The Etsy Blog

How-Tuesday: Papel Picado handmade and vintage goods

Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday for remembering and honoring loved ones, is just around the corner. Many of us may know this holiday for the artistry and imagery surrounding its celebration — the sugar skulls, altars, candles, offerings, and marigolds. For this week’s How-Tuesday project, paper artist Yreina Flores Ortiz has created a papel picado project in honor of Dia de los Muertos. Yreina makes beautiful paper-cut work that can be found in her Etsy shop and on her website.

She recently completed a large-scale artwork for the central panel of an altar to honor victims of breast cancer for a Dia de los Muertos exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art. (More on that here and at the bottom of this article.)

The Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos, is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. Here in the U.S., it is often confused with Halloween due to the prominent use of playful skeleton imagery in the decorations. Some people think it is insensitive to depict death as a silly thing, but that is not the intention. Dia de los Muertos is a time to acknowledge the loss of our loved ones by celebrating their lives. There are many ways to do this; some families go to the cemetery and eat, drink and play music. Some families light candles and say prayers. Others make an altar or ofrenda in their home.

I lost my grandfather this year and we will be making an altar in his memory to honor his life. We will put out offerings of his favorite foods. We will bring water from the well on his ranch. We will gather fruit from his orchard. Among other things, an altar is a place where the spirit of the deceased can come to be fed and rest.

Papel picado is a common decoration for this holiday’s festivities. Papel picado is cut or punched paper, made from stacks of tissue paper with the use of chisels, punches, hammer and blade. This original design is a depiction of my grandpa. A former barber, for many years he had a dashing pompadour hairstyle. The phrase Nada Es Imposible, Nothing Is Impossible, was one of the last things he said to his daughter, my mother. Go, Grandpa! This is a positive message that is good for everybody to live by. That is how I know he won’t mind me sharing a little bit about him with the world.

You will need:
Design template
X-Acto knife, blade #11 or #16 (as pictured)
About 6 sheets of tissue paper
Glue stick
Surface to cut on (a self-healing mat works very well)


1. Download and print out the design template.

2. Stack the sheets of tissue paper with the printed template on top. Leave room (about an inch) above the top of the design for a flap. It may help to staple everything together to prevent shifting as you cut. Just carefully remove the staples when you are done.

3. Cut out the white areas of the template. Hold the knife firmly. Press hard. Make smooth, continuous cuts. Be brave! Use the non-cutting hand to hold your paper down around your cut.

4. Trim edges of your flags.

5. To string your banner:

  • Fold the top edge of a flag.
  • Open the fold and apply glue stick gently to the flap.
  • Lay your string in the flap.
  • Close the fold and press it closed.

6. Pick a spot to hang up your work!


If you make your own papel picado project, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.

More Things to Make | Papel Picado on Etsy

  • kathyjohnson3

    kathyjohnson3 says:

    Wow! that takes talent, very nice!!

    3 years ago

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts says:

    Very nice!

    3 years ago

  • sdaleart

    sdaleart says:

    awesommme. nice.

    3 years ago

  • ommieohmy Admin

    ommieohmy says:

    i love the story behind your design and i love your shop name! "ay, mujer" is something i heard often from my own grandmother! thanks for sharing - your work is LOVELY!

    3 years ago

  • rozzie

    rozzie says:

    Lots of work! Great idea and I like the idea! :)

    3 years ago

  • VivaGailBeads

    VivaGailBeads says:

    Lovely Article!

    3 years ago

  • LittleGreenRoom

    LittleGreenRoom says:

    Great article!!

    3 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie
  • SKTceramics

    SKTceramics says:

    Thanks for the beautiful demonstration. I've always wondered how Papel picado are made!

    3 years ago

  • LilBeeDesigns

    LilBeeDesigns says:

    This is cool, I can't wait to try it.

    3 years ago

  • angeldamico

    angeldamico says:

    Love it Julie thanks!!! xoxo~Angel

    3 years ago

  • dailydangerco

    dailydangerco says:

    What amazing work. And that Breast Cancer piece... awe inspiring.

