How to Cut Paper Snowflakes

by Wendy Copley on January 19, 2012

Snowflake Title

I realize that many of you are up to your necks in real snowflakes at the moment, but here in the SF Bay area it has been bone dry all winter. I’m not trying to say that we would normally be strapping on our snow shoes at this time of year or anything but we’ve usually had at least a little rain by now. In order to bring a little bit of that wintery feeling into our house, I’ve been making paper snowflakes and taping them to our windows.

I learned to cut paper snowflakes back in elementary school, as I’m sure you all did too, but I didn’t start liking how they looked until my mom — an expert snowflake cutter — shared a few tricks with me. Today I’m going to share everything I learned from her with you!

Cutting Snowflakes step by step

To start, you’ll need a piece of paper and a pair of scissors. I like scissors with really sharp tips, but they’re not necessary.

Your first task will be to cut your paper into a square. To do this, fold it in half diagonally, matching the top edge of the paper to a side edge as pictured above.

Cutting Snowflakes step by step

Now trim off the extra little strip along the edge. There’s no need to be super precise about this.

When you’ve finished cutting, you will be left with a right triangle.

Cutting Snowflakes step by step

Fold your triangle in half again by matching the two sharpest corners. Crease the fold with your finger.

This next part is a little tricky because instead of folding it in half again — which would result in an eight-pointed snowflake — we are going to fold the paper so that we will end up with a proper six-pointed snowflake. Like in nature. You want your paper snowflakes to look like they came from nature, right?

Unfold the triangle you just made so it’s folded in half with a crease down the middle. Now bring the edge over so that the crease on the right side of the paper crosses over about a third of the way into the left side. (Look at the picture if my words don’t make perfect sense). Flatten the crease on the paper about a half an inch up, but don’t flatten it all the way up! You just want a little crease at the bottom right now, because you probably don’t have your fold right quite yet.

Cutting Snowflakes step by step

Now bring the opposite edge across and match it up with the edge of the fold you just made. Again, crease the new fold about a half inch or so. Open the fold and check to see if you’ve made three same-sized sections. You probably haven’t so fiddle around with it a little until you’ve divided the half triangle into equal thirds. Once you’ve got it to your liking, flatten the folds with your finger all the way up to the top edge.

Fold your triangle in half again and then really press down on the folds to make a sharp crease in the paper. I like to use my scissors for this. Sharp creases will make it easier to make precise cuts.

Cutting Snowflakes step by step

Finally, cut off the points that are sticking up above the top of the folded edges. This will ensure that all of the cuts you make for your snowflake go through all the layers of the paper.

Now for the fun part: cutting the snowflake! I start off by cutting the top edge of the snowflake. This will define the basic shape of the flake. My preference is to cut it so that one edge is higher than the other because that gives it the classic six-pointed snowflake shape. If the two edges are the same height, your snowflake will look like it has 12 points. (Which is also nice.)

A note about unfolding: you are going to be tempted to unfold your snowflake while you are in the process of cutting it. Don’t do it!  The more you cut, the more delicate your paper will be and it will be really hard to refold it properly. Besides, if you unfold it before you’re done, you’ll ruin the big surprise at the end and that’s no fun, is it?

Cutting Snowflakes step by step

After you have your top edge cut, start cutting into the folded edges of the snowflake. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you’re cutting:

  1. This one may seem obvious, but it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning: do not cut through both folded edges of the triangle with the same cut! If you do, you will cut the center out of your snowflake!
  2. In my opinion, the snowflakes that look best have very few chunky bits of white paper in them. To avoid this, I try to cut out as much paper as I can while simultaneously leaving enough paper to keep the snowflake from ripping. It’s a fine balancing act, my friends!  I find that leaving between 1/8 and 1/4 inch between the cut-out areas is just right (but don’t get out a ruler or anything).
  3. After I’ve cut the top, I use that edge as a guide for my next cuts. I cut through one of the the folded edges in parallel to the top edge but about an 1/8 of an inch down. Once I have finished the parallel cuts, I’m a little more loose about where I cut, but I eventually bring the cut line back to the original fold.  Does that make sense? It is really hard to explain with words, so you’re going to want to look at the photos up above.
  4. As I work my way down to the tip of the snowflake, I alternate which folded edge I start cutting from and I always use my previous cuts as a guide for the subsequent cuts.
  5. If I find myself with some bigger chunks of paper in the middle of the triangle, I like to make a few smaller  jagged cuts into it (see above right photo). This gives it that authentic, crystallized look. These types of cuts also look great along the top edge.
  6. The snowflake I’m cutting in these photos only has straight cuts, but I love the look of curvy cuts too. Experimenting with different types of shapes is all part of the fun!

Cutting Snowflakes step by step

When you are done cutting, your snowflake will look something like the photo above on the left — not very much paper, lots of cut-outs.

Gently unfold it. I like to fold each crease back onto itself a little as I go to encourage the snowflake to lie flat.

Cutting Snowflakes step by step

Ta da! Once it’s all unfolded, marvel at the beauty you’ve created!

Do you like to cut snowflakes out of paper? How do you use snowflakes after you’ve made them? I’d love it if you shared any tips you have for us down in the comments!

Previous post:

Next post: