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?

Converting a Tysslinge Frame

The Tysslinge frame from ikea is a lovely tiny frame which is great as it is but it can also be easily converted into a box frame at a low cost with no real specialist skills or materials needed. I use them for both front floating miniature papercuts and for putting pieces of glass work in or even for putting glass work and papercut together.

You will need

Note

You will need to have whatever is going in the frame ready as this method does seal the frame up. I prefer to cut the foam board as it is needed rather than have pieces floating around but if pre-cutting would suit you better then just get the measurements and start cutting

The Method

The process is quite simple, to begin with, using your craft knife cut 4 pieces of foam board the first at 7.7cmx2.5cm two pieces at 8.2cmx2.5cm and the final piece at 6.7cmx2.5cm . I have found the easiest way to cut the foam board is to use a craft knife with a 11acm blade as it is fairly sturdy, two cuts along each line, one to score into the foam board and one to complete the cut. Use a self healing mat rather than glass as the foamboard can slip easily on glass.

Assemble the frame. (glass left out in this for ease of photography) After placing in the glass and anything else you need at the front of the frame. (mount, acetate, etc.) Starting with the 7.7cm length piece of foam board add it to one of the sides of the frame, don’t just push it down the side as this will jam the pin into the foam board which we don’t want.

Next add the two 8.2cm pieces to both the top and the bottom of the frame.

Finally add the smallest piece of foam board to the other side, again taking care not to jam it on the pin.

Assemble the back of your frame by putting on any backing paper, mounts etc then lay the card frame backing to the frame. Use framers tape to stick down the backing and secure your frame.

I put the tape on like this then use a craft knife to trim the excess from the front side after placing each strip of tape.

Once all 4 sides have been sealed your frame is finished. (not pictured as this frame didn’t include anything.)
Finish off the back of the frame with things like your logo or a designers credit sticker if you are using it for papercuts from purchased templates.

This method can be used with any sized frame that has a deep back, though on larger frames framers tape may not be enough to hold the back of the frame in place. Using push points allows for a more secure backing.

Now you know how to convert the frame have fun deciding what you are going to put in them. There really isn’t a limit to what you can do, they make excellent small memory boxes for little gifts. These frames do sell out fast though, so be aware there may not be many in stock.

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below.

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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

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.

Safe Disposal of Blades

I really can’t stress enough that when you are done with your blades they must be disposed of safely, in most places blades are destroyed by incineration as this is the safest way to ensure they don’t damage anyone or anything in the environment.

Safe Disposal

Mostly the type of blades used are surgical so logically you should dispose of them just like any other surgical type of equipment. Here in the UK we have Sharps Boxes which are available from doctors or pharmacies at a very low cost. (The smallest box would last you years.) Once full the box is designed to be impossible to open once sealed.
When ready for disposal the box should be labelled as craft blades – non medical waste so it is known that your box does not contain any sort of contamination. Then usually it can be returned to your doctor or pharmacy and they will ensure it is disposed of correctly.

However in some areas they state they cannot take the box (and will not allow you to have one) unless it is for medical waste only so please be clear when you request one.

Some councils will allow you to seal your blades in a container that can not be broken label it as craft blades and be collected with your normal domestic waste, if you are a business this will go with your business waste and not household.

Please always check with your local council or environmental agency how you should be disposing of your blades. If neither the pharmacy, your doctor or the council will take your used blades contact a waste contractor, they will charge you a fee but it is imperative that blades are disposed of correctly.

Be Safe at Home

Whatever method you need to use when it comes to disposal you also need to make sure all these used blades don’t end up all over your house. They may not be any good for paper cutting but they are still very sharp.

As a sharps box cannot be closed properly without permanently sealing it, it is possible for it to be knocked over and blades can spill. Make sure you keep it in a safe place where it is unlikely to be at risk of being knocked, either from children, pets or clumsy spouses.

Money tins that require a tin opener to access are also a favourite as the blades cannot “escape.” Jars can be used but aren’t ideal as glass can be broken if dropped or especially when placed in with domestic waste if you have that option.

It is best to assess the personal risk in your home, if you are the only one in the house there is far less chance of any problems arising from how you store your used blades, for those of you with children remember that some places that may seem inaccessible actually are when you have a toddler with enough determination.  For really inquisitive children perhaps a lockable unit (key not a child lock) or tool box is the best option.

However you store your used blades it may be best to test the method before filling it with blades.

Be safe and enjoy your craft.