If you're having trouble getting clean paper cuts on your cutting machine, you're not alone. I've been using Cricut and Silhouette cutting machines for over 10 years, and I know how challenging it can be to get those highly detailed pieces to cut cleanly. In this post, I'm going to share three reasons why you may be getting torn, incomplete, or ripped paper cuts from your cutting machine and how to solve them.

Reason #1: The blade isn't sharp or has a nick

You may be getting torn or incomplete cuts because your blade isn't sharp. Or the blade may have a nick. Even a new blade can get a nick in it, so it's worth checking even if the blade has been changed recently. Another blade issue is little bits of paper interfering with the blade. Usually, I get these little bits of stuck paper when the settings weren't quite right and the blade dragged through the paper on a previous detailed cut.

Reason # 2: The mat isn't sticky enough

You may be getting torn or incomplete cuts because the mat isn't sticky enough. Mats are expensive, so I try to get as many cuts as possible from every mat. But I’ve wasted a lot of paper because I didn’t want to use that new mat. 

There are a few reasons used mats have issues. For one, the mat isn't sticky enough. Using a brayer or some other tool to adhere the paper to the mat can help if your mat is no longer new but still kind of sticky. Secondly, the mat can have little bits of paper from previous projects stuck to it. It's hard to get every piece off the mat if you're cutting details pieces or maybe you had a material that didn't come off the mat cleanly. A scraper can help remove the small bits from the mat. And third, there are a lot of cuts on the mat. Every time you cut a piece, the blade is cutting into the mat a little bit. Especially if the blade pressure is higher than it needs to be. Eventually, those little cuts create a bumpy surface for the blade that can interfere with a clean cut on the next project.

Reason #3: The settings are not the best choice for your paper

You may be getting torn or incomplete cuts because the settings are not the best choice for your paper. In my experience, the machine's default settings for the substrate are not always the best choice. For example, for most projects, I use lightweight 65lb card stock. But on Cricut, if I use the lightweight card stock setting, it doesn't always cleanly cut through the entire design. So I use the medium weight setting when cutting lightweight card stock. 

Another setting I use when cutting detailed paper shapes on Cricut is the “cardstock for intricate cuts” setting.  You can find it under materials. Just search for cardstock. If you look at the material settings in Design Space, the intricate cuts setting is 182 cut pressure with 2 cuts vs 273 cut pressure and a single cut for medium card stock. This is the same approach I use for Silhouette — lighter pressure, but double cut. I almost always double cut on the Silhouette even for less detailed pieces. The cut takes longer, but I’ve wasted less paper due to poor cuts. 

If your blade is dragging through a material, lessen the pressure. The natural tendency if the entire shape isn’t cutting is to add pressure, but when the blade is dragging it could be because it’s going too deep into the material.

You may need to experiment with the settings to find what works best for the brand and weight of paper. And whether you use a Cricut or a Silhouette, you can customize the settings.

Paper quality could impact cut quality

One more bit of advice — some paper cuts better than others. The brand and quality of the paper can impact how well it cuts. I use a lot of the Recollection card stock that can be found at Michaels. Most of what they offer is the 65lb lightweight card stock and it works really well for me. Another brand of paper that I really like is French Paper Company, but it is pricier. I use that when it makes sense to order in bulk. For example, the white paper I use is their “whipped cream” color. French Paper Company also offers colors in multiple weights. I also really like Astrobrights, both the card stock and text-weight paper. 

Getting clean cuts on your cutting machine can be a challenge, but making sure your blade is sharp, your mat is sticky enough, and your settings are the best choice for your paper, will help ensure you get a quality cut.

January 15, 2023 — Heather Grimstead