The tactile nature of paper art is perhaps more than appealing than ever in today's digital world. A humble piece of paper has so many possibilities – it can be folded into origami and kirigami (cutting paper into shapes, while origami is more about making models) laser-cut, layered and made into sculptures.
Below are some of our favourite examples of paper art being used imaginatively within contemporary design, giving new life to one of the most ancient arts. If you're interested in incorporating other ancient forms of artwork into your work, you can also check out our calligraphy fonts roundup.
Click on the icon at the top-right of the image to enlarge it.
01. Paper cut octopus
This stunning octopus was created by paper cutting artist Masayo Fukuda. Not surprisingly, the intricate creation has been a huge hit on social media, with this video of her octopus having been viewed over 10 million times. It really is quite hypnotic.
02. Autumn Book Review
We're big fans of Owen Gildersleeve's work so it was tricky to choose between his projects for this roundup. But we love the simplicity of the hand-crafted leaves on this editorial illustration for The Guardian. It also goes to show that it is definitely possible to capture the hand-crafted nature of paper art through photography, as these leaves were created and then photographed, leaving a space in the middle for the copy.
03. Paper Dragon
Office stationery suppliers Viking Direct celebrated the return of Game of Thrones by building this 12.95-metre-long dragon as a surprise for their employees. Viking bosses worked with artist Andy Singleton to create the giant sculpture out of the equivalent of 1,200 pieces of A4 paper.
The dragon took 100 studio hours to design and create and a further 10 hours to install in the Viking office. “I wanted the dragon to be an expression of my approach and style of work, so I did not look at any other reference images while making it, apart from my drawings," says the artist. "I wanted parts of the dragon’s armour to look like faceted minerals, but also to have softer elements almost like fur on the underside. The colour choices just felt right when I was selecting the specialist paper."
04. Paper Art Pancakes
Margaret Scrinkl is an illustrator and animator who specialises in paper art. This stop-motion animation is one of her sweet creations. To create these paper masterpieces, Scrinkl uses Adobe Lightroom and Premiere Pro, along with a Nikon D5300 and of course, paper. Take a look at Scrinkl’s Instagram feed for plenty of work in progress shots, delicate branding animations and more mouthwatering, delicate paper food.
05. Condé Nast Traveller
Hattie Newman creates images and sets for adverts, magazines, galleries, websites, and books around the world. For the above piece, she was commissioned to create a jungle of paper foliage, bugs and animals for an article on jungle-themed accessories in Condé Nast Traveller. Layers of metallic paper leaves add a touch of luxury to the scene. Newman's site is definitely work a look, as she has a range of colourful projects to explore.
Lola Dupré is a collage artist and illustrator based in Scotland. Many of her pieces look like slick Photoshop creations, but they’re in fact created using paper and scissors – plus plenty of time and meticulous sticking. She cites the Dada movement of the early 20th Century as key inspiration. The image above is part of the campaign for Nike’s PG2 basketball shoes. The kaleidoscopic design fits perfectly with the campaign slogan ‘Be comfortable in the chaos’.
Paper art duo Julie Wilkinson and Joyanne Horscroft aka Makerie Studio design and create showpieces for window installations, advertising and editorial clients. "Circling is an extremely personal project, one that came from trying to deal with a period of intense fear and worry," say the duo. "Bright colours and happy thoughts are usually our driving forces, but some days take their toll, and this was our way of dealing with anxiety. Making something constructive out of a stressful state of mind was a way of feeling less helpless, literally turning darkness into beauty."
Each piece was handcrafted from iridescent gold and black paper, and features a central creature surrounded by circling predators.
Virginia-based designer Eric Standley takes paper art to a new level with his incredibly intricate, multi-layered creations, often inspired by Islamic or Gothic architecture.
This detailed design is based around the fractal geometry that occurs naturally in the universe. "When a DNA braid is viewed from the top down, the layered double helix rotation abides by the golden ratio," explains Standley. "I began applying phi to the drawing processes of Kismet and Phidala.
09. Forest Folks
French artists Lucie Thomas and Thibault Zimmerman make up renowned paper art studio Zim & Zou. The duo's colourful paper sculptures appear all over the world – including in this series of installations in a Hermès store in Dubai.
The series is based around the theme of nature. "In this project, spectators have a sneak peek of the curious characters living inside this environment," the pair state. "This microscopic point of view, where plants... reign as masters, is like a kind of picture, a flash, a precise instant in nature’s unrestrained run."
10. European Birds
Colombian-born Diana Beltrán Herrera specialises in amazing paper recreations of nature, her work featuring wonderfully detailed flowers and plants and the most incredibly realistic birds of all shapes and sizes. More recently, the Bristol-based artist has also started incorporating insects, butterflies and fish into her work, demonstrating the same level of attention to detail.
11. We Sent Their Briefs Back
South African agency TBWA needed a way of getting clients' attention, and hit upon this novel way of tackling a brief: taking actual paper briefs and turning them into eye-catching paper art incorporating concepts relevant to the specific brand message, and then sending the briefs back to the client. The project was a huge success, attracting new work within five days.
13. Nissan Juke
Nissan wanted to create a life-size origami version of its Juke car to celebrate the model’s fifth anniversary. Inspired by its Japanese origins and the craftsmanship of UK manufacturing, the company turned to British designer and illustrator Owen Gildersleeve to make its vision a reality. Gildersleeve brought in Thomas Forsyth to lend his 3D build expertise to this epic undertaking. The final car was built from heavyweight card over a foam board skeleton.
14. The Tree of Knowledge
There's plenty of paper art out there that incorporates books into the design, but Spanish designer Malena Valcárcel's designs are particularly magical. "I transform books into a new story in a way to make people stop and appreciate, if just for a moment, the magic of books," she says. Take a look at the range of book paper art designs in Valcárcel's Etsy store, along with some delicate paper jewellery.
15. Cut Scene
Making a living from paper art is a difficult task, but thanks to his talents and enthusiasm, Marc Hagan-Guirey – aka Paper Dandy – has done just that. For his Star Wars-inspired Cut Scene exhibition, the artist create 12 kirigami models of different iconic scenes, each cut from a single sheet of paper. The project received rave reviews.
Hagan-Guirey has also released a book entitled Horrogami, which includes 20 Kirigami projects inspired by cult horror tales such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Sleepy Hollow and King Kong, along with step-by-step instructions to make your own.
16. Fiat Dobló
Brazil-based illustration agency D'Avila Studio created this vibrant paper art piece as part of Fiat Motors' campaign to promote its SUV, the Dobló Adventure. The team created two prints, both of which placed the paper overlapping on layers to create an impressive depth effect.
18. Paper Dragon
The second paper dragon on our list, this majestic example was created by a group of artists at INK studio in Belgium. It stands at above knee height and was made entirely of paper – it's definitely worth taking a look at the studio's website for some making-of photos. The dragon now resides peacefully – we are told – in the studio's offices.
19. Day of the Dead
This incredible paper art series from Bulgaria-based designer Tsvetislava Koleva celebrates the Day of the Dead with intricate and colourful masks that quite frankly, took our breath away. Each creation takes a different theme and a different colour palette (shown here: Lace and Gold).
Next page: More incredible examples of paper art