Accidental gouges and scratches on kitchen counters and dining tables are the occasional by-products of crafting and sewing at home. Many crafters and hobbyists lament these dings and abrasions inflicted upon their work surfaces. The best cutting mat eliminates this problem, so you can enjoy sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, and craft hobbies without worrying about damaging your countertops and tabletops.
Whether you cut materials with scissors, craft or utility knives, or rotary cutters, there are cutting mats designed to meet your needs. They’re available in a variety of sizes and colors, imprinted with helpful grids and guidelines, and many of them come with self-healing properties. Read on for information and recommendations to help you select the best cutting mat for your DIY projects.
- BEST OVERALL: Dahle – 10693-12592 Vantage Self-Healing Cutting Mat
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Fiskars 12×18 Inch Cutting Mat
- BEST FOR ROTARY CUTTERS: anezus Self Healing Sewing Mat, Rotary Cutting Mat
- BEST FOR KNIVES: XNM Creations Premium Self Healing Cutting Mat
- BEST FOR SEWING: WORKLION 24″ x 36″ Large Self Healing PVC Cutting Mat
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cutting Mat
The best cutting mat for DIY projects may become a favorite item in the studio, workshop, craft room, or sewing room. Before choosing a mat, consider the types of cutting procedures it will facilitate as well as the most frequently used cutting tools. The size, thickness, and weight of the mat are important factors. Additionally, the surface finish and imprinted cutting guidelines add value to a cutting mat. Keep reading to explore essential considerations for choosing the best cutting mat.
Before selecting the best cutting mat, think about its intended use as well as the physical parameters of the work space. Cutting mats serve numerous purposes for crafters, hobbyists, artists, and sewing enthusiasts. Consider the advantages of various cutting mats for protecting surfaces from rotary blades, X-Acto knives, utility knives, scissors, and other tools.
In addition to protecting work surfaces from damage, cutting mats preserve the sharpness and prolong the usable life of cutting blades. Different cutting mats also offer advantages for diverse functions based on their varying thicknesses and self-healing qualities.
Cutting mats are available in a variety of sizes to suit the intended uses of DIY enthusiasts. For some applications, large, nonportable cutting mats may provide the most favorable service. On the other hand, DIYers who intend to transport their cutting mats or use them for light work may opt for small, lightweight, and portable versions.
Most cutting mats available on the market today are constructed from compressed layers of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is a dense, thermoplastic polymer, and the flexible, plasticized PVC in cutting mats is bendable, unlike the rigid PVC used in plumbing pipes and agricultural applications.
The surface of a self-healing cutting mat is composed of tiny, separate PVC fibers that are compressed together. When a blade cuts into the mat, it passes between those fibers, rather than cutting into them. Following the cut, the fibers return to their normal position, and it appears that the surface has “healed” itself.
Generally speaking, cutting mats are not thick items. They are intended to serve as coverings for solid and substantial work surfaces, such as tables and countertops. However, high-quality cutting mats should be no less than ⅛-inch thick, as blades can cut through thinner mats. Most cutting mats range in thickness from 0.125 (⅛) inch to 0.3 inch. They prevent accidents where rotary or knife blades cut through and damage the work surface.
In addition to overall thickness, users may consider the number of layers (plies) of PVC material in cutting mats. Manufacturers label cutting mats as 3-ply or 5-ply to indicate the number of PVC layers compressed in a mat. These are desirable thicknesses that offer durability and prolong the life of cutting blades. Additionally, a design in which the inner layer (core) of PVC is thicker than the outer layers provides a self-healing quality and prevents cutting through the mat.
Hard vs. Soft Surface
As mentioned above, the small, compressed PVC fibers in a soft-surface cutting mat allow knife blades to pass between rather than cut through the mat. After a cut, these fibers return to their original position, and the surface appears to “heal.” In addition to maintaining the smooth, unblemished appearance of the cutting mat, soft-surface construction prolongs the sharpness and functionality of cutting blades.
Alternatively, hard-surface cutting mats made from glass and other hard materials allow blades to skim over the surface, rather than cutting into it. They do not feature self-healing qualities and may dull the blades of cutting tools over time.
The optimal surface texture for a cutting mat is neither too smooth nor too rough. Overly smooth textures tend to reflect light, producing a glaring effect. This distraction can cause eye strain and inaccurate cutting for crafters and sewing enthusiasts. On the other hand, textures that are too rough may negatively affect cutting accuracy, as blades might snag on rough surfaces.
A smooth, matte finish reduces glare but does not present the problems of excessively rough textures. However, it is essential that cutting mats do not slip or slide on work surfaces during use. A nonskid surface is desirable for peace of mind and safety while working with sharp cutting blades.
Double vs. Single Sided
Double-sided cutting mats offer greater usefulness, as users can flip them over and work on the other side. A 5-ply cutting mat provides two soft outer layers on each side of a thicker inner layer. A 3-ply cutting mat features a single outer layer on either side of a hard core layer. Both designs provide durability and extend the life of these self-healing cutting mats.