    3 years ago

  • TheUntamedHeart

    TheUntamedHeart says:

    This is so cool! Thanks for sharing!!

    3 years ago

  • BrittneyWest

    BrittneyWest says:

    Great and inspiring work! Thanks for sharing your passion! "Let the beauty of what you love be what you do."--Rumi

    3 years ago

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts says:

    Rad paper work.

    3 years ago

  • lindsayharmony

    lindsayharmony says:

    This is so lovely!

    3 years ago

  • ThePattypanShop

    ThePattypanShop says:

    Beautiful paperwork!!!!

    3 years ago

  • KarmicCharms

    KarmicCharms says:

    I love this and will have to bust out my exacto knife and try my hand at it. I think they look so lovely and it is a great tradition!

    3 years ago

  • aymujer

    aymujer says:

    Thanks, everybody! I am so excited to share this design. Tip: The pattern makes a great coloring page for children.

    3 years ago

  • NecessiTees

    NecessiTees says:

    I love papel picado....thanks for the DIY info on it!!!

    3 years ago

  • PrettyPatriots

    PrettyPatriots says:

    Beautiful work and Beautiful story! I love how family can inspire us in our arts.

    3 years ago

  • friartuck1111

    friartuck1111 says:

    You might want to have correct links to the artist page and site, as well as the shop name, and her full. Please give this woman some credit. We shouldn't have to be googling various names to find her.

    3 years ago

  • TraditionalNative

    TraditionalNative says:


    3 years ago

  • TraditionalNative

    TraditionalNative says:


    3 years ago

  • sweetrocket99

    sweetrocket99 says:

    This is reallly an awesome post. Thank you so much for sharing. I absolutely adore anything Dia de los Muertos related and am psyched to see these instructions on how to make this super cool banner!

    3 years ago

  • Talula

    Talula says:

    Just returned from San Antonio, TX... The graveyards near the Mission Trail were decorated so beautifully... Love this tradition. Honoring the departed, but remembering them in a joyful and happy way. Very, very special indeed...

    3 years ago

  • crankbunny

    crankbunny says:

    one of my favorite paper art forms! lovely article!

    3 years ago

  • studiokgraphicdesign

    studiokgraphicdesign says:

    This is awesome!! I love it - thanks for sharing the craft, too.

    3 years ago

  • LadyCuba

    LadyCuba says:

    Lovely! It was a fun read : )

    3 years ago

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards says:

    amazing! It's just like lace with paper :)

    3 years ago

  • wildfireatheart

    wildfireatheart says:

    yeah!! love it I have some day of the dead sugar skull keychains in my shop!!!

    3 years ago

  • LaSantaMuerte

    LaSantaMuerte says:

    I'm such a fan of her work, it's great to see it highlighted on How-Tuesday!

    3 years ago

  • TuesdayFreya

    TuesdayFreya says:

    Interesting and detailed craft. I'll try it sometime. :)

    3 years ago

  • VictoriaMBaron

    VictoriaMBaron says:

    Great project! Thanks for sharing it.

    3 years ago

  • muerto2go

    muerto2go says:

    !Que fabuloso!

    3 years ago

  • dichotomystudios

    dichotomystudios says:

    Papel picado is one of my favourite things ever! Thanks for the info and the template and your piece going to the Mexican Museum of Art is beautiful!

    3 years ago

  • PattiTrostle

    PattiTrostle says:

    Great story...great information! Beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • coketa

    coketa says:

    just wow!!!

    3 years ago

  • fidencio

    fidencio says:

    This is beautiful, i especially appreciate the concept merging with the old tradition, very nice work!

    3 years ago

  • FlowersFoundation

    FlowersFoundation says:

    Wow! This is beautiful!

    3 years ago

  • vitamini

    vitamini says:

    Coming from a mexican-american family I have a great appreciation for mexican folk art, especially anything dia de los muertos related! I've already made many sugar skulls but I would love to try making one of these! I just recently started doing papercuts so my xacto knives are handy. Thanks for the how-to and the template!

