Mylar, a brand name for a type of polyester film, can be cut with a variety of tools such as scissors, a craft knife or a hot pen. Scissors and craft knives work well for basic projects, while a hot pen comes in handy for cutting detailed or curved shapes for projects such as making stencils.
Planning the Cuts
Just like when you work with paper or fabric, it helps to have some sort of guide when cutting Mylar. When making items such as stencils or elaborate cutout shapes, use clear Mylar with a full-size paper printout of the design you intend to cut from the Mylar. You can also use a hand-drawn or handwritten design on paper. Place the Mylar on top of the paper, and then trace the lines onto the Mylar with a permanent marker or a grease pencil. If you're making a series of straight cuts, use a large straightedge to draw a perfect line with the marker.
Cut Mylar with scissors as you would cut paper or cardstock:
- Scissors work well on Mylar when you're cutting out fairly straight lines or slight angles and curves; they may be a bit too unwieldy when cutting highly detailed, tiny shapes.
- Follow marker lines to cut out a Mylar shape accurately.
- Scissors may leave behind tiny, irregular bits of Mylar still attached to the original piece when you need to cut sharp angles or curves.
The narrow tip of a craft knife allows you to cut sharp angles and detailed designs out of Mylar with precision.
- Place a cutting mat or sheet of corrugated cardboard atop the work surface before cutting Mylar with a knife.
- Draw the complete design in marker on the Mylar before you cut any of it out, for a more streamlined process.
- If the Mylar wiggles too much while you cut it, tape down the edges with masking tape, or apply a removable spray adhesive to the back, attaching it to a piece of cardboard or thick paper.
- Use a craft knife to remove snags and stray bits of Mylar left behind by scissors.
Cutting With a Hot Pen
A hot pen works like a soldering iron or wood-burning tool. It has a handle that stays cool while a metal tip heats up, melting the Mylar as you cut it. The tip on a hot pen is narrower than the tip on most wood-burning tools and soldering irons, allowing you to cut even complicated designs from the Mylar. Plug in the hot pen and keep the tip away from items that may melt or burn as it warms up. Set the Mylar on a rubber mat or a thick layer of corrugated cardboard as you work, keeping an eye on the cardboard so you don't burn through the Mylar into the cardboard.
Rest the tip of the heated hot pen on the Mylar and glide it along the line you intend to cut out, rather than pressing it down or holding it in one place.
Keep the pen moving, sliding it to the next portion that requires a cut as soon as you see the Mylar melt.
Lift the cooled pieces of melted Mylar away from the larger piece as you work, to keep your view unobstructed. This also helps you see which areas still need to be cut out.