Tips for Choosing the Right Paper Cutter for Your Project
Many of our customers are interested in cutting their own paper for DIY invitations or other paper craft projects, but aren't sure which type of cutting tool is best for the job - and understandably so. If you're in the market for a cutting tool but don't know just what you need, a trip down the paper tools aisle of your local craft store can be pretty daunting.
There are a lot of tools out there - brands, styles, sizes, uses, and price ranges galore! So in this sea of seemingly endless possibilities, which one is right for you? Much like with anything else, it varies with your specific project, the types of papers you plan on working with, your price range, and your personal preference. Since we can not give you a cut and dry answer to the question, "which tool is best for cutting your specialty papers?" we'll give you the next best thing - all the information you need to make an informed decision.
Although there are hundreds of paper cutting tools out there, fortunately they can be grouped into five basic styles - all of which our in-house paper gurus have tried. When it comes to cutting paper, they know their stuff, so we picked their brains for facts, opinions, preferences, and experiences working with these styles, and compiled it all for you, right here.
Before you go wandering through your local paper tool depot, take the time to read this. We think you'll find it very helpful!
1. Starting with the Basics - Scissors
The first tool you ever cut paper with in preschool, the tool for cutting coupons, that handy tool sitting right there in your junk drawer - scissors are often the first tool that comes to mind when you think about cutting paper. Sure, they're simple, but they do the trick, right?
Handheld cutting instrument that consists of two blades laid on top of one another, fastened in the middle. Straight and patterned edge blades are available. Need we say more?
How it Works
For this tool, we won't insult you with an explanation.
- You already have a pair (we're assuming)
- You're comfortable using them. No learning required
- Easy to maneuver when cutting funky shapes in paper
- They're quick & handy
- Very difficult to make straight, accurate cuts with (unless you have super-human hand steadiness)
- Can cut just one piece of paper at a time
- No built in measurement tool
- May cause hand cramping and hand dents after extended use. Just saying.
In Summary - Precision Cuts No, Funky Shapes & Patterns, Yes.
If you are looking to cut your wedding invitation cards or decorative layers from 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper, steer clear of scissors. Your card will probably be crooked and will probably look bad. However, if it's a funky shape you want to add to your card or paper craft - flowers, zig zag bands, paper snowflake, what have you - scissors, particularly pattered blade scissors, may be just the tool for you!
2. Still Quite Basic - the Exacto (X-Acto) Knife
Probably also found somewhere in that junk drawer, an exacto knife, typically accompanied with its buddy the straight edge ruler, is another basic, but popular paper cutting utensil for paper crafters.
Handheld cutting instrument that consists of a single, super thin, super sharp blade. Available in a variety of sizes and styles.
How it Works
Consisting of just a single blade, exacto knives are most commonly guided along a ruler or other straight edge to cut paper. They can also be used free hand to cut shapes in paper, should you have serious skill. Don't forget to put your cutting mat down first!
- You probably already have one on hand
- Quick and convenient
- Precise, crisp cuts when accompanied with a straight edge (that remains straight and flush with the edge of the paper)
- Thin, sharp blade is great for tight corners and intricate shapes
- Takes up practically no space. It can hang out with your pens and pencils.
- Can only cut a single sheet of paper at a time
- If your straight edge is held crooked, your cut is crooked
- Takes a bit of practice and dexterity to master the exacto
- No built in measurement mechanism
- It hurts really bad if you cut or stab your hand with an exacto knife. May cause cursing.
Summary - Great for Quick, Precise Cuts & Specialty Cuts, Not a Huge Project
If you are good with an exacto knife, it offers precise, super sharp cuts, making it a great tool for straight edges and intricate shapes. It's also a convenient tool to have on hand for quick or specialty cuts. However, this is probably not a tool that you would want to use to cut 150 invitation layers with unless you have a lot of time on your hands.
3. Getting Fancy - Paper Craft Trimmer
Here's where we get into the good stuff paper crafters - the tools that were made specifically for cutting straight lines on paper! Here we start with the most basic, a simple paper craft trimmer.
