Kirigami Art

Kirigami Art – The Paper-Cutting Cousin of Origami

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The Japanese paper art, kirigami, has been around since the 7th century and has developed into a rich and diverse art tradition. Although similar to origami, kirigami has its own methods and techniques that make it unique, which allow artists to express their creativity in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional ways. Historical and contemporary artists are known to create beautiful and intricate kirigami art, however, there are many different techniques and designs that allow even beginner artists to make a striking piece.



What Is Kirigami?

Kirigami is a Japanese paper cutting art. Its name is made from “kiru,” which means to cut or carve, and “gami” meaning paper. Kirigami art involves not only cutting the paper but folding it to create a flat or three-dimensional shape that stands out from the page. Kirigami art is traditionally made using only a single page, however, more modern interpretations involve layering various kirigami pieces to create a single sculpture.

Japanese Paper CraftsParis Book Fair Kirigami (2015); ActuaLitté, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons



The History of Kirigami Art

Similar to other paper art such as origami, kirigami is rooted in China. Around the 6th century, decorative designs were cut out of colored paper in a practice called jiǎnzhǐ. The Japanese took inspiration from this practice and in the 7th century, began cutting sheets of paper into decorative art.

This formed the beginnings of the Japanese paper crafts now known as kirigami art.

Kirigami only got its name much later, around the 1960s, when Florence Temko published her popular book Kirigami, the Creative Art of Paper Cutting. At the time there were many famous artists creating these Japanese paper crafts. This included flat kirigami artists such as Seiji Fujishiro, who is well known for his colorful kirigami pieces, as well as Nahoko Kojima, who spearheaded three-dimensional kirigami art.

Easy Kirigami Template



Kirigami Today

There has been a big surge in the popularity of kirigami art and techniques in recent years. Kirigami-inspired pop-up greeting cards and a multitude of online tutorials on how to create paper sculptures using a Kirigami template. The ancient art of kirigami is still very much alive today and the many modern artists ensure that it is still evolving.

Kanako Yaguchi creates traditional kirigami works that really encapsulate the movement and emotions that this seemingly simple art form can convey.

The artist’s work is often symmetrical and unassuming; however, each piece contains hidden dimensions and complexity that truly make you appreciate the endless possibilities of the art form. Masayo Fukuda has perfected the Japanese paper-cutting art over more than 25 years. This wealth of experience and skill is reflected in her almost impossibly intricate designs that are all handmade. Another great artist who produces striking pieces is Akira Nagaya. This artist creates striking paper sculptures that are so delicate and complex they often resemble pencil sketches.

What Is Kirigami

Marc Hagan-Guirey is famous for his detailed, complex, and unusual Kirigami sculptures. Many of his most well-known works depicting pop culture include recreating popular scenes from Star Wars or constructing paper figures of various gaming consoles, including Nintendo and PlayStation.



Kirigami Art vs. Origami Art

While they may seem very similar at first, origami and kirigami each require their own unique approaches and techniques. Origami is Japanese paper folding art that is created by strategically manipulating and folding a single page into an artful design. Kirigami art is a variation of origami that uses strategic folds as well as cutting, which traditional origami does not use, to create interesting paper artworks.

Origami art does not make use of any methods aside from folding, whereas kirigami art is known to use folding in combination with cutting and gluing.

Like origami, kirigami art is also made using a single sheet of paper. Much like origami, the folds in kirigami are sometimes incorporated into the design, especially in three-dimensional pieces, but they can also be temporary and unfolded once the paper has been cut. Depending on your design, origami can take much longer than kirigami. Kirigami also gives the artists more creative freedom to cut and shape their design, which is why many consider traditional origami art to be harder than kirigami art.

Japanese Paper Cutting ArtSt. Paul’s Cathedral (2011) by Bharath Kishore; Bharath Kishore, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons



Easy Kirigami Projects

One of the most attractive things about kirigami art is how accessible it is to people of all skill levels. To get started with these Japanese paper crafts, all you need is a pair of scissors, a few sheets of paper, and a little bit of patience. Do not stress about having to create these intricate patterns by yourself, you can find many kirigami templates online or in books.

You can copy these Kirigami templates or even use them as inspiration for your own designs.

Typically, a kirigami template consists of solid and dashed lines, as well as shaded areas. Solid lines indicate where to cut, dashed lines show you where to fold your paper typically with mountain or valley folds, and shaded areas are the parts of your paper designs that will be removed when you have finished.

Kirigami Template


Flat Kirigami Designs

Simple kirigami designs are usually flat and symmetrical as it allows you to fold the paper and create the whole design with only a few cuts. Flowers and snowflakes are perfect designs to start out with and the multitude of templates available makes it so that each can be unique. You can even make a string of flowers or snowflakes by gluing multiple pages together before cutting out your design.

These are a great, cost-effective option for decorating throughout the year.

You can use your flowers for springtime, create snowflakes or snowmen for the festive season, or even bats for Halloween. Not only is this good for your budget but it is also good for the environment, as these paper crafts can be recycled and are also biodegradable. Kirigami is also a great activity for kids to hone their cutting skills.

What Is Kirigami Art

Four-fold symmetry is perfect for easy kirigami projects as it adds some interest to your designs without being overwhelming. Simply fold your page in half horizontally and then fold it again in half vertically. Trace your design on one side of the page, making sure to focus it around the point where the two folds meet. For more complex kirigami art, you may need to learn how to create a Kirigami pentagon base to ensure that your design comes out perfectly symmetrical.


Three-Dimensional Kirigami Designs

You can use kirigami to make pop-up cards for friends and family for different celebrations including birthdays, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. Thicker paper is great to use when making these cards and they usually require much less folding than other Kirigami designs and the paper will add some structure and stability to your card.

You can even experiment with a textured paper or watercolor paper to subtly add more visual interest.

There are many online templates, instructional videos, and even books filled with three-dimensional kirigami designs and tutorials, however, the base of the card is usually similar throughout. To turn your paper into a pop-up card, fold your page in half horizontally to create a card and then cut two parallel lines from the spine of the card to roughly two to four inches from the top edge depending on how far forward you would like your pop-up design to sit.

Easy Kirigami Projects

You can then open your card and trace the template onto the cut square. Use a crafting knife rather than scissors for thicker paper, like cards, or designs with a lot of folds and layers. Remember to work carefully so that you do not injure yourself or damage your work surface.


With some practice and patience, you can easily make a whole array of different and interesting shapes using kirigami. Whether using it as a fun afternoon activity with the kids or creating paper works of art, kirigami has something for everyone!



Take a look at our kirigami webstory here!



Frequently Asked Questions


What Is Kirigami?

Kirigami is a Japanese paper cutting art that has roots back to the 7th century and is a variation of origami. Unlike origami, kirigami also makes use of glue and cuts in addition to folds to create its pieces. Using these strategic cuts and folds in paper, artists create intricate shapes of various dimensions and patterns out of a single piece of paper.


What Are Some Easy Kirigami Projects?

The easiest kirigami art is made by using four-fold symmetry. Simply fold a page twice, once horizontally and once vertically, and then cut your design into the folded page. Flower and snowflake designs are the easiest for those just starting out in the art medium as there are many templates available online, but they are also easy to create yourself.

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