Papercut how-to. From a beginner.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And when I say beginner, I mean I've never done this before.

I’ve been seeing beautiful papercuts all over the internet and wanted to try my hand at making my own. I’m drawn to this technique because of the strong contrast of the finished piece. The lines are there and the background isn’t. There is no gray area, no inbetween space, just like the designs that I create for my screen prints. Here is my process, I hope it inspires you to try one on your own! 

All I needed for this project was a piece of tracing paper, a piece of black card stock, an xacto knife with a fresh blade, a little bit of tape, a drawing or sketch to base my papercut on, and a cutting mat to protect my work surface. I started with one of my retro house designs (fabric print to show up soon in my new Etsy shop: vitamodern). I chose this design because it was mostly made up of straight lines (easier to cut!). I drew it out on the trace at about 10” wide with a fat felt-tip pen. I would be cutting out and removing the white space, so I made sure to keep the black lines on the thicker side to help prevent small accidental cuts. 

I also made sure that the black lines connected to other black lines in multiple areas to keep the papercut sturdy. I didn’t want a key piece of the design dangling by a thread so to speak! Once I was done with the sketch, I taped it to the card stock and started cutting! At this point, I was really only tracing the design onto the cardstock with the knife. Most of the cuts didn’t go all the way through the paper. 

After the design was completely transferred, I removed the trace, and got to really cutting out the areas. This took lots of time and patience. I took a few breaks to let my fingers rest. 

Be careful not to cut through small areas. The curved lines were a little tougher to cut – I just took my time with those and cut them in sections. 

Here’s my completed papercut! It’s a retro house with a landscaped breezeway and a detached garage. There are a couple of clouds, trees and shrubs included, too. The shrubs and trees were my favorite part to cut out, but I’m a landscape architect, so that probably isn’t surprising. 

There are areas that could use a little refining and I think I’ll add headlights to the car, but other than that it’s complete. I’m thinking of creating a screen from this papercut and printing the design on tea towels for my vitamodern shop. Maybe I’ll create a tutorial for that process as well!

Overall this was a fun project and I’m already thinking about the next design I want to cut into paper.


  1. This turned out great, especially for your first one!

  2. Thanks, Sam! I actually had a dream about doing another papercut. The knife was so sharp that it just cut through the paper like butter. It was wonderful... Haha, dreaming about art projects!

  3. Saw this on Pinterest. Great job!

  4. Thank you and thanks for stopping by, Beth!

  5. Ha, total landscape architect tree! I recognized your profession from your craft before even reading (I am a LA too). I love this craft, thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Heather. Thanks for stopping by! Just you wait, I've got a bunch of other papercuts with LA trees and shrubs. :)

  7. Awesome -I have been wanting to papercut for a while, so thanks for presenting this activity in such a basic way -
    now I can wrap my mind and fingers around it! Can't wait to
    start! Thanks !! 8-))

  8. Great idea. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Complimenti per la grande creatività e grazie mille <3
    Un caro saluto.

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