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Papel Picado Tutorial

Updated: May 19, 2022

Created by Maya Ankenbruck

Hello everyone, I am Maya, here on behalf of the South Haven Center for the Arts. Today we are going to be making Papel Picado which means punched or perforated paper, like a hole punch. The Papel Picado is used for various celebrations and they are very vibrant in color. They will be hung throughout the streets of Mexico for Dia de los Muertos festival, or Day of the Dead. A day for Honoring our ancestors who have passed. Maybe you would like to remember a grandparent or a beloved pet while making your own Papel Picado. 

Papel Picado is considered Mexican Folk Art. They are flags, or banners that display images to represent different things. Common symbols in Papel Picado art are, birds, flowers and nature and skeletons. At the South Haven Center for the Arts we are focused on Frida Kahlo and different aspects of her art pieces. I feel that these representations of the Papel Picado Tradition relates well to the Frida Kahlo theme as they are cultural, floral, symbolical as much of surreal art is, and the colors have different meanings, as do many colors in Frida Kahlo’s art. 

Materials Needed: 

-Paper, can be colored construction paper, colored wax paper, or a piece of computer paper colored on, whatever paper you would like.


That's it!

If you would like to hang it up after finishing you will want string or tape or both and if you would like to color on the paper then you will want crayons or a marker or colored pencils, anything you would like really. It would be very cool to take the side of a crayon, peel off paper, and go to an interestingly textured surface and make an etching by rubbing the side of a crayon on the paper on the textured surface. 

Example of textured surface- tiles, sidewalk, the floor, a hard textured surface. 

For these Papel Picado I am going to make them a bit different from tradition because I enjoy a round Symmetrical design rather than a traditional Square or rectangle shape. It is also more simple to achieve a beautiful design this way.

Watch the DIY tutorial video!

Step by Step Instructions:

1. Okay The first thing we are going to do is take a piece of our beautiful paper and take one corner and fold it diagonally like so. After folding the paper we will cut off the access paper so that we are left with a nice square.

2. The next thing we will do is fold our square diagonally making it into a triangle. Or if you did not unfold the paper to cut which is totally fine then you already have your triangle. We will then fold the triangle into a smaller triangle by folding it in half.

3. Make one more fold so we have another smaller triangle this will be our third fold 

4. Now take the triangle and fold it in half again in a specific way like this.hold so that the top has two legs

5. After this fold you choose to cut off the triangle that has less paper. But I am going to choose to leave it on to have a larger and more square Papel Picado because they are normally square or rectangular. If you remove the little triangle like this (show what i'm talking about) you will have a round design rather than square. It is up to you what you want your Papel Picado to look like. 

6. Now for the scissors, be careful while cutting out shapes. You can draw out what shapes you would like to cut out or you can cut random shapes like triangles, circles, squares, and abstract shapes are great. The way to get a very nice design is to make the shapes not touch too much and to place them so that they seem to fit together like puzzle pieces. 

7. Also an important part of cutting your Papel Picado is to try and not cut all the way across the paper, this will make your Papel Picado smaller. Start the cuts from the sides and if you leave the small triangle paper part on your design then also cut shapes into that part (show what i'm talking about). I think it always looks very nice to cut off the tip of your paper with a diagonal cut. (show what i'm talking about) it will make a little star. In the middle of your design. 

8. Okay, we are cutting our design and when you feel like you are done you can unfold your Papel Picado and see what it looks like. If you want to make more I encourage it, they look great as a group, you could hang them up similar to the traditional hanging with a piece of string and some tape. I am going to put mine in the window because I think they look nice there. I am also going to make more and will show you some shape designs and what they looked like before unfolding them if you would like to recreate a design.

I hope you had fun doing a craft project with me, I had fun doing it. Share your Papel Picado designs with us! Send photos to


Maya Simone Ankenbruck was the South Haven Center for the Arts' Intern for the summer 2020 season. This opportunity was made available by a grant from The Greater South Haven Area Community Foundation.

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