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How-Tuesday: Papel Picado

Oct 25, 2011

by Yreina Flores Ortiz 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 said 8 years ago

    Wow! that takes talent, very nice!!

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 8 years ago

    Very nice!

  • sdaleart

    sdaleart said 8 years ago

    awesommme. nice.

  • ommieohmy Admin

    ommieohmy said 8 years ago

    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!

  • rozzie

    rozzie said 8 years ago

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

  • VivaGailBeads

    VivaGailBeads said 8 years ago

    Lovely Article!

  • LittleGreenRoom

    LittleGreenRoom said 8 years ago

    Great article!!

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 8 years ago


  • SKTceramics

    SKTceramics said 8 years ago

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

  • LilBeeDesigns

    LilBeeDesigns said 8 years ago

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

  • angeldamico

    angeldamico said 8 years ago

    Love it Julie thanks!!! xoxo~Angel

  • dailydangerco

    dailydangerco said 8 years ago

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

  • TheUntamedHeart

    TheUntamedHeart said 8 years ago

    This is so cool! Thanks for sharing!!

  • BrittneyWest

    BrittneyWest said 8 years ago

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

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts said 8 years ago

    Rad paper work.

  • lindsayharmony

    lindsayharmony said 8 years ago

    This is so lovely!

  • ThePattypanShop

    ThePattypanShop said 8 years ago

    Beautiful paperwork!!!!

  • KarmicCharms

    KarmicCharms said 8 years ago

    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!

  • aymujer

    aymujer said 8 years ago

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

  • NecessiTees

    NecessiTees said 8 years ago

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

  • PrettyPatriots

    PrettyPatriots said 8 years ago

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

  • friartuck1111

    friartuck1111 said 8 years ago

    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.

  • TraditionalNative

    TraditionalNative said 8 years ago


  • TraditionalNative

    TraditionalNative said 8 years ago


  • sweetrocket99

    sweetrocket99 said 8 years ago

    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!

  • Talula

    Talula said 8 years ago

    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...

  • crankbunny

    crankbunny said 8 years ago

    one of my favorite paper art forms! lovely article!

  • studiokgraphicdesign

    studiokgraphicdesign said 8 years ago

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

  • LadyCuba

    LadyCuba said 8 years ago

    Lovely! It was a fun read : )

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards said 8 years ago

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

  • wildfireatheart

    wildfireatheart said 8 years ago

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

  • LaSantaMuerte

    LaSantaMuerte said 8 years ago

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

  • TuesdayFreya

    TuesdayFreya said 8 years ago

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

  • VictoriaMBaron

    VictoriaMBaron said 8 years ago

    Great project! Thanks for sharing it.

  • muerto2go

    muerto2go said 8 years ago

    !Que fabuloso!

  • dichotomystudios

    dichotomystudios said 8 years ago

    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!

  • PattiTrostle

    PattiTrostle said 8 years ago

    Great story...great information! Beautiful work!

  • coketa

    coketa said 8 years ago

    just wow!!!

  • fidencio

    fidencio said 8 years ago

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

  • FlowersFoundation

    FlowersFoundation said 8 years ago

    Wow! This is beautiful!

  • vitamini

    vitamini said 8 years ago

    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!

  • PeachyCheek

    PeachyCheek said 8 years ago

    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!!

  • prosttothehost

    prosttothehost said 8 years ago

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

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 8 years ago

    Fun! Thanks for sharing!

  • VintageChics

    VintageChics said 8 years ago

    Love day of the dead celebration

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    VoleedeMoineaux said 8 years ago

    So darn pretty!

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 8 years ago


  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 8 years ago

    How intricate and beautiful!

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    ThePolkadotMagpie said 8 years ago

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

  • RossLab

    RossLab said 8 years ago

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

  • peshka

    peshka said 8 years ago

    Beautiful work !

  • nicilaskin

    nicilaskin said 8 years ago

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

  • NataliaKoroleva

    NataliaKoroleva said 8 years ago

    Very beautiful!

  • PortugueseVintage

    PortugueseVintage said 8 years ago


  • flaquitafea

    flaquitafea said 8 years ago

    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.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 8 years ago

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

  • sewZinski

    sewZinski said 8 years ago

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

  • IGotAJarOfDirt

    IGotAJarOfDirt said 8 years ago

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

  • Itzamna87

    Itzamna87 said 8 years ago


  • OhMafelt

    OhMafelt said 8 years ago

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

  • theonutmegotree

    theonutmegotree said 8 years ago

    love it!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat said 8 years ago

    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!)

  • HappyBonesArt

    HappyBonesArt said 8 years ago

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

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 8 years ago


  • carliechew

    carliechew said 8 years ago

    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.

  • nuttylee

    nuttylee said 8 years ago

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

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez said 8 years ago

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

  • rooftopmelodies

    rooftopmelodies said 8 years ago

    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?

  • YarnUiPhoneApp

    YarnUiPhoneApp said 8 years ago

    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.

  • BeatificBijoux

    BeatificBijoux said 8 years ago

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

  • Sporky

    Sporky said 8 years ago

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

  • Notanja

    Notanja said 8 years ago

    I just love your work, thanks for sharing!

  • SewAbundantly

    SewAbundantly said 8 years ago

    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!

  • AllUsedUp

    AllUsedUp said 8 years ago

    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.

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss said 8 years ago

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

  • taralinda

    taralinda said 8 years ago

    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 ;)

  • crankbunny

    crankbunny said 8 years ago

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

  • TreeCookies

    TreeCookies said 8 years ago

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

  • erinzam

    erinzam said 8 years ago

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

  • maechevrette

    maechevrette said 8 years ago

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

  • tdqcbymlj

    tdqcbymlj said 8 years ago

    I love this! Great job, Yreina!

  • sandymulberry

    sandymulberry said 8 years ago

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

  • VintageAndSupply

    VintageAndSupply said 8 years ago

    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.

  • simplytammy

    simplytammy said 8 years ago

    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.

  • thePrettyRepublic

    thePrettyRepublic said 8 years ago

    Very very cool.

  • andieaccesorios

    andieaccesorios said 8 years ago

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

  • monicazanetti

    monicazanetti said 8 years ago

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

  • darknightstar

    darknightstar said 8 years ago

    Awesome! :D Congrats! This is so great!

  • FreehandCards

    FreehandCards said 8 years ago

    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.

  • mamwell24

    mamwell24 said 8 years ago

    Thanks for another great tutorial XD

  • marieowltoinette

    marieowltoinette said 8 years ago

    Very pretty!

  • kendrasred

    kendrasred said 8 years ago

    I love it!

  • mirabellamorello

    mirabellamorello from mirabellamorello said 7 years ago

    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)!

  • mouserrano

    Lisa Serrano Diaz from PrincessMouseyCards said 7 years ago

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

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