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Easy Christmas Paper Crafts

December 20, 2010 @ 6:49 pm by Samir Bharadwaj  

Christmas paper crafts

I have always been into paper crafts. I have no memory of when the interest was sparked, though my Dad showing me how to make an origami crane was likely one of the stepping stones on that path. While other little kids might have indulged in paper crafts because they were asked to, and because television was scarce in my world at the time, and video games hadn’t been invented, I had a true fascination for it and an undying curiosity about the infinite possibilities of paper. While I didn’t plan on having this blog cover the subject of paper crafts, it was natural that paper crafts crept into it in time, as I was describing a chance personal toe-dip into that world a few years ago. I was quite surprised when that article got a good response and it continues to be one of the more popular destinations on this site.

About a year ago, conversations with a friend reminded me of the art of paper-cutting. In response, I created a Christmas themed paper cut, and I have been surprised again by how many people arrive at that simple post looking for information about Christmas paper cuts and related crafts.

Since that was more of a show-and-tell sort of deal, I though it was a bit unfair to all the searching visitors here who were not getting the information they might be looking for. So, maybe it was time to put on my paper-crafter’s thinking hat and make a proper informative article of instructions and ideas for those looking for some easy Christmas paper crafts. That’s what you have before you now.

Handmade Christmas Pop-up Card

Handmade Christmas pop-up card

Pop-up art has been a long held fascination of mine. I remember opening and closing the pages of pop-up story books over and over again to try to figure them out as a kid. I loved the sense of surprise and discovery when an object materialised from out of a book spread or from the flatness of a greeting card.

Over the years I’ve made my own pop-up greeting cards and even gone so far as to attempt a pop-up business card. Here I thought I’d stick to the basics and create a nice and clean pop-up card with a Christmas theme. Handmade cards are always a joy to receive. Putting in a little extra effort with something like this can make your card a truly memorable experience.

Pop-up card materials

For this project you will need

  • 1 sheets of red craft paper. An A5 piece will suffice
  • 2 sheets of thicker white card paper. Craft paper or plain white heavier printer paper will work.
  • A pencil
  • A craft knife, xacto knife or other paper cutting implement
  • Glue
  • A cutting surface. Even a thick newspaper that you don’t mind destroying will suffice, but a cutting mat is perfect.

Scoring the greeting card

Let’s start by constructing the card base. Take one of the A4 white card sheets and score it down the middle to create a vertical A5 sized greeting card. Scoring is just a matter of making a dented straight line in the surface of the paper, which allows it to fold cleanly. This is essential for the greeting card to fold flat. Draw a light pencil line as a guide, and then follow that line again, using the back edge of your knife dragged along a ruler. Remember not to use too much pressure, the idea is to create a line with the blunt edge of the knife without cutting. Fold the card along its new spine. This will serve as the base for the rest.

Reindeer pop-up card patternNext we need to draw out the shapes and patterns we need for the card. I drew directly on to the paper in this case, with no computer printout or anything of the sort. Going computer free with things like this can be quite rewarding.

Cut out a 12cm x 18cm piece of red card to serve as the front cover of the greeting card. That piece leaves a nice white border around it when stuck on the A5 card. Write out the stylised letters you want to cut out of this, which will make the white card from below show through when this is stuck on the cover. I chose to write “Merry”, leaving a space below to handwrite the rest of the greeting, leaving more room for customisation.

Take a A5 size piece of white card (14.85cm x 21cm) and fold it in half along the longer edge. This is meant for the pieces of the actual pop-up inside the card. I created my reindeer shape with tabs and a separate piece for the antlers on one half of the card. Notice that the reindeer’s back falls on the central fold, which is where the piece will fold in the final card. You can copy my design by getting a large version of the photo of my pattern (click on the thumbnail above), and tracing it on the paper off your computer screen. Just make sure you zoom the image on screen so that it fits as shown on the paper sizes mentioned, or things might not fit as they are meant to.

I made sure to use plenty of graphite when laying down the shapes, so that I could fold the sheet and rub it on the back to create symmetrical lines on the blank half. Then draw over the light rubbing to get your perfectly symmetrical pop-up pattern.

Paper cutout typography

Place your card sheets on the cutting surface you have available, and cut out the designs with your craft knife. The red craft paper has the word Merry on it. Keep in mind that some of the letters, like the R, will have the central free standing bits (counters) which you will either need to save for later, or discard completely if you think it’s still readable and pleasing without them, which is what I did. Cut the white reindeer pattern as delicately and accurately as possible. Since that is the part that pops up, the cuts and fold positions need to be fairly precise to fit well with what I’m showing you.

