Introduction: DIY Paper-Cut Tunnel Book

About: Welcome! Pleased to meet you, I am Barb; a Maker. I have been making things AND explaining how to make things for as long as I can remember. I was all about DIY before it was a popular term. I absolutely love …

I like challenges. AND I like to make things, especially if they are from what would probably be thrown out. So that gave me this idea. Why not make a 3-dimensional book/sculpture?! It doesn't use much and can be a sort of therapy.


Step 1: Pick Your Subject

I love to take walks in the forest and always marvel at the way the trees layer with the light coming through. It is so therapeutic and lovely. I even painted a scene in a very similar way by layering.

I sketched out a scene of an imaginary forest. It's easy, just remember as things get further away they get smaller and trees get thinner. It's like imagining a few shapes receding into the distance. I like to draw on my ipad but paper and pencil is fine.

Make sure the size is relative to the book. Keeping a border of some shapes is a good way to start the 'tunnel book'.

Step 2: Make Transfer Paper

There were about 1500 pages in this book; an old dictionary.

To be able to get the drawing onto the book pages you need a way to transfer it. Since I am an illustrator I have spent much of my life 'transferring' drawings to materials to paint. It's a tedious job but is very necessary when not working digitally.

  • Take a soft lead pencil (like HB) and draw over the back of drawing page, covering the entire surface
  • Using a paper towel rub the graphite all over quite firmly.
  • You have not made your own 'carbon/transfer paper'

Step 3: Transfer the Design

Now that you have the transfer paper made, you are ready to transfer where ever you like.

Place the image where you want it and using either a scribe or a ball point pen retrace the lines of the outside of the design.

Since each layer will be cut separately don't trace them all. It's sort of like a topographic map but it is a picture scene instead.

Step 4: And Time to Start Cutting...

As much as there is a design for this, feel free to just add to edit as you go along. No one will know if you change the design...

Slide the cutting mat under a section of pages (the depth of your first images like the leaves) and start to cut at the lines that you transferred. The nice thing is that you can always go back and cut more, however you can't easily add back on.

Step 5: Next 'Layer'

After you are happy with that layer, fold those pages over and transfer the next layer of the drawing. You will be going 'deeper' into the scene with each cutting. Depending on the thickness of paper you can work in stages.

I love the leaf foreground details!

  • Keep the pages lined up as you cut.
  • Make sure you cut well in to the corners
  • 'pulling' the cut is better than pushing the knife. (you'll get the practice - trust me)

Step 6: Keep Going...

Flip the pages over keeping one to see the last layer and then plan/cut the next layer. It can get tiring on the hands as the knife will need a fair bit of pressure.

The blades will dull quickly so I would sharpen them. If you have a fine 600grit wet sandpaper that will nicely sharpen the blade. Pull (not push) the blade across it wet and it will be good again - why throw them out?!

Notice how the foreground tree is quite thick and deep, as it was cut a few times.

Step 7: Work Your Way Deeper.

Behind the tree the forest valley travels back. Think of these as layers of ground and rock and creek. The detail behind the tree can be lessened as well.

Remember you can go back and adjust by cutting out more afterward - just like a true sculptor or rock carver, they keep taking material off. Be an artist and assess what you see to decide how you like it. Trust your judgement or take a break and view it with a new perspective when you come back to it.

Step 8: More and More Fun...

The really 'cool' thing about this odd way of sculpting is that it lets you got back and forth, flipping the pages.

That's something that you don't get in traditional sculpting. Yes, 1500 pages is a lot, but you are cutting a bunch at a time. As you get further into the scene it gets more fun and dimensional.

Step 9: Deep Into the Forest...

As you get into the back of the forest you can add more trees that layer just keep them thinner. They will be much more likely to rip as well. If the odd piece falls out don't worry; no one will be counting the pages!

At the very end of the pages I wanted to let the light shine through like it does in the forest so it is cut through completely. You could choose to cut through the book cover but I did not. To let the light through you will just need to open the cover.

Step 10: Finally Time to Finish

After you have a pile of cut dictionary pages you can now get to the easy finish.

It can't be much easier. Nope, you don't need to glue each of the 1500 pages, just brush some Elmers Glue-All on the edges of the book when is all lined up. It dries quite quickly and will hold the pages in place without looking glued. I have used this glue often when making book binding and if slightly wrinkles it will flatten again when it dries.

My book was somewhat falling apart so I also recovered the front and back and spine with some old leather from a jacket using the same glue.

Step 11: Enjoy!

How amazing to open a book and see into a whole world! I had considered using some paint bit I really just wanted the levels to provide all the dimension. But you could do that with no problem!

The best way to see the layers since they are all the same colour is with light. Set up your book somewhere where it will have the 'sun' shine through the trees...

Thanks for stopping by and if you like this I appreciate a vote!

Check out my other up-cycle projects and nature inspired DIY's

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