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You know when you see a craft and you just think ‘wow, I wish I had the skill and patience to do that’? Well, paper cutting was that craft for me, I saw some amazingly intricate cuts that someone had done at a craft fair years ago and thought they looked stunning. I searched for some kits on Amazon to try my hand at it but never did because I knew I’d get frustrated with the small lines and I also didn’t trust myself too much with the scalpel (that was way before I had to use one pretty much every day for work, I’m pretty adept with one now!).
I hadn’t thought much more about them until I was looking on Design Bundles for a Christmas cut file the other week and discovered that people have created not only papercut files but beautiful layered papercut designs that you can cut on the Cricut Machine!
Where to find Layered Papercut Designs and Cut Files
My favourite store on DesignBundles.net to find layered papercuts is Lightbox Rinstore, they have over 100 designs which all come with 2 design files (one JPG set which means you can cut the design by hand and one SVG set which can be used on a cutting machine, plus a set of PDF instructions with tips on how to install lights) and they are all stunning.
Layered PaperCut Light Box Tutorial
Here’s what you’ll need
- Deep Box Frame – I’m using an old style square IKEA Ribba Box Frame
- Cricut Machine or other vinyl cutting machine
- Fairy Lights or LED Lights
- 220 gsm Card
- Foam Board
- Rotary Cutter or Scalpel
- Cutting Mat
Download your files
Multi-layer papercuts will come as a Zip file, you need to download it from DesignBundles to your computer and then unzip the file. You will then have a folder of SVG files ready to upload to Design Space. The file I’m using has 7 layers so I have 7 separate SVG files to upload. These files are also numbered in the order that they stack to make your finished product so it’s worth keeping this folder open when you get to the assembly stage, or number your layers on the back in pencil when they come off the cutting mat.
Upload SVG to Design Space
Upload your extracted files to Design Space and add them all to your mat at the same time (this makes it easier for us to resize them). I’m using A4 card for this project inside an old square style IKEA Ribba frame. The A4 card is slightly smaller than the frame so I’m going to have to set the cut size to that of the card and then do some magic with the frame to make it all fit at the end. I’ll probably use the photo mount that comes with the frame to make an extra border layer 👍
If you do have to resize the files be sure to group all the images together or use ‘select all’ option in the DesignSpace toolbar so that it resizes everything at the same time.
Send to cut
Send you resized files to cut, double check what GSM weight card you are using and then check the ‘Base Material’ options to see if there is one that corresponds, I used the Medium Cardstock option. Try to use a mat with a bit less tack, mine are all a bit worn now so the card peels off no problem but you don’t want the mat to grab it so much that it warps when you remove it.
Prepare your layer spacers
We need the layers to sit slightly apart in the frame so that the light from our light source helps to create shadows and depth, to do this we use foam board. I bought a pack of 5 sheets of 5mm A4 Foam Board from Amazon and I have more than enough to use for other projects.
Cut it into 1cm width lengths (I used a scalpel but a rotary cutter would also work) and then cut those lengths up so that they are manageable – mine were cut into 7cm lengths.
Stack your layers
You want to attach spacers around the perimeter of each cut layer, if you are using glue you want to use one that won’t melt the foam – I’ve used Anitas Tacky PVA for years, it dries colourless and flexible, always works great and love it!
I attached mine as close to the edge as possible and spaced equally so that none of the card will collapse when it’s stacked. For each layer, I alternated where I placed the spaces so that it made a kind of stretcher brick bond pattern (might be a bit of a niche reference but I’m a builders daughter 😂)
I found it easiest to work from the bottom up so I attached the spacers to my back layer, then attached the next panel to the spacers, added the spacers to that layer making sure to alternate where they were placed, stacked another layer and so on until I go to the top layer.
It’s easiest to layer them up neatly if you work over the top of them so that you can see if they are lined up fully. Make sure the glue has dried fully before you try and place it in the frame.
Prepare your frame
Since this is a light up frame we need to find somewhere to add the lights, the reason I’m using an IKEA Ribba frame for this project is because it comes apart fully giving us the perspex front, the spacer frame, a picture mount, the back board and the outside of the frame. We need to remove the protective film from the perspex front and place it back into the frame, I sometimes like to put a very thin bit of double sided tape on the edge of the frame to hold the perspex in securely as it makes it easier to test placement of the papercut without the front falling out every time (it gets really annoying after the third or fourth time 😂)
Preparing the picture mount
You might not need to add this step, it all depends on the size of your frame and the size of your finished paper cut. I was using A4 card which made the finished piece tiny bit smaller than the box frame (which actually worked in my favour!) so I decided to use the picture mount that came with the frame to make a border for the papercut with the thinking that it would give a tiny extra bit of depth to the whole project and it would block any light bleed I have from the outside. Once you are happy with the size of your picture mount you add it back into the frame on top of the perspex.
Preventing Light ‘Bleed’
I thought the thickness of the picture mount would be enough to block any light that got through around the corners of my papercut but it wasn’t quite thick enough. This was easy to solve thankfully – I went to my vinyl scrap drawer and found some black vinyl to cover the back of the picture mount with, this made it comepltly opaque and fixed the light bleed issue!
Attaching the fairy lights
Our light source for this project is going to come from battery powered fairy lights, the PDF instruction that come with the papercut suggest using LED strip lights but I wasn’t going to be able to fit them into the back of my frame so I actually improved by taking the fairly light space frame out of my Light Up Halloween Frame Project and added a second set of fairy lights to it.
The easiest way I have found to attach fairly lights to a frame is to ‘tack’ them into place first with sellotape so that you can space them out evenly and then go back around with a hot glue and glue across the wire to secure. They don’t need to be too neat for this project as it will be hidden behind our picture mount and the main purpose of them is to shine between the layers of our finished piece.
At this stage the inside of my frame doesn’t look too pretty but from the front you’d never know!
Inserting your papercut
Pretty straight forward really, position your papercut so it sits squarely in the frame and isn’t getting caught on any wires. Make sure to trail the battery pack leads out of a bottom corner and then finish the whole assembly by adding the back panel and securing.
PaperCut Light Box Assembly Video
As you can see from the video above, it’s a pretty snug fit to get all of this into the frame, I probably could have gone for slightly thinner foam board if I wanted it to fit a bit better BUT I don’t think I would have got the same effect with the lights if I had made the gaps in between layers smaller.
Winter Themed Papercut Light Box Frame
I’m really pleased with how this Papercut light box project turned out, it ended up being a lot simpler than I had anticipated and looks so effective when it’s lit up. It’s going to sit on the unit in our living room and I think I might look at doing a new papercut to replace it in Spring – maybe I can have a papercut for all seasons and just swap them out a few times a year!