    3 years ago

  • PeachyCheek

    PeachyCheek says:

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article! I celebrate Dia de Los Muertos and much of my art is inspired by the holiday, one thing I have always wanted to create was Papel Picado, but I never have. This really inspired me to. I will be creating a few this week! :) Thanks so much!!

    3 years ago

  • prosttothehost

    prosttothehost says:

    Love tissue paper as a medium ;) iFelicidades! i va la emocion y el amor de su abuelito!

    3 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    Fun! Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • VintageChics

    VintageChics says:

    Love day of the dead celebration

    3 years ago

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    VoleedeMoineaux says:

    So darn pretty!

    3 years ago

  • Iammie

    Iammie says:


    3 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    How intricate and beautiful!

    3 years ago

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    ThePolkadotMagpie says:

    How cool, Julie! I have 48 sugar skulls drying on my kitchen counter. Those picados inspired me to make the ones in my shop.

    3 years ago

  • RossLab

    RossLab says:

    Nada es imposible, but this look quite complicate to make. I LOVE this and your all shop!

    3 years ago

  • peshka

    peshka says:

    Beautiful work !

    3 years ago

  • nicilaskin

    nicilaskin says:

    very very cool, i will try it out tomorrow, great article, thanks for sharing

    3 years ago

  • NataliaKoroleva

    NataliaKoroleva says:

    Very beautiful!

    3 years ago

  • PortugueseVintage

    PortugueseVintage says:


    3 years ago

  • flaquitafea

    flaquitafea says:

    That's excellent work Yreina. Its been 1 year since I hung the papel picado you made for my wedding day 'Chris y Ali'. It was such a special touch to a very special day. I kept one piece for my wedding album. Good luck y lo siento mucho por tu abuelito. Que tengas un dia de los muertos muy bonito.

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    beautiful tribute, I think its important to celebrate the lives of people who've touch us to remember all those happy times!

    3 years ago

  • sewZinski

    sewZinski says:

    Absolutely love it. Huge fan of Mexican Folk Art. Your paper cuts are lovely!

    3 years ago

  • IGotAJarOfDirt

    IGotAJarOfDirt says:

    I made some of these last year! Will you do a Sugar Skulls tutorial onetime?

    3 years ago

  • Itzamna87

    Itzamna87 says:


    3 years ago

  • OhMafelt

    OhMafelt says:

    So beautiful! Looking forward to creating these with my daughter, thanks for the instructions!

    3 years ago

  • theonutmegotree

    theonutmegotree says:

    love it!

    3 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says:

    I love the idea that through you & your design, there will be literally thousands of people all over the world honouring YOUR grandpa, his wise words & his rather rakish hairstyle... he truly would be proud (as well as probably amused & slightly embarrassed, but definitely proud!)

    3 years ago

  • HappyBonesArt

    HappyBonesArt says:

    ¡Felicidades! Beautiful work! Must take a lot of patience and talent. Your abuelito would be so proud of you!

    3 years ago

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies says:


    3 years ago

  • carliechew

    carliechew says:

    I love Mexican art. One of my favorite things about Dia de los Muertos has always been these paper decorations. I can't wait to try and make one myself.

    3 years ago

  • nuttylee

    nuttylee says:

    Thanks for sharing this idea...I will try it when i have time..^^..

    3 years ago

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for teaching me about Dia de los Muertos, and for sharing this fun tutorial too.

    3 years ago

  • rooftopmelodies

    rooftopmelodies says:

    Great work! It's very beautiful. I also love the idea behind Dia de los Muertos: celebrating the lives and memories of our lost loved ones. I thought it was Nov. 2nd though. Isn't Nov. 1st Dia de los Inocentes?

    3 years ago

  • YarnUiPhoneApp

    YarnUiPhoneApp says:

    The Papel Picado concept could work for a thousand themes - weddings, birthdays, anniversaries...I personally would do one with a ball of yarn and knitting needles 'cuz I'm all about the fiber arts.

    3 years ago

  • BeatificBijoux

    BeatificBijoux says:

    Sweet! I can't wait to try this!!

