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  • Writer's pictureWeiqi Xing

Paper Cutting

As a beginner, I would like to share my process and experience in making paper cut illustrations. I hope it can give you some inspiration and help

My view on paper cutting

Paper cutting is a culture, an art, not a mere "flowing cutting"

I am from China and the first thing that struck me about paper cutting in Chinese culture was "window flowers".We like to put window decals on our windows during the Spring Festival, which not only sets a festive mood, but also brings beauty to people, combining decoration, appreciation and practicality.

As an illustrator, I prefer to explore the traditional crafts that can be used as modern illustrations. This led to the creation of my paper cutting work, Ethnography.

Introduction to tools:

As a beginner, if you're just getting started with paper cutting, you can start with the more basic tools, which are the ones I used.

Cutting Mat ;Art Knife;Scissor;Pencil;Glue;Coloured paper

The tools I use

Producing steps:

1. Paper cut-outs, like all illustrations, require study and sketching before they are created, which is an important phase.

I decided to focus on Tibetan costume for the first piece in my ethnic series, so I researched a lot of costume photographs and culture. I then summarised and reworked these findings to make them more in line with the illustration style.

Sketches of my work Ethnography

The sketches I have identified

2. Double-check the sketch. You can print it out to make it easier to compare the sizes. Especially for figure work, since the proportions of the figures can easily be carved improperly.

3. The most attractive feature of paper cutting is its three-dimensionality, so it is important to check the relationship between the front and back of each part when cutting. There is no definite requirement for this, so you can decide according to your preference. You can also try out more concentrations to find the best one.

4. Head: My personal habit is to make the head first, which gives me a huge boost of confidence.

(1)Hair: Although there is only one colour of hair, I highly recommend that you use a dark colour as a base colour and cut a cut-out light colour overlay. This will give the hair a layered look and will also make it more vibrant.

(2)The features: As the features are very detailed, if you are trying this for the first time, this section can be painted with tools such as coloured pencils or watercolours, which also give great results.

(3)Headdress: this part is a relatively important part of my ethnography, so I did every detail by cutting paper, this will be difficult the first time, but it will be good and fulfilling once I get good at it.

4. Body

(1) The first thing to be completed is the colour,

which is the base colour of the dress and the tone of the work. Only on this basis can the details of the carving be carried out.

(2) After the overall shape of the dress is completed do not rush to complete the rest of the piece yet. Each step should be checked against the previous one, and the most convenient way to check that the overall proportions are correct is to place it underneath the completed head.

5, The next step is to finish the decoration part by part and put it together again. I know it's a bit difficult, the most important thing about paper cutting is patience and you will slowly enjoy the process.

(Don't worry about cutting out the wrong parts, it's a big piece and the wrong parts can be used later in the production)

6. Of course, you can also make it into a complete illustration. I have incorporated some other ethnic elements in this piece, such as Tibetan characters and rattle cows.

Other decorative parts of the work

7. Complete


Paper cutting needs to be individual and highlight the theme. When cutting paper under the scissors, it is important to know what you want to express, to put your own emotions into the work and to show your individuality.

The way you cut, the way you express yourself, the way you express your language is different. Just like the speed and tone of each person's speech varies, there are fast and slow, light and heavy, but they are all characteristics of their own language.

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