Step 1 – Check Your Blade
If something isn’t cutting correctly, the obvious place to look is at the blade.
Watch me show tips for intricate cuts or if you prefer written instructions, keep reading.
Do You Need a New Blade?
You should be using a fine point blade to cut cardstock. I have heard so many people say to make sure your blade is sharp and if not replace it.
I have been using the same blade my Cricut Explore Air 2 came with for 5 years now. I cut vinyl, cardstock, glitter cardstock and sticker paper every single day. I have not yet had to change my blade. The Cricut blades are made out of premium German carbide steel. They are made to hold up.
I’m not saying blades don’t dull and need replaced, but it has never been my issue. And if you are using your Cricut in a basic way like I do, it might not be your issue either.
Is Your Blade Dirty?
What I have had issues with is my blade having debris on it. Glitter, vinyl, cardstock… you name it, it can get stuck on the tip of your blade.
Even if your blade doesn’t appear obviously dirty, it can have hard to see adhesive, etc. stuck to it. I recommend two ways of cleaning your blade
1. Clean Your Blade with Aluminum Foil
Take a piece of aluminum foil, ball it up and carefully jab the tip of your blade into the ball. Repeat this a few times. This knocks off dirt and debris.
I often hear people say this is also how they sharpen their blades. Please know that is not true. Remember, these blades are made of premium German carbide steel. They are not being sharpened by aluminum foil.
2. Clean Your Blade with Rubbing Alcohol
If you want a really good clean, you can use rubbing alcohol. This gets off the adhesive that can build up on your blade from vinyl or sticker paper, etc. I use the little individually packaged squares. Just carefully rub it on your blade until all the adhesive and debris is gone. Let it dry before using it again.
Or you can do what I do for a thorough clean and use the aluminum foil first and follow it up with rubbing alcohol.
Step 2 – Check Your Mat
Cleanliness is a theme when it comes to getting great intricate cuts because if you want to succeed you also need a clean mat.
Is Your Mat Dirty?
When you look at your mat, can you see little specs of glitter or tiny dots of cardstock that missed getting scraped off? Do you need to use painters tape to keep the cardstock from slipping around when you cut? If you answered yes to any of these, you either need to clean your mat or get a new mat.
Why should your mat be so clean? Because you need a uniform even adhesion of your cardstock to your mat. If you have dirt and debris, the cardstock is not sticking to the mat in those places. This allows the cardstock to wiggle slightly when the blade is trying to cut it. When those spots wiggle, they might not cut cleanly – especially if the cut is intricate.
Cleaning Your Mat
My favorite way to clean mats is with baby wipes. Read my post: How To Clean Your Mat Using Baby Wipes for step by step instructions.
If your mat is beyond saving by cleaning it, it’s time to buy a new mat. I like to use Teckwrap mats because they are a lot more affordable than Cricut and they still work great and last a while.
I also try to cut my glitter cardstock or other messy materials on just one mat. That way my other mats stay cleaner. You could even keep a mat for intricate cuts if you do them often enough. This would be a mat that you wiped down after every use to keep it very clean.
Step 3 – Use a Brayer
I don’t know how I survived before I met my brayer. I now use the brayer to apply all materials to my mat before cutting. This applies even pressure over the entire piece of cardstock so you can be sure it’s stuck to the mat uniformly.
Remember the wiggle in the paper that we don’t want, this brayer helps stick everything down so it doesn’t wiggle.
Look, I was skeptical too. I thought I was doing a fine job pressing the materials down with my hand. I didn’t realize it’s very hard using just your hand to get every inch with uniform pressure. The brayer really is a game changer.
Step 4 – Check Your Cardstock
The type of cardstock you use definitely matters. You want good quality solid core paper. This means the color of the cardstock is the same throughout. If you tear the cardstock, the core will not be white.
Even if your cardstock is solid core, it might just not be great for intricate cuts. Usually the larger the pulp, the less likely you are to get a good cut.
Some brands cut better than others.
Best Brands for Cutting
Some of my favorite brands are:
- American Crafts Cardstock– my favorite for intricate cuts
- Recollections @ Michaels – great for last minute local pick ups
- Bazzill Cardstock
For a larger selection of my favorites I like to shop at 12 x 12 Cardstock Shop. I trust this company, and many of the brands they carry are great quality and perfect for cutting.
Best Weight for Cardstock
The weight of the cardstock you use will probably depend largely on your project. However, for most of my intricate cut paper craft projects, I prefer to use 80lb weight cardstock. If possible, I would not go heavier than 80lb for intricate cuts.
I do sometimes go lighter and use 65lb if my project allows it. It’s more affordable. 65lb does intricate cuts just fine, but it just usually isn’t sturdy enough for most of my projects.
Step 5 – Check Your Material Settings
Cricut has us covered when it comes to material settings for cutting intricate designs.
Using the Cardstock (for intricate cuts) Setting
You will want to turn your dial to the Custom setting or Browse All Materials depending on your machine.
Select Cardstock (for intricate cuts)
If I am using 80lb cardstock, I then also select add more pressure. This adds 22 points of additional pressure to your cut. This usually does the trick.
Using a Custom Material Setting
However, if your cut isn’t deep enough after you added more pressure you might have to create your own setting. To give you some perspective below are the following settings for cardstock on the Maker 3.
- Cardstock (for intricate cuts)
- cut pressure = 200
- # of cuts = 2x
- Light cardstock – 65lb
- cut pressure = 214
- # cuts = 1x
- Medium cardstock – 80lb
- cut pressure = 320
- # cuts = 1x
I think the key for the intricate cut is that it cuts it 2x. If you aren’t cutting all the way through your cardstock on the Cardstock (for intricate cuts) with more pressure, you will want to go in and add your own material. For more information read my post: How To Add Custom Materials in Cricut Design Space.
I would start going up by increments of 20 for the pressure.
For example, since Cardstock (for intricate cuts) with more pressure is 222 pressure, add a custom material that is 242 pressure with 2x cut. If that doesn’t work, go up by increments of 20 until it cuts all the way through.
Note: I have never had to add a custom material for an intricate cut. The Cardstock (for intricate cuts) with more pressure has always worked for me with 80lb cardstock.
Step 6 – Check Your File Size
Unfortunately some things just cannot be cut out of cardstock. For example, very small cursive writing is difficult with all of those tiny curves. Sometimes you have to make the file larger to make the cut work or perhaps select a different design.
One Last Tip
Those intricate cuts are delicate. To get them off of your mat, always flip the mat upside down and peel the mat away from the cardstock so the design does not get damaged.
If you follow all of these steps, you will have beautiful frustration free intricate cardstock designs and projects.