How To Cut Japanese Washi Without Tearing

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Best Ways to Prevent Tearing & Fraying of Delicate Japanese Papers

japanese paper

Japanese pearlized, chiyogami, and tissue papers have a soft, almost cloth like feel. Though these delicate papers make for some lovely designs, they are not always so lovely to cut, often fraying and tearing under the duress of a blade.

Fortunately there are some tips and tricks for getting sharp, crisp cuts on delicate Japanese papers though, which we are happy to share below!

Always Use a New, Sharp Blade

As with any specialty paper, thick or thin, you will get the sharpest cuts on Japanese paper using a new, very sharp blade. No matter what type of paper cutting tool you are using, the sharper the blade, the less pressure you have to apply to the paper, and the less likely the paper is to get snagged or torn.

Think of it like shaving – dull blades can wreak havoc!

examples of sharp blade and dull blade cutting japanese paper

Try a Rotary Trimmer or Fresh Exacto Knife Over a Paper Trimmer

There are many different types of paper cutting tools out there, all varying in what they are best suited for.

tissue paper cut with exacto knife

When it comes to getting sharp, precise cuts on delicate Japanese papers we have had the most success with new, fresh exacto knives and rotary trimmers.

Exacto Knife
Exacto knives work well because they have very thin, very sharp blades (when new).

Rotary Trimmer
Unlike a standard paper craft trimmer which has a small triangular blade that is dragged through the paper, a rotary trimmer has a circular blade which applies smooth, even pressure as it rolls over the paper. As a result, a rotary trimmer is much less likely to cause tearing and fraying. Again, make sure that rotary blade is new and sharp!

japanese paper sandwiched between card stock

Sandwich the Paper Between Card Stock

A surefire trick is to sandwich the Japanese paper between two pieces of card stock. No matter which type of cutter you are using, this deflects the blade pressure from the light weight Japanese sheet the card stock, preventing fraying.

If you are using a guillotine cutter such as the one shown here, sandwiching in card stock is highly recommended, particularly to avoid tearing at the tail end of the cut.

Punching the Papers? Use the Same Trick!
If you are punching holes or shapes in your Japanese papers, use the same sandwich trick (but with lighter weight text paper, for ease of punching) to prevent frayed edges.

Use a High End Cutter

Like with anything else, you typically get what you pay for. If you are using a very low end craft cutter, your cuts may simply not be as precise and crisp as they would be with a higher quality one, regardless of how sharp your blade is and how meticulous you are being.

Our recommendation? You don’t have to buy the most expensive, top of the line industrial cutter out there, but we don’t recommend going with the cheapest either. Accompanied with the tips above, you should be able to cut delicate Japanese papers with a perfect edge and like a pro!

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  1. Sarah says:

    Hi. I’m having problems cutting the pearlized japanese paper with a paper trimmer similar to one shown in number 1. Is there anything I can do to get a clean edge? The trimmer itself is pretty new and still seems sharp. Thanks!

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Sarah,

      I have found two ways to remedy “paper snag” when using a paper trimmer.

      1) You can try applying pressure to the blade and rail and running it along the paper faster.
      2) You can place a piece of cardboard or cardstock over the paper, however, just keep in mind that this will dull your blade faster.

      Although your blade is fairly new, it might need to be changed, depending on what you cut with it previously. Unfortunately the blades on paper trimmers do not seem to last very long in my experience!

  2. Ara says:

    Hi, Can japanese tissue paper be folded continually like in a fan that opens and closes without tearing eventually?

    • Kristen says:

      Hi Ara,

      Like all Japanese paper, Japanese tissue paper is quite durable. It would withstand continuous folding, though where it has a thin, almost cloth-like feel, I don’t believe it would be able to retain a fan shape.