Lesson Plan: Cut Paper Relief Sculpture

Cut Paper Relief Sculpture

Submitted by: Barbara Felsecker, Galesburg High, Galesburg, IL
Unit: Relief Sculpture - Design
Grade Level: High School (adaptable to middle school - See lesson by Bunki Kramer)


Lesson Objective: Students will create an alternating and repetitive design using at least two original designs. Once completed, the cut paper design will be exposed to a direct source of light (spotlight) in order to form an overall pattern with structural and tonal counterchanges.

Beyond Geometry http://www.lacma.org/beyondgeometry/index.html

Paper folding techniques http://www.sgi.com/misc/grafica/huffman/index.html (Archive)


Materials Needed:

(12" (30.5 cm) T-square and 18"(45.7 cm) T-square)
Architectural Template, X-acto Knives., #2 Drawing Pencils.
White Sulphite Drawing Paper., 12" by 18" (30.5 x 46 cm), 18" by 24" - Cut to 15" by 22" (38 x 56 cm)
Black Railroad Board. (6-ply) Spotlight

Book: Sculpture In Paper. by Nicholas Roukes


barb-paper1.JPG (28923 bytes) barb-paper2.JPG (22631 bytes) barb-paper3.JPG (16862 bytes) barb-paper4.JPG (22085 bytes) barb-paper5.JPG (28489 bytes)
Click to see larger images. Look closely at the fourth relief to see delicately cut fish images.


First Stage:

1. Using the 12" (30.5 cm) T-square ruler, divide the 12" by 18" (30.5 x 46 cm) piece of drawing paper into 2" by 2" (5 x 5 cm) squares.

2. With a pencil and the aid of the ruler and architectural template, draw each of the designs pictured below. The dashed lines are where the paper should be folded; the solid lines are where the paper should be cut. The designs should be centered within the squares.

3. Using an X-acto knife, carefully cut the designs as shown in the diagrams.

4. Fold over the dotted lines carefully, forming the required creases.

5. Fold each tab to produce the relief effect.

6. Now, experiment with your own creative ideas using the preliminary designs as a springboard for your own ideas.

7. After deciding on at least two ideas, continue on to the second stage.



Second Stage:

1. Using the 18" T-square, measure and mark 1-1/2" (3.8 cm) in from the outside edges of the long sides of the 15" by 22" (38 x 56 cm) drawing paper. Now measure 2" (5 cm) in from each of the short ends. Use a pencil to connect these marks and create a border. The area within this bordered area should measure 12" by 18" (30.5 x 46 cm) .

2. Grid the inner area to create (horizontally) six 2" by 2" (5 x 5 cm) squares and (vertically) nine 2" by 2" (5 x 5 cm) squares.

3. Use the template, ruler and a pencil, to duplicate your own designs, alternating your designs square to square.

4. Carefully cut out your designs with the X-acto blade knife.

5. Turn over the paper and fold and crease where needed. Flipping over the paper to the back side eliminates the need to erase the pencil marks on the front of the paper.

6. Glue black railroad board to the back of your project for more contrast and a more dramatic presentation.

7. Hang a spot light over the paper sculpture to enhance contrast and design.

Submitted by: Michael Gerrish
UNIT: Design - Bas Relief Sculpture
Lesson: Pierced Paper Relief
Grade Level: Middle school and up


7Lesson Objective:

Students will create an alternating and repetitive design using two original designs. Design uses positive and negative shape. Contrast with bottom layer shows details. Paper is curled/raised for relief in alternating pattern.



Card stock or (12 x 14 (30.5 x 35.5 cm) - or determined size), Rulers., Drawing Pencils., X-acto Knives., cutting boards, scrap foam core board., White Glue., colored Posterboard. (or heavy colored paper). 2' (5 cm) square paper



  1. Review/demonstrate safe use of X-acto knives. Have a sign out system in place to insure proper care and return of knives.

  2. Students plan two square designs (approximately 2" (5 cm) square).

  3. Mark off BACK side of cardstock for 2" (5 cm) squares - leaving about ½ (1.3 cm) to 3/4" (1.9 cm) between squares. Make LIGHT pencil guidelines

  4. Transfer designs to cardstock - alternate designs (stager rows). You can use pencil on back of design to transfer OR Saral Transfer Paper.. Lines should be very light.

  5. Place cardstock on cutting board. Cut designs with X-acto Knife.. For every other square - cut out the shapes completely. Alternating pattern. For the other squares, leave edge (one side of shape) attached. These shapes will be raised in relief.

  6. Turn over so pencil is on back. Mount onto contrasting colored paper or poster board using foam core spacers. Bend the positive shape designs to make interesting relief (bend up - curl).

Alternate Lesson Idea:

From Sara Shied: An alternative is to create the pierced paper relief on 3 D forms as a cube or a pyramid. Putting one cube inside an other cube is neat.

The book Sculpture In Paper. by Nicholas Roukes shows a lot of ideas.



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