I noticed several people found my series of posts about how to build your own custom frame by searching for how to cut an oval mat. So, I thought I would write a more detailed article about how to draw or cut an oval. The easiest way would be if you already have an oval that you can trace. There are also several products available at art and craft stores that will cut a perfect oval; however, these are a bit expensive (around $80 last time I checked) unless you need to cut a lot of ovals and need them exactly perfect.
With some practice and a few simple tools you can get a pretty decent oval without breaking the bank. Most people probably already have all the necessary tools at home. You’ll need a pencil, ruler, scissors, eraser (optional), and some paper to practice with.
First fold your paper in half. Then fold it in half the other way–much like you would if you were going to make a paper snow flake. Measure half the width you would like your oval to be from the folded corner and mark that distance on the longer fold with your pencil. Next measure half the height you would like your oval to be, and mark it on the shorter fold. Now this is the part that will take practice: draw a curved line that connects the two marks and then unfold your paper. Be careful not to curve too sharply near the folds or you will end up with either a football or diamond shape. If you draw in a straight perpendicular line for about the first 1/4 inch or so it may help you avoid the temptation to curve too sharply.
If after unfolding it, the oval does not look right there are several ways to fix it. You can either trim a little to round it more where the paper was folded, or place another paper under it ( or put tracing paper over it), then make corrections with your pencil on the uncut paper and try again. If you choose to trim the paper make sure it is folded or it will come out uneven and you will be unhappy with the results. Usually if I have an oval that did not turn out well it is because I tried to taper the oval too much near the fold. Try to stay as close to perpendicular near the fold to avoid having it look pointy when it is unfolded. Be patient and try this on scratch paper several times if necessary. It took time as a kid to learn how to cut hearts, circles, and snowflakes with ease, and with a little practice this will become easy to do.
Although this process does not always produce a perfect oval, with some practice you can make one that looks very good–all for the cost of several sheets of paper. Once you have a satisfactory oval, simply trace it onto the surface where you wanted it (such as your mat board or scrap book page), and VOILA–you just saved $80 on not having to buy a contraption to make one for you
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