Photo: Glenda Taylor
A paper cutter can cleanly cut paper, photographs, and other items more quickly and accurately than a pair of scissors. These tools create the crisp, straight lines that crafters, teachers, homeschoolers, and a host of remote professionals often need to make daily for work or school. We wanted to know which paper cutters were truly up to the task, so we decided to test today’s top models. First, we analyzed dozens of paper cutters designed to accomplish various cutting tasks, then selected the highest-rated models to test. We sliced through hundreds of sheets of paper (individually and stacked), card stock, and cardboard. We even chopped a book in half!
In testing the cutters, we discovered that some functions are more important than others. Unfortunately, not all the models we tested earned a spot on this lineup, and you can find which ones didn’t make the cut (pun intended) under “Also Tested” below. This guide will explore the different types and cover the considerations to keep in mind while shopping. Ahead, learn more about our testing process and find out how the following models earned a spot in our lineup of the best paper cutters for most users.
- BEST OVERALL: X-Acto 18×18 Commercial-Grade Guillotine Trimmer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Carl Professional Rotary Paper Cutter
- BEST FOR ANGLES: Dahle 534 Professional Guillotine Trimmer
- BEST FOR TEACHERS: Dahle 554 Professional Rotary Trimmer
- BEST STACK: HFS Heavy-Duty Guillotine Paper Cutter
- BEST ROTARY: Carl Rotary Paper Cutter, Heavy-Duty Series
- BEST FOR SCRAPBOOKING: Firbon A4 Paper Cutter
- ALSO CONSIDER: Swingline ClassicCut Ingento Guillotine Trimmer
Types of Paper Cutters
Paper cutters come in four main types: rotary, guillotine, stack, and electric. Each type offers different features and is best suited for specific tasks. Understanding the uses and applications for each of these types can assist shoppers in selecting the best paper cutter for their needs.
Rotary paper cutters are sometimes referred to as paper trimmers. These models feature a sliding blade that can simultaneously cut through a few sheets of paper. The cutting mat on a rotary paper cutter includes a grid design to help users accurately line up each sheet of paper for a precise cut. The grids on some rotary paper cutters also have guidelines extending from the blade at various angles to help make more intricate cuts.
The biggest downside of a rotary cutter is that most can’t cut through as much paper at a time as a stack or a guillotine model. Some rotary paper cutters may be able to cut through up to 10 sheets at once but are most accurate when cutting only one or two sheets at a time.
Guillotine paper cutters are a popular choice for schools, offices, and individuals who need to cut larger quantities of paper quickly. The design features a long arm attached to a cutting blade that the user pulls down to slice through a single sheet or stack of paper. To prevent injuries or premature cutting, the blade is often designed with a tension spring that keeps it in place until it is pulled down.
Guillotine paper cutters are available in various sizes to accommodate situations ranging from cutting large sheets of stiff construction paper to trimming thin copy paper. In these instances, they can cut up to approximately 30 sheets of paper at once. Another benefit of guillotine paper cutters is they can easily cut through thicker items, such as card stock or poster board.
Stack paper cutters offer one of the largest cutting capacities among the types. Many stack cutters can slice through an entire ream of paper—500 sheets—at once. Rotary and guillotine paper cutters can generally only cut through up to 30 sheets of paper at once, so a stack paper cutter can save tremendous amounts of time for folks who regularly need to cut through a massive amount of paper at once.
Stack paper cutters are a subset of guillotine paper cutters; they have a long arm with a cutting blade that the user pulls down to slice through a stack of paper. The primary difference, however, is stack paper cutters have one or more heavy-duty clamps to hold the stack in place and a sharper blade to cut through hundreds of sheets of paper with one pass. We were able to slice cleanly through a paperback book with the stack cutter we tested. The downside is that the thicker the stack, the more physical strength the user needs to pull the blade arm down.
Electric paper cutters are the most advanced—and the priciest—option to consider. These models feature an automatic motor that powers the paper cutter to slice through a stack of paper. The capacity of each electric paper cutter varies, but some options can cut over 500 sheets of paper at once.
