The sight of blood and wounds is described as crucial by individuals who self-injure, especially those who practise self-cutting. An understanding of the visual mode is therefore important to get a deeper understanding of why people choose to cut themselves. In this article, visual aspects of first-hand experiences of self-cutting are investigated. Cutting is understood as having a purpose and a function for people who injure themselves; it releases overwhelming feelings or communicates inner states to the individuals themselves and to others. Material was taken from autobiographical accounts describing cutting episodes and from photographs documenting the act. The analysis was carried out using content and discourse analytic methods. The results were interpreted using a discourse theoretical perspective. A semiotic model is proposed to understand the communicative meaning of the acts. An important finding is the role of conceptual metaphors such as ‘the-body-is-a-container’ and ‘feelings are fluid’, which make self-cutting a logical coping strategy. The role of blood as a central sign in the act was manifest in the written and visual accounts of the self-cutting experience. Blood was related to a wide range of meanings, such as realness and true self, and to feelings such as anger and sadness. Through the drawing of blood, feelings were expressed and understood. Blood was also often aestheticised and rearticulated by self-cutters who acknowledged their deviancy as a group in relation to a hegemonic culture. Concurrent themes were the verbal and visual articulations of cutting in a control discourse as a means to regain control or, sometimes, to give oneself up to an experience of chaos.