Paper Cutting or Silhouette Art is a beautiful art form using the contrast of dark and light, shadows and illumination. It has many traditional names, including Scherenschnitte in Germany, Wycinanki in Poland, and Kiri-e in Japan. The name silhouette came from Etienne de Silhouette of France, and cut paper portraits were popular in Europe and America in the 1700's.
You can make your own paper art with just a few simple materials. It takes a lot of time and patience, but the end result will be worth it! I have included some photos showing the process I use to create my art, using an illustration of the Goddess Ereshkigal I did for a forthcoming issue of Mythic Delirium magazine.
1. Paper. One of the great things about paper cutting is that you can use all sorts of paper, and part of the fun is experimenting with it. You can practice on regular printer paper, and then try different scrapbooking papers, art papers or anything you find. You want a paper that is thin enough to be able to manipulate, but not so thin that it will tear. I like to use black silhouette paper, which is coated with a nice matte black on one side and white on the other.
2. X-acto knife with #11 blades.
3. Self-healing mat or cardboard to cut on.
4. Ruler for cutting straight lines.
Finding a Design:
It’s best to start with a simple design, and then work your way up to something more complex. There are many places to find templates that can be transferred to paper. One website I use for supplies is www.papercuttingsbyalison.com, they have all the supplies you need and also sell many templates. If you want to draw your own designs, practice and study how all the lines connect and how negative space is used.
Transferring to Paper:
You can buy commercial templates that already have the design printed on the paper for you. If you need to copy it onto the paper, there are two methods that I use. Shown in the photo is the black silhouette paper, with my sketch printed directly onto the white backside. I scanned in my sketch and printed it out. If you are printing on the back of the paper, make sure to flip or reverse the image before you print it. That way it will show up the right way on the front (the black side) when it is cut out.
Some paper is too light or too dark to print on, and the ink will show through or not show up at all. You can print or copy your design on thin regular paper, place it on top of the paper you are cutting on (on the front, do not reverse the image for this method), and tape it in place with small pieces of tape. Then you cut through both layers.
Cutting it Out:
Make slow, small cuts, and always use a sharp blade. When the blade starts to catch too much on the paper, it is time to change it. The second photo shows the paper cut in progress, with sections cut out of the back of the paper. I use my sketch as a guideline, and make small adjustments as I go. If you’re using a template, the lines to follow will be clear and defined. I turn the paper over or pick my work up occasionally to see how it’s progressing. It helps to hold it up to a light source (carefully) so you can see all the edges more easily. When you’re done, sit back and admire your work!