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Posted by on Jun 23, 2009 in Blog, Tutorials | 89 comments

Papercut Tutorial

Papercut Tutorial

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Dear friend,

After several testings, I have finally put together some sets of  DIY papercut  patterns, available at my Etsy shop. Yay!

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This first set includes1 Red Riding Hood, 1 Alice in Wonderland, 1 Peter Rabbit and 1 Pinocchio. Once finished,  each piece in the set will fit into a 5″x7″ frame or larger. You don’t need to transfer or draw these patterns on any surface because they are already printed on the exact paper that I use for my work. This is a beautiful archival paper, 100% cotton, acid-free, and the color is ivory. The pink color that you see in the pictures is the part that will be cut out from the design.

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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 won’t only make great gifts but they will also be 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.

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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 broken lines that you notice here are just a way to turn large spaces into islands.

Mano copy

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 to you. I do it in the same way that I hold a pen. Below is a practice sheet that I encourage you to download, print out on regular office paper, and cut. It will give you confidence to start up. Yes! You can do it!

Download Practice Sheet in JPG format

Download Practice Sheet in PDF format

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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.

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Here I just cut island #2.

D

Keep cutting. The key is to relax and enjoy the process.

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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. In this picture you can see how I did it.

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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 photo because this is a close up.

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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.

Line 1 small

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 very possible to go wrong and ruin the design. See the example above and notice how I made my first short cut.

Line 2 small

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.

Line 3 small

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 it great seeing the piece finished and ready to frame. It makes you fell proud of having completed the entire work from the beginning to the end.

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Now you understand why I haven’t been able to stop making papercuts. Once you make one with the right state of mind, then you will want to make more complicated ones.

I wish you all my best in your papercutting adventure!!

Elsita

PS. This post was written in 2009. Now is 2013 and I am happy to tell you about the digital papercut patterns that I designed recently. You can purchase and instantly download them  from this shop. I included another tutorial with the listings.

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89 Comments

  1. What a lovely tutorial, Elsa. As much paper snipping as I do, I still learned some good tips from your instructions. jan

  2. You are fabulous, Elsita! I might just have to try this. 🙂

  3. smart idea!! Soon you will have hooked thousands of paper cutting jumkies all over the world….

  4. what a great idea. i think i just might have to buy one of these! 🙂

  5. Oh my GOODNESS! I just purchased the four patterns, and I’ve downloaded my practice sheet; I can’t wait to make some artwork with you!

  6. I can’t thank you enough for this tutorial. I found a pattern in an old BHG Christmas book of Noah’s Ark which I wanted to try, but just didn’t know where to start. I would appreciate knowing what type of paper you recommend. The piece I want to do is on black paper, but am really unsure what the best type would be.
    I’m definitely going to download the practice sheet and give this a whirl.

  7. Hi Debbie!
    Here is my answer:
    For papercutting almost any paper is good as long as it is acid free because that way you can preserve it forever. The weight of the paper is a more personal choice, some artists prefer thin paper, some prefer thick paper. I like both and I decide which one to use depending on the kind of piece that I want to create. Some pieces (in my opinion) look better in a thin paper while others call for thick paper. Again, this is always a personal choice.
    There are soooo many options out there, online and at art stores. For black in particular I love the Canson paper for pastel. But it doesn’t only come in black, here is a link to lots of other colors, including black:
    http://www.in2art.com/art-supplies/canson-miteintes-pastelpaper
    For thinner paper I prefer SOUTHWORTH: http://shop.southworth.com/groups.php?cat=2&group=11
    But in the end, when you start out it is always better to go to your local art store and check the papers out in person. I only order from the internet after I have had the original paper in my hands.
    I hope that this helps!
    Elsita 🙂

  8. Good for you! What a great way to introduce papercutting to the crafty public. I hope you do great.
    I’m off to “heart” your shop for the future. A set of these would make a great gift for a crafty friend.

  9. Elista, I love that you are sharing your patterns and educating people on your techniques. Fabulous! Wishing you much success with it.

