5 Tips for Paper Cutting

I originally wrote these five tips for an author who asked what techniques that were unique to my practice in cut paper. So if you cut paper like I do, i.e., with a template, these few pointers might help you:

1.  To align my cutout template with the rice paper, I use staples on the top two corners for registration and paperweights to keep the template from shifting while cutting.

2.  I make sure a cut paper piece in progress is structurally sound by starting in the center and working out to the edges.

3.  For large pieces, it is best that you do not lift the cut paper before it is complete and to also cover any cut section with a blank sheet of paper when resting your hand or arm upon it to cut other areas. These precautions protect the delicate areas.

4.  When doing intricate cutting, it helps to lift your knife to the very tip of the blade at the end of a line to prevent over cutting.

5.  Instead of blowing or shaking stray pieces from a cut paper piece, I use a soft sable brush.



Introduction to Basic Patterns in Chinese Paper Cutting

I compiled “Basic Chinese Paper Cutout Patterns” for a workshop at Nevada Museum of Art couple weeks ago. For beginners, I recommend that you practice each pattern one by one until you are familiar with all of them. And then, you can start making simple cutouts of your own. You can use a few patterns together in a single artwork or even just one pattern in repetition and various sizes, such as circles, to create an interesting piece.

For those who want to start cutting right away, you can read and download my most popular post Templates for Kids and Parents. My suggestion is to incorporate the basic patterns into the templates. There are snowflake, flower, butterfly, fish, and other simple motifs. Feel free to first pencil in the patterns and then cut them out. Doing so would allow you to make changes and cut more accurately.

From the images on the far right, you can see how I have used these basic techniques in my cut paper works. For more images of my work that incorporate these patterns, go to boveylee.com.

Click on image to enlarge:

Basic Patterns in Chinese Paper Cutting. Text translated by Bovey Lee. Source: Minjian Jianzhi Jiqiao. Far right: Images by Bovey Lee. For educational use only. November 2012.

Basic Chinese Paper Cutting Patterns

What are the basic cutting patterns in Chinese paper cutting?

They are extremely simplified and stylized forms depicting things in nature. Below are some examples taken from my paper cutouts.

1. Sun

2. Moon

3. Water Drop

4. Cloud

5. Leaf

6. Thorn

Basic Paper Cutting Techniques

There are many ways to make paper cutting and techniques may also vary depending on whether you use scissors or knives. However, several basic techniques are universal.

1. Folding

Fold the paper once to create simple symmetry or fold multiple times for more complex repetition.

What the Monarch Remembers

What the Monarch Remembers, template and rice paper cutout, 4.75x3.20", 2010

2. Negative space cutting

The object/motif is depicted in parts that have been cut away.

Beach Ball Blast, details, rice paper cutout, 2009

3. Positive space cutting

By cutting away the unwanted parts of the paper, the object/motif is revealed within the paper that’s left.

Memory Windows I, rice paper cutout on silk, 24x24", 2010

4. Black and white outlining

The simultaneous use of both negative space and positive space cutting techniques.

The Pebbles Think They're Buddha

The Pebbles Think They're Buddha, rice paper cutout on silk, 12.25x12.25", 2010

Source: Zhang, Daoyi. The Art of Chinese Papercuts. Beijing, China: Foreign Language Press, 1989.