Skull-A-Day 4.0 - Tutorial #1 - Cut Paper Sugar Skull

If you don't already know, I'm a HUGE fan of Dia de los Muertos, which is the 3 day Mexican ceremony to honor the dead. My favorite thing about the ceremony are the beautifully decorated sugar skulls. They are too pretty to eat, so I tend to make a lot of art inspired by them. For my 1st Skull-A-Day 4.0 piece for my Dia de la Abby weekly Thursday posts, I made a cut paper sugar skull reminiscent of Noah's Quoth the Skull, but using tissue paper and a sugar skull motif.

Because I love sharing how to make different things, for each "Dia de la Abby" post I make on Skull-A-Day, I'm going to link back to here, Crafty Lady Abby, with a tutorial for how to make it. Consider this though, some of the pieces I make will be very intricate, which takes a lot of time and patience to make. If you want to make your own, they don't have to be as intricate as mine and this should save you some time and general frustration. When I read tutorials, I normally take the general concept of the project, then change it to my liking...using similar, but different supplies, making it more or less intricate, changing colors/patterns, get the idea. With that, on to the tutorial...

Supplies you will need:
  • A piece of black card stock (mine is 12in x 12in, but you can use what ever size you want)
  • A variety of colors of tissue paper (mine came from Dollar Tree in a large pack of 6 colors and left over tissue paper from my daughter's recent birthday party) You don't need very much
  • A white or light colored pencil
  • An Xacto knife (most craft and home improvement stores should have them. I store mine in a long plastic travel case for tooth brushes, so it can't cut me when I go looking for it)
  • A glue stick (Dollar Tree has Elmer's brand with 3 to a pack)
  • A stack of old newspaper (or ads in my case as I don't get the newspaper...I'm an internet addict)
  • A regular pencil
  • Small scissors (kid sized, but sharp or embroidery scissors)
  • A pink eraser (I have one that I use for all sorts of pencil needed projects)
Optional Supplies:
  • A ruler (if you are going to make straight lines. I used one for the grid)
  • Stencils (if you aren't great at free handing a design or if you want letters and find letter stencils faster)
  • Scrap paper and a pencil/pen (if you are like me and need to draw out your design 1st before applying it to your nice paper. This also helped because I drew a grid over it and used the same grid in a large scale to copy my design over to the black paper)
  • A frame with glass (The paper size I chose fits nicely into an album frame, so that is where I display mine vs. in the window, so the light shows through like a stained glass window)


1) With your black paper and light colored pencil, draw your design. This will be the back of the piece, so don't worry if any pencil marks showing. Use your best judgement with design placement, because when you cut away pieces of the paper, the remaining paper becomes fragile. Because I used card stock vs. the typical construction paper, this paper is still sturdier than cut out construction paper would be. You also want to make sure that you leave connection pieces, so your beautiful design doesn't accidentally fall apart.

2) Put the newspaper stack under your black paper with the draw design on the top. Using the newspaper will protect your work surface and also give you something to push into as your cut out pieces. With the intricacy of the design I chose, I had to switch out the stack when it got too cut up and was catching on the holes in my black paper.

3) You will use your Xacto knife to cut out your design. In this photo you can see my grid lines through the skull portion, but you will also notice that I didn't cut those out on the skull. I just cut the pretty design. Depending on how intricate your design is and your skill level/experience amount with an Xacto knife, this part can take a while

Back view - Black paper partially cut out and drawing still showing

Front view - Black paper design totally cut out

4) Still working on the back where your pencil lines are, you will start cutting out pieces of tissue paper and gluing them. Since I have many pieces of different sizes and shapes, I found the easiest way to make sure the tissue paper pieces would cover the hole, was to lay the tissue paper over the area I wanted that color in (work 1 cut out at a time if you can, though the teeth and 1 eye/nose were 1 piece). With the pencil, lightly draw around the outside of the shape while making sure you are leaving enough overlay on the edge so the glue can hold it on and so it doesn't edge into the wrong area. This step will take a while.

5) After you draw the cut out with overlay shape on the tissue paper, you will use the small scissors to cut out the shape. Tissue paper is delicate, so take your time with this.

6) Use the glue stick to apply glue around the edge of the cut out on the black paper. Neatly apply the tissue paper shape to the corresponding cut out.

Repeat steps 4-6 for each cut out until all the cut outs are covered. This part takes a while and yes, because my design was so intricate, I lost a bit of sanity while doing this. Should I ever do this project again, my design will have less little pieces.

Back view - Finished piece

Front View - Finished piece

That is it for the tutorial. I put my piece in an album frame (as mentioned above) and it is currently sitting on my mantle. I might hang it eventually, but my mantle has a few skull pieces, so for now it works great up there. Some other uses for this technique could be gift tags, place holders, paper bag luminaries, window decorations, tops of decorative boxes...really the possibilities are endless.

If you have any questions about this project, feel free to leave me a comment and I will try to help you the best I can.


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