Papercutting Techniques

What are the different paper weights, what the flip is gsm paper weight and what paper weight is best for papercutting?

Ok sweet cheeks, I’ll attempt to explain the best paper weight to use for paper cutting and get you choosing different paper weights like a pro.

What is gsm?

GSM is an acronym for ‘grams per square metre’ and it simply means the weight in grams of 1 sheet  1m x 1m paper or card. So as you would imagine, the heavier the weight or gsm the thicker the paper or card stock. The lower the weight or gsm, the lighter the paper or card stock.

Heavy heavy heavy gsm

300gsm and over is classed as heavyweight card and usually used for business cards, you know the lovely thick ones that are hard to bend. Yeah? That’s the hefty weight and you do NOT what to be papercutting this! You’ll seriously be hurting your fingers and most probably go through a zillion scalpel blades.

240gsm – 290gsm is still quite a thicko, usually used for greeting cards, invitations, menus. There is a time and a place for such weighty stock and it’s not papercutting.

Medium gsm

Anything from 190gsm to 230gsm is classed as medium weight and is usually used for certificates if that helps you imagine it, and greeting cards and gift tags.

180gsm is a lighter card stock and it is possible to cut this card with a scalpel to create greetings cards. It can be a bit hard on the fingers and you’ll need a super sharp scalpel blade. You also need to keep the designs relatively simple and not too intricate if you’re cutting this weight by hand. Don’t say I didn’t warn you?

140gsm – 170gsm in my opinion is a bit BLEUGH. It is too thick to be paper, too thin to be of any use as card. So for papercutting purposes it is best you move on, yeah?

The holy grail of gsm paper weights

135gsm – some of my gorgeous luxurious G.F Smith paper colours are only available in 135gsm, so this is one of the main reasons I say this weight. It’s still a teeeny bit thick but it means the papercut is a little bit more robust when finished. And you are able to cut intricate designs even at this weight. Mmmmmm paper.

120gsm – 100gsm – Ooooh now we’re talking. My scalpel fingers get twitchy just thinking about cutting this weight. One of my favourite papers to cut is 100gsm (flecked cream recycled, fact fans) and the scalpel slides through like a hot knife through butter. It’s also the weight of a slightly posher every day printer paper, you know, all silky smooth. Usually called ‘satin’.

90gsm – Ok we’re getting a bit thin now, it is still possible to papercut with.

Bloody lightweights

80gsm to 70gsm –  this is your bog standard every day printer paper weight. It’s flimsy af and can tear easily. At a push you could use this for practising your papercutting or printing out your practise sheets, but it’s not ideal to create a papercut from. If this is all you have, however, it’ll do.

55gsm to 35gsm – Well hello flimsy! This is the sort of weight your chippy chips are wrapped in (back in the olden days) or the weight of paper newspapers are printed on. And we all know how easily that tears eh?

35gsm to 10gsm – The thinnest of all is of course tissue paper. Now I bloody love tissue paper. I have a stack of gorgeous yellow tissue paper I wrap my finished framed papercuts in, but for papercutting? forget it, daddio!

In summary

If Goldilocks was choosing paper to do a papercut instead of stealing porridge and breaking chairs, then I would show her the following:

TOO THIN – 35gsm to 80gsm

TOO THICK – 140gsm and above

JUUUUST RIGHT – 100gsm to 135gsm

I hope that has helped you in choosing the perfect weight of paper for your papercutting project. I wish I could write a little rhyme for you to remember the weights but even I’m not that sad.

“So when you want to papercut

without doing your nut,

pick one twenty paper weight

and it will feel just great!”

The Paper Song by Kyleigh

Ah ok turns out I am that sad.

I have bought paper from all of these in the past:

Whatever paper you choose, you’re going to need to do it justice with some lovely templates – I’ve got you coveres, check out these papercutting templates, available from £3 instantly downloadable.


What is GSM? how to choose the right weight of paper for your project

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to papercut or you’ve seen beautiful papercut templates and thought “hey, learning how to papercut looks so fun, I want to do that!” then read on dear friends.

I’ll tell you how to create a papercut to be proud of.

And let you into a little secret too… it’s not ALL about the final beautiful papercut artwork.

You’ve guessed it, it’s all about the journey.