Some electric paper cutters are also programmable. With these models, users can create and save different cuts for future use by programming a set of steps for the paper cutter to follow to create the desired finished product.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Paper Cutter
In addition to the four types of paper cutters described above, it’s essential to consider various features before selecting the best paper cutter for particular tasks and projects. Paper cutters are available in different sizes, offer other cutting mechanisms, and include various safety features. Shoppers will want to think about these features and decide what suits their needs best.
Paper cutters are available in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from compact options, which are only a few inches wide and about as long as a standard sheet of paper, to larger models designed to cut full sheets of construction paper or poster board.
Shoppers will want to consider two main points when deciding on the best size of paper cutter for them. First, they’ll want to determine how they plan to use the paper cutter, such as the types and sizes of materials they’ll be cutting. Second, they may want to determine how much space they have to store and use the paper cutter.
In addition, many of the newer-style paper cutters come with popular paper-size guidelines on the cutting mat, so users can quickly cut a standard 8-by-12-inch letter-size sheet or a 4-by-6-inch photo size. These guidelines often appear in American Standard (ANSI) measurements, but some can be found in European Standard (DIN) metric measurements.
Those considering a stack or guillotine paper cutter should pay close attention to arm design. The arm on paper cutters pulls down to slice through the paper; however, quality products are distinguished by a tension mechanism that prevents the arm from coming down accidentally on its own. This is an important safety feature because if the arm comes down while the user is still positioning the paper, the blade could cut in the wrong spot or, even worse, injure the user.
Stack and guillotine paper cutters feature an extendable arm with a blade that pulls down to cut through paper. Users will often have to put more pressure on the blade to slice through a larger stack of paper.
Rotary paper cutters have a sliding blade. This blade type is often used for precise cutting needs, such as trimming photos for scrapbooking. Sliding blades don’t cut as well through multiple sheets of paper at once.
Two types of metal are most commonly used to craft a cutting blade: steel and titanium. Steel is very durable and inexpensive; however, it will need to be sharpened regularly to keep the edge. Many of today’s guillotine cutters have self-sharpening blades—with every cut, the blade’s edge skims the steel base at an angle that helps keep the blade sharp.
Titanium may also be self-sharpening and even more durable than steel blades, but they are also more expensive.
Resting Blade Position
The blade on a guillotine paper cutter is located on one side of the base, and most cutters of this type come with a safety latch that secures the blade in the closed position to prevent accidental injuries.
The blade on a rotary paper cutter is underneath the sliding housing. Some blades are slightly exposed at the edges, while the blade’s housing entirely protects others. Those looking for a safe cutter that children can use for crafting projects will want to choose one where the housing completely encompasses the blade to reduce the risk of injury.
The blade on a stack paper cutter is generally located on the far side of the clamp to position the user farther away from it. Stack paper cutters are usually designed with a guard to keep the exposed side of the blade covered.
Paper cutters have very sharp blades that can cause serious injury if not used correctly. Selecting a model that includes a variety of safety features to prevent accidental injury is essential. One primary safety feature to consider is a locking latch for the arm of a guillotine or stack paper cutter. This will keep young children and others from touching the blade and possibly being injured. Guillotine paper cutters should also have a tension spring, sometimes called a safety spring, that prevents the blade from coming down unless it is pulled.
Rotary paper cutters are sometimes designed with transparent cutting surfaces. This feature can improve visibility when cutting and prevent mishaps. Rotary paper cutters have a smaller blade than guillotine paper cutters, but the blade is still very sharp. The blade on some rotary paper cutters won’t work unless the housing is pressed down, which offers an additional measure of safety.
Stack paper cutters have the potential to be very dangerous. Their sharp blades are designed to cut through a large stack of papers and could easily cause harm to children or adults. When not in use, stack paper cutters often lock in place and are relatively safe. The danger comes during use, and the operator should treat the cutter as a power tool—it should not be used when small children are present, and older children should only use it with adult supervision.
Nonslip feet are another safety feature on a paper cutter as they will keep the cutter from sliding around during use, hopefully reducing the risk of injury.
Gridlines with marked measurements are vital for creating accurate and even cuts. Consider a paper cutter with a ruler along the top or side of the gridlines to help line up each cut. Users will want to identify whether the measurements are in inches, metrics, or both so they’ll be familiar with the model they purchase. Some paper cutters also feature a fold-out expandable ruler for additional accuracy and support.
