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Mexican Paper Decorations

Papel picado is the Mexican folk art of paper-cutting. The colorful, lattice-like designs, traditionally cut into tissue paper, are made to celebrate religious festivals and national holidays. Mexican craftsmen use punches, knives, hammers, chisels, and scissors to cut holes in the tissue. Sometimes the result is a simple symmetrical design, or it may depict a scene from the Bible. The decorations are placed in windows and hung as banners. You can also use them as table runners and place mats for a Mexican-style fiesta.




  • 10-inch-by-14-inch sheets of brightly colored tissue paper
  • Decorative hole punches
  • Iron
  • Craft scissors or pinking shears
  • String
  • Glue


  1. Step 1

    Make eight equal sections: Fold one sheet of tissue paper in half the short way, then fold it in quarters, then in eighths. Unfold the paper and refold it accordion-style along the same folds. If desired, you can iron the paper now to make it flatter and thus easier to work with.

  2. Step 2

    Create a repeating pattern by punching holes in the folded tissue paper using a variety of decorative hole punches. Do not use the punch on the folded edge or it will jam. Use scissors or pinking shears to cut shapes along the folded edge. Cut a curve that will make a scallop-shaped bottom edge. Leave a little room at the top. Open the folded paper. Using a warm iron, iron out the creases.

  3. Step 3

    To hang the decorations as banners, fold the top 1/2 inch over, and crease. Run a string across the sheets, just under the fold. Carefully glue the folded edges down over the string.

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Reviews (13)

  • Alabaxter 7 May, 2008

    Crafts are by nature normally folkloric, cultural - and every nation has them. Many USA were imported by our immigrant ancestors - go to a heritage festival. Only the USA has children who don't speak several languages from a young age - and do better academically. 80% of the world speaks Spanish. No I am not Hispanic. I'm German, Cherokee, English, Irish and Italian. And I love Martha for making crafting so versatile and easy for us, our kids and grandkids!

  • dreagu 6 May, 2008

    I find rdywenur's comment not only to be ignorant, but angry, racist, and altogether inappropriate for a Martha Stewart craft forum. If you are going to spew out an ignorant rant, you may want to at least use proper sentence structure, punctuation....and perhaps get the culture you are attacking correct, so that there is a remote possibility people will take you seriously. There is a difference between Mexican and Spanish.

  • Bealee 5 May, 2008

    Very well said, cyntheeB. Bravo!

  • alemorales68 5 May, 2008

    Also Mexican here and will confirm that we don't celebrate Cinco de for the can either try them or not's up to you...I don't see the harm in having a craft-of-the-day even if some of the crafts are not so elaborated...I think it's actually cool that we get to share all different cultures in this forum...this actual craft is very beautiful if you try a more complicated design and cut it with an exacto knife...we use it a lot in our traditional Dn n n n a de Muertos...

  • mitsya 5 May, 2008

    Here, here, cyntheeB.

  • cyntheeB 5 May, 2008

    Wow, all this over a simple tissue paper craft. MS offers all different kinds of crafts. During the winter holidays many European tranditions are shared. If your brain is closed maybe your mouth should be too.

  • LindenBlossom 5 May, 2008

    Sorry I clicked too many times - but nothing seemed to be happening! Ooops!!

  • magnusonart 4 May, 2008

    The Mexican restaurant, soon to be in competition with two more opening soon, which I prefer in my small Kentucky town has a great crew of hard working cooks, waiters and staff who have helped me learn many American misconceptions held about our friends South of the border... but the beautiful crafts from Mexico transcend the ignorance many Americans have about Mexican history, which, like Cinco de Mayo, enlightens our ignorance when we take time to be friends.

  • CaKatt 4 May, 2008

    I know this is a simple but I really appreciate this craft. I am having my first Cinco de Mayo party this year and desparately needed some ideas for festive but simple decorations. We will definately be making this one. Thank you

  • yara_ramirez 4 May, 2008

    Itn n n n s funny how in the States they believe may 5th is Mexicon n n n s indepedence day, In n n n m from Mexico and I live in Mexico, we never celebrate may 5th, it is the day of the Battle of Puebla, but it isn n n n nt that important to us, but we do celebrate our independce day on september 16th, which is the real day independence was held. It makes me laugh to see how they have parties in the states, they even have e-cards for may 5th. I just like it because itn n n n s a school day off, but thats all we really do.

  • Anna_Marie 4 May, 2008

    I like to know about crafts from other cultures...this is just a simple craft like our egg dying would be to another culture. You can make it as simple or as ornate as you wish....I like having some simple crafts, and some more involved....Variety is the SPICE of life! I do agree that the pop-up ad for the mop (or whatever that lady is advertising) drives me MAD!! I don't like having to waste my time deleting it, then going back to reading about the craft. It's tacky!

  • noonoo 4 May, 2008

    with so many types of paper punchers available now you can really make some interesting and festive designs.

  • ztreeters 4 May, 2008

    me too