printing

The paper is single sided so no need to be too heavy on the ink. Very little will show through on the darker colours if you are but if you are using a lighter colour you will need to make sure the print is lighter.

Drawing

On the lighter colours I wouldn’t recommend a really soft pencil as it might show through but the white side on the back is fine for drawing with most pencils. Though I would be wary of pressing too hard with a hard pencil as you could indent the paper.

Cutting

This paper is beautiful to cut. For a light weight paper it holds it’s structure really well and is great for lots of detail cutting, it handles curves wonderfully. Don’t be put of by the low GSM even if you are used to heavier weight papers.

Blades

Blades usage is normal, it’s a light weight paper so it’s expected to not be too heavy on the blades.

Price

£1.50 for 10 sheets so works out as 15p/sheet.

Conclusion

One concern about single sided paper is the white from the back showing through once you turn the cut over, which is especially devastating with black paper. I have never had this happen. The finish is amazing and you can tell you are looking at a paper cut and not a print.

Top paper and highly recommended.

You can buy this paper here

Relaxing Patterns and Mandala Designs

relaxing patterns and mandala designs by lilt kidsI was sent this book from Lilt Kids to review. All I had seen was the cover and I eagerly awaited the delivery coming over from America.

Lilt kids are an independent publisher, something that I thought was good to see, no major cooperation. All their colouring books are quite cheap (£2 to £4)

Here’s a quote from their website

THANKS FOR STOPPING BY..

and supporting a small, independent business like Lilt Kids Coloring Books. All our coloring books are made right here in the USA by talented artists and printed on the highest quality paper with beautiful, bright covers. Should you ever have any kind of problem with an order or just a question for us, we have great customer service: just email

Sounds very exciting doesn’t it…

the internal cover of relaxing patterns and mandala designsThen the book arrived

Truthfully I was disappointed. Firstly The cover of this book appealed to me the most out of the small selection I was shown to choose from, after looking at their site with the book in my hand I see three other books at least with the same cover, just different titles. The one thing I had to go on to choose a book and it wasn’t unique, nor was it anywhere in the book. The Amazon page also said that there were 40 pages in the book, there were only 22 design pages, 24 if you count the small images in the title page and the back page. Yes it’s over 40 pages if you count the blank back side of every design but I think that’s stretching things a little.

showing the quality of the line work within the bookThe Artwork

Something else that didn’t meet my expectation. It is just my opinion but I don’t expect thick lines in an adult colouring book, the thinnest lines are at least 1mm thick. Now this could be seen as a benefit for those using art therapy who have motor function problems so I’m not going to rule things out just because the line thickness isn’t to my liking.

Looking at the images again on most of them the lines aren’t smooth, and there are areas, on the mandalas especially, where you can tell images have been joined together to create the design.

So, I’m disappointed again.

The Paper

It’s about 100gsm and very lightly textured. Nothing like any of the other colouring books I own . It’s somewhere in between the paper from Zen Colouring and Relax with Art so maybe it wouldn’t be that bad to colour on.

The book is printed single sided though so at least any media goes.

stabilo colour testOnto Colouring

I tried three different media in this book. Firstly Stabilo Pen 68, my all rounder pens because there aren’t many books out there there these can’t be used in. I chose to do the first page and went with a pallet of yellows, oranges and reds. They worked rather well.

The first image took me less than an hour to colour. I didn’t really get the satisfaction from the colouring that I would on pages I spend hours or even days on, but it was nice to do something a bit quicker.

promarkers colour testOnto the second and I went with my promarkers and a purple/blue combination, while it was possible to colour with them on the paper (sheet of card under the page required) it did seem to really suck the ink in. This is where I was perhaps thankful the lines in the artwork were quite thick as the colour really did spread (even with the thick lines though the first bit of colour I added did go over.) The other thing I noticed was that the colours became rather muted, the usual vibrancy of the colours was dulled and that was a little disheartening as the final image didn’t end up as I had planned it.

example of using inktense in the bookI spent about an hour and a half on that one.

