Tips, Tricks, and Techniques: Papercutting!

This is going to be a regular feature in this blog, because I want everyone to fall in love with the wonderful world of DIY. My crafting philosophy involves trying everything (with a bit of research online/through craft idols/books and magazines) and not being afraid of making mistakes–it’s all a part of the learning process! πŸ™‚ This philosophy has helped me to determine which artsycraftsy activities I love the most.

I’ll be sharing some DIY-related discoveries based on my experience with the craft, and I hope you find this guide (and future guides!) useful!

Papercutting involves the simplest of materials–a piece of paper, a cutter, and a self-healing cutting mat. Although I have tried cutting paper while sprawled on the floor (see previous post), I feel more relaxed doing it on a desk with a comfy chair. Safer, too.

I highly enjoy doing it inside coffeeshops that aren’t too crowded or distractingly noisy. I discovered papercutting some years back, when I saw the intricate paper cut artworks of Rob Ryan, and met the awesome Pergy with her ace papercutting skills.

I tried to make one myself, but I didn’t have a cutting mat back then so I used the yellow pages as a makeshift cutting mat, which didn’t work that great at all. My blade was also dull, so it kept snagging at my work, which frustrated me. However, I now have a nice cutting mat and a new sharp cutter, and Pinay crafters like Patricia, Richelle and Mansy (she’s going to have a papercutting workshop, do check it out!) inspired me with their beautiful papercut artworks, so I decided to give papercutting a second chance. We’re friends now, and my level of obsession reached that point where my day isn’t complete without doing a papercut. Heh.

Tips, tricks and techniques:

1.Plan, plan, plan. If you have a design in mind, consider which parts you’ll be cutting out and which parts you’ll be leaving. I like marking the areas I’ll cut out with an x or making marks on it with my pencil so I won’t be confused.

This is my most recent papercut entitled “Amelia’s Dream”. The outline of the face make up the positive space and the airplane cut out from her hair is the negative space. It might be helpful to read this post about positive and negative space. When making designs with a lot of positive space, bear in mind that everything should be connected though, so you can place tiny connectors between your border and your design, for example. In the papercut below, the lashes serve as my connector:


2. Patience is a virtue. Intricate details look lovely and they also require a certain amount of concentration andΒ  so set aside a pocket of time for doing it, unless that’s how you roll. I am highly impatient and I have the attention span of a two-year-old, but for some reason, the act of papercutting puts me in a sort of relaxed trance, while I try to achieve cutting fine lines. Sometimes I hold my breath and it helps!

3. You don’t have to focus on one area. Because of my short attention span, I switch between cutting hard, detailed areas and huge easy chunks to minimize fatigue. It’s up to you.

4. Sharp cutters = <3. I use a Genmes cutter but I’ve heard others use X-acto knives or those usual thin cutters. Try various cutters to find out which suits you, but changing the blades ever so often spells a world of difference.

5. Angles, then curves. If you’re like me and you have a hard time cutting curves, cut them as angles first, then go back and round off the angles. It’ll be easier then.

6. To each their own paper. I like normal bond paper, but I’ve also tried using an index card, tracing paper and a thicker, almost board-like paper. I love bond paper the most because it’s easier to slice, but then your mistakes easily show too, and sometimes it snags, when I forget to replace my blade. The thick paper was more durable and hid mistakes easily, but it was harder to slice too.

7. Freestyle it. It’s nice to have a planned design (see first tip), but I highly recommend just taking a piece of paper and cutting shapes you like. I believe that papercutting is just like drawing, where we each have our own distinct style. Doing this will help you discover what shapes you enjoy making (mine are long, lazy waves and easy askew triangles). You can then incorporate said favorite shapes in your designs. This would also familiarize you with the kind of paper, cutter, and cutter angle you fancy.

8. Mask accidents with masking tape or washi tape. That’s what I do. Just stick some tape at the back and cut off the surrounding areas. πŸ™‚

Some papercutting links you might like:
Paper cuts by Joe
Elsita’s papercut art. She made a detailed tutorial here that I love.
Lovely blog. Here’s an interview with the artist, Naomi Shiek. (Lotsa tips there too!)

Have you tried papercutting? Do share your experience!

7 thoughts on “Tips, Tricks, and Techniques: Papercutting!

  1. Love your paper cutting! Maybe you can steer me to xacto knives (#11) and cutting boards in Ubud?! I can’t find them anywhere -and black boards thick like mat boards. Anyone?

    Much obliged,

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