  10. Thank you Elsita..
    I really enjoyed your tutorial, and even more impressed by the artistry utterly. However, I am not tempted to try yet. I am a little afraid of Acto knives, always have been since college, and only use when I have to, e.g. for cropping work and mounting, and then it’s undertaken with a certain amount of trepidation and a great deal of caution.
    Well done and thank you…
    xx

  11. Elsita,
    You are brilliant and I adore you.
    xoxo

  12. Oh this is wonderful, Elsa! So nice to see someone else loving paper as much as I do (though your work is beyond belief! Far superior!!!) Very exciting…

  13. Thank you so much! I can’t wait to try paper cutting with my own designs too!

  14. Thanks for such a great tutorial! I hope I can find some time to give it a try! Making snowflakes are the closest thing I’ve done to paper cutting!! lol!

  15. Hi Elsita!
    What a great idea to pass on the love of papercutting! I used to do a bit of decoupage and I really enjoyed it, so I think i’ll try and hopefully I can become confident enough to create my own designs too.
    Yours is the first blog I subscribed to and still my favourite(s). You probably know this person but I saw this link today when reading about Chinese papercutting and it reminded me of you
    http://www.toxel.com/inspiration/2009/03/22/beautiful-and-creative-art-of-paper-cutting/
    Have a lovely weekend! Cleona

  16. I just tried drawing my own “paper lace” for a card I’m making… and these tips are helpful, since I drew a lot of curves. But the best tip you gave – RELAX. I’m not doing that! Hahaha.
    I love your happy, peaceful tutorial. I’ll happily spread this around when showing off my finished product!

  17. Thank you for this tutorial. I tend to use manicure scissors to do paper cutting because I always tear the paper when using an exacto knife. I even bought a special Fiskars cutter and still was unsuccessful.

  18. Dear Flash,
    The reason why you tear the paper when using an X-Acto knife could be that you’re not using the right blade (#11) which is extremely sharp, it is impossible to tear the paper when the blade is super sharp. But if you’re already using this kind of blade, then maybe your blade is it not “fresh” I replace the blades all the time. They are good as long as you don’t have to make any effort to cut the paper, after a number of cuts you always need to replace them.
    The other reason could be that the paper you’re using is too thin, for thin papers it is better to use scissors. I love scissors too, specially because it is very easy to cut curved lines with them.
    I hope that this helps!
    Elsita 🙂

  19. Thank you so much Cleona for the wonderful link!
    Thank you Ale for the blog award!

  20. thank you so much for sharing the tutorial and putting patterns together. I love your work and to have an opportunity to try this is wonderful!

  21. Thanks, I just received my patterns and I’m excited to try them! A few questions:
    1) What’s the best way to mount the finished papercut, once I’m ready to frame it? Do you glue it to a background piece? If so, what glue do you recommend?
    2) How do you safely dispose of the blades? I was thinking a small plastic bottle or something?
    3) If I want to cut down a larger piece of paper to make my own designs on small pieces, what’s the best way to cut it so it’s nice and straight? Do you use a paper cutter, or an Xacto blade with ruler, or…?
    Thanks very much!
    Cheryl

  22. Thank you, Elsita! I’m going to try papercutting now! 🙂

  23. Hi Cheryl!
    Here are my answers:
    1.1) What’s the best way to mount the finished papercut, once I’m ready to frame it? Do you glue it to a background piece? If so, what glue do you recommend?
    Yes, the best thing is to glue the papercut to a background piece, just make sure that that background piece it is acid-free. There are lots of nice acid-free papers out there. And also the glue should be acid-free, here is one that I like: http://www.pfile.com/product/v-s-200b/s
    2) How do you safely dispose of the blades? I was thinking a small plastic bottle or something?
    When you buy these blades: http://www.dickblick.com/products/x-acto-blade-safety-dispenser/ The little box contains many replacement blades but also, there is a space inside, like an empty box where you discard the used blades safely. There is a little hole for it.
    3) If I want to cut down a larger piece of paper to make my own designs on small pieces, what’s the best way to cut it so it’s nice and straight? Do you use a paper cutter, or an Xacto blade with ruler, or…?
    I use both of them, depending on how large the paper is. They both work fine.
    I hope that this helps!!
    Happy Paper cutting!!!!
    Elsita 🙂

