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Horrorgami 101: How to Master the Art of Kirigami — for Halloween!

Paper artist Marc Hagan-Guirey shares basic tips and tricks from his book, "Horrorgami: 20 Gruesome Scenes to Cut and Fold." 

headless-horseman-sleepy-hallow-horrorgami
Photography by: Courtesy of Horrorgami: 20 Gruesome Scenes to Cut and Fold by Marc Hagan-Guirey. Used with permission of Laurence King Publishing

Preparation is essential in successful horrorgami. Ensure that you have everything you need within reach and make sure you're working in a well-lit room. Try to wear short sleeves and lose any bracelets that might snag on paper elements. Take your time and have lots of breaks. Cutting on such a small scale can be quite intense. If you accidentally cut something incorrectly, don’t despair. Finish the model and use a bit of sticky tape to put it back together. If you preserve the templates, you can try again when ready.

 

Tools and Materials

  • Bone folder: Not essential but creates nice crisp folds.
  • Scalpel and blades: Buy blades in bulk and always use a sharp one.
  • Metal ruler: Plastic rulers get damaged by sharp knives and rarely have a true straight edge. Keep the ruler clean.
  • Paper: Templates in my book are printed on 200 g/m2. If you want to keep the book intact, scan or photocopy the model and reprint it on a paper stock of 180–220 g/m2.
  • Self-healing cutting mat: Protects the work surface and prolongs the life of your blades.
  • Skewers or toothpicks: Use for popping out small creases or to keep a fold from inverting in on itself as you fold opposing planes.

 

[MEET: The Horrorgami Master Himself, Marc Hagan-Guirey]

Terms to Know For Folding

  • The background plane: The "sky" and vertical standing section of the model.
  • The base plane: The floor or ground on which the model stands.
  • Façades: The vertical "walls" of the model, usually forward-facing, they might feature doors or windows.
  • The horizon: The main, 90-degree fold that forms the flat base which the model sits on and the vertical upright part of the model. The most outer fold, the horizon is usually the starting point for folding.
  • Roof planes: The model's horizontal roofs.
  • Structural lines: Printed here in black, these are the lines that you cut through completely. The template is printed on the reverse of the model, so the printed side of the template will be the reverse of the design in the photos. The display side of the model is the blank side of the paper.
     
haunted-house-horrorgami
Photography by: Courtesy of Horrorgami: 20 Gruesome Scenes to Cut and Fold by Marc Hagan-Guirey. Used with permission of Laurence King Publishing

Cutting, Scoring, and Folding

 

Work from the center of the model and move outwards. Next, move on to details such as a character's outlines — anything that isn't a straight line. Then, cut the structural lines. There is often a lot of detailing on structural lines. Only use these as a guide. As long as you're cutting in the general direction of the line, the model will still work.

 

Half-cutting: Half-cutting means scoring a line that only cuts halfway through the paper, making it fold and creating a hinge at 90 degrees. Reserve a blunt blade for half-cutting. 

 

Mountain and valley folds: Half-cut valley folds (green dotted and dashed lines) on the reverse (printed) side of the template. The fold is pushed inwards like a valley. Mountain folds (orange lines), the opposite, are half-scored on the front, the non-printed (display) side and then pushed outwards. The horizon fold of the model is always a valley fold. Folds are referred to as they are viewed from the front (display side) of the model. When folding a valley fold from behind we'll still refer to it as the valley fold.

headless-horseman-sleepy-hallow-horrorgami
Photography by: Courtesy of Horrorgami: 20 Gruesome Scenes to Cut and Fold by Marc Hagan-Guirey. Used with permission of Laurence King Publishing

Folding Techniques 

 

Often the best method for folding a crease will feel very intuitive. Shown here are a few techniques used in the folding instructions. The later models will assume you've picked up techniques and terminology from the beginner models so it is a good idea to work your way through the book.

 

Levering: Using your middle finger behind the fold as a lever, push down the background plane with your forefinger and the base plane with your thumb.

 

Pinching: Although I rarely recommend pinching the crease, it is sometimes useful on smaller mountain or valley folds.

 

Pushing out: Holding the model in one hand, use the fingers of the other to push one side of the paper along the fold. You’ll have to gradually work along the fold in some cases. Mainly used for valley folds.

 

Skewer: Use a skewer and the same technique as levering to pop elements out in a space too small to fit your finger in.

 

Springing: Push two planes of paper on the same axis together by holding a plane in each hand and moving them in opposite directions. Allow the paper to spring back to its original position, repeat several times, working the folds until they go past their breaking point and become memory. This is very useful for folding stairs.

 

Feeling inspired? Watch how to cut and fold a spooky Halloween garland out of paper: