Japanese paper cutting | Beginners guide to kirie - Mandala Meadow (2023)

by Guest Author

Japanese paper cutting | Beginners guide to kirie - Mandala Meadow (1)

Originally from Japan, now living in Bristol, Nozomi, from the arts and crafts blog Nozomi Designs, introduces us to the Japanese art of paper cutting with this fabulous beginners guide to kirie.

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Japanese paper cutting | Beginners guide to kirie - Mandala Meadow (2)

Table of Contents

A beginner’s guide to kirie

Around the world, people have practised the simple art of cutting paper with scissors or a cutter for hundreds of years.In the earliest days of kirie, this cutter would have been a one-piece steel blade, with an angled edge like a modern art knife, and they would have to be sharpened constantly on a stone.

Kirie, which literally translates as cut picture, first appeared in Japan in the 7th Century. Initially, Shinto shrines used kirie as a kind of decoration for religious ceremonies. The tradition is still practised in some areas.

My most vivid memory of kirie from elementary school is the work of Hejiro Taki, from a book recommended by my teacher. It had a powerful impact on me at that time.

In recent years, cutouts have evolved, and the methods and rules have changed. There are many talented artists in Japan. You can find incredibly delicate lace kirie and three-dimensional kirie that are so lovely they make me gasp! When you see such incredible work, it is easy to be a little intimidated. However, kirie is something that can be fun to do, whatever your skill level.

People use a variety of techniques for making kirie. Today, I will introduce a straightforward method suitable for beginners. I hope that this will help you to become interested in kirie!

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Right-click on the above image and select ‘Save as’ to download the above template

I have prepared two sample images for the tutorial. They are sized to fit on an A5 piece of card, folded in half to give an A6 greetings card. You can reduce or expand the artwork to use with other sizes if you prefer.

Things you need to make a Japanese paper cut

*Cutter knivesare like a small Stanley knife, used for DIY, with snappable blades. The blades in art knives are not snappable, the whole blade must be replaced when they become blunt but they can withstand greater pressure.

**Paper is easier to cut than card and will be fine once mounted on card, but please choose according to the purpose. If for example, you go on to make a free-standing kirie you will need to use card rather than paper. I would recommend a paper weight of around 130 gsm for this kirie.


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How to make a Japanese paper cut

1. Attach the template you want to use to the black paper using the washi tape. For this demonstration, I am using the Koi Carp.

2. You will be cutting out all the white parts of the template. It differs from person to person, but most people prefer to begin cutting from the centre, starting with the smallest areas.

In this image, I would start with the areas I have coloured pink.

Paper cutting tips

  • Regularly turn your paper so that you are cutting at a comfortable angle.
  • The most essential tool for any kirie work is a sharp blade!
  • Start cutting near the centre of your design and the smallest areas first.
  • Of the two templates I have provided, I think the snail and leaf is the more difficult one to do.

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3. Next, cut out the other fins coloured pink in the photo below.

As you gain experience, you will get a feel for which areas to cut first.

Generally, you always want to start with the smallest areas first. You also want to move from the middle to the outside. In this way, you maintain some rigidity to the paper. If you cut the large areas first, the paper will become too flexible, and make it difficult to cut accurately.

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4.Cut all the remaining areas in the inner part of the design.

If you notice, the tail fin has several quite long parallel lines. Again, to maintain rigidity in the paper as you are cutting, it is better to work from left to right if you are right-handed. (Vice-versa, if you are left-handed). If you cut them in a random order, you will make it difficult for yourself.

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5.Finally, cut the outer part of the template and you are finished!

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6. Once you have finished your kirie, you can use it for any project. In this example, I decided to make an A6 greetigs card. Before folding, I used Brusho for the background.

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7. After the background paint has dried, fold the card in half, and glue the kirie.

As I mentioned above, if you print the template on A4 paper to the exact dimensions, it will fit the A5 card perfectly (which can then be folded to create an A6 greetings card). However, if you want to use the kirie in different size projects, simply adjust the print size of the template.

Of course, the smaller you print the template, the more difficult it will be to cut!

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Kirie bookmarks

In the photo below I printed the designs a little smaller and then laminated them to make bookmarks.

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I hope you enjoy this tutorial and have fun making kirie!

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Nozomi, Japan

Nozomi is a former architect from Japan, now living in Bristol, England and sharing her craftwork from 3D models to leatherwork on her inspirational blog, Nozomi Design.

How did I get on making my first kirie?