  24. Thank you for the tutorial, I can’t wait to try it!

  25. Hi Elsita! I ordered your pattern kit and loved it so much that I’m going to package them up and give them as a gift. I think they’ll make a sweet present for a mom-to-be. I left a note at etsy, but I just wanted to reiterate that I think it’s really amazing that you’re encouraging other people to take a try at your art specialty. I am inspired, truly. Thank you! I can’t wait for the next set! I’d love the shoemaker’s elves!

  26. I love the art of paper cutting too esp. kiri-e so it’s just wonderful when I find such artist like you who took the time to give tutorials as well.
    Luv your works.

  27. Elsita,
    I just received my lovely paper cut “cheatsheets” and I can’t wait for the weekend to do them. They are so beautiful. I love the paper and I really can’t wait to get more of these from you…what wonderful and classy looking gifts to make with a simple frame. plus I love nice paper too.
    I’d love to have more nursery rhyme characters as you have already done, but also some of your more interesting artwork would be wonderful–just imagine your work populating all over the world from budding paper cut artists like me!
    thank you so much and I can’t wait for my son to be old enough to do this as he loves to make snowflakes with scissors…he’s 7 now, so I’m thinking 8 or 9?
    take care!

  28. What an excellent blog you have here. Finally, someone else that I have discovered that enjoys papercut art as much as me. I can’t wait to finish my site and start blogging about this art medium. Thank you for sharing.

  29. awesome!!! I wonder, how you cut it all out perfectly, flawless… cause I think I might easily broke it..
    it looks gorgeous..

  30. I’ve always been afraid of cutting things with sharp objects, but this makes me want to try. Great tutorital thank you for sharing your art.

  31. Oh. My. God. I am infatuated with all of the work you do. Your papercuts are amazing. I got 3 of them a few months ago & just want more and more. Thank you for putting out the patterns that we can cut out ourselves. One of my best friends if finally pregnant for the first time & i’m going to get them for her baby’s room. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

  32. Your tutorial is great, i think i can make my own patter at home as well..
    Your designs are lovely. When i was in high school i remember my 1st paper pattern and it was a simple flower. and i got an 80% of it. Fair enough for my one sleepless night.

  33. Wow, I’m so glad I stumbled onto this site! Your artwork is absolutely delightful. I’m attempting my first piece of paper art tonight, and your tutorial will be key. Thanks!!!

  34. I love everything that has already been said and agree with all of it. I’m waiting for my patterns to come in the mail.
    Patterns I’d like to see:
    Charlotte’s Web characters and Charlotte’s Web with her adjectives of Wilbur. This is such a beautiful love story about friendship!
    I love your site and especially “The Hidden Seed” site which initially I didn’t like but only becuse I didn’t really like myself and I was jealous to see somone else liking herself. The more you shared your journey, the more I could relate and was encouraged to be more brave in liking myself.
    Love you!

  35. Oh Elsita!!!
    Su trabajo es muy estupendo, realmente increible, felicitaciones, es usted magnifica !♥

  36. Elsita, this is absolutely wonderful. I’ve been checking back every so often to see whether or not more tutorials have made their way onto the site. Please post some more tutorials! This one allowed me to start off on the right foot. I am now craving more know-how! You work is unbelievable, and I thank you for everything you’ve done to help out others.
    Whether you decide to post more tutorials or not, your work is very much appreciated.
    Thank you!

  37. Thanks for sharing your tips on papercutting. I’m going to have to try these out next time I’m doing some cutting.

  38. Hey thanks for providing us all with some cool tips. I honestly didn’t know this was such a huge hobby. My friend cut a pretty cool pattern and had it framed. At the time I didn’t know what she was doing. It looks really nice and it adds a nice personal touch to her home decor.
    I will be headed over to your etsy store too. I just discovered that site a few days ago. In fact I will be linking to your store from my picture frame websites if that’s ok with you.
    Keep up the nice work.