Our Top Picks
The following paper cutters all scored well in our hands-on testing. While each offers a range of functions best suited to specific types of projects, all are among the best options for quality paper cutters. We cover the pros and cons of each model so our readers can make an informed buying decision.
The guillotine paper cutter from X-Acto is ideal for cutting through various sheet materials, including paper, photographs, film, and poster board. This is the type of paper cutter we remembered from our school days, and it was every bit as precise at cutting a stack of 15 sheets of paper as it was when we cut a single sheet. We liked that it has horizontal and vertical grid markings in addition to two rulers—one near the top and another near the bottom of the cutting bed. The lines and markings made it easy to select the correct size when cutting and aligning the paper.
This model provides a safety latch to keep the guillotine arm secure when it isn’t in use. It also offers an additional safety-guard rail adjacent to the blade to protect fingers during use. The solid wood base is sturdy and comes with rubber bumpers that kept the paper cutter from sliding on the table as we tested it. At 18 inches long by 18 inches wide, it is also generously sized for larger cutting projects.
We found it to be well designed and accurate. If we had our druthers, we’d ask for a more secure safety latch. With a bit of maneuvering, little fingers might be able to push the latch to the open position, which would allow full access to the blade. Plus, the bottom of the blade extends about 0.0625 inch below the cutting bed when closed and locked in place, so never position hands on the side with the blade when lifting the paper cutter.
Overall, this paper cutter is a high-quality product that will hold up well to frequent use. Still, due to the inherent safety risks, we’d suggest limiting its use to home offices, craft rooms, or other areas with adult supervision.
- Type: Guillotine
- Cutting bed size: 18 inches long by 18 inches wide
- Maximum sheets: 15 (tested), 20 (claimed)
- Sharp, smooth-cutting blade
- ANSI and DIN measurements plus grid for precise sheet alignment
- Rubber stoppers on the bottom keep cutter from sliding
- Self-sharpening blade
- Safety latch could be tripped by older children
- Bottom of blade extends about 0.0625 inch below the cutting bed
Get the X-Acto paper cutter on Amazon, Office Supply, or Zoro.
There’s no need to spend a lot for a quality paper cutter. This affordable model, made by Carl, boasts an 18-inch cut length and cuts up to 10 sheets of paper at once. It features a sharp blade that allows for clean, precise cuts, and it can slice through plastic sheeting, mat board, and photographs as well as paper.
This was the first rotary cutter we tested, and we were impressed. While this is a relatively lightweight cutter—it weighs just 1 pound—it came with rubber stoppers on the bottom that held it firmly in place during cutting. The cutting bed is 18 inches long by 9.5 inches wide and comes with rulers along all four edges. Even better, it features alignment markings for common size cuts, such as 4-by-6-inch photos and 5-by-7-inch photos, as well as letter size, legal size, and more.
We tested it on single sheets of paper and then on a stack of 10 sheets. It made clean-cut edges on both, although we had to hold the stacked sheets firmly to keep them from shifting when we cut. The rotary feature makes this paper cutter safer than a guillotine cutter—a better option for homes with young children.
This model can be fitted with 11 different cutting blades (sold separately), including a perforated blade for creating a tear-off section or a scalloped blade for a pretty border on gift cards or scrapbook entries. We would have liked a magnet bar, such as those included with some of the other cutters we tested, which helps hold paper securely, but for the price, this is a good option for crafters, home offices, and homeschools.
- Type: Rotary
- Cutting bed size: 18 inches long by 9.5 inches wide
- Maximum sheets: Up to 10
- Makes clean, precise cuts for paper, card, and photo sizes
- No exposed blade for safety
- Preprinted cutting sizes make it easy to find the right size
- Rubber feet on the bottom provide a secure hold during use
- No bar magnet to help hold paper while cutting
- Not designed for cutting large stacks of paper
Get the Carl professional paper cutter on Carl Manufacturing or My Binding.
