Mexican Papel Picado

“Papel Pic­ado”, or “cut paper”, is a col­or­ful dec­o­ra­tion found at most Mex­i­can cel­e­bra­tions. The “secret” of suc­cess for mak­ing your own papel pic­ado is to sand­wich the thin tis­sue paper inside a folded, heav­ier weight paper before cut­ting it. This makes it eas­ier to work with, less likely to tear, and gives you a sur­face for draw­ing a design you can fol­low as you cut!


  • 12”x18” white con­struc­tion paper (1 per design)
  • 20”x30” col­ored tis­sue paper (1 per design — yields 2 fin­ished pieces)
  • pen­cil and eraser
  • scis­sors

1. First, fold your 12”x18” white con­struc­tion paper in half, to 9”x12”.
2. Choose a sheet of col­ored tis­sue paper and fold it in half to 20”x15”, then fold it in half again the other direc­tion to 10”x15.
3. Next, slip your folded tis­sue paper (cen­tered) into the folded con­struc­tion paper, so that the 15” folded edge of the tis­sue paper lines up with the 12” folded edge of the con­struc­tion paper.
4. Trim away the lit­tle bit of tis­sue paper that extends beyond the three open edges of the con­struc­tion paper.
5. Fold your ‘sand­wich’ of 12” loose edges over about an inch. This helps to hold it all in place.
6. Now, make folds into your sand­wich of papers, draw­ing designs on the folds and then cut­ting them away. Unfold and repeat, but don’t take your papers apart until you have cut away all the designs you can! Make ver­ti­cal, hor­i­zon­tal and even diag­o­nal folds and cuts for the most inter­est­ing fin­ished designs. Don’t for­get to cut a design into the loose edges, too! (Talk about how cut­ting on a fold yields designs that are sym­met­ri­cal. You can achieve designs that have ver­ti­cal, hor­i­zon­tal and radial sym­me­try this way.)

For older stu­dents, try draw­ing more com­plex designs onto your sand­wich of papers, and then use a craft knife to cut them out. Be sure to pro­tect the sur­face you are work­ing on! An old mag­a­zine or cat­a­log works well as a cut­ting sur­face — just tear away pages as they become too dam­aged. (For very young chil­dren cut­ting with blunt scis­sors, you may want to use a lighter, 20 lb. weight copy paper, if the folded con­struc­tion paper is too dif­fi­cult for them to cut through.)

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5 Responses to Mexican Papel Picado

  1. Megan October 20, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    I had just tried this in my class­room, too! I used the cut papers as a back­ground for our skele­tons for dia de los muer­tos. They turned out very cool! Thanks for shar­ing! I love your blog!


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