  39. The perfect!These articles written too great,they rich contents and data accurately.they are help to me.I expect to see your new share

  40. this is such a great introduction. thank you so much for posting it! x

  41. Thank you! I’m sending this to my friend who could use some up-lifiting things to do.

  42. Ohhhhh! I’m falling in love with papercut! Wonderfull tutorial! I can’t stop me cut! I cut evrithing, everywhere!
    Can I share your tutorial on my ceramic blog?
    Thank you very much for thi tutorial.
    Sonia from Italy

  43. I just found your blog. Wow! Your work is amazing! I have had trouble in the past cutting fine details in the paper where the edges curl or appear smashed. After reading your tutorial I imagine it’s because I was not using the #11 blade (gonna pick that up right away!). I’m very inspired by your work. I have been doing a 365 day project myself of one creative thing a day for a year (currently on Day 319) I’m now planning on doing more papercuts!
    Have you ever thought of doing some stop-frame animation with your papercuts? There is some amazing work out there. This is a particularly beautiful one: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/10/stunning_animated_book_papercraft.html
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  44. I just cut my first two patterns and loved it. Thank you so much for the wonderful templates and the easy to follow instructions. 🙂

  45. I have always believed that the man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without.

  46. I such as this data shown and that has provided me some sort of commitment to have success for some factor, so thanks.

  47. Hi there, really enjoyed your tutorial, thank you. I wonder if you could tell me where I can buy the special papercutting paper from? I want to create my own designs but haven’t worked out a way of doing it without leaving little pencil lines! (and i find it hard to draw on backwards on the back of the sheet).
    Many thanks!

  48. Hello 🙂
    I’m new to the whole papercrafting cutting thing, and I wanted to get some of the basic tools. I have a knifepennything, but I don’t know if the blades sharp enough (I got it a year ago but didn’t use it much), can you tell me a measurement 🙂 Also any recomnnendation for the paper :)?
    Your site is very lovely and your work looks artistic ^_^

  49. I want to try..I have a good manuality but papercutting seems a little bit difficult…bur in Italy, can I find the knife for papercutting? thank you so much

  50. That’s a posting full of isngiht!

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  52. Doo, that is the most beautiful palecmat I have ever seen! I would love to have one like that on my table. Just like like your Grandma I also used to weave potholders when I was little. I love you!Auntie

  53. Cardstock paper. computer paper is way too thin to use for card manikg or scrapbooking. You can find cardstock at Joann’s fabrics, Hobby Lobby or Michael’sI would not recommend construction paper.

  54. That is the most sadistic uidretaknng I have ever seen! However, knowing your mad skillz in all that I find to be tedious and impossible, you so got this! Congrats on just getting started! That is the worst part of the battle!

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  58. Posted on LOL! This reminds me of the caabbge patch dolls my Mom made when I was little. Remember when they were selling for megabucks? Mom decided she would make me & my sister dolls. We thought they were pretty cool at the time; however, my sister found hers recently & it is scary. The head had became mishapen & the painted on eyes had faded off looks like something on a horror film. My son won’t come near it! Good luck on your next project love your site!

  59. Posted on Thank you so much. I’ve had some dirt stuck in my eye most of the day. I laughed so hard that I cried and I think it sheawd the dirt outta my eye. I feel so much better now.Like Angie above I tried to make the shriveled apple doll when I was about 11. It was a major craft fail. It was ugly, smelled funny and attracted ants in our kitchen. My mother was not amused. It also ruined the Barbie dress I tried to put on it.

  60. I’V just started papper cutting and love it, thank you for easy tips, especially circles. What can I use to protect the paper with so it doesn’t fade? and is it neccessary?

  61. merveilleux et plein de posésie ! merci

  62. The state of mind is everything. I am always in such a huge rush to get to the finish line and get on to my next idea. Thank you for this insightful tutorial.

  63. I have a self-healing mat but I prefer to cut on glass. I get a nice clean edge and the paper is easier to move while I’m cutting it.

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  71. Where can i purchase the kit. Tried etsy but no place to order them. Thank you

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