The Dahle 534 trimmer looks like many other guillotine paper cutters at first glance, but as we inspected it more carefully, we noticed a series of angled guidelines on the cutting mat that allowed us to trim paper and card stock at precise 15-, 30-, 45-, 60-, and 70-degree angles. The 534 also offers guidelines for other square and rectangular sizes, but there we found it slightly lacking.
The rectangular guides on the cutting mat of the 534 are listed in DIN sizes (millimeters), which are slightly off from the sizes most Americans are familiar with. For example, on the 534, we found a rectangular guideline for A4-size paper labeled 210 by 297 millimeters. While this is similar to U.S. letter-size paper that measures 8.5 by 11 inches, A4 paper is about .24 inches narrower and .5 inches longer. Rulers at the top and bottom of the cutting mat, however, offer both millimeters and inches.
The cutting bed measures 22 inches long by 11 inches wide, and the base has rubber feet that keep it from sliding during test cuts. The manufacturer claims the 534 can cut up to 15 sheets of paper, but we found it topped out at 13 sheets. Every time we added one more sheet, the cutter pulled on the stack of 14, and the cut edges were slightly uneven.
A plus for the 534 is the inclusion of a bar magnet that helps hold a sheet of paper in place while cutting, and even though the guillotine blade does not come with a safety latch, it takes a firm pull to raise the blade, which we felt a toddler probably could not do. Plus, it has a plastic guard next to the blade, which keeps fingers from sliding under it. This is an excellent paper cutter, but this is not the best option if shoppers are looking for U.S.-standard guidelines.
- Type: Guillotine
- Cutting bed size: 22 inches long by 11 inches wide
- Maximum sheets: 13 (tested), 15 (claimed)
- Guidelines make cutting accurate angles easy
- Rubber feet keep cutter from sliding during use
- DIN guidelines an advantage for some users
- No ANSI measurements, which is a downside for some users
Get the Dahle 534 paper cutter at Staples, Quill.com, or B&H Photo.
This oversize paper cutter offers everything we can envision a teacher might need when cutting paper, card stock, and photos. It features a precise cutting blade, and because it doesn’t have a guillotine bar, it may be a safer option for students.
The manufacturer claims it will cut up to 20 sheets of paper at a time, and our testing verified that it could—with clean, straight cuts. Unlike some other rotary paper cutters where the user must apply downward pressure on the blade housing to engage the blade, all we had to do was slide the housing from one end of the cutter to the other to cut through the paper.
A sturdy metal base helps keep the paper cutter from sliding around and likely adds to its durability and longevity. The work surface measures a large 28.25 inches long by 12 inches wide, which is suitable for various cutting projects.
Like the other Dahle cutter we tested, the 554 features metric DIN measurements and guidelines—but it also boasts ANSI measurements and template guidelines. This is a very nice paper cutter, and we were impressed by its performance and safe-use aspect.
- Type: Rotary
- Cutting bed size: 28.25 inches long by 12 inches wide
- Maximum sheets: 20
- Rotary cutting mechanism is safer because the blade isn’t exposed
- Very large cutting bed suitable for sizeable projects
- Rubber feet keep it from sliding around during use
- Magnet bar to help hold the paper in place included
- Large size takes up more space than other models
Get the Dahle 554 paper cutter on Amazon, B&H Photo, or Today’s Classroom.
Here comes the big boy of paper cutting! The first thing we noticed about this model was its weight—a beefy 35.5 pounds. That heft plus large rubber feet keep the cutter from sliding during use, and such stability is necessary for cutting thick stacks of paper.
Unlike the other cutters we tested, the HFS has a bit of a learning curve, but once we understood how it operated, we found it straightforward to use. The HFS features knobs, buttons, clamps, and handles, all of which adjust to hold various-size stacks of paper firmly when cutting.
The manufacturer claims the HFS will cut up to 400 sheets—or a 1.5-inch stack of paper. We didn’t count the sheets in our stack, but we did measure a 1.5-inch stack for testing. It took half a dozen tries to cut the stack—the thickness made it physically challenging to lower the handle that controls the blade. Eventually, we discovered that lowering the handle as quickly as we could—almost jerking it—let us slice through the stack cleanly and with ease. We were impressed! Then, we cut a paperback book, and the HFS did the job, leaving the edges of the pages straight and clean.
