Pavneet Sembhi

In a world of lines and squiggles

My First Papercut

CreativityPavneet SembhiComment

When I first came across papercutting art I was in complete awe, the effect that can be created is so beautiful and delicate. I really love trying new crafty things so on one of my trips to Rymans I decided to pick up some bits so I could have a go myself. This is a little about my first papercutting experience, what I did, what I learnt and how you can try it out yourself. There are some great tutorials out there so I definitely advise youtubing and googling this some more if you want to give it a try. 

Okay so firstly the equipment I used:

  • Paper - silly of me but I bought some black card and then found the knife wouldn't actually cut it. I actually just used normal printer paper in the end but I will be researching into the best paper to use for next time. 
  • Hobby Knife - I used the Jakar Hobby Knife 
  • Cutting Mat - I got mine from Rymans and apparently its self healing!
  • Pencil 

The next thing to do is to plan what you want to cut out - I did a mandala design that I sort of made up as I went along each layer. The key thing to remember is that the whole piece needs to stay connected - if you cut the wrong bit a chuck of the design will just completely fall through (not sure how to explain this but if you try you will understand!) And if you are doing words then it will need to be a mirror image. 

It might be better to try with a simple design first and experiment a bit rather than stress yourself out like I did. As it was my first time papercutting, I was in extreme focus mode throughout and very worried I would cut the wrong bit. I did actually cut through a few of the lines and so had to make emergency plasters out of masking tape to fix it back together!  That's why I recommend practicing a lot more before attempting something this complex. 

If you draw your design with a blunt pencil the lines are really thick and you just need to cut out the space in between the lines. So that you can see how I did this I have included a photo of how it looked from the back, you can see all the pencil lines I drew. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that it REALLY does not matter if all the bits are not completely even, as long as it achieves the overall effect. Just take a look at one layer above, you will see many of the shapes are actually wonky and sort of all over the place.

I also discovered that small curves and small round circles are SO difficult to do. This probably again comes down to practice and learning how to use the knife - I ended up having to do a lot of reshaping because I was struggling to get the curve looking curvy, if that makes sense. If you are going to include little circles or curves I would advise doing some practice runs on another piece of paper first. 

As with drawing, I prefer there to be contrasting sections so in the same way I like there to be a range of dark and light areas in my illustrations, I tried to vary the straight and curvy lines as well as the thickness in certain areas. But this is down to personal preference, its just what I like. Here's a few progress photos so you can see how it grew:

I hope you give papercutting a try and please feel free to tag and send me photos of any of your papercuts! I am by no means an expert but I hope this helps and gives you an insight into papercutting. If you want to check out some other artists who do this sort of artwork then look at the artwork of Rebecca Loechler, Mr Riu and Sarah Dennis - they are all incredibly talented.