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Make a Statement in 3-D with Kirigami!

by on May 18, 2007

Kirigami is the Japanese art of cutting (and folding) paper (Kiru = to cut, kami = paper) to create three dimensional forms. The techniques can be used to make anything from abstract pop-ups to zoo scenes and architectural models. Of course, like all things, it takes practice to develop patterns, but with your friendly word processing software and  an Xacto knife, you can give it a try without needing to learn any fancy techniques.


 Purple and white paper next to ruler and chalk on top of black graph surface.

  • Two sheets of contrasting cardstock
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • X-acto knife and sharp blades
  • Ruler
  • Bone Folder
  • Glue
  • Computer, word processing software, and printer

1. Open your word processing software, and type your saying. I chose “Less Bombs, More Moogs,” which reflects my distatse for violence and my affinity for analog synthesizers. You should probably say something more meaningful.

I choose a font (Betty Noir, it’s free!) in which the middle line (like in capital E, P, B, R) is not directly in the center.

Words are printed out on a white paper.

2. Change your font to outline only, and then turn it into a mirror image. I took a screen capture, then reversed the picture in Photoshop.

White rectangles sit on a darker background.
3. Cut your cardstock so that it fits inside your printer (8.5×11”), and then print out your saying.


A closeup view of a standard ruler as it lays next to the tip of a craft knife.

4. Using a ruler, find the exact center of your image. Using your knife, lightly! score the space in between the letters. You do not want to cut through the thickness of  the paper, only 1/3-1/2 of the way through.


Paper knife cutting paper next to letter.

5. Locate the top and bottom lines of your letters, and score them using the same technique.

A paper has black and white decorative words on it.

6. Begin cutting out your letters, removing the inner islands first. Then, cut along the sides and inner areas of your letters, leaving the score lines intact.

7. Flip your paper over (so the letters read right to left) and find your center line. Lightly score the center line only on the letters themselves. This will become your 3D fold.

Backwards silver letters on a metallic background.

8. Turn the paper back over, and begin to fold the center line in between the letters, so that it sticks up like a mountain. Take your time.

9. Flip the paper to right side, and make the same fold to the inside of your letters. The center line of the letters will stick out, like a mountain, while the bottom and top of the letters will fold like a valley where you’ve scored them. Use a pair of tweezers to pull out the delicate sections.

10. Once you’ve completed all your folds, smooth them with the bone folder. You can also rub the folder across the face of the letters to flatten your cut marks.

A person is using a ruler on a white object.

11. Cut your sheet to the desired size.


12. Cut your contrasting paper slightly bigger than your folded saying, and find the exact center horizontal line. Fold along this line, creasing with your bone folder. Glue this backing sheet to the back of your phrase, working on the top and bottom separately. Use the bone folder to squeeze out any air or excess glue.

13. Let the glue dry while folded, pressed under a heavy book. Open and enjoy!

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