Studio Saturday: Paper Cutting

Paper cutting has fascinated me for years, but I’ll let you in on a little secret—I’ve been too intimidated to try anything but rudimentary designs. Some of the cut paper art I’ve seen is so intricate that I can’t quite believe a human being made it. I thought it would take countless hours of practice to produce something good. Nope—I just followed expert instructions from Samantha Quinn, and I’m thrilled with the results.

Samantha’s Paperology article in the July/August 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors breaks down paper cutting techniques into doable bites, so that in a short amount of time you’ve got a fantastic finished project. She shows how to make a dimensional, layered paper-cut frame using a rose design, and offers fantastic tips for working with tools and paper. Paper cutting is a growing trend in mixed-media art, and no wonder—the effects you can get with a simple sheet of paper are nothing short of stunning.

Her template is available to download (see our Online Extras), but Samantha gives you enough information that you can easily use your own design. I did just that, using a photo of some lilacs as inspiration.

I starting with a 4″ x 6″ photo of some lilacs I took in the spring. I thought some of the four-petal flowers would work well for paper cutting.

Flowers as inspiration for paper cutting
These lilac flowers became the design around the paper cut frame.

I created a ½”-wide frame on a sheet of copy paper and sized the blossoms in the photo to fit the frame. I chose a few of the blossoms in the photo and traced them around the frame, using a light box. The copy paper was sheer enough so I could see through it, and I made sure the petals connected to each other and the frame, so it was one piece.

Tracing flowers for a paper cut frame
Using a light box, I traced the blossoms, making sure they connected.

When I was happy with the design I scanned it, flopped it 180 degrees, and printed it onto a piece of 8 ½” x 11″ pale pink cardstock. Using this as a template, I cut out the flowers.

Paper cutting template traced onto cardstock
The paper cutting template was printed onto pale pink cardstock.

Among Samantha’s tips: Cut the small areas first; in this case, the centers of the flowers, the cuts in the petals, and the spaces between the flowers. If you cut the large areas first, it weakens the paper, making more detailed cuts difficult, and upping the risk of tearing the paper.

Cutting small areas of the design first for paper cutting
Cutting small areas of the design first helped to keep the paper strong.

She also recommends changing your blade frequently, something I had to remind myself to do. This tip (one of many) is a life saver. And if you feel guilty going through blades, don’t. Blades can be recycled, and it’s an important habit that will help ensure great paper cutting results. Also, don’t rush the cutting. You can take breaks and do it in stages, but this should be mindful work. I found it extremely meditative. One more thing—there’s a very quick learning curve. Following Samantha’s instructions, I was able to see my technique improve enormously in just this one project. That’s how good she is.

When I finished cutting the frame I printed the same design onto a piece of green cardstock, and cut around just the outer border. To add a little more layering to the piece, I cut tiny pieces of lavender and yellow cardstock and adhered them to a few of the flowers on the pink cardstock so the colors would show through the cuts. In her article, Samantha shows an even better way to add more dimension to your piece, so don’t miss that.

Adding layers to paper cutting
Creating layers for paper cutting designs adds dimension.

The photo was adhered to the back of the frame, and a piece of foam core was adhered to that. Then the green paper cut was adhered to the other side of the foam core. That little bit of spacing adds a wonderful 3-D effect.

Paper cutting is fantastic for cards, art journal pages, handmade books, and collage, and paper cut art makes an incredible gift. Since doing this project I’m a little obsessed with it, and it’s now a permanent part of my mixed-media repertoire. Why not make it part of yours?

The complete instructions for beautiful cut paper art can be found in the July/August 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, and these other resources will feed your love of paper, too!

July/August 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine
Get tons of great techniques and tips for making beautiful paper cut art in the July/August 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.
Cloth Paper Scissors Paper Lovers Collection
This Paper Lovers collection of issues of Pages, Paper Art, and Paper Holiday magazines has projects galore for the paper obsessed.
Folded Books and Paper Art eMagazine
Find compelling projects for paper and book art in the eMagazine Folded Books and Paper Art, compiled from issues of Cloth Paper Scissors, Pages, and more.
Painted Paper Art Workshop by Elizabeth St. Hilaire
If you love paper you can’t live without the book Painted Paper Art Workshop by Elizabeth St. Hilaire; learn techniques for painting papers by hand and using them in collage.



Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques, Paper Art and Zen Doodle

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