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Laser Cutting Paper: the Ultimate Guide

by Winnie Li Updated on August 11, 2023
paper laser cutter and laser cut invitations

Many laser users wonder whether they can cut paper using a laser cutter or not. It is a common question because the paper is a very delicate material, and people think that the laser would burn paper if used for laser cutting.

In this article, we will clear all doubts you have about laser cutting paper. We will also share some tips that can help you get the best results.

In This Article

  • Can You Laser Cut Paper?
  • How Does Laser Cutting Paper Work?
  • Advantages of Laser Cutting Paper
  • Best Paper Laser Cutter
  • Which Types of Paper are Suitable for Laser Cutting?
  • What Can You Do with Laser Cut Paper?
  • Challenges of Laser Cutting Paper
  • How Can You Laser Cut Paper without Burning it?
  • FAQs about Laser Cutting Paper
  • Conclusion

Can You Laser Cut Paper?

Absolutely! Laser cutting paper is not only feasible but also highly popular in various creative and industrial applications. The precision and versatility of laser cutting make it an excellent choice for intricate designs, delicate patterns, and even mass production of paper products.

How Does Laser Cutting Paper Work?

Laser cutting paper is the process of cutting through paper products using a high-density laser beam. It's an automated process that follows the instructions of the laser cutter software. The laser beam is focused on a single point on the surface of the paper, and then the laser cutter moves the beam along a predefined path according to the design requirements that you have uploaded into the software. 

The paper absorbs the energy from the laser beam and vaporizes almost instantly. The paper material is removed along the path of the beam, leaving behind a clean and stain-free cut.

Advantages of Laser Cutting Paper

There are many ways to cut paper, such as blades, scissors, and CNC machines, but the question is why a laser cutter should be picked as the best option. The advantages that laser cutting offers are incredible. Let’s have a look at the reasons and advantages that compel you to stick to laser cutting when it comes to cutting paper.

1. Fine Results

The primary reason to use laser cutter machines for paper cutting is the fine results that are achieved in the end. 

Nowadays, paper laser cutters have a very fine laser spot that ensures a minimal kerf width and high precision. It does not matter how intricate the cut is; the laser cutting machine is capable of replicating the design with excellence. 

laser cut paper art with complicated fine results

2. Unbeatable Accuracy

The laser cutters are designed for optimal movement and repeat position accuracies. For instance, if it starts from a certain point, it can come back to the same point after completing the task.

Irrespective of the number of repetitions, design intricacy, and movement speed, the accuracy that laser cutting machines offer is unbeatable. You can repeat the same design as many times as you want, and you will get identical pieces.

laser cut paper invitations

3. Fast Speed

Laser cutters work at a very fast speed compared to traditional methods we commonly use for paper cutting. Even if you are cutting hard paper material, such as cardboard, the speed of the cutting will be incredible.

Since paper is light and not too dense like other materials, you can easily cut it at a very high speed, even at a low power of the laser. For commercial purposes, a laser cutter is the first choice as it can boost productivity without compromising on quality.

If you choose the optimal speed and power, paper laser cutting and engraving can be done quickly. Even if the design is complicated, the speed of the machine can do it in no time.

xTool F1 Super Fast
Laser Engraver

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4. No Contact

The best thing about laser cutting paper is that there is no contact between the laser module and the paper.

Since paper is very light and delicate, it can deform by applying pressure. Thus, mechanical cutting methods that exert pressure on paper usually affect the quality of the cut as well as the appearance.

In laser cutting, the laser beams cut paper without exerting any force on the material. With that being said, the perfect result is guaranteed.

Plus, the edges of the cut are so fine that they add to the beauty of the object made through the laser-cut paper.

Best Paper Laser Cutter

What Kind of Laser Cutter is Used for Paper Cutting? 

A CO2 laser cutter is the best choice for cutting paper because of its wavelength. The wavelength of a CO2 laser is around 10,600nm, and this is the right wavelength that paper can absorb easily and quickly. Due to the quick absorption of the wavelength, the cut made by the CO2 laser is exceptionally clean. 

With their high power output, CO2 laser cutters can operate at faster speeds, making them suitable for high-volume, commercial projects where time is of the essence.

