Kirigami beginners guide: What is it and how do you do it?
Discover the basics of kirigami and our favourite kirigami templates and makes to craft in paper
The word kirigami sounds a lot like origami, doesn't it? And that is because the word kirigami is a modern Japanese word, taking its structure from the paper folding art of origami. In this article we have 2 great kirigami projects to try out. You can focus more on folds with our kirigami bow project, or try out a kirigami template and a more architectural finish with our kirigami arch project.
What is kirigami?
In Japanese, Kiru means to cut and Gami means paper, so it is no wonder that the word kirigami was adopted for this art form, which involves a lot of similar folds as origami, but in kirigami you cut the paper as well as folding it.
Most crafters will have memories of snipping into folded paper to make a snowflake at school, or folding paper and cutting figures into it to make chains of characters holding hands. These are both simple kirigami projects. But kirigami templates exist that let you make elaborate 3d models and architectural shapes. In the Shinto religion, kirigami is used to decorate homes for special ceremonies, and historically the Chinese art of Jian zhi – the art of paper folding that evolved into kirigami, origami and other paper folding techniques – was mainly practiced in monasteries representing religious forms due to the high cost of paper materials.
Jian zhi and kirigami influenced many of the European paper craft techniques that spread to Europe, including the paper silhouette, shadow portraits and spitzenbuild – the cutting of intricate lace pictures, often by nuns in Switzerland, and considered to be a meditative process. Whether your aim to is practice mindfulness with an intricate paper cutting kirigami project, or to have some fun making simple paper decorations with a child, you'll find the kirigami product for you in this article – and if you are making paper snowflakes, you should check out our paper christmas decorations post, too!
What materials do I need for kirigami?
Essentially all you need for a kirigami project is some paper and something that lets you make cuts in that paper – a simple pair of scissors would do. But more intricate kirigami projects will be much easier if you have a kirigami template to follow as well as a craft knife and cutting mat, and perhaps a metal ruler that will help you keep your cut lines straight.
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You want a smooth paper without too many visible fibres to help you get nice clean cut lines in kirigami. Homemade paper is not a good option for this, but it is still great fun to make with our how to make paper tutorial! Instead, try staring out with a 160gsm paper thickness, which is rigid enough to support a folded shape, but not so thick as to create too much bulk in your kirigami project. Origami is typically practised with much thinner paper, but we think 160gsm is a better match for kirigami, especially when you are getting to grips with the kirigami technique.
Why not try out our kirigami bow project below? Or if you want to try out some simple kirigami architecture using a kirigami template, try out our kirigami arch project. Or why not take a look at some of the other kirigami templates and techniques we have found online to help you discover the kirigami template that is right for you.
17 fun kirigami patterns to make
How to make kirigami bows
Try out the kirigami bow using scrap paper to start with, so that you are confident about how to fold and cut the bow before making it with your printed paper.
Fold the square diagonally in both directions.
Fold the square into quarters.
Tuck the two opposite diagonal corners inside.
Fold over the top point by 15mm.
Open out slightly and tuck the creased square inside.
Tuck in the sides and flatten the panel again.
Fold the top diagonal edges down to form a mitre as shown.
Turn the panel over and fold the top diagonal edges over again.
Open up the folded paper until it’s almost flat.
Turn over and flatten carefully to create a square in the middle.
Turn over and cut down the four folded edges as shown.
Lift the bottom point up and place onto the top point.
Fold the bottom diagonal edges up to the horizontal fold line.
Flip the centre panels and fold down the top edges.
Hold both layers together and fold the side edges in as shown.
Cut up the centre of the bottom diamond through both layers.
Fold the cut edges inwards, then back on themselves again.
Turn over and tuck the side point into the square to make the bow.
Kirigami template: How to make kirigami archways
If you want to make an architectural kirigami project using a kirigami template, try this brilliant kirigami arch designed by Leela Roy, which was originally published in Creative Thinking from Project Calm.
Click to download the kirigami template you need for this design. Our kirigami archway uses clever colour shading and a few simplecuts and folds to suggest you’re looking down a long vaulted corridor – and you can choose which side to display.
We’ve given you a choice of sides to show off, either white or blue (you could always copy the kirigami template onto another piece of card if you like), and have incorporated a border that folds round to enclose the archway within its own frame. This could stand alone on your desk or shelf, but we’ve chosen to put it in a box frame to display on the wall. Viewed from any angle, it plays plenty of tricks on your eyes – the sign of a great kirigami optical illusion!
Cut the long solid lines around the outside of the archway – this will form the structure that will make the archway into a box shape. Carefully cut the solid curves of the archway and the long, solid vertical lines.
Using the images here as a guide, fold the short, horizontal dotted and solid lines. The dotted lines fold backwards into the ‘back’of the arch. Use mini tweezers to manipulate the card if it helps.
Fold all the dotted lines that frame the arch to make a box structure that sits around the back of the archway.
Glue all the flaps to finish the box and push the ‘steps’ of the arch back, then mount in a box frame. You can use a glue stick for convenience, but for a firmer hold, we recommend a tacky PVA or a glue gun – see our reviews of the best glue guns.
Snowflake kirigami template
Learn how to make a kirigami snowflake with this free kitrigami template from Oh Y Handmade. Click for the kirigami template.