To create the cover, take the red craft paper piece, which is smaller than A5, and paste in on the outside of the card. You can scrawl Christmas or Xmas or whatever you wish on the red area below the cut out. The card base is ready.

Pop-up card cutouts

Now to assemble the pop-up. The reindeer design here consists of two pieces. There is the body and head of the animal, and a separate piece for the antlers. The two work together once assembled correctly, to fold flat while also popping up to form a slightly more interesting 3-dimensional form.

Fold along all the scoring lines on the pieces to form the reindeer like in the picture. Pay attention to the triangular piece that joins the body and neck. That piece indicates the place where the neck is to be folded into the body and out again at a different angle. This corrects the downward slant of the animal’s neck in the flat plans, and also provides a nice folded demarcation between the torso and neck. Another thing to remember are to include tiny tabs on the tail which will help hold the two ends together. I improvised those at the last minute.

Reindeer pop-up assembly

Use the glue to stick the two pieces of antler together in the centre, and also glue the tail tags to seal and sculpt the tail end of the animal.

Pop-up reindeer internal structure

Now use glue on the tabs on the top side of the reindeer’s head. to fix the antler piece inside the head in a v-shaped form as shown. This not only adds the antlers to the appropriate position, but the v-formation forces them to separate when the card is unfolded.

Pop-up reindeer's red noseFor a final touch to our reindeer, cut a small elliptical, bean-shaped piece of red card paper to form a nose for our pop-up Rudolph. Fold this in half along its length and use some glue to fix this on the animal’s snout. Not only does this add a nice visual accent, it also holds the two sides of the pop-up together on the head end, making it a more convincing standing form.

Christmas pop-up card assembly

It’s now time to get our pop-up working in the card. Stick down the tabs at the base of the reindeer’s body, a few millimetres away from the central fold of the card, as shown. Make sure the card can open and close without any misalignments in the folds. Once you’re sure, close the card and apply some even pressure on the central part to make sure the pop-up is well fastened to the card base.

Christmas reindeer pop-up card

Open the card, making any minor adjustments required for the card to me able to open flat with the pop-up displayed in its full glory. Scribble your personal messages inside and enjoy this little beauty. Those who receive it certainly will.

NOTE: While this is a very convincing reindeer, trying to get it to pull any heavy weights is not recommended. For one it’s made of paper and will rip. And the SPCA will hunt you down.

Block-Printed Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas

Christmas gift wrapping ideas

Like store signs, gift wrapping paper has suffered the consequences of computers being used to produce most artwork and patterns today. The old wrapping paper made up for in elegance what it lacked in wizz-bang effects and graphics. There was a certain honesty and beauty to those more hand-crafted and rudimentary visuals and I though it would a good idea to try to bring back some of that elegance with this slightly unusual block-printing Christmas paper craft project.

As an additional challenge, I also tried to make this method flexible and inexpensive. Gift wrapping paper can be used in reams during the festive season, and for all that effort and expenditure, it is often completely ignored and usually discarded immediately. So why not try for something simpler.

Christmas gift wrapping materials

For this project you will need

  • Some ink or paint. I used red acrylic paint because it’s easy to work with. It’s water soluble, while also being thick enough for opaque coats, and fairly quick drying.
  • Large sheets of inexpensive plain paper. Use whatever strikes your fancy. Brown wrapping paper can often be had in large quantities. If you have an IKEA close by, they also sell a large roll of rough drawing paper in their kids section which is very durable and also a pleasing off-white. Last I checked it was available as a roll of 40 metres of paper for a reasonable cost. For most people that will cover all your needs while leaving behind enough paper for sketching and doodling for the rest of year.
  • Corrugated cardboard sheets or thick card. A piece of a carton or other box will do. The card is to be used as a shape and not for what’s printed on it. Only make sure that there is at least on raw, untreated paper surface to the card. The glossy and printed surfaces often don’t hold paint or ink very well but your results might vary. Also ensure the card is very sturdy. Flimsier cardboard does not hold up well to being soaked in paint.
  • A roll of masking tape. The inch wide ones are perfect for a thin pattern band. We don’t necessarily need the tape itself, since this roll is used as an implement to mount your printing pattern onto, so even an old depleted roll of tape will do, as long as the roll itself is sturdy, which it usually is.
  • A pencil
  • A craft knife, xacto knife or other paper cutting tool
  • Heavy duty glue. Rubber based or super glue will work.
  • A cutting surface. Even a thick newspaper that you don’t mind destroying will suffice, but a cutting mat is perfect.

Gift wrap block design

With a pencil, draw a strip on the cardboard that is as wide as your masking-tape roll. Into that strip, draw simple shapes that interlock, to form a more tight visual. Get some of the shapes to go off the edge so that the edges of the strip have a nice straight cut line. I filled mine with simple christmassy shapes and icons as you can see. Nothing fancy, because fancy is near impossible to cut out of cardboard anyway. If you’re not using corrugated board, you might be able to create finer things.

Block pattern cardboard cuts

Place your card with the icons on the cutting surface, and slowly cut out the designs. Corrugated board and thick card can be very tough and unpredictable when you’re using a flexible craft knife, so proceed slowly, taking all the safety precautions you would when using a sharp knife.

Cardboard print block

Once the shapes are ready, use some heavy duty glue to fix the shapes in their original pattern, on to the surface of the masking tape roll. When you’re done, you have a perfectly handy print block to stamp out these narrow pattern strips on your plain paper gift wraps.

Preparing print block  and paint

You can print on to the flat wrapping paper, which is more convenient, or after you have wrapped your presents. It depends a lot on the strength and shape of your presents and the boxes involved. Prepare a little acrylic pain in a shallow plastic container for easy application. Either use a large brush to apply the paint on the masking-tape print block, or simply dip and roll the block in the paint to properly coat the shapes.

Block printing with paint

Making sure to take out any excessive dripping paint, carefully place one end of the pattern on the paper surface and roll it along the rest of the pattern in a smooth, quick rolling motion, to print out a section. I would suggest doing plenty of tests on scrap paper to get the consistency of the paint and the pressure right, before trying it out on the final thing.

Block-print gift wrap

Congratulations! You have created your first piece of easy block-printed Christmas gift wrapping paper. Now you simply continue this process to cover the entire wrap in whatever way you wish. It can be chaotic, it can be in a ribbon like pattern, you can use different colours and directions. Those creative choices are left to you to produce your own personalised gift wrapping art. The recipients of your gifts are bound to appreciate the personal touch.

NOTE: While you could use this print block to cover all sorts of things, like furniture, upholstery, the walls of your house, and stray infants with christmassy patterns, it is best avoided, for hopefully obvious reasons, especially with the infants.

Xmas paper craft gifts

And that, folks, is my collection of easy paper crafts to dabble in this Christmas and beyond. There are ideas here you could use throughout the year with different themes, and all this is quite easily adapted to other objects and for other uses. I hope you experiment, and play, and most importantly have some fun. You will appreciate it, the people you give these to will appreciate it, and the season will be all the more celebratory for your efforts. Enjoy the festivities.

Samir


13 Comments & links »

  • Alpana says:

    Lovely post! I think I got distracted by all the pictures (again), but will return soon to read it carefully.

    The block print idea is super-cool. :D

  • Jon says:

    Wonderful. Good craft work. I like and appreciate you.

  • Carolyn says:

    I’ve been making my own Christmas cards for many years. Your card here looks lovely, I’ll have to give it a go.

    It looks great!

  • magali says:

    Wow Samir, I just loved this post, so appreciated in this season, as I do celebrate Christmas, thank you so much for sharing your talents with us,
    Magali

  • Awesome work dude, Am trying to get some papercraft form christmas going as well…

    will definately try the reindeer !

  • Aarti says:

    HO HO HO HO!!!!!!!! Merry Christmas!!! love your cards, very inspiring!! need to get my paint and cutter out :)))) Hope to see more beautiful cards in the coming year.

  • h. rae says:

    Wow! I am amazed at the time and consideration put into such beautiful gifts. Truly a special treat for the recipient. This Christmas, my father and I- not even close to your level of expertise- made origami boxes out of glittery scrap-booking papers and decorated the tops with ribbons and scrap-booking ornaments. With a little treasure tucked within, they made for sweet gifts.

  • Thank you all for your wonderful comments and your encouragement. Glad you liked the post and I hope some of you create you own set of paper experiments in time. The fun really is in the doing.

    Enjoy!

  • Audrey says:

    Hi,

    I really love the scarf that is used in the backdrop of the post. Could you tell me where it is from?
    Thanks!
    Audrey

    • Hi Audrey,

      Thanks. That is in fact a saree and not a scarf. It’s a few decades old and belonged to my Mother. From what I gather, it is a silk saree made in the town of Murshidabad in Bengal. Murshidabad silks are know for their distinctive motifs and colours. Maybe you can track down something similar through Indian stores or sources. Hope this helps.

      Samir

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