On the other hand, the wavelength emitted by blue diode lasers is in the range of 450-455nm. Paper can also absorb this wavelength, and paper cutting can be done, but the wavelength of the CO2 laser is better than that. However, diode lasers are generally more compact, portable, and affordable than their CO2 counterparts, making them an attractive option for hobbyists or small businesses just starting with laser cutting paper.

paper laser cutter

xTool M1

Diode Laser Cutter for Paper

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When deciding between a CO2 and a diode laser for paper cutting, consider the scale, scope, and desired quality of your projects. For commercial operations demanding high precision and speed, a CO2 laser cutter is an unparalleled choice. Conversely, for hobbyists or those embarking on DIY paper projects, a diode laser offers a cost-effective solution. 

Best CO2 Laser Cutter for Paper

xToo P2 is a 55W CO2 laser cutter that can cut paper and a wide range of materials with perfection. The machine is powerful enough and has all the features and accessories that are helpful for paper laser cutting.

First of all, you can have the test run on the material and easily adjust the power and speed of the laser machine. Secondly, there is nothing to worry about focus as it is equipped with an auto-focus feature that adjusts the focus to the optimal level on its own.

The machine has a built-in air assist, slats and an exhaust system, which just take away all the issues created due to the accumulation of smoke, preventing the burning and discoloration of laser cutting paper.

xtool p2's built-in exhaust system

The machine is also enclosed, so your exhaustion is much better. The best thing is that there is an early-warning system that alerts the user if there is overheating, flame, or any other issue. 

Which Types of Paper are Suitable for Laser Cutting

Paper is available in different types based on its composition, thickness, and appearance. Here, we will share some of the most suitable types of paper for laser cutting. Let’s have a brief discussion on all of them.

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1. Laser Paper

Laser Paper is a special paper made specifically for laser cutting and printing. It gives impeccable results when you cut it through a laser cutter; there are no burning, discoloration, or marks. It has a special coating that creates the pattern you want on the paper through laser exposure. 

2. Copy Paper

It is a thin paper that is mostly used for advertising and newspapers. It is easily available, and you see it almost every day. This thin paper can also be cut using a laser cutter, and the results will be fine and accurate.

3. Bond Paper

Bond paper is a better and thicker version of Copy Paper. It is considered a high-quality and durable paper that is perfect for laser cutting. This is the same paper that you use in a desktop printer or photostat machine. 

4. Cardstock

Cardstock is much thicker than bond paper, and it is a bit hard when you touch it. It is preferred for making decoration pieces and invitation cards using a laser cutter. Because of the vivid colors, it looks appealing.

laser cut cardstock invitaion

5. Kraft Paper

Kraft paper is made from wood pulp, giving it a distinctive brown, natural look that exudes an eco-friendly vibe. Kraft paper is an excellent choice for laser cutting and engraving due to its durability and the high-quality finish it can achieve with these processes. Its strong composition ensures that it can withstand the intense heat of the laser, reducing the risk of burning or tearing, a common concern with more delicate papers.

The applications of Kraft paper in laser cutting and engraving are vast. From personalized greeting cards, business cards, and wedding invitations to packaging, labels, and intricate art pieces.

xTool F1 Super Fast
Laser Engraver

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6. Cardboard

Cardboard is a dense and thick material. It is very hard, and you cannot bend it easily. So laser cut cardboard is frequently used to make models and kids' projects.

laser cut cardboard projects for kids

7. Handmade Paper

Handmade paper is made of fibers that are usually recycled or obtained from plants. Pulp of the fiber is created, which is turned into a sheet by hand. After drying, these papers are ready to be used.

The paper is quite thick, but it can easily be cut through a laser cutter.The cuts of the laser are fine and clean.

8. Fine Paper

You can use fine paper for intricate designs if you like your art piece to have a flow, for example, making a butterfly out of paper. In laser cutting paper, you can use them for the most intricate groove cuts, no matter the size of the paper. This is possible mainly because laser cutting is contactless.

9. Art Paper

Artists typically use art paper for their projects because it is a bit sturdier than fine paper. Secondly, it is their first choice because they need to work with oil and watercolor painting and more.