Paper craft trimmers consist of a small, single, triangular blade that is guided along a track. They typically have built in cutting mats, measurement units, and swing out arms to ensure paper remains straight and cuts are accurate. They're available in a large range of sizes from 6 to 24 inches, prices increasing with size and additional features.
How it Works
Paper is placed beneath the blade track, and sliced when the blade is run through it.
- Convenient built in measurement
- Straight accurate cuts
- Portable and lightweight
- Quick and handy
- Can cut just 1-2 sheets at a time, depending on thickness of paper
- Frequent blade change, particularly when cutting thick card stock
- Dull blade may cause paper tearing and fraying, particularly in papers with cloth like qualities, such as Japanese chiyogami and tissue papers.
To Sum it Up - Handy & Versatile!
Paper trimmers are a great, versatile tool for all sorts of paper crafts. Designed with straight, accurate cuts in mind, this tool is perfect for invitation cards and layers, photos and scrapbooking, greeting cards, etc. Since they're lightweight and portable, they are a convenient, non-burdensome tool to have on hand. Their downfall is that they cut just 1-2 sheets at a time and require frequent blade change, so if you are cutting large amounts of paper on a regular basis, they may not be ideal.
4. Along the Same Lines, Only Better - A Rotary Paper Trimmer
A step up from a paper trimmer, we have a rotary paper trimmer!
Like a standard paper trimmer, a rotary paper trimmer consists of a blade track, built in rulers, a cutting mat, and a swing out arm for straight, accurate cuts. What's different about a rotary paper trimmer is the blade. Instead of a small triangular blade, a rotary trimmer consists of a rolling circular blade - like a pizza cutter on a track. This style tool is available in a variety of sizes and with interchangeable blades (scoring, perforating, etc.), prices varying with size and features.
How it Works
To cut paper with a rotary trimmer, place it beneath the track and roll the blade through it.
- Built in measurement
- Straight, accurate cuts
- Clean cuts with sharp blade - no paper tearing or fanning due to rolling blade
- Fewer blade changes than standard paper trimmer
- Can cut through more than 1 sheet of paper at a time
- Blade changes available - scoring, perforating, deckle, etc. - for a variety of projects
- Prices generally run higher than standard paper trimmers
In Conclusion - They're Great!
Most paper crafters that you talk to will say a good rotary trimmer is a must have. With the option for straight, precise, sharp cuts and a multitude of blades to swap in and out for various projects and looks, rotary trimmers are diverse and great for invitations, cards, scrapbooks, and more! It is also light in weight, so is not too cumbersome to keep around the house. It's only downfall is that it runs a bit more expensive than a standard paper trimmer, but with less blade changes and lack of paper tearing and fanning, you might find the price is well worth it!
5. Finally. . . The Speedy Guillotine Cutter
Our last style of cutter is a guillotine cutter, also known as a bypass blade cutter. With a no-change blade and the ability to cut 4-5 sheets at a time, this guy is designed for the serious, frequent paper cutter.
Guillotine cutters are heavy duty cutters with one large, single arm blade that runs along the length of the edge. Guillotines are a little heavier in weight than paper trimmers, are available in a large variety of sizes from 12 inches and up, and are the priciest of the home paper cutting tools.
How it Works
A guillotine cutter cuts paper in the same way a guillotine would cut off a head - crass, though the best comparison. With the arm/blade in a full upright position, the paper is placed on the cutting mat, then swiftly brought down to slice the paper.
- Built in measurement
- Straight, accurate cuts
- Quick! Can place 4-5 sheets on the cutter at a time (depending on thickness)
- No blade replacement - low maintenance
- Pricier than trimmer style cutters
- Takes up more space than trimmers
- Paper tearing can occur at bottom of cut if blade is brought down too slowly or if too much paper is in cutter
Overall Best in Speed!
Guillotine cutters - they don't make funky shapes and fancy borders, but they cut well, and they cut fast! With no frills, just the option to quickly cut several sheets down to just the size you want, guillotines are lean, mean, card sitting machines. Though they are priced a bit higher and are larger in size than the average paper trimmer, if it's several crisp cuts in little time that you're after, the guillotine is for you!