Breadth Assignment 2

Cut Paper Portraits


Students will use their design skills to create a complex portrait in an environment that will be used to explore positive and negative space as well as contour line.  Students will utilize their knowledge of organic and geometric shape when establishing an overall composition to base their final paper cut on.

Sketchbook Assignments

Students will create positive negative drawings or papercuts from their environment.  All drawing or cuts must be from life and explore complexity of composition and line.


Art History Connection
Paper cutting is a traditional art in China which has been making its way along the route of the long history of paper. The kind of art went after the invention of paper in Han Dynasty, once became one of the main form of arts, and was popular to the people of the time; even in royal families ladies were also judged by the ability at papercut.

Most of the papercut artists are women. The themes of their works usually include everything in people’s daily life to the surroundings. Familiarity makes them understand the real spirit of the art.

The main tool for papercut is scissors. Once they are owned by a master of papercut, they will become so supernatural that the papercuts beyond imagination flow out of his/her hands in the chattering of a common pair of scissors. Another tool for paper cutting is engraving knives which are necessary to enhance a sharpened effect or to make a delicate job.

No doubt that art comes from life and serves life. Papercuts are very popular in the countryside. The bright colors of red, green or light blue papercuts provide a strong foil to set off a merry atmosphere. So they are often found in wedding ceremonies or festivals in China. And people like to decorate their windows and doors using colorful papercuts.

Focus areas

Positive/Negative Space
Overall Idea 


Large sheets of black construction sheet or fadeless paper.
Exacto Knifes
Mat Board
Great Ideas!


  1. Take a series of digital photos with a primary subject in the foreground and an interesting background that has some pattern to it. 
  2. Print out the photo full size on 8.5×11 paper, black and white.
  3. With a black marker, trace over the image with a continuous contour line. It is important that you have no free-floating black lines or black areas. Fill in the shadow areas with solid black and thicken the lines until you have “designed” the photo into a graphical representation of the image.
  4. Using a copy machine, enlarge the photo with the black on it to 11×17 (129%)
  5. Trim the excess white off the bottom of the 11×17 copy.
  6. Gently tape the 11×17 copy on the center of a black piece of paper cut to 12×16. This will allow for a border around the image.
  7. Cut with a sharp exacto knife.  Cut out all the areas that have not been drawn over with black marker, in other words, cut out all the negative space. Be aware of your craftsmanship skills.
  8. All space must hold together using a border that you create.  Becareful bot to cut your image so it detaches from the border. Think of this as a piece of finely constructed lace as you work on it.  The more intricate the lines the more interesting the final work will be.
  9. When you are complete, carefully glue the paper cut down to a mat board using glue stick or rubber cement.


You can use colored tissue paper to add emphasis to one area of the image. To do this, carefully glue the tissue to the back of the cut artwork in the area you want it. Don’t use too much glue or it will ooze out and look bad. Trim all excess tissue paper away. Careful not to add too much color, or the emphasis will be lost.


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