How to Do Paper Cutting Art

Updated April 17, 2017

Although paper cutting can be traced back to ancient China, credit is given to German immigrants in Pennsylvania for turning it into a popular folk art. In the 1800s, paper cutting was referred to as "scherenschnitte", which means "scissor cutting" or "scissor snipping" in German. Paper cutting involves making small cuts into paper to create designs. Artists often create visually elaborate designs that incorporate landscapes, flowers, trees, animals and hearts. Some basic techniques will get you started on paper cutting.

Draw your design. Trace it on parchment paper. Fold the paper if your design is symmetrical. Tape all the sides of the parchment paper to the cutting mat.

Hold the X-acto knife as you would hold a pen, with your index finger on top.

Make a tiny hole in the area that you want to cut. Insert your knife. Carefully pull the X-acto knife toward you until you reach the end of that line. If the line changes direction, rotate the paper and the cutting mat so that the knife is pulled toward you as you cut.

Make small precise cuts with the X-acto knife working from the inside out. Continue to make small cuts to cut the image from the paper but leave the paper intact. If your paper is folded, use enough pressure so the cuts go through the two layers. Avoid cutting the part secured by tape.

Cut a circle by making short straight cuts right next to each other.

Cut curves by doing a small section at a time rather than one long curve. Position your knife into the beginning of the curve that you want to remove. Gently cut around the curve as you pull the knife toward you. Continue until the knife feels awkward to pull. Do not lift your knife from this position.

Hold the knife and rotate your paper and the cutting mat until you are able to pull the knife toward you as you cut. Continue to cut until it the curve ends or you need to turn the paper.

Remove the cut-out image by inserting your knife into the centre of the image and gently tugging it. If it's difficult to remove, do not pull it because the paper may tear. Tug the piece once again, and recut the area where the image is attached.

Glue your paper-cut artwork on a dark coloured paper to show off the design.


Use a razor-sharp blade to avoid unclean cuts and snags. Cut small areas first and then go on to the larger areas.

Things You'll Need

  • X-Acto Knife
  • Cutting mat
  • Parchment paper
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Dark sheet of paper
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author