My first thoughts when I saw Nozomi’s tutorial was how beautiful her designs are and I love the way she has mounted the design with the background colours wrapping around to the back of the greetings card.

My second thought was about the complexity of her designs. Are they a little tricky for beginners?

I hadnever tried my hand at kirie before but I was eager to give it a go.

I printed the koi carp larger than Nozomi suggested as I didn’t feel ready to tackle it at a smaller size.

While it still felt challenging, I didn’t have any real problems and I was delighted with the result. Admittedly, I have had considerable experience using an art knife or scalpel over the years. If you haven’t, you might want to draw out some simple shapes to practice cutting out first.

Here’s my finished kirie, cut with a scalpel(with a 10A blade) in 130gsm paper and mounted on watercolour paper. If I had had any fresh blades for my craft knife I would have used that as it is more comfortable to hold.

I painted the background using Arteza Real Brush Pens. I can’t wait to try making my own designs and perhaps try out some variations of the koi carp design, which is so evocative of Japanese art.

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I can’t thank Nozomi enough for introducing me to kirie.Check out more of Nozomi’s wonderful kirie designs on her blog, Nozomi Design.

Mandala Meadow


  1. Japanese paper cutting | Beginners guide to kirie - Mandala Meadow (18)

    Nozomi on July 19, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Thank you so much for the invitation to do the guest post! You really did an amazing job with your first kirie – much better than my own first attempt! x


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What is the paper used in Kirie? ›

I would recommend a paper weight of around 130 gsm for this kirie. PLEASE TAKE GREAT CARE WHEN USING ANY KNIFE.

What is the Japanese art of paper cutting? ›

Kirigami (切り紙) is a variation of origami, the Japanese art of folding paper. In kirigami, the paper is cut as well as being folded, resulting in a three-dimensional design that stands away from the page.

What is the purpose of kirigami? ›

the kirigami cuts give the film not only stretch, but also better grip opening a release tension that would otherwise cause the entire film to peel away from the skin.

Is kirigami originated from China? ›

Like origami, kirigami has roots in China, where paper was invented around 105 CE. In the 6th century, the Chinese began using coloured paper to create decorative cut-outs—a practice known as jiǎnzhǐ. Initially, these paper creations were intended to honour gods and ancestors.

What is Japanese paper called? ›

Washi is the Japanese word for the traditional papers made from the long inner fibres of three plants, wa meaning Japanese and shi meaning paper.

What is the name of Japanese folding paper? ›

The word origami (from Japanese oru [“to fold”] and kami [“paper”]) has become the generic description of this art form, although some European historians feel it places undue weight on the Japanese origins of an art that may well have developed independently around the world.

What is the difference between origami and kirigami? ›

General origami (also named paper-folding) starts from a continuous flat object, and a 2D-to-3D transformation is enabled by the “folding” process. In contrast, kirigami (also named paper-cutting) includes both the processes of “cutting” and “folding”.

Why do Chinese Hang paper or window cutting? ›

Chinese people believe that hanging the carefully crafted pieces of paper, frequently red, on one's door can bring good luck and happiness to the whole family. They are more often seen during traditional Chinese festivals, particularly during Chinese New Year.

What is cutting paper snowflakes called? ›

Paper snowflakes are just one category of a papercraft called Kirigami. A variant of Origami, which involves folding paper into shapes without using cutting, Kirigami combines the acts of folding and cutting to create radial shapes and patterns, folding cards, and more.

Is origami Japanese or Chinese? ›

Many studies assert that origami was invented by the Japanese about a thousand years ago, but its roots may well be in China. It is also highly probable that the process of folding was applied to other materials before paper was invented, so the origins of recreational folding may lie with cloth or leather.

Are Origamis Japanese? ›

Origami developed from techniques for folding paper that first emerged in Japan during ancient times. The art is now practiced around the world and is even being applied to help solve technical problems.

Who invented paper Chinese or Japanese? ›

The Han dynasty Chinese court official Cai Lun (c. 50–121 CE) is credited as the inventor of a method of papermaking (inspired by wasps and bees) using rags and other plant fibers in 105 CE.

What are the three types of paper cutting? ›

 Kirigami (Japanese folded paper cutting and forming).  Wycinanki (Polish paper cutting originally used by peasants to decorate their walls and furniture).  Chinese Paper Cutting (delicate cutting, often used for holiday decorations).

What is the best known Japanese art paper? ›

Washi (和紙) is the traditional origami paper used in Japan. Washi is generally tougher than ordinary paper made from wood pulp, and is used in many traditional arts.

