For a while I’ve been wanting to try paper cutting. Not the slicing my finger while opening the bills kind of paper cutting, but the intentional kind. I kept seeing these intricate and stunningly beautiful cut paper come across my Tumblr feed. They are really beautiful and delicate works of art that require amazing patience and skill. Even though I know I’ve got neither of those things, I really wanted to try my hand at paper cutting. So much of what I do is virtual and never makes it out of a hard drive that it’s very satisfying to create something with my hands.
So a few a months ago, I made a template and gave it a try. And it was a miserable failure. Let’s not ever speak of it again.
BUT I was undeterred and on Wednesday gave it another try. What I really threw me were there were so many great intricate designs out there, but people don’t go from no experience to master level paper cutter in one project. I did some hard hitting investigating (a google search) to try to see if there were any beginner level paper cutting templates out there. I finally found this site with tons of free templates. I figure once I get the basics down I can create my own, but starting out it’s probably better to stick to ones created by the pros.
In retrospect, I should have taken photos of the progress. But, honestly, I didn’t think it was going to turn out as well as it did, that’s how bad my first try was. It didn’t even take as long as I thought- slightly less then 2 hours from setting up my mat to the final photos. My google search didn’t really find any instructions for paper cutting, so I kinda had to wing it. Even though I’m new at it, I wanted to share what I know, in case anyone else feels inspired.
1- Tape everything down. Get a roll of art tape. It’s like painter’s tape, but for paper and a roll will last you approximately 75 years. Tape down your cutting mat, your paper, your template- everything but your knife. Your knife is less likely to slip this way.
2- Use paper that isn’t too thick. Some anonymous dumb ass (who lives in my house, wears my clothes and name rhymes with Keth Krousil) first tried to paper cut bristol board. So completely stupid! I used drawing paper on the one above and really liked it. It’s heavier then regular paper, but not so thick that it’s hard to work with.
3- Go slowly and don’t press too hard. I can’t state that enough. Last year I had a 3D design class that involved a lot of cutting things out of foam core board with the Exact-O and the principles are the same. You’ll have more precise lines if you make several passes of the knife going deeper and deeper each time then one very hard pass. Also, look slightly ahead, just a few centimeters, while cutting. I’ve found that makes my line a little more accurate.
4- It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s not going to hang in the Guggenheim, so be easy on yourself. Plus, when people know that you’ve made it by hand, they’re really forgiving of your “mistakes”. If it’s something you want to do, the only mistake you can make is not trying.
5- Cut on the side that will not show. Like if you are making a card, cut on the inside. For some reason the side you are cutting ends up looking like ass, especially if your blade starts to dull. If you’re starting to get a lot of dragging or jagged edges, change your blade. They’re super cheap and it’s only going to make the end result look that much better if your blade is nice and sharp.
Oh and something else fun about paper cutting? It gives you the opportunity for some cool pictures. In addition to the opening one, I took this one:
I’m going to make more paper cuts, if for no other reason then to take some cool pictures. This one is on it’s way to be a greeting card (so if the recipient happens to be reading, pretend like you are surprised and delighted when you open it) and I’m going to do another one ASAP. My relationship with the Exact-O knife is destined for tragedy (I’m super clumsy), but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. In the mean time, here are some inspirational paper cutting sites:
Folk Art Paper Cuts by Suzy Taylor – She is a master. Unbelievable work.
Beautiful and Creative Art of Paper Cutting– A variety of artists work for some inspiration.
Scherenschnitte– Tons of free templates to get you started, if you want to give it a go.
Stock up on band aids and have a great week!