Finally I got my inktense pencils out and went with reds and greens as you can see I didn’t finish this one, the coloured pencil didn’t really go well on the page and while the water wash looked good to begin with, once it dried though it looked awful and I had a rather wrinkly page.

I didn’t want to finish it, and this is the only time I have ever left an image unfinished.

A Second Opinion

I decided to get a second opinion on the book, I showed it to my 8 year old son. He did think it looked “pretty cool.” So now the book is his, though he hasn’t actually done any colouring yet.

In Conclusion

Pretty disappointing if you are a more advanced colourist, though I will give credit that these might be a good, inexpensive, introduction to colouring for anyone that wants to embark on art therapy but is either daunted by the detail of some books or needs the thicker lines to compensate for motor function problems. They are probably better for children wanting different types of designs.

A children’s book billed for adults.

If the book does interest you though I would say you would be better off using water based pens over any other media as they do give the best colour results.

Did I just get very unlucky with my choice of book, has anyone else tried books from this publisher?

160GSM Ivory Linen – Paper Story

When I first started cutting I used 160gsm paper, I thought that it would be easier. The last time I tried to cut Rosie on 160 I gave up because it had become hard work to get through the thickness of the paper. I had also thought 160 was not the best option for small details. Thinner linen papers I have tried have felt horrible to cut and barely had any texture to them, this one does have a gorgeous texture.

Printing

Ivory Linen 160Printing it will hold even pure black without showing through, light colours are easily visible though so save the ink and print light. Being a thicker paper it had no difficulties going through the printer so no worries there if you have a printer that doesn’t like heavier weight paper.

Drawing

No sheen so just like drawing on normal drawing paper for pencil choice. Don’t go too hard though or you could end up adding more texture to the page.

Cutting

For a heavy weight paper it doesn’t “feel” as thick as some of the others I have tried. Cutting the detail was more difficult than lighter weight paper, but it was workable, the larger sections in the tail though were lovely to cut and I barely noticed at that point that it was a thicker paper.

The texture doesn’t get in the way at all, so no worries with snagging on the curves but take your time with large curves to make sure you get it right with the extra pressure involved.

Somewhere I did slice through a line while cutting, it took me a while of poking to figure out where it was so the paper is very forgiving on slight mishaps making it good for newer cutters.

Blades

Blades, when working on detail blade use is going to be high but on larger areas it’s surprisingly good on blade usage quite unlike what you would expect for this weight of paper.

Price

£1.95 for 10 sheets so works out as around 19p/sheet.

Conclusion

Once you turn it over any small areas you may have had issues with become very worth it. If you are doing wedding invite cuts use this paper. Anything that suits texture will look fantastic on this. Paper story themselves recommend it for typographical cuts and I can see why. If you are working on lots of details this probably isn’t the best choice but for the finish it can be worth persevering with the challenge just to have the amazing texture.

You can buy this paper on Paper Story’s website here.

110GSM White – Paper Story

Another from Paper Story. I normally cut on 100gsm so this is the closest to what I am used to. The paper is flat with a pearlescent sheen to it and is also available in ivory.

White 110

Printing

When printing very light grey is best, no trouble seeing even the lightest colours, of course you can go a little darker if you are printing flat but for floating go as light as you can see.

Drawing

As like other pearlescent papers, don’t go to soft with your pencil choice or it will smudge though this will take up to a 4B before going smudgy. 2H max if you prefer harder pencils.

Cutting

Very easy going on the details and larger areas. It handles curves beautifully and glides over the mat as you move the paper around. Very few fluffy bits, even if you go for too long with a blade but you will see a difference.

Blades

Blade use is good, totally what you would expect from this weight of paper. 15-20 minutes.

Price

10 sheets for £1

Conclusion

A lovely light weight paper. Due to the weight probably not one for new cutters as if you do go a little further into a corner on a cut it will be visible. Highly recommended to those that prefer lighter papers. It has a good structure if you are more used to heavier weights though so don’t let that put you off.