For laser cutting, you can use regular art paper or those that come with a texture, glassy or other finishes. They are amazing to be considered for laser cutting paper machines.

10. Uncoated Paper

Like other materials, uncoated paper can also be easily cut, but here, a CO2 paper laser cutting system is more efficient. Greeting cards and invitations to events are among the most common types of uncoated papers that utilize laser cutting or engraving.

11. Construction Paper

Construction papers are sourced from wood pulp, and small particles can be spotted on the surface due to their unfinished texture. Not as durable as other high-quality papers, construction paper can be laser cut when used for art projects. They come in various colors and have a rougher surface than most paper types.

What Can You Do with Laser Cut Paper?

Popup books and origami have been around for decades, and people love making them on their own. With the ease we now have with laser cutting paper machines, it has seen leaps and bounds.There are many creative and practical laser cut paper projects that you can try with your laser cutting and engraving machines. Here are some examples:

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1.  Laser-cut Invitations

Any kind of card can be personalized and beautified using a laser cutter. The fantastic laser-cut designs and cutouts create something that looks beautiful and always sends a feeling of awe no matter whom you send it to. 

laser cut wedding invitations

2. 3D Christmas-themed Shadow Box

This project shows how to make a beautiful and festive shadow box with laser cut paper. The shadow box consists of several layers of paper with different designs, such as a Santa, snowflakes, trees, houses, and a deer. The layers are stacked together with spacers and placed inside a wooden frame. A LED strip is attached to the back of the frame to create a glowing effect. The shadow box can be used as a decoration or a gift for Christmas.

laser cut 3d paper christmas-themed shadow box

3. Multi-layered Paper Art

Laser cut paper can be used to make stunning and realistic multi-layered paper arts. The layers are laser cut with different colors and shapes and then glued together with foam tape to create depth and contrast. The paper art can be framed and hung on the wall as a decoration or a gift.

laser cut multi-layered paper art

4. Decorative Window Stickers

By laser cutting paper, you can make beautiful window stickers. There is a wealth of possibilites, such as flowers, butterflies, or snowflakes. The window stickers can create a lovely and colorful effect on the window, especially when the sunlight shines through them.

laser cut paper window stickers

5. TP Roll Tea Lights

This project shows how to make cute and eco-friendly tea lights with laser cut paper. The tea lights are made of toilet paper rolls that are laser cut with different patterns, such as stars, hearts, or leaves. Battery-operated tea lights are then secured inside the rolls with glue or tape. The TP roll tea lights can create a cozy and romantic atmosphere with their soft glow and charming designs.

laser cut tp roll tea lights

6. Personalized Cigar Bands

This project shows how to make personalized cigar bands by laser cutting paper. The cigar bands are made of brown kraft paper. You can laser cut it with a name, date or design of the occasion. You can also engrave it to make it more personalized. The bands are then wrapped around cigars and secured with glue or tape. The personalized cigar bands can add a touch of class and style to any cigar lover’s collection or celebration.

laser cut cigar band
laser engraved cigar band

7. Cardboard Picture Frame

This project shows how to make a simple and rustic cardboard picture frame with laser cutting paper. The cardboard picture frame is made of cardboard that is laser cut with a rectangular hole for the picture and a decorative border. The cardboard is then glued to a piece of wood or cork board for support. The picture is inserted into the hole and secured with tape or glue. The cardboard picture frame can be used to display your favorite photos or artworks in a creative way.

laser cut cardboard picture frame

Challenges of Laser Cutting Paper

Compared with other materials, using lasers to engrave or cut paper may face the following challenges:

1. Paper is relatively fragile and easy to tear, so appropriate laser cutting parameters need to be set to avoid excessive burning that could damage the paper.

2. The color, texture, and thickness of paper vary, so appropriate cutting and engraving parameters must be selected for different types of paper to prevent uneven cutting or engraving.

3. Laser engraving paper requires high resolution and precision, which requires the laser cutting machine to have high precision positioning and control capabilities. Otherwise, unclear engraving or partial paper damage may occur.

5. In addition, due to the thin and fragile nature of paper, safety issues must be taken into consideration during laser cutting and engraving, including preventing paper ignition.

