How to Make Papel Picado

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Papel picado is the ancient Mexican tradition of cutting scenes into paper to use as decoration at various holidays. The advent of tissue paper made this art especially popular. The colors and scenes used depend on the holiday for which they are being made. Although a somewhat difficult skill to master, making papel picado is truly worth the effort. Here's how to create your own papel picado masterpiece.

Things You'll Need

  • Piece of computer paper
  • Multiple sheets of colored tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Razor knife
  • Trim your tissue paper down to the size of a standard piece of paper-8 ½ inches by 11 inches.

  • Stack two or three pieces of tissue paper on top of one another, then place the stack on top of a piece of computer paper. The computer paper gives the tissue paper stability.

  • Fold the stack of paper down the middle with the computer paper facing out. Fold it again at the edge of the paper to keep the papers contained. Keep the stack folded as you work: this is what will create a symmetrical design on the finished paper.

  • Sketch a drawing of what you want your papel picado design to look like onto the piece of computer paper so that you will have a pattern to follow.

  • Begin to cut out your design. Use scissors for cutting out large holes and other less intricate designs.

  • Implement a razor knife when cutting out fine details in your design. Apply enough pressure to go through all the layers without tearing up the delicate tissue paper.

  • Flatten out the stack of papers after you are finished cutting. Carefully remove the piece of computer paper to reveal your beautiful design on the tissue paper beneath.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember that you will only draw "half" of a design onto the computer paper: since your paper will be folded as you cut, you will have a whole design when you unfold it.
  • The pieces of tissue paper that you use don't necessarily have to be the same color.
  • Put a hard surface between your paper and the table when using a razor knife to prevent any cuts to the table.
  • Modify this project for children by having them use only one piece of tissue paper, folded multiple times. Have them use child-safe scissors to cut out designs around the edges of the paper.
  • Always use proper caution when using scissors or a razor knife.

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