Choose a gorgeous papercut template

Obvious really, but the best way to start is to find a papercut template that gets you excited to want to cut it. There’s no point cutting a free template that looks crud at the end, right?

And man there’s a HEAP of free templates out there, but if you love beautifully designed things (yeah I know this is you, sweetcheeks), then you might need to spend a few quid to invest in a well designed papercut template to be PROUD OF.

With 25+ years as a professional graphic designer/creative director and 10 years of award-winning papercut designs, I feel I can show off a little if you’ll indulge, so allow me to show you some of my beautiful designs:

Instant downloads from my website HERE

Instant downloads from my Etsy shop HERE

Print it out

When you checkout and buy you’ll be given access to the PDF templates which also include a handy practice sheet. So open them up in your PDF viewer (Adobe Acrobat Reader is free to download or if you’re on a mac you can use Open with Preview).

Load your printer with a few sheets of lovely A4 paper. A good paper to start with would be a satin/silk white with a weight of around 100 to 120gsm. So not your standard everyday printer paper which is usually 80gsm. I go into more detail about paper here.

The template and practice sheet are black and white so for you mono printer users – I’ve got your back! And don’t worry if you can’t print edge to edge – I’ve allowed for this with spacing around the edge.

Tool up

If you have learned how to papercut at one of my workshops, either at my shop or at a festival then grab your cutting mat and a scalpel and crack on!

The rest of you – if you are new to papercutting, read on:

You’ll need an A4 self-healing cutting mat. As the name suggests they ‘self heal’ when the knife goes into them so you don’t ruin your lovely dining table. you can get them at various places – HobbyCraft, Amazon, haberdashery shops etc. If you are keen to get cutting but don’t have a cutting mat,  you can use a bit of thick card, PLEASE do take care not to go through!

You’ll also need your favourite scalpel. You might have to try a number of different scalpels to find the right one for you. Here’s a pic of just a few of the scalpels I have to hand. As you can see they vary quite a bit but they aren’t hugely expensive and can be picked up at various places like HobbyCraft, The Range and places like that.

What scalpels do I use I hear you ask?

Well thanks for asking, I use a Fiskars Fingertip Swivel Knife and a Swann-Moreton 3 Handle with a 10A blade attached (you can buy them as a set). Both are pictured with the YES above. These are my two true loves. The swivel for tricky swirly bits, and the fixed blade for straight lines.

Cut it out

papercutting a blue template with a scalpelStart with the practice sheet and follow the instructions.

Always hold the scalpel as you would a pen, and cut towards you in a controlled manner.

Work your way through the practice sheet which will have different shapes to cut out depending on what template you went for.

When you’re feeling confident, then it is time to embark on your template.

Enjoy spending time in the moment and losing yourself in the mindfulness that is papercutting.

There will be instructions on your template – be sure to follow these and concentrate on your papercutting and you can’t go wrong. Everyone who comes on my workshops find out that it is THE most relaxing thing to do. They never want to stop!

Admire your finished papercut

When you’ve cut the last bit of paper from your papercut template, stop. Put your scalpel down. Admire.

I see it time and again with people that come to my papercutting workshops – folk just keep on cutting.

The thing is, they are bending over it, so close to it that their attention goes to  every imperfection, every little hairline of paper sticking out. They cut and trim and slice in an effort to make it perfectly perfect.

Our eyes are so used to seeing typography as perfectly perfect. The only way to create a papercut perfectly perfect is to a) practice until you are amazing at cutting perfectly perfect or b) machine cut it. Which we all know is cheating.

May advice to you is – if it is an obvious stray bit of paper that can easily (and carefully) sliced off then do it. But step AWAY from your papercut, you will never look at it up close when it is hanging on a wall.

Show it off a bit

There are various ways to show it off to make the most of your creation.

The BEST way would be to frame it between two bits of glass in a floating frame (hello Ikea! hello Matalan!) but PLEASE make sure you buy the correct size frame. If you’re in any doubt then measure the edges of your printed out template, and make sure your chosen frame has enough room around all the edges so it doesn’t look hemmed in. It needs room to breathe…

If you have a standard frame with a back then you can show off your papercut by mounting it onto coloured card or paper. You can do this by using a tiny glue dot on the back of your papercut, or a tiny bit of spraymount. Then you frame as usual.


