Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tutorial: Framing Cut Paper Illustrations

In my last post I shared an Easy Method to frame a cut paper illustration using a store bought shadow box frame. The secret there was to plan the illustration around the dimensions of the chosen frame.

But you may have an illustration that does not fall into one of the commonly available frame sizes: 5 x 7, 8 x 8, 8 x 10, 10 x 10, 11 x 14, 12 x 12, and 16 x 20. In this case, you could go the route of a custom frame...

But, I'm going to show you how to make a store bought frame work in this case as well. It just takes a little work and a nice sheet of poster board.  For this tutorial I will be using my Summer Days illustration which is 10 x 12 inches.

So here's the problem... I purchased an 11 x 14 shadow box frame for my illustration. As you can see in the picture, the illustration just swims around inside the frame... So there are a few things to point out here:
  • The inner frame is too far away from the illustration to serve as a the shadow box (check out the Easy Method for more on this). We will need to make one out of poster board to fit the dimensions of the illustration.
  • Even if we make a shadow box that fits around the illustration, it will still bounce around inside the frame. So we will need to attach the illustration to something that will center it inside the frame.
  • Since the illustration is smaller than the frame, there will be some empty space around the illustration which really takes away from the main subject. So we will need to make something to hide this empty space.

1 - Making a Paper Shadow Box

A shadow box should hug a cut paper illustration on all sides. In the Easy Method I used the inner frame of store bought shadow box for this. But as we saw above, the inner frame is too big for the illustration and cannot be used in the same way.

One solution is to make a shadow box out of poster board and place the illustration inside of it. I purchased a nice sheet of poster board for this since it is going to be glued to the illustration (I wanted the poster board to be acid-free and of an overall better quality than the cheaper poster board often used for school projects). As luck would have it, I bought it on a windy day and struggled to get it to the car without letting it bend (crafting is stressful business...).

The 11 x 14 shadow box frame holds objects up to 3/4 inch deep so the height of the paper shadow box can be no larger than 3/4 inch. I outlined my illustration on the poster board and kept a 3/4 inch border on all sides.  I cut out the larger rectangle and then scored the outline of my illustration with my bone folder. 

I erased the outline and was left with the scored outline of the illustration. The scored lines show me where I have to fold the paper, but before folding, the corners need to be clipped. Pick a scored line and follow it to a corner, take a pencil and extend the line from the scored corner to the edge of the paper. Now follow the scored line perpendicular to the previous line, from the corner to the next corner and again, using a pencil, extend the line to the edge of the paper. Do this two more times and you should end up with four lines, each 3/4 inch long. Cut on these pencil lines (do not cut the scored lines).

Now the paper can be folded. Fold all four sides of the paper upwards along the scored lines. Fold over the 3/4 inch excess at the ends (this is how we will get neat corners and is the reason we clipped the paper in the previous step).

Glue the corners shut. The paper shadow box is done!

Glue the illustration inside the shadow box.

So the paper shadow box is done but we still have the problem of the illustration swimming around inside the frame... Not to mention all the empty space that would appear if we were to close the frame now.

2 - Mounting the Paper Shadow Box

To center the illustration inside the shadow box frame, I decided to use a piece of poster board. I started by outlining the inner frame (11 x 14) of the shadow box frame onto a sheet of poster board. Then I cut out the poster board rectangle. 

I centered the illustration + paper shadow box inside the poster board rectangle (mounting board) and outlined them.

I glued the illustration + paper shadow box onto the mounting board. Now the illustration will be centered in the shadow box frame.

3 - Making a Paper Frame

For a nice finished look and to hide the empty space inside the frame, I added a paper frame around the illustration made out of poster board (you could also use watercolor paper). To make this paper frame, start by outlining the inner frame onto the poster board. The dimensions of this rectangle are 11 x 14 inches.

Then decide how much of the illustration you wish to overlap with the paper frame. I wanted the overlap to be 1/8 inch. But here you also have to account for the difference between the 11 x 14 frame and the 10 x 12 illustration. There is a 2 inch difference on the vertical axis and a 1 inch difference on the horizontal axis. These differences have to divided between the two borders on each axis... this is sounding complicated but all you have to do is have a 1 1/8 inch border on the top and bottom (1 inch for the difference and 1/8 inch for the overlap) and a 5/8 inch border on the left and right (1/2 inch for the difference and 1/8 inch for the overlap). This is what mine looked like.

Cut out the center rectangle.

Then cut out the frame. I wanted a smooth edge on the inner border so I ran my burnishing tool all around it.

4 - Putting it all together!

Using a hot glue gun, I glued the paper frame I just finished in the previous step to the inner frame. You only need a few dots here and there.

I then placed the inner frame back into the shadow box frame with the paper frame touching the glass. 

Finally the illustration (with its paper shadow box and mounting board) was placed inside the frame and I closed the back.

All done!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Framing Cut Paper Illustrations: The Easy Method

A cut paper illustration is a pretty fragile piece of art and should be stored or framed soon after completion. When it comes to framing, you could either have a custom frame made at your local framing store or purchase a shadow box. I will be sharing two tutorials to frame a cut paper illustration with a store bought shadow box. The first is what I've called the Easy Method.

In short, the "Easy Method" consists of making a cut paper illustration in the dimensions of a pre-purchased shadow box! End of tutorial... just kidding!  But, seriously, framing your cut paper illustration yourself will be much easier if you design your cut paper illustration in one of the commonly available sizes: 5 x 7, 8 x 8, 8 x 10, 10 x 10, 11 x 14, 12 x 12, and 16 x 20.

For my Singing Bird cut paper illustration, I selected an 8 x 8 shadow box frame. This particular shadow box holds 3-dimensional objects up to 3/4 inch (2 cm) deep.

Removing the back of the frame reveals a smaller inner frame that holds the glass in place. This inner frame is removable and has outer dimensions of 8 x 8 inches. The inner dimensions are 7 5/16 x 7 5/16 inches.

The background of the cut paper illustration should be cut to the 8 x 8 outer dimensions of the inner frame. Important: But the actual illustration must be contained within the 7 5/16 x 7 5/16 inner dimensions of the frame. Otherwise, part of the illustration will be smashed by the inner frame. Here you can see that all of the components of the Singing Bird end just as they touch the inner frame. 

For a nice finished look, I added a paper frame around the illustration made out of watercolor paper (you could also use poster board). To make this paper frame, start by outlining the inner frame onto the paper. I outlined both the outer and inner borders of the frame.

Then decide how much of the illustration you wish to overlap with the paper frame. I made mine 3/4 inch from the outer edge of inner frame.

Cut out the center square, then cut out the frame.

This is what the paper frame should look like. I wanted a smooth edge on the inner border so I ran my burnishing tool all around it.

Using a hot glue gun, glue the paper frame to the inner frame. You only need a few dots here and there.

Place the inner frame back into the shadow box frame with the paper frame touching the glass. Place your illustration inside the frame and close the back.

All done!

In my next post I will be sharing a method for framing a cut paper illustration that does not share the same dimensions of a store bought shadow box.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Cut Paper Illustration: The Singing Bird (Chinese Proverb)

I recently moved around all the furniture on the ground level of our house (well, everything except an enormous armoire overstuffed with books... I wasn't ambitious enough to tackle that one!). I've been feeling the need to change up our decorations, colors, layout... it's a feeling that comes over me every now and then and usually results in a few things being shifted around. This time, however, it has turned into a major project that will be lasting some time...

In all