Kirigami is similar to origami in that it is a form of paper art. The major difference is that in origami, you fold paper whereas in kirigami, you fold and cut paper.

In the United States, the term “kirigami” was coined by Florence Temko. She used the word kirigami in the title of her book, Kirigami, the Creative Art of Papercutting, 1962. The book was so successful that the word kirigami was accepted as the name for the art of paper cutting.

In Japan, the word kirigami had been in use for a long time because “kiru” means to cut, and “gami” means paper. So, kirigami meant to cut paper


Kirigami Paper Snowflakes

kirigami Snowflake
Most people will remember kirigami as a way to make paper snowflakes. Unfolding the paper snowflake is a delightful surprise because it’s almost impossible to make the exact pattern twice. Paper snowflakes have six sections because the paper is folded in half and then thirds.
• learn how to make a paper snowflake


Real snowflakes have six-fold symmetry too. This is because water molecules crystalize into a hexagonal lattice. No two snowflakes are alike because the condition in a cloud is always changing when water vapour crystallizes into snowflakes. Because of these ever changing atmospheric conditions, each snowflake grows in a different way. Click here for snowflake FAQs. [Photo by KG Libbrecht]


Problem: it’s spring and it just doesn’t feel right to make snowflakes in the glorious growing season. Not a problem! Cut kirigami flowers, sun bursts, stars, hearts, and other cool designs. Look here for some different ideas:
• make a kirigami flower


Beyond Simple Kirigami Snowflakes

Some artists can make extremely elaborate kirigami patterns. These often retain a high level of symmetry and have a delicate lace-like quality. [Photo from Bekah Gjerde] With a practice, you can make similar creations.

Cutting paper snowflakes is fun, but if you don’t want to use scissors, you don’t have to. Computer software experts have now made it possible to make e-snowflakes. It’s not the same as good old “arts & crafts”, but it’s worth a try nevertheless.

Cut Snowflake HTML5 Canvas app by Dan
cut virtual paper applet by Kevin


Kirigami Tips for Success

  1. Practice and experiment with different designs. You need to do it to get an idea of what looks nice and what looks basic. Sit down, try it, and experiment. That’s the best way.
  2. Use thin paper. Folded layers of paper become thick and difficult to cut. Thin paper, like origami paper is easier to cut and therefore will allow you to make detailed designs.
  3. Fold the paper differently to change the symmetry. You can have
    * 4-fold symmetry (fold in half and then half again),
    * 6-fold symmetry (fold in half, then into thirds),
    * 8-fold symmetry (fold in half, then into quarters),
    * 12-fold symmetry (fold in half, then into thirds, and then fold in half again). At this level, thin paper is a must.Keep in mind that real snowflakes have a six-fold symmetry and sometimes a 12-fold symmetry. If you fold the paper into four or eight sections, it shouldn’t be called a snowflake anymore.
  4. Make lots of small cuts instead of a few large cuts. More cuts will give a more lacier look.
  5. Make long cuts that go deep towards the other side of the paper. This will give you an elegant design instead of the chunky kindergartener look. Be careful though, too much cutting will cause the entire snowflake to fall apart.


Robert Ryan has taken kirigami one step up by layering a paper cut design over top a gown. Definately a one-of-a-kind dress! Other incredible designs can be found in these web sites:


3D Kirigami and Origamic Architecture

Peter Callesen

When paper is cut to make pleasing artwork, it can be called kirigami. Thus pop-up cards, origamic architecture and other elaborate cut-outs can also be called kirigami. This type of artwork is beyond paper snowflakes and deserves to be shown in a separtes page. [Photo by P Callesen]




    Books about Kirigami

    • Kirigami: Paper Cutting and Folding by Rachael L Thomas
    • Kirigami Menagerie: 38 Paper Animals to Copy, Cut & Fold by H Hayakawa
    • Kirigami: Fold and Cut to Create Beautiful Paper Art by Monika Cilmi
    • Kirigami: The Art Of 3-Dimensional Paper Cutting by Laura Badalucco
    • Beginner’s Guide to Kirigami: 24 Skill-Building Projects by Ghylenn Descamps


    See Kirigami Folding Books


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