By this time you’ll be slightly obsessed and you’ll NEED another template. I add new ones every month for your cutting pleasure…

If you want to challenge yourself then might I suggest ordering a personalised family tree template for you to cut? It comes with full colour photos of step-by-step instructions so it is like I’m guiding you through each and every cut.

Hungry for more? Come along to one of my workshops from my papecutting studio in Wimborne, Dorset

If you liked learning how to papercut, gimme a pin!


As I sit here on my 7th day of isolation, with all the pressures and worries we all have at this CRAZY ASS TIME, I thought I’d revisit my blog and teach YOU, dear reader, with the basics of papercutting. You with me gang?

Think of this as a mind download, a pensieve if you will, were I just PLOP a lot of ideas and musings I hope some of you will find useful.



I use two different types. A swivel scalpel for tiny details and curves, and a fixed blade scalpel for straight lines. I’ve found some one on Amazon (I’m hoping they’re still delivering, worth giving it a go) affiliate links below:

A Fiskars Fingertip Swivel Knife

A Swann-Moreton Scalpel and blades



It is important to cut into a self healing cutting mat. They can be cut onto time and time again without getting all sliced up. they ‘self heal’. I wish we all would eh?

A4 cutting mat

A3 cutting mat


nb. You don’t need both – but A3 is handy if you’re cutting big things. A4 is perfect for most of the templates available on my website or Etsy.



One of the main questions I get asked a lot if what paper to use for papercutting.

Paper is referred to by weight – ‘gsm’ or grams per square meter. It refers to the weight, so the higher the gsm, the thicker the paper.

The standard cheapy white printer paper we all have at home is generally 80 to 90gsm and is quite thin. This is FINE to use if you can’t get out of the house, fine for papercutting. But in an ideal world I would go a bit heavier.

  • 90gsm – standard every day printer paper, for black and white printing
  • 100gsm – standard every day colour printing. Ths is good for papercutting
  • 120gsm – Mmm now you’re talking. Get a satin for a smooth feel. Mmm. Smooth.
  • 135gsm – this is the thickest paper I use for papercutting. It might hurt after a while.
  • 150gsm – step AWAY. Too thick. It’ll really hurt your little fingies! seriously. Put it DOWN.


For white paper, I usually use Pro Design 100gsm, but I’ve found this on Amazon tonight

HP A4 100gsm Premium Choice Paper


Other than that, my absolute FAVE is beautiful G.F Smith paper oooof! gorgeous!

[EDIT] I’ve found this lovely ‘fill a box’ paper –

lots of lovely colours – just make sure to only pick paper that is between about 100-120gsm for maximum cutting pleasure!



You’ll notice I’ve started adding my designs as cut-at-home templates. I’m adding my back catologue of designs, I started yesterday so bear with! There’s two different types:

Ready-to-cut templates

My Ready To Cut templates are designed based on words, typography or lyrics and have no personalisation. They’re as you would expect ‘ready to cut’!

Personalised Templates

Personalised templates are designed especially for YOU, you lucky thing you. So you’ll find my family trees, anniversary/wedding trees as well as letters and names. If theres a design you’ve seen of mine you’d just ruddy well LOVE to cut get in touch – I’m isolating for 12 weeks! gotta keep me busy folks, eh?

There’s also a variety of designs over on my Etsy shop. There’s some on here that Etsy doesn’t yet have and vica versa. Bear with while I amalgamate the collections. (is amalgamate even the right word? I’m suddenly thinking this has something to do with metal fillings dentists do?)


Ok any questions?


How do I download templates from your website?

Here’s where this platform I use for my website isn’t being my friend. I can’t find a way to have them automatically download a PDF on ordering, so I’ll be personally emailing you your PDFs (1x practise sheet and 1x template) once you place your order. Bear with me as sometimes I’ll be in the shower, homeschooling the nipper, walking the dog and heating my spaghetti hoops, you know?


So what about Etsy? How do they work?

Etsy is a bit more FANCY than my website and when you place an order over there you automatically get an email to download your PDFs. Again, it’s a practise sheet and the template you ordered.


Why is there ony A, B and C letters available on Etsy, can I order a different letter?

Because I’ve not had the chance to add the rest yet. I will, I will. And yes you CAN order a different letter. Send me a message or convo via Etsy and I’ll sort you RIGHT out, yeah?


I really hope this helps you get started, happy cutting!

Kyleigh x