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How to Make Papel Picado

by Rachel Withers
December 1, 2022

Learn how to make papel picado by cutting paper designs with tissue paper for a beautiful Valentine’s Day garland.

Updated December 2022

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Have you heard of papel picado? It’s the Mexican folk art tradition creating beautiful designs in paper.

In the early days of The Artful Parent, Jean created papel picado with her daughter after reading Making Magic Windows by Carmen Lomas Garza. They added hearts to create a beautiful garland for Valentine’s Day!

Magic Windows book and papel picado and scissors

I was excited to try papel picado as it’s been on my wish list for a few years. My toddler was happy for the chance to use scissors. And my preschooler was able to cut a basic design with some guidance. But this is a really fun art activity for older kids especially (grade school & teens).

Scissors and string to hang cut tissue paper designs

Each paper cut design is unique and that alone kept me trying new variations and designs. When finished, string these together for a beautiful garland made by the whole family!

papel picado pinterest

Papel Picado for Kids



Time needed: 45 minutes

Papel picado is the Mexican folk art of cutting beautiful designs in paper.

  1. Prep materials

    Gather scissors and tissue paper. Choose the colors of tissue paper you’d like to use. I wanted our garland to be a Valentine decoration so I chose pinks, reds and whites.

  2. Cut tissue paper into rectangles.

    Choose the size for the papel picado. I think 5×7 is a good starting point.

  3. Fold tissue paper

    Similar to cutting snowflakes, begin by folding the rectangle in half.

    Then fold in half again.

  4. Make cut designs

    Now here’s the fun part! Begin making your paper cut designs. I chose to use mostly hearts or oval designs.

    Then unfold to see what your cuts look like. If you want to add more intricate designs then re-fold and make additional paper cuts.

    Scissors and tissue paper

    If you’d like a scalloped look to your design, fold paper in half and cut the bottom in a half moon shape, repeating across the length of the paper.

  5. Repeat!

    Once I got the hang of it, I found the process to be quite addicting….just one more, right?! Continue creating additional designs until you have enough for a garland.

    Papel picado for valentine's day

  6. Create garland

    If you’d like to create a garland there are a few ways to do this. Fold over the top of the tissue designs over string and use a glue stick to attach. I used washi tape + transparent tape to attach string to the backs of my tissue paper. I like the additional color it adds.

    Supplies for hanging cut paper garland

This is such an easy and fun art activity for kids, I hope you give it a try!

I really like the addition of gold washi tape to finish off the garland. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day garland, but would be great other holidays as well.

Papel picado for kids –hanging paper garland

More Papel Picado for Kids

Papel picado Valentine's Day garland

People Also Ask:

  • What is the purpose of papel picado? Papel picado flags are used to decorate buildings, altars and streets during holidays and celebrations in Mexico.
  • What do you need for papel picado? All you need to make papel picado is tissue paper, scissors, tape or glue, and string
  • What kind of paper is used for Papel Picado? Typically, tissue paper is used to make papel picado, but rice paper or silk paper can also be used.
  • How do you do Papel Picado? Cut tissue paper into rectangles and fold in half and then in half again. Next, cut designs and shapes out of your folded rectangle. Unfold to reveal your designs! Then, use tape or glue to attach your papel picado to a piece of string and hang up!

How about you? If you give papel picado for kids a try, be sure to tag us on Instagram, we’d love to see your photos!

Pin It For Later

papel picado pin graphic
How to Make Papel Picado

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