Valentine’s Day Papel Picado


I’ve totally fallen in love with these beautiful paper flag banners or Papel Picado. The name Papel Picado translates to “perforated paper” and when created by true Mexican folk artists these flags are absolutely stunning. In the Mexican tradition Papel Picado are actually chiseled from stacks of tissue paper. While not nearly as beautiful as traditional Papel Picado, my version is a quick and kid-friendly using just paper punches and scissors.

I’ve been doing lots of wedding “research” (i.e. drooling over photos on wedding blogs) and these paper flags have made an appearance on a number of my favorite sites.  Matt and I decided to get married in California, so I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a California wedding special. I’ve found that many of my favorite California weddings incorporate Mexican influences, like these flags. It’s incredible how elegant they look when cut from white paper. Papel Picado would be a beautiful and cost-efficient way to dress up an outdoor venue.

I’m not sure if we will end up incorporating Papel Picado into our wedding, but I had to come up with an easy at-home version. What could be better than a banner of bright flags for Valentine’s day? Create your own Papel Picado, with the tutorial after the jump.

You will need:

  • Tissue paper
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • A rotary cutter (optional)
  • Assorted Paper Punches
  • Colored masking tape

First, gather a stack of tissue paper. I choose two colors, red and purple, for my flags.

Use a ruler to trim the paper to the desired size rectangle. I actually forgot to write down my measurement, but I think mine was about 8″ x 4.5″

Trim off any excess, leaving a very even stack of tissue paper cut to the same dimensions. (Okay, I just liked this picture – aren’t the colors pretty?)

Now, I divided my colored tissue paper into two separate stacks, one red, one purple. I started with the red stack. Fold the rectangle in half twice, creating a small rectangle with all of the edges matching.

Trim around the un-folded edges to make a design, you could also use pinking sheers for this.

Unfold the flag so that you can fit the stack of tissue inside the paper punch. The flag should still be folded in half once. 

Punch as many of the designs as you like around the edge but be careful not to overdo it. To many holes will make the paper even more delicate.

Now, fold your flag one more time. This time cut along the folded side of the tissue paper.I cut a half heart shape so that when the flag is opened it will have 2 full hearts. Think of this process as you would think of making a paper snowflake, any shape you cut will be repeated throughout the design.

Here’s the flag unfolded once.

Here’s the flag fully unfolded, with the two hearts in the center.

Now, repeat the process with your other colors. I tried a few different punches on my purple paper. It created a slightly more intricate design, but in the end I preferred the simplicity of the red flag to my purple one.

Here’s the purple flag, all finished.

Now, for turning the flags into a banner. First unroll your making tape and lay it out on a flat surface with the sticky side facing up. Place the paper banners on the tape alternating the color. You want the tops of the flags to only cover half of the width of the tape, this is so that you can fold the tape over to seal in the flags.

Once you have your flags in place fold the masking tape over evenly.

Now it’s time to hang the flags. Here they are decorating the cabinets in my kitchen.

(please don’t mind the clutter on top of the cabinets, I use every spare inch of my apartment for storage space!)