Kirigami chain of children
The chain of figures holding hands is one of the most simple kirigami project you make. This variation gives instructions on adding both boy and girl figures to your sign with a variation on simple folds. There is no kirigami template for this one, but the step by step guide does show you how to draw the shapes you need for the kirigami template with a photograph to copy.
Lotus flower kirigami template
What a lovely variation on a kirigami snowflake - this gorgeous lotus flower! It's easy to make make this the free kirigami template and step by step walkthrough from The Kirigami project. Click for the kirigami template.
Circle of people kirigami template
These cute kirigami variations keep on coming - check out this lovely circle of people kirigami template. Its is super easy to make with just 2 folds and the kirigami template from LoveToKnow. Use this to decorate any spaces where you want to celebrate people coning together and a united world. Find the kirigami template
How to make kirigami flowers
There's no kirigami template for this one, but instead you get a Youtube tutorial showing the easy folds and cuts you need to make to create these easy kirigami flower. Pink Striped Socks shows off two different styles of flower, which would also work wonderfully combined together as a kirigami flower garland! Find the kirigami flower project
Layered kirigami flowers
We just love the 3d finish on these kirigami flowers from Meaningful Mama. It still uses really simple folds and cuts, and yet, somehow the layered finish on these kirigami flowers makes them look really modern and professional. We recon these would make lovely DIY wedding decorations for a happy couple's big day! There is no kirigami template for this make, but a detailed walkthrough – click to see how to make the kirigami paper flowers. And if you want more DIY Wedding makes, check out our DIY wedding craft idea article.
Pop-up kirigami model
Here is one kirigami project that is definitely not a kirigami flower! Instead, you use a kirigami templates to cut and fold this pop up kirigami model, which makes a pretty cool card to send to lovers of 3d people or anyone who enjoys 3d paper creations. Ullagami supply both a free kirigami template and a video walkthrough showing how to get the kirigami model formed in all its 3d magnificence! Find the pop up kirigami tutorial.
Kirigami heart garland
It's super easy to make a mini kirigami heart and the clever tuck and fold technique gives it a nice puffy finish too. Alyssa & Carla show you the simple steps you need to make a kirigami heart, no kirigami template required. String a batch together to make an adorable mini kirigami heart garland, too! Click to find the kirigami heart garland tutorial.
3D kirigami template
Here is some impressive looking kirigami architecture that is super simple to make with the free kirigami template from Mashustic. As well as this brilliant 3d shape, which we are going to refer to from now on as the cheesegrater kirigami fold, you'll find kirigami templates for curves, spirals and other architectural forms to cut and fold into being.
You can use the kirigami template from Creative Blog to cut this beautiful pop up castle! The fold element helps different parts of the cut design sit on different plains which gives you a brilliant 3d finish, which looks oh-so-special illuminated like this. Find the kirigami template.
Kirigami Escher stairs
Is that Bowie as the Goblin King we see carrying a baby through a surreal topsy-turvy landscape? Or should we show our sophistication by comparing this kirigami project to the etches of Escher that inspired the landscape in Labyrinth? Sorry, but it will always be Bowie for the win in our hearts, but, whichever way you lean, this kirigami project will be a dream to make using the kirigami template and instructions from Instructables Crafts. Find the kirigami template.
Kirigami Moai statue of Easter Island
Okay, okay - we know most kirigami projects are meant to be made from a single piece of paper, and this kirigami Easter Island head is actually composed of for different folded and cut sections – but we just cannot resist this modern take on kirigami! Rather than a kirigami template you get a printable, where the shapes you need are printed with the stone effect texture as print too, as well as a folding and assembly guide which make it super easy to cut and fold your head. Find the kirigami printable.
Kirigami template collection
You can use these simple kirigami templates to cut and fold an assortment of simple kirigami projects that would be great for card makers or young crafters looking to explore this creative technique. Find the kirigami templates.
Heart garland kirigami kit
This heart garland kirigami kit is a lovely way to take your first steps in kirigami with all the materials and resources you need to make your first kirigami project while supporting UK business Pocket Wren. Find the Kirigami kit on Pocket Wren's Etsy store.
Giraffe kirigami kit
Like the Easter Island head, this kirigami project uses several bits of paper rather than a single fold, so it is a modern take on the kirigami technique – but what a take it is! We love this kirigami kit which lets you crafts a 3d giraffe head for your wall while supporting small businesses on Etsy. Find the kirigami kit on the SculPaperShop Etsy store.
More like the kirigami makes to enjoy
If you have enjoyed our kirigami template and makes round up, we have plenty more free paper projects for you right here on Gathered! Make the most of our free downloads with our cardmaking downloads, and discover the best print to use with them in our roundup of the best printer for card making roundup. Make the most of 3d paper with our best die cutting machines review, or explore our guide to different card shapes and folds in our how to make cards archive.
Hannah has worked on Gathered for 3 years, since our launch in 2019. At school Hannah learned to knit collaborating on dorcas blankets – now she edits our knitting section. She inherited her love of stitching and embroidery from her talented grandmother, and her passion for thread led her to be Editor of The World of Cross Stitching for six years. Card making is a more recent passion, developing from her position as editor of Cross Stitch Card Shop. She loves using kinetic techniques to make cards that move – she was editor of Papercraft inspirations magazine for over four years, creating loads of card making video tutorials at www.youtube.com/PapercraftTV.