Overall, although using lasers to process paper faces certain challenges, reasonable cutting and engraving parameters and appropriate safety measures can effectively reduce paper damage and operational risks and achieve refined paper processing. Now let's take a closer look at how to complete laser cutting paper without burning it.

How Can You Laser Cut Paper without Burning it?

Laser beams wipe off the material from the surface by increasing its temperature. Since paper is a combustible material, it can catch fire quickly. Thus, it is a big challenge for a laser user to cut paper without burning it.

However, if you know how to control the laser cutter and adjust the settings optimally, you will get the best results, and burning won’t be an issue. Plus, there are a few accessories that are must-haves to ensure excellent results and prevent the burning of the paper.

1. Laser Cutting Paper Settings

Firstly, you need to use the laser cutter at a low power setting and high speed. 

Paper is quite thin, and it does not require too much power for cutting, and if you are exposing it to excessive power, it will burn out. Moreover, when you use the laser at high speed, there is minimal exposure of the paper under the laser, so the chances of burning are greatly reduced.

The best way to find out the right speed and power is by running a test. You can run the speed and power test on the paper you want to use. Then, you will get a better idea of the speed and power you should select. Try to keep the power setting as low as possible.

2. Focus the Laser Module Properly

Secondly, while adjusting the height of the laser module, make sure the material is focused properly. You can use the focusing method recommended for the machine. Sometimes, when the focus is not adjusted to the right point, you get burns on the paper, or the machine is unable to cut the material.

So, these are the important settings you need to do. Now, let’s talk about some of the important accessories that you require. 

3. Use an Air Assit

Firstly, you need an air assist. The problem with laser engraving and cutting is the build-up of smoke and debris. Due to smoke, the color of the material is changed, and you also get burn marks. On the other hand, debris is the most suitable combustible material that can start a fire quickly. 

An air assist can solve both these problems. Its powerful airflow will blow away the smoke and the particles, so you have the best finishing.

4. Use a Honeycomb Panel

The next important accessory that many beginners neglect is the bed of the laser. We recommend a honeycomb panel for paper laser cutting and other materials as well. Due to the honeycomb panel, the heat dissipation becomes quick. The smoke that is formed due to the laser can easily escape from the bottom of the panel. 

With that being said, the back of the material you are cutting or engraving remains intact; there is no discoloration or burning.

5. Use an Exhaust System

The last accessory that we recommend for preventing burning is an exhaust system. The smoke in the working area increases the ambient temperature, which is quite favorable for burning and sparks. Therefore, an exhaust system is necessary. It makes sure no smoke accumulates in the area and filters out harmful smoke and particles.

In short,  you need to adjust the power, speed, and focus, and you need to use the required accessories, such as air assist, honeycomb panel, and exhaust system. These things will help you laser cut paper without burning it.

FAQs about Laser Cutting Paper

Is There a Type of Paper That Cannot Be Laser Cut?

Of course, thin papers always have the problem of curling under heat and sometimes outright starting to burn quickly due to the laser's heat. So first, don't use too thin a paper for laser cutting; secondly, thermal papers too, as they change color due to heat.

Is Using a Laser Cutter With Paper Expensive?

Like any business, the cost of a single item seems high, and it may seem cheaper to cut by hand instead of using laser cutting paper. But once you decide on making a large number, then no, it is pretty cheap and not expensive at all.

Can You Laser Cut Paper Without Burning It?

Yes, if you know what you are doing. Based on the thickness and type of the paper, you need to adjust the power of your paper laser cutting tool. The longer it takes to cut or stay at one point, the more time it has to burn instead of quickly burning the paper into thin air.

A simple rule of thumb is to utilize the system at minimum power and higher speed to smooth the cutting instead of giving the paper enough time or heat to catch fire.

Conclusion

A laser cutter is an excellent option for paper cutting, and we have discussed the reasons behind it in detail. It gives a cleaner cut in no time. However, there are a few challenges that you face while cutting paper using a laser cutter machine. The paper might burn out, but we have shared tips that can help you prevent burning and get the best results. We have also shared an amazing laser machine, xTool P2, which is a CO2 laser cutting machine with the requirements you need for paper cutting. It has dozens of features that are not easy to find in a desktop laser machine. It is worth every penny, even if you are buying it for your laser business.

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