The cutting bed measures 21 inches long by 15 inches wide and comes with metric and ANSI markings, making it versatile for most users. The large steel handle is removable for storage, and the cutter features an on-deck tool holder for stowing the small wrenches (included) needed to assemble the cutter.
- Type: Guillotine
- Cutting bed size: 21 inches long by 15 inches wide
- Maximum sheets: Up to 1.5-inch-thick stack (approximately 400 sheets)
- Slices cleanly through large stacks of paper
- Solid construction, substantial weight, and rubber feet mean no sliding
- Both DIN and ANSI measurements
- Cutting through large stacks requires some physical strength
Get the HFS paper cutter on Amazon.
Those looking for a multiple-sheet rotary paper cutter should consider this option by Carl. It comes with a handy locking bar that raises to slide papers under the guide and then locks them in place during the cutting process. We found this especially helpful when cutting thicker stacks of paper sheets.
The manufacturer claims this cutter can handle up to 36 sheets of paper. We verified that in our tests, but at 36 sheets, the very ends of the cut edges were just slightly uneven. When we reduced the number of sheets to 25, the cut edges were clean with no pulling or tearing. The base alignment grid helps ensure precision and includes measurements for cutting common items, such as photographs and standard paper sizes. Rulers along the side, top, and bottom feature both ANSI and DIN measurements.
The overall dimensions of the cutting bed are 18 inches long by 12.5 inches wide. A perforated blade, a straight blade, and a storage compartment to hold extra blades are included. After replacing the existing blade with the perforated blade, we were able to create tear-off sections on papers.
A slight downside: The magnetic bar guide didn’t have much holding power. The magnet seemed weak, and a slight bump would cause the bar to slide out of alignment. Fortunately, the magnet bar isn’t necessary since the Carl paper cutter has the locking rail that holds the sheets when cutting. We consider this a good multipurpose cutter for regular paper, card stock, photos, and even cardboard, but we would limit the number of sheets to around 25 for the best results.
- Type: Rotary
- Cutting bed size: 18 inches long by 12.5 inches wide
- Maximum sheets: 25 (as tested), 36 (claimed)
- Locking rail keeps paper from shifting during the cutting process
- Can create straight cuts or perforated, tear-off sections by switching blades
- Side, top, and bottom rulers feature both ANSI and DIN measurements
- Weak magnet didn’t adhere well to the steel cutting bed
Get the Carl heavy-duty paper cutter at Amazon or Carl Manufacturing.
This rotary paper cutter by Firbon is designed to cut through various materials typically involved in scrapbooking projects, including paper, cards, scrapbooking mats, and laminated items. The usable portion of the cutting bed measures 12 inches long by 4 inches wide, and the ruler at the top and the bottom of the bed offer both ANSI and DIN measurements. A foldout ruler along the side extends the cutting width to 13.5 inches for larger projects. The Firbon also has handy angle guides for making various common cut sizes.
While the manufacturer claims the cutter can handle up to 12 sheets of paper, we found that it cuts best with eight or fewer sheets. At more than eight, the blade pulls the sheets slightly and leaves ragged edges. Still, this is a nice little cutter for light-duty projects and will fit in most tote bags for easy carrying. It’s a simple, no-frills paper cutter that we feel is well suited for small craft or household projects.
- Type: Rotary
- Cutting bed size: 12 inches long by 4 inches wide (12 inches long 13.5 inches wide)
- Maximum sheets: 8 (tested), 12 (claimed)
- Lightweight (under 12 ounces) and small for portability and storage
- Cuts card stock and photos as well as 8 sheets of paper cleanly
- Angled guides for 45-, 60-, 75-, and 90-degree angles
- Not designed for heavy-duty use
Get the Firbon paper cutter on Amazon, ArtBeek, or Stevens Books (sold in bundle).
For accurate, precise cuts in a traditional guillotine cutter, check out Swingline’s ClassicCut model. This cutter is billed at being able to cut up to 15 sheets of paper at once, and we can verify that it does that very well. In fact, we were able to add a few more sheets (19 total) and still get sharp, clean cuts.
The cutting bed features solid wood for an old-school look and a grid that makes it simple to align the paper squarely. The ruler along the top offers measurements in both ANSI and DIN.