    3 years ago

  • Sporky

    Sporky says:

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing! Can't wait to do my own... :)

    3 years ago

  • Notanja

    Notanja says:

    I just love your work, thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • SewAbundantly

    SewAbundantly says:

    Beautiful work - takes me back to when I lived in Mexico! There's nothing more fun than walking through the streets of Mexico with papeles picados strung across the streets in grand celebration. I love the delicate designs and seeing your pictures of the papeles picados at weddings. How I wish I would have done this! Thanks for the tutorial!

    3 years ago

  • AllUsedUp

    AllUsedUp says:

    thanks for the directions, I plan to make these for our office, we have Dia De Los muertos decorations already up! Very nicely done and clear directions.

    3 years ago

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss says:

    The piece you made about breast cancer is such a perfectly poignant statement, and beautiful as well. Thank you for sharing this.

    3 years ago

  • taralinda

    taralinda says:

    Thank you for sharing your words, art and beautiful tutorial! Your abuelito is proud of you, no doubt ;) I buy papel for my alter often to celebrate El Dia, but never knew how to make them. It looks like it takes much patience and some skill with an exacto. Excited to try now ;)

    3 years ago

  • crankbunny

    crankbunny says:

    papel picado / dia de los muertos was a huge inspiration for making my latest animated short - Feel free to watch!

    3 years ago

  • TreeCookies

    TreeCookies says:

    i love papel picados. this is an amazing diy, and i cant wait to make one or two.. or more. thank you!

    3 years ago

  • erinzam

    erinzam says:

    Wonderful story and an awesome project. I can't wait to try this!

    3 years ago

  • maechevrette

    maechevrette says:

    Such a great article and step by step instructions... I can't wait to try this out :)

    3 years ago

  • tdqcbymlj

    tdqcbymlj says:

    I love this! Great job, Yreina!

    3 years ago

  • sandymulberry

    sandymulberry says:

    So great. Can't wait to try this today.

    3 years ago

  • VintageAndSupply

    VintageAndSupply says:

    Thank you for sharing your creative talent with us. I will love to raise my child to know of these wonderful holidays and why we celebrate them. I wasn't exposed to worldly cultures and customs growing up and I am excited to learn about them now. I say worldly b/c they seemed so distant, even though I am sure people in my town celebrated. again thank you for your insight.

    3 years ago

  • simplytammy

    simplytammy says:

    I really like this idea, I'll have to try it. I like the lacy photos as they look like filet crochet. Thank you for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • thePrettyRepublic

    thePrettyRepublic says:

    Very very cool.

    3 years ago

  • andieaccesorios

    andieaccesorios says:

    i really love this, thanks to the mexicans for this lovely and colorful tradition

    3 years ago

  • monicazanetti

    monicazanetti says:

    This is a wonderful DIY! Thanks for sharing the story of your abuelito!

    3 years ago

  • darknightstar

    darknightstar says:

    Awesome! :D Congrats! This is so great!

    3 years ago

  • FreehandCards

    FreehandCards says:

    Thank you, Etsy, for highlighting 'the other' holiday at this time of year. Papel Picado represents the spirit of the tradition so well- colorful, happy, fun celebration of the departed. I love "Dia de los Muertos" and have a series of cards that are popular all year. I agree, sugar skulls would be a fun tutorial.

    3 years ago

  • mamwell24

    mamwell24 says:

    Thanks for another great tutorial XD

    3 years ago

  • marieowltoinette

    marieowltoinette says:

    Very pretty!

    3 years ago

  • kendrasred

    kendrasred says:

    I love it!

    3 years ago

  • mirabellamorello

    mirabellamorello from mirabellamorello says:

    I love the idea of having a celebration of someone's life. My mother passed almost a year ago from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. A release from her illness is certainly a reason to celebrate! Perhaps we will make these banners, light some candles and have some root beer floats (her favorites)!

    2 years ago

  • mouserrano

    Lisa Serrano Diaz from PrincessMouseyCards says:

    I love all of this! Having been married on Dia de los Muertos! So Festive! So Colorful!

    2 years ago