Saturday, September 15, 2012

Paper Cutting Tutorial: How to be a wizard with scissors!

I so looked forward to cutting snowflakes every winter as a kid. Now, I have found a way to keep it up all year long!

I made the art piece above for a group show at a local coffee shop. Each of these paper cuttings is about 1.5 inches square (teeny tiny!) and there are over 50 of them! You really only need a few things to cut paper as a year round art project: a small pointed pair of scissors, thin paper folded just so and a willingness to play with shape and color.

Most often I use origami paper for cutting. It comes in a huge number of beautiful colors, it is thin but sturdy and it's in the square shape that you need. You can also use printer paper, though it's heavier so it's a little harder to cut. If you start with 8.5 by 11 inch paper, you will need to create a square as illustrated below: Fold the top left corner down and line up the edges perfectly, then trim off the bottom strip. Whenever I do this, I create 3 tiny squares out of the trim piece. When making snowflakes, the larger flakes with the tiny flakes scattered about looks super cool in a window.

After you have your square, fold the paper in half corner-to-corner 2 more times (a total of 3 folds if you start with a whole unfolded square). Turn your folded paper point up with the unfolded edges at the bottom, then trim the bottom so your final shape is that of a pine tree. It should look as if it has a flat base and is pointing straight up. Discard the little scraps. Unfolded, this will give you a round shape. Note that the sharpest point of your "pine tree" is the center of the circle (top right).

The only rule to follow from here is that you must keep your paper intact at a minimum of one point on both of the long sides. If you sever the entirety of either long side, you will end up with a mess of separate pieces. Keep the long sides connected, even if it's in only one tiny little spot, and you'll have a perfectly intact piece. Besides this rule, anything goes!

You can make something up entirely, or create a specific image. Above, I created a beautiful scarlet organic looking shape that I may paste to a wooden cabinet door or a keepsake box. Below, I formed a carnation that I may pair with other flower shapes in a window in the summer.

I like to scatter a mix of simple flowers in my windows every spring. The shapes above and below are similar but you can see how I made a few extra cuts to create different flowers.

Paper cutting pasted to card stock makes adorable homemade cards!

Below you will see a good example of the significance of color. I wanted to make an autumn piece that resembled fallen oak leaves so I used a rusty brown origami paper. If I had used pine green paper, this piece would look like Christmas holly!

And the piece you see above could create images of autumn trees, storm clouds, snowflakes or water depending on your choice of color.


*If you want to make an image that resembles those old-school paper dolls that are holding hands, fold your paper into an accordion (or fan) shape. Keep both of the long sides intact in at least one place, and get creative!

*I always fold my origami paper white side out. This way if I want to I can use a pencil to draw out the cutting I plan to do and it will not show on the finished product.

*I always use Yes brand paste for gluing paper. It comes in a tub and can be painted onto your surface with a stiff brush. Your paper will never curl or ripple and if you need to shift or slide the paper around once it's stuck on there, you can.

*Always unfold your paper cuttings carefully. To press them flat, slide them into the pages of a heavy book (for a day or more) or press them with an iron on the lowest "synthetic" setting.

Happy cutting! Enjoy your day!


  1. Wow! These are amazing! Great work!

  2. I've been looking for a paper cutting tutorial like this! Thanks for sharing this! I especially love the fallen oak leaves! =D

  3. WAUW! These are beautiful :-) Thanks for sharing the lovely pictures, I especially love the flowers :-)

  4. Snowflakes have six sides not eight. How would you fold the paper for that?

    1. I don't have any photos of 6 sided folds here, but here's a link to a really good PDF illustration:

  5. Thanks so much - you've taken the mystery out of folded paper cuttings!


  7. I really don't get the fold but ill try �� this looks so cool

    1. I think you'll get it! Start with a square, corner to corner one, two, three times. Even it you don't trim the bottom edge properly you will still get awesome results- just not in a circle shape.


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