The guillotine arm features a spring that keeps the arm from falling when it’s raised, which adds a measure of safety, but we wouldn’t recommend this paper cutter for classes or homes with small children. A small wire latch slips over the handle to keep it from being lifted, but it doesn’t offer much protection as it’s simple to move out of the way. Another downside: The Swingline cutter doesn’t have rubber feet; consider using it on a nonslip surface, such as a rubber pad, to keep it in place.
- Type: Guillotine
- Cutting bed size: 18 inches long by 18 inches wide
- Maximum sheets: 19 (tested), 15 (claimed)
- 18-by-18-inch cutting bed suitable for many paper sizes
- Cuts multiple sheets cleanly
- Both ANSI and DIN measurements on the ruler
- No rubber feet; cutter tends to slide when the arm is lifted/lowered
- Safety latch disengages easily; not ideal for use around children
Get the Swingline paper cutter on Amazon, Office Supply, or MyBinding.
Fiskars SureCut Deluxe Paper Trimmer
We’ve long been fans of Fiskars scissors and rotary hand cutters, but the Fiskars SureCut Deluxe Paper Trimmer didn’t live up to our high standards. While we liked the guidelines on the cutting mat for making stock photo and business-card-size cuts, the cutting blade wasn’t sharp enough to make crisp, clean cuts on more than two pieces of stacked paper—we ended up with ragged edges. We also discovered the fold-out ruler, which is supposed to extend the cutting width measurement up to 15 inches, was challenging to extend fully. It was supposed to snap into place via a small plastic guide on the underside of the cutter, but when we tried to snap it into place, the plastic guide broke off.
We liked the rubber feet on the bottom of the cutter, which kept it from sliding around during use, but overall, it didn’t score high enough to be among our top picks. We respect the Fiskars brand and look forward to testing an upgraded and improved model of this lightweight and versatile paper cutter.
All of the paper cutters that earned a spot on this lineup are suitable for a range of cutting needs, but the X-Acto paper cutter earns top honors for its classic design and handy alignment grid. For truly heavy-duty cutting, the HFS paper cutter shines. It offers advanced safety features and allows users to cut cleanly through thick stacks of paper or, as we did, a book.
How We Tested the Best Paper Cutters
Before we selected several paper cutters for hands-on testing, we researched more than 30 models to determine which ones were most likely to stand up to the cutting tasks of our readers. We looked at ratings and reviews, but we also carefully analyzed cost, weight, design, and safety features, keeping in mind that users’ projects vary widely.
Our actual testing process was relatively straightforward. We set the paper cutters up, assembled those that required assembly, and then checked to ensure all the parts were working as intended. Then we started cutting…
One of our primary goals was to establish how easy it was to align the paper using markings or grids on the tool’s cutting bed. We also focused on how well the device cut the maximum number of sheets based on the manufacturer’s claims, and we noted whether the cutter offered guidelines for making common-size cuts. By the time we finished testing, we’d cut through four entire reams of printer paper, plus a ream of card stock, dozens of poster boards, and even a paperback book. Yes, one model was advertised as being able to cut through a book, so we tested it, and it sliced the book in half cleanly.
We used a rubric and awarded points based on the quality of the materials, usefulness, design, and functionality. The better a cutter performed, the more points it earned. After testing, we added and averaged the points and used the results to help determine the best uses and categories for the cutters.
Paper cutters are certainly handy tools. They accurately and cleanly cut through multiple sheets of paper at once to assist with crafting needs and tasks for teaching, making presentations, and other purposes. If you still have questions about paper cutters, take a moment to read through these frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers.
Q. What are paper cutters called?
Paper cutters may also be called paper trimmers or guillotines.
Q. Who invented a paper cutter?
Guillaume Massiquot patented the first paper cutter in 1844; however, one of the first models was built in 1837 by Thirault. His paper cutter design featured a flat surface with a fixed blade.
Q. How do you cut straight with a paper cutter?
To cut a straight line with a paper cutter, using the grid lines on the cutting bed to align the paper is essential. Once the paper is correctly aligned, either pull down the arm or slide the trimmer blade to cut, depending on the type of paper cutter.