Introduction: Cutting a Path - No Laser Paper Cut Map

Picture of Cutting a Path - No Laser Paper Cut Map

I have always had a love affair with maps. They can be a beautiful representation of places we've been or places we want to go. I wanted to display a map in my home, but wanted to be creative with it, so I created this paper cut map.

FYI: I originally created the map a few years back, so for the purposes of this instructable, I'm creating a smaller example for the step by step instructions. 

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Picture of Gather Supplies

Supply List: 

map (It's important that the map be a detail of a city so that the streets are large enough for you to cut around. My large map was a tourist map from a hotel that I got when traveling. The example in the following steps was printed from an online map.)
paper larger than map (I originally chose to use plain white paper for a minimalist effect, but since my second map is much smaller, I decided to use a magazine image from a large fashion magazine. I would have loved to use an image of the town in the map. Perhaps someone else would like to go that route.)
x-acto knife
optional: frame

Step 2: Placement

Picture of Placement

Tape the map to the back of the paper.

If there's an image on the front, use a window to see through the papers and make sure it's placed the way you want.

I used masking tape, but just about any type that will cut easily with an x-acto would work.

Step 3: Cutting

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Use your x-acto to cut around each street. 

Tip: Cut all the vertical lines and then all the horizontal. This will save you time by not having to rotate the map all the time and help you to cut straight.

Tip: If you aren't confident in your ability to cut a straight line, lay a ruler next to each line you need to cut as a guide. A clear ruler is best to avoid a wrong cut. 

Tip: When cutting the horizontal lines that complete the cutting out of a section, start from the middle and work your way out. This will help the tape hold the map in place for longer. 

Trim the edges.

Step 4: Display

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Display ideas:

Tack it directly to the wall
Frame it with a colorful piece of paper behind it
Frame it with nothing behind it. (The trick to this is to have extra room around where the map is cut out. Cut cardboard and tape it to the frame around the edges. I also nailed a couple scrap pieces of wood to the frame to get it further away from the wall.)

To Laser or Not to Laser?

While I completely agree with those stating in the comments below that cutting paper with a laser is just cheating, how cool would it be to cut a similar project from wood or some other material that would make you cringe at the thought of cutting it by hand. A strong wooden one could be made into a nice sturdy lamp to project your travels onto your bedroom wall while you dream of the location of your next exotic adventure. 


ChrisR211 (author)2016-03-24

I've done a couple of these, the town I grew up in and my mums favourite town as a mothers day gift, I used OS Maps for the UK, planning to do a larger London one and maybe a Eurodisney one!

trapper661 (author)2013-07-28

I used to. I just recently moved down to DC with my fiance, but that harbor will always be a dead giveaway. (I tried using the reply option first, but for some reason my computer wasn't happy with that, so I just decided to reply back here).

Brooklyntonia (author)trapper6612013-07-28

Congrats on your impending nuptials!

trapper661 (author)2013-07-26

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe I'm looking at the map of the city of Baltimore, MD.

Brooklyntonia (author)trapper6612013-07-26

Ding Ding Ding! Show him what he's won Vanna!
Good eye. Do you live in Baltimore?

Lost Moai (author)2013-07-03

I just thought of another application... THEME PARK MAPS!!! Disneyland cut into your favorite Disney movie poster, or Six Flags cut into the Looney Toons logo.

Brooklyntonia (author)Lost Moai2013-07-04

Sweet idea! I love disneyland!

ayer (author)2013-07-02

This is beautiful!! and a wonderful decoration!
I am going to do one right now!!!!
How much time did it take to make the big one?

Brooklyntonia (author)ayer2013-07-02

It took about three days working on it after work each day. It's also hard to do too much at once because your fingers get sore after a while, but it was totally worth it.

klixtopher (author)2013-07-02

Love the effect of the shadows, especially on all the little fiddley bits around the fjords. Well done!

Beergnome (author)2013-07-02

count me as another vote for it actually being "hand cut" with a steady hand and an X-acto knife.

seeing the inspirational art work in the background of the final pics is inspiring.

Janers41 (author)2013-07-02

These make really nice "goodbye" gifts for friends that are moving away. I did one for a friend of mine and situated her house right in the middle. She cried when she realized what it was. :)

rolfy12 (author)2013-07-02

A wonderful idea! I've a couple of maps I wouldn't mind using for a project like this.

Lost Moai (author)2013-07-02

Absolutely love this! When I first saw it I thought it was just another laser cutter project, but I hazarded a look because I happen to love maps as well. I can definitely see myself doing this as a way to log visits to other cities. I have maps I've kept from visits to New York, San Francisco, Boston, etc. The big parks would especially make for a good display with all the walking trails and such. Your floating display is also a great idea that looks great.

I haven't been this impressed with an instructable in a while.

chabias (author)Lost Moai2013-07-02

I agree Lost Moai. I had to look to see if it was actually "hand cut" as I kinda view CNC and laser cutting as 'cheating'. Great job, Brooklyntonia!

DB.Cooper (author)2013-07-02

I cannot begin to say how impressive this is. Voting, Favoriting, Collecting, Copycatting.

Thank you.

KEUrban (author)2013-07-01

Have you seen this store on Etsy? Same idea, but cut with a laser cutter:

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2013-07-01

That looks so cool! It would be fun to do one of these of back home :)

Tarun Upadhyaya (author)2013-07-01

What an amazing Idea :). Thank you so much for sharing. I am gonna do one for sure.

jessyratfink (author)2013-06-30

So pretty! I think I need to do one of these from my hometown. :D

About This Instructable




Bio: Art Teacher, Artist, and Maker - Follow me on Instagram to see what I'm working on before it hits Instructables.
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