You can buy this paper here

 

120GSM Bersan – Paper Story

This paper feels lovely, Available in White or Cream. Paper Story teamed up with PayperBox to offer this paper and it’s worth noting that the Bersan is a range of charitable products which Payper Box donate 5% of their sales to cancer charities.
I think this paper would be perfect for wedding cuts, there is an opalescent shine to it rather than being “in your face” shiny.

Printing

Bersan 120Printing in pure black will result in some of the ink showing through even when flat, medium greys are fine if you are flat mounting but go light if you plan to float.

Drawing

HB or at the softest 2B, anything softer is likely to smudge harder and you will have the drawing showing through.

Cutting

When cutting it does feel heavier than it is, I would say it feels more like 140gsm to the blade though to the touch it is clearly 120gsm. It does mean that it isn’t as good at handling small detail as you would expect but it does still perform well if you plan which section to cut first properly.

The layers in this paper can separate if you are not careful, check you have cut all the way through, though it is easy to see where you have cut. Because of this the paper can be prone to the occasional fluffy bit, they are easy to remove though with a fresh blade.

As an advantage though once the details are cut and the paper removed everything still holds well.

Blades

Reasonable blade usage, especially considering it feels thicker to the blade. 20-25 minutes on regular cutting but 15 on the details because I was changing just before the drag to avoid the paper fluffing. I may have been able to have got slightly longer though.

Price

10 Sheets are £1.50 making it 15p per sheet. Reasonably priced for the finish and remember some of that cost also goes to charity so even more worth it.

Conclusion

On the flip, it’s worth it. A clean finish on a beautiful looking paper.

I wouldn’t recommend this paper to a new cutter, because of how the paper can behave if you don’t change the blade at the right time. Though for those with more experience at knowing when you feel the drag you can easily handle the paper. If you’re after a paper that behaves like a heavy weight but less work and easier on the blade usage then this is what you should be using.

Buy the paper here.

How to: Typography for Templates Part Two

Last time we wrote a beautiful word just by transforming our own handwriting but it needed a little more work to make it into a cut-able piece of typography.

I’ve redrawn the text to make it slightly larger than how I was working last time but kept the same style so we can start to make a few adaptations to bring it all together.

wpid-wp-1427123034293.jpegJoin up the writing by simply extending the ends of the letters to meet up with the one after. The e and the two l’s all have easy lines to extend on them and they are the only ones needed to be adapted for the moment.

Next because the H is floating on it’s own we need a way to join it to the rest of the word, a decorative swirl is simple and effective. Using the same techniques as we used to create the letters (thicker on the down strokes) the swirl is created by drawing an expanded figure of 8 type of line.

wpid-wp-1427123350970.jpegWhen creating the swirl make sure it connects the H and e, I have also made the first loop bridge between the second l and the o to add more stability. A teardrop is added to terminate the bottom of the line.

Next, in the name of stability I have extended the flicks on the top of the l’s this provides another bridge so the H isn’t just held on by the swirl at the bottom. Since we can’t do that to just one the second l is joined to the first. (There is no photo of this stage, it was an after thought.)

What we had was perfectly workable for a paper cut, but to even out the designwpid-wp-1427123450494.jpeg there needed to be something around the top of the o, I have drawn in a simple flower, though you could use a star, a heart or any other basic shape.

Next all that is left is to ink the design so you have a final you can use to create a template. I always keep my original drawing as is once it is finished.

We will look at different ways of turning an original drawings into templates another time as this one was fairly quick I used tracing paper to transfer the design “flipped” onto the cutting paper.wpid-wp-1427123861612.jpeg

Since this is the end of the section on how to make your own typography for papercutting templates, here is the final cut, remember we only started with our normal handwriting and transformed it into beautiful typography.

These methods can be applied to everything, next time you are writing a birthday card why not try using these techniques there, or even in your art journal.

It would be great to see what your typography ends up looking like, if you want a different base why not ask your partner/parent/sibling/child/fourth cousin, twice removed to write the starting word and build up from there.

Have fun creating.