Friday, 14 October 2011

How to papercut 1: designing your papercut

So here it is, my first 'how to' on papercutting. In this post I'll show you how I create my typographical designs so they are ready for cutting. I am self-taught, so this is just about how I, personally, like to create my papercuts.

Create your design
With my career background in graphic design its a no-brainer that I'd use Adobe Illustrator to design my papercuts. You may like to put good old fashioned pencil to paper, or use CorelDraw or some other program. I like Illustrator as vectors rock. they are fully scaleable and you get huge control over all the shapes (plus I've been working in Illustrator it since Macs were beige, designing everything from logos to illustrations and web graphics, it's like a lovely comfy jumper).

In this example I started with an A3 sized document as there are lots of words. General rule of thumb: up to around 9 words use A4, or up to around 20 words, use A3.

Draw a large box over most of the page, but leave a gap around the edge. Give the box a fill of 10% black. This becomes the space to work to, you'll be cutting out the grey (as well as the white edge)

Add your words - I use Clarendon typeface, it is so beautiful and lends itself very well to papercutting with it's generous serifs.

Now kern the space between letters that aren't touching each other.
Just a touch - don't overlap too much as you'll lose the definition of the letter.


Next you need to add little connectors to stop the whole thing falling away when you cut.
Use the ascenders and descenders on the letterforms to naturally hold lines together, but where you need a little helping hand, pop in a little skinny rectangle like so:


Where there is a lowercase 'i' or 'j' then you'll need to add a connector to hold the dot on, but if it is touching a letter above there might not be a need for it. Use your noddle. In the example above there's probably no need for the connector on the 'i' as it is touching the 'b' above it, doh!


I make swirly whirly things to embellish and also to further hold the design together, like fancy connectors. I often use hearts, stars, butterflies, sunshine, clouds, planets... You could use embellishments that enhance the lyric or message, or are part of the meaning of the words. Go crazy!

When you feel all your words are held on to one another either by connectors, embellishments, ascenders, descenders or other words then it's time to print your design. Again, as a graphic designer by trade I use the tools of the trade and take the design into Adobe InDesign (an A4 or A3 document) where I scale it slightly if need be, just to make sure it won't be too big or small for the frame.

I love the positivity in the chosen words (which mean more knowing the dates are the days of cancer diagnosis)

I print A4 ones myself - usually onto beautiful recycled speckled creamy coloured paper. For the A3 ones I create a hi res PDF of the design and take it to my local high street printers to print it out onto A3 for me (haven't got an A3 printer y'see). I get him to print 2 copies, this is just in case I make a mistake, it saves a trip to the printers for a replacement. More often than not I just file the second copy, but there was once an incident with spaghetti bolognese and a half handcut A3 commission...grrr

I'll go through how I like to cut my designs in my next post but until then, arm yourself with (in my opinion) my most favourite of scalpels:

The awesomness that is the Fiskars Swivel Scalpel - view
And the humble yet mighty Swann Moreton scalpel with 10A blades
(Oh and you're going to need a cutting mat too)

Please comment with any questions, I always love to hear from you and I'll do my best to reply promptly : )

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