Paper as an Art Form
Lately I’ve been cutting paper as an art form that can be hung bare or in a frame. I think the tactile quality of paper has become more precious in a time where everything is pixels. Cut paper has an expressive and engaging effect that makes the viewer take a second glance. The nature of paper is so simple, yet when manipulated in a delicate way, becomes something stunning.
The traditional form of paper cutting involves more utilitarian tools like a scalpel or x-acto knife and a ruler. Although a scalpel provides some details that a machine cannot, I prefer using a Silhouette Curio to cut the paper for me because of the immense amount of time it saves.
How I Make the Cut Prints
First I create the design in Adobe Illustrator using mostly the pen and text tools. I make sure the design is backwards, so that the text will read left to right correctly once it's printed. Then I use the pathfinder to combine all of the shapes into one, and export the design as a PNG.
I load the PNG into the Silhouette software called Silhouette Studio, from which I prepare the design for cutting. This often takes a few tries before everything is sized and lined up correctly. When the file is ready in Silhouette Studio, I stick the cardstock on the mat, and load it into the cutter. For this particular project, it's crucial that the mat is sticky enough that the paper won't slide around when cutting. The stickiness can get dull after awhile, so a trick I use is to wash the mat with soap and water and let it dry. It's good as new after that! For intricate cuts like this, I choose a cardstock that's a bit thicker, so there's less likelihood of tearing.
Once the mat is loaded and the file is ready, it’s just a matter of waiting for the design to be completely cut out. Depending on the amount of detail and size of your paper, this usually takes around 30 minutes for a more detailed design.
After everything is cut, I carefully peel off the cardstock from the mat, making sure not to rip any delicate edges. Most of the pieces stay stuck to the mat when I peel it off, but there are still a few pieces here and there that need to be punched out afterwards. I make sure to peel all of the bits of paper off the mat before proceeding with the rest of the cut. There's a tool that lifts delicate pieces from the mat and scrapes off the excess paper, called a Silhouette Spatula. I don't have one, but they're only about $5.
Because the Curio only cuts 8.5x6, it only covered half of the paper design. After clearing the mat of excess paper bits, I reaffix the uncut part of the paper to the mat and begin the second half of the cutting.
There are usually some stray bits that weren’t fully cut, which I then go in with an x-acto knife and hand cut. This is usually along the divide where the first and the second half of the design were split. This is ok, but just requires a bit of time to cut those pieces out by hand if the machine missed them.
The final product looks great simply hanging by itself, or layering different colors underneath. I made a set of a few different cities that I love: Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. I currently have these hanging in a column on a wall in my living room.
Here are a few resources I recommend: