This entry is part of the series Medium Monday

What Is Papercraft?

Papercraft, broadly speaking, is a work of art that is created out of paper. The interesting thing about papercraft is its variety of forms. There is the common collage, where paper is cut into shapes and arranged together, flat. Eric Carle uses this technique. Paper can also be folded and arranged in a 3D environment, as Kelly Pousette does. Denise Fleming pours colored paper pulp through stencils to create her art. And Just a Worm by Marie Boyd features paper quilling, which is the art of rolling up thin strips of paper to create raised shapes. This is not an exhaustive list of techniques!

Visual Characteristics

Papercraft is often very easy to recognize, because it… looks like paper. Paper collage will often have visible shadows around each cutout, especially if the paper is thick, and 3D paper constructions will also have notable shadows. Even when building up a 3D environment, each piece of paper will have a telltale flatness.

Shape can also indicate papercut art. Consider the fact that each paper shape must be physically cut, usually with scissors or a fine knife. This can make things like tightly curved edges and thin lines more difficult to achieve. This also means that any “lines” you see are actually long, thin shapes cut out of paper. A lot of cut paper will have blunt corners and broader curves. A lack of real linework (that a pen or marker could make) is an indicator of papercraft.

This is a detail from the cover of It’s Fall! with papercut art by Susan Swan. Can you see the shadows between the layered pieces? Can you see how each individual piece is still ultimately flat? Can you see how the “lines” in each leaf are actually slivers of paper?

Frequent Pairings

Artists may use paint to add texture and color to their paper. Some artists cut out silhouettes, and use a pen or other line-making medium to draw in the details of the figure. The nature of collage also invites the inclusion of many non-traditional materials, like thread, beads, sand, fabric, and anything else that can be affixed to the surface.

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I really wanted to make a “cutting edge” joke, but I couldn’t fit it in!