What is the traditional Japanese paper? ›

Washi (和紙) is traditional Japanese paper. The term is used to describe paper that uses local fiber, processed by hand and made in the traditional manner. Washi is made using fibers from the inner bark of the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub (Edgeworthia chrysantha), or the paper mulberry (kōzo) bush.

Why is it called washi? ›

The term washi comes from the words 'Japanese Paper'. Washi Tape first originated from Japan from a masking tape company named Kamoi Kakoshi. In 2006, they received a request to beautify their masking tape selection from a group of women and with their joint efforts, more colors came into existence.

What is the most common Japanese paper folding? ›

In Japan, the tradition of folding square-shaped paper to make various shapes is known as origami. This form of paper artwork can range from simple to complex. Cranes, hats, animals, flowers, and shuriken are among the most common and traditional origami creations you may come across.

What are those Japanese dividers called? ›

Japanese room dividers are called Shoji Blinds. Shoji Blinds are a fundamental part of traditional Japanese interiors. They are essentially a type of partition wall that divides different areas within Japanese homes.

What is Japanese grid paper called? ›

Genkō yōshi (原稿用紙, "manuscript paper") is a type of Japanese paper used for writing. It is printed with squares, typically 200 or 400 per sheet, each square designed to accommodate a single Japanese character or punctuation mark.

What is the most difficult origami? ›

Shafer has folded vampire bats, phoenixes, and even a sousaphonist. However, the hardest design he has ever folded is the Origami Ancient Dragon designed by Satoshi Kamiya, which took around 16 hours of work.

Is it still origami if you cut the paper? ›

Origami is about paper folding!

It's just been made into a different shape. Cutting the paper violates that basic rule. It means that when you have unfolded it, the paper is no longer the same shape as it was in the first place.

What is origami with glue called? ›

Kirigami on the other hand, involves folding and cutting, glue is allowed too. Like origami, kirigami has strong roots in Japanese culture.

Why do Chinese put mirror in front of door? ›

The most common place for Bagua mirrors is right above the front door. In general, the Bagua mirror is mainly used to block the negative energies from the outside. These are mostly energies that has 'Form'.

What type of paper is used for Chinese paper cutting? ›

Today, paper cuttings are used as decorations, and they are usually made with red paper, which is the most popular and propitious color in Chinese culture. They adorn walls, windows, doors, pillars, mirrors, lamps and lanterns, and they themselves can also be given as gifts.

What is Chinese paper cutting called? ›

Jianzhi (剪紙), is a traditional style of papercutting in China and it originated from cutting patterns for rich Chinese embroideries and later developed into a folk art in itself.

What do paper doll chains represent? ›

Making paper doll chains with kids encourages creativity and emphasizes community and connectedness between different people.

What is a person who does origami called? ›

An origamist or an origamian is a person who is associated with the art of origami.

Who is the best origami maker in the world? ›

Born in 1911, Akira Yoshizawa is the father of modern origami. The publication of his first collection of models in the early 1950s caused a major sensation. In 1954, he founded the International Origami Centre in Tokyo.

What is the easiest origami to make? ›

10 Simple Origami Projects for Beginners
  1. 01 of 10. Crane. Chrissy Pk. ...
  2. 02 of 10. Modular Cube Box. Chrissy Pk. ...
  3. 03 of 10. Hanging Decoration/Spinning Top. Chrissy Pk. ...
  4. 04 of 10. Tulip Flower and Stem. Chrissy Pk. ...
  5. 05 of 10. Envelope Wallet. Chrissy Pk. ...
  6. 06 of 10. Square Candy/Snack Box. Chrissy Pk. ...
  7. 07 of 10. Tissue Holder. ...
  8. 08 of 10. Fan.
5 May 2020

Is chiyogami the same as origami? ›

Chiyogami can be used for a wide variety of art and craft projects. It is a favorite choice for Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

What is the difference between Japanese and Chinese origami? ›

Chinese paper folders tend to focus more on making inanimate objects, such as boats or small dishes. Japanese paper folders tend to favor examples of living things, such as the origami crane or a pretty paper flower. The Chinese are also credited with developing many types of paper toys for children.

