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Paper cuts.

Colorful, inexpensive and easy to do, paper cutting can give you endless hours of pleasure. It is an art form that can be fun, stimulating and rewarding for people of all ages. With a pair of scissors, brightly colored paper, and a little imagination, there are hundreds of projects that can be accomplished with ease and give a strong sense of self-satisfaction.

Begin with colored construction paper, rubber cement, bristol board, scissors and an X-acto knife. For safety concerns, younger children should use a pair of blunt scissors and school glue. Young adults will find it much more rewarding to use screen-printed paper. I have always used ChromaRama paper for a number of reasons. First, it comes in 220 colors, including 25 pastel shades. The Rainbow Pack consists of 220 different-colored 6" x 9" (15 cm x 23 cm) sheets, or you can buy each color in a 19" x 24" (48 cm x 61 cm) sheet. Second, this paper has a smooth and vibrant finish because the color is painted on each sheet. Third, ChromaRama paper and robber cement are a perfect match--the screen printed paper doesn't flake, chip or scratch when used properly with rubber cement. Finally, with a scissor and/or X-acto knife, you can cut fills paper into precise straight or curved lines which add to the overall quality of your cutting.

I have found rubber cement to be the best adhesive, although it must be used in a well-ventilated area. [Rubber cement is not recommended for use by children under 12 years of age.) It dries quickly, doesn't stain the paper or make a mess, and can be taken off the artwork with ease. Bristol board (smooth finish) is the preferred base on which to paste the cut pieces. It is sturdy, doesn't curl or bend easily, and the rubber cement can be removed from the board easily.

Now that you have all of your supplies, you are ready to begin. Start with an idea of what it is that you want to create. Magazines, newspapers and picture books are great places to stimulate the imagination. You may look at a picture and see only its unusual shape or beautiful colors. If you are going to cut an abstract shape, there is no need to draw the design before cutting.

You can try to sketch the placement of your pieces, but you may find that after you cut them, you decide they look better in a different pattern. If you are creating a two-dimensional or realistic composition, you may first want to draw the characters/objects with their proper proportions. To transfer your drawings to papercuttings, you can use tracing paper and trace over the shapes you have drawn, then burnish those shapes to the back of the colored paper (the white side, if there is one, so that you don't have pencil marks on the colored side). To add shading and dimension to your papercuttings, you can use colored pencils, magic markers or even paint.

When the majority of shapes have been cut, you are ready to paste or glue the shapes to the base sheet or board. While school paste is an effective adhesive for children to use, in my professional design work I follow this procedure: apply a smooth coat of rubber cement to the bristol board and arrange the pieces on the dried rubber cement. When they are placed where you want them, use a pencil and lightly outline the shapes directly onto the bristol board. Next, take the pieces off and place them on a coated surface (I use a clipboard) or one where the rubber cement will come off easily. Put a liberal, but not lumpy, coat of rubber cement on the back of each piece. If you have cut out a number of similar shapes, you can write corresponding numbers on the back of each piece, and inside the penciled outline of where the piece will be placed on the bristol board. As you put each shape into place, rub your finger over the whole piece to make sure that it adheres to the bristol board. When you have glued all your shapes, gently rub off the rubber cement and then use a white eraser to take off any remaining pencil marks. Wait a couple of days and take off the excess rubber cement which has seeped out from under some of the pieces. Removing all the rubber cement gives your art a clean, finished and professional look. Happy cutting!

Lisa Greene is a freelance graphics designer from Long Island, New York.
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Author:Greene, Lisa A.
Publication:School Arts
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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