How to make Chinese paper cuts

Paper cuts have been made for over 1,000 years. They often show details of the life and beliefs of the people who make them. They are still used for decorations at festivals, birthdays, weddings and even funerals.

Chinese Paper Cuts


A Chinese artist made a paper cut of this tiger-cat to pin on the bed of a newborn child. It has a special meaning. The Chinese believe that it will both protect and amuse the child. The colour red means joy.
The Chinese also make paper cuts to decorate windows and lanterns as well as for sticking on walls. Paper cutting skills are handed down from one generation to another, often from mother to daughter.

Clever cut-outs

Try making your own paper cuts from thin coloured paper or fine tissue, using small, sharp nail scissors. Experiment with pinking shears and scissors with wavy blades as well. Start with simple shapes and then progress to more fiddly ones.
Paper Cuts
Paper: For paper cuts, use thin paper, preferably coated with colour on one side only.
For very delicate paper cuts, use tissue paper. For the stretched paper projects use thin paper – layout paper is ideal. Recycle office waste or newspaper for pulping. Use blank waste paper for making handmade paper, because the inks in printed papers will make your paper grey. Newspaper and comics are excellent for layering. 

The Tree of Life

Fold a large sheet of paper in half. Draw one half of a tree on the top fold, with its trunk parallel with the crease. Make the branches swirly or straight and include smooth or spiky leaves, lush flowers and roosting birds. Shade the areas you need to cut out. Then carefully snip around the tree outline. Do not cut too near the fold. Open it out and see the result!
Chinese Paper Cuts

Imaginary animals

Make a dragon-dog, a bird-fish or any other sort of fantasy animal. Draw your creature on coloured paper, decorating it with shapes and patterns. Cut it out. Cut out the inner lines using the “snip” technique.
Chinese Paper Cuts
Simple snip technique: To make holes on the inside of your paper cuts, gently pinch the paper between your thumb and forefinger and snip it. This makes a hole which you can then enlarge.
Make some birds in the same way. Add layers of decoration, cut from squares of gummed paper in contrasting colours. Glue them on top of your cut-out or under the holes, so that they show through.
Paper Cuts

Festive flags

Make several flags that you can string together to make a banner for your room or a party. Draw your design in chalk on some tissue paper and shade the bits you want to cut out. Make a border around the edges, which should be especially wide at the top.
Put the finished flags in a row. Lay a long piece of string across their top edges. Fold these edges over the string and glue them down.
Chinese Paper Cuts Paper Cuts

Play with your imagination!

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