Most cutting mats include measurement markings, grid lines, and cutting guidelines for specific angles and shapes imprinted on their surfaces. Some double-sided cutting mats feature a wide array of cutting guidelines with distinct sets of grid lines on both sides. DIYers may flip these mats to reveal the desired angles and shapes for their projects.
Our Top Picks
The picks below represent high-quality choices for self-healing, soft-surface, double-sided cutting mats that hold up to craft and utility knives, rotary cutters, and scissors. Available in a variety of sizes, weights, and colors, these cutting mats are also manufactured by reputable companies.
Imprinted with inch, metric, and angled cutting guides, this 24-inch by 36-inch Vantage cutting mat from Dahle offers double-sided versatility. The thick and durable PVC material protects work surfaces and preserves the sharpness of cutting blades.
The Vantage cutting mat offers maximum self-healing properties due to its 5-ply PVC layers. After use, the cuts disappear, leaving behind a soft and smooth surface. This substantial 5-pound cutting mat features white grid lines screen-printed on a blue background for increased visibility and minimal glare. Additionally, it can be used on both sides: one side for measured cutting along grid lines and the other side for freehand work.
Measuring only 12 inches by 18 inches and weighing just 12.3 ounces, this double-sided cutting mat from Fiskars is easy to transport and store. Use it on multiple work surfaces throughout a home, workshop, or studio.
Both sides of this affordable cutting mat feature a highly visible grid that includes lines, inch marks, and angles. Bias guidelines for 30-, 45-, and 60-degree angles make it easy to cut triangular shapes. With self-healing properties, cut lines disappear from the soft and smooth surface of this cutting mat. Use both sides to extend the versatility and serviceable lifespan of the mat.
Five layers of PVC material work together to self-heal and maintain a continually smooth surface on this 12-inch by 18-inch cutting mat from anezus. The hard PVC core lends stability and durability. Along with protecting work surfaces from scratches and gouges, the 5-ply PVC material prevents rotary blades, X-Acto knife blades, and other craft tools from becoming dull with use.
The green surface color features clearly imprinted, white grid lines that are easy on the eyes for both metric and inch measurements, along with angles, circles, and shapes. Both sides of this double-sided cutting mat are also imprinted with cutting guidelines. Easily flip over this 12.1-ounce cutting mat for versatility and to extend the usable life.
Thicker than many self-healing mats with a 0.3-inch depth, this double-sided cutting mat from XNM Creations offers self-healing capability for cutting with X-Acto knives, rotary blades, and other crafting tools. Measuring 12 inches by 18 inches, this mat weighs 1.4 pounds and features a nonslip surface on both sides.
The PVC material of this cutting mat is mixed with anti-penetration vinyl for extra durability. The 3-ply PVC construction provides two soft vinyl outer layers that envelop a hard vinyl inner layer to offer enhanced self-healing qualities. Both sides of this cutting mat feature grid lines with both metric and inch measurements, showing ½-inch and ⅛-inch marks. The cutting guidelines include 30-, 45-, 60-, and 90-degree angles as well as circles.
The total size of this cutting mat from WORKLION is 24.8 inches by 36.8 inches, accommodating grid lines that cover the full 24-inch by 36-inch work space. Constructed of 5-ply PVC material, the mat self-heals after cutting with scissors, rotary cutters, and straight blades. Featuring sturdy construction, this large cutting mat weighs a hefty 6.78 pounds. It offers long-term service as an essential tool for cutting large pieces of fabric in a sewing space, craft room, or art studio.
Both sides of this mat are imprinted with easy-to-see grid lines for cutting, so users can flip it over for extended usability. One side features white lines on a blue background, while the other side provides yellow lines on a green background. The cutting mat includes both metric and inch measurements along with angles and diagonal lines.
FAQs About Cutting Mats
With the ability to protect work surfaces and preserve cutting blades, a cutting mat makes DIY projects safer and more enjoyable. Additionally, a cutting mat with self-healing properties offers long-term service and opens up possibilities for employing a variety of DIY tools. When using a new cutting mat, the answers to these common questions may be helpful.
Q. What is a self-healing cutting mat?
Cutting mats are “self-healing” when no marks are left behind from cutting tools. These mats are made of tiny, separate pieces of PVC material that are compressed together. This allows a blade to cut between these pieces, followed by them closing back together or “healing” after the blade is removed.
Q. What should I look for in a cutting mat?
The thickness of the cutting mat should offer at least three layers of PVC material, and the inner layer (core) should be thicker than the softer outer layers. Additionally, the self-healing quality adds value to a cutting mat. Look for a size that can accommodate most DIY projects.
Q. How do I maintain my cutting mat?
Store the flattened cutting mat away from extreme temperatures and sunlight. Don’t roll it up for storage. Clean the cutting mat occasionally with mild dish-washing soap and water, and dry it using a lint-free cloth.
Q. How long do cutting mats last?
Cutting mats should last 5 to 10 years, depending on how frequently they are used and how well they are cared for.