What does origami symbolize in Japan? ›

In Japanese folklore, the crane (or Tsuru in Japanese) is a strong majestic bird that mates for life and is said to live for a thousand years. It symbolizes honor, good fortune, loyalty, and longevity.
The Origami Crane (TSURU): Symbolism and Folklore.
MON (APR 4)8:00am - 11:00am
THURS (APR 7)2:00pm - 3:00pm
2 more rows
4 Apr 2022

Why is it called Japanese paper? ›

Washi is the Japanese word for traditional papers made from a variety of renewable plant fibres. Wa means Japan, and shi means paper.

When was Japanese first used paper? ›

Papermaking was introduced to Japan more than 1,300 years ago. The Chronicles of Japan, Nihon Shoki, written in the year 720, state that the Chinese methods of making ink and paper were introduced to Japan by the Korean Buddhist priest, Doncho, in 610.

Did paper come from Egypt or China? ›

About 2,000 years ago, inventors in China took communication to the next level, crafting cloth sheets to record their drawings and writings. And paper, as we know it today, was born! Paper was first made in Lei-Yang, China by Ts'ai Lun, a Chinese court official.

What is Korean paper called? ›

Hanji is Korean traditional handmade paper (PH neutral) made from the inner bark of mulberry trees known in Korea as "Dak".

What is gampi paper made from? ›

Gampi is made from the inner bark of the gampi bush which must be obtained in the wild. Japanese gampi is very shiny even after being formed into paper, and has a natural sized quality which prevents absorption.

What is shoji paper made of? ›

Shoji paper is a tough, translucent paper made of wood fibers. Some types are enforced with fiberglass.

What is persimmon paper? ›

Kakishibu is a tannin processed from the juice of unripe persimmon fruit (kaki = persimmon, shibu = tannin), is a traditional natural material that has been used for many years in Japan. One of its applications is to dye paper. Paper treated with kakishibu is strengthened, repels insects and is water resistant.

What does hanji mean in Korean? ›

Korean paper or hanji (Korean: 한지/韓紙) is the name of traditional handmade paper from Korea. Hanji is made from the inner bark of Broussonetia papyrifera known colloquially as paper mulberry, a tree native to Korea that grows well on its rocky mountainsides, known in Korean as dak.

What is Thai paper? ›

Thai Papers

Papers originating in Thailand are known by many names, such as, mulberry paper, saa paper, rice paper and kozo paper. Thai papers are made using the bark of the mulberry tree, a rapidly growing tree common in Southeast Asia. The fibers of the mulberry bark are longer than traditional paper making pulp.

Does Korea use hanji? ›

Hanji (Korean: 한지/韓紙) is the traditional handmade paper from Korea. It is made from the inner bark of mulberry, a tree native to Korea and Hibiscus meninot, which helps suspend the individual fibers in water.

What is that shiny paper called? ›

Gloss — gloss coated paper has a high sheen. This coating has less bulk and opacity and are typically less expensive than dull & matte paper of equal thickness. Gloss coatings reduce ink absorption, which give the sheet an excellent color definition. Satin — a less shiny coated sheet.

What is Shifu paper? ›

Shifu is a cloth woven with paper thread either in the warp or weft or in both. Traditionally kinu-jifu has a silk warp and paper weft; men-jifu uses cotton and paper and asa-jifu uses ramie or hemp and paper. Shifu woven with both paper warp and weft is called moro-jifu.

Can shoji get wet? ›

Shoji paper cannot be used in places where it will get wet, like a bathroom; even laminated paper will be affected, as water bleeds in from the edges.

What can I use instead of shoji paper? ›

The Thai Marbled Paper is made from mulberry bark and is the right weight for a Shoji screen. The hand-marbled design will add a striking visual pattern to the screen appearance. Another fun alternative for Shoji paper is to use paper with natural leaf and bark inclusions embedded in the paper.

Can shoji paper get wet? ›

Shoji paper is not supposed to get wet. No regular paper should be used in such locations as bathroom or by the sink.

What is similar to mulberry paper? ›

There are many alternative fiber papers available to those willing to step out of the box. Bamboo, cork, cotton, hemp, mulberry, jute and kozo are just some of the options available to you.

Is washi paper the same as rice paper? ›

Washi is the Japanese word for the traditional papers made from the long inner fibres of three plants, wa meaning Japanese and shi meaning paper. The term “rice paper” is really a misnomer, the paper has nothing to do with rice. The range of Japanese papers that The Japanese Paper Place ships around the world is vast.

What is Kakishibu? ›

Kakishibu is made by fermenting the juice extracted from unripe sour persimmons. It is brown in color and has a unique smell. Since ancient times, kakishibu has been used to dye wood, fabrics, and paper and as strengthening, antiseptic, and waterproof agents.

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