After several testings, I have finally put together a few sets of DIY papercut patterns on my
Etsy shop. Update → I closed my Etsy store years ago, but I decided to make all of my patterns available to everyone for free. You can find them here.
This first set includes Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Rabbit, and Pinocchio. Download it for free here and print it out on a regular letter size sheet of paper, 8’5″ x 11″. Once finished, each piece in the set will fit into a 5″x7″ frame or larger.
All you will need is a knife (I recommend an X-Acto knife with the #11 blade) and a self-healing cutting mat. This is a great opportunity for you to give papercutting a try. These pieces make great gifts but this is also a therapeutic activity to enjoy. From personal experience, I can say that papercutting is one of the most relaxing activities that I have ever practiced. I see it as a form of meditation.
Let’s start by taking a look at this pattern featuring Peter Rabbit. Do you see the numbers? Each number is a little “island” within the general design. We are basically going to cut out these islands, one at a time, following the numerical order. The black dashed lines that you notice here are used to turn large spaces into “islands”.
Before you start working on the first pattern, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND to take a piece of paper and make some cuts on it just to “warm up”. To start cutting, hold the knife in the position that is most comfortable for you. I do it in the same way that I hold a pen. Below is a practice sheet that I encourage you to download and print out on regular office paper for practice. It will give you the confidence needed to start up this adventure. Yes! You can do it!
Here you can see how I just cut out the island #1. You will be doing this with your knife, and my number one advice is: enjoy the process and relax. Imagine that you’re a surgeon doing an exciting “operation” in order to bring your pattern to life. While making the cuts, hold the paper with your other hand for more control and rotate it as needed.
Here I just cut island #2.
Keep cutting. The key is to relax and enjoy the process.
After all the islands have been cut out, you will have some smaller details to work on. I want to tell you a little secret about how to cut the eye: instead of doing a circular cut, make short straight cuts, one next to the other around the edge of the circle. You can see how I did it in this picture.
When you look at the piece, your eye will see a nice little circle. The straight cuts won’t show. You see them in this image because this is a closeup photo.
So, after the inner part of the design has been cut out, we are now ready to cut the outer silhouette of the apple. And this is very easy too.
In order to do that I illustrated another secret for you: how to cut curves. In order to cut curved lines without accidents all you need is to do it gradually. Don’t try to cut a looooong line because it is easy to go wrong and ruin the design. See the example above and notice how I made my first cut.
Here I I took a nice breath, I looked through the window in my studio to see the flowers outside and then I made the second short cut. I’m feeling very calm and relaxed.
Then I did the third cut (I looked at the flowers again…) And before I realized I was already done cutting my Petter Rabbit piece. Yay!
It is great seeing the piece finished and ready to frame. It makes you feel proud of having completed the entire work from beginning to end.
Now you understand why I haven’t been able to stop making papercuts. Once you make one with the right state of mind, you will want to make more complex ones.
I wish you all my best in your papercutting adventure!
PS. This post was written in 2009. It is 2017 now and things have changed a bit as you can imagine, but I’m still fascinated by paper. I continue to be a full-time artist working in different media, and I also work full-time for ArtYard, (artistic director-curator), a wonderful contemporary art center based in Frenchtown, New Jersey. I hope that you can visit us there if you’re ever in that area. Regarding Social Media, I’m most active on Instagram, my name over there is @elsamorainstant, but I also have an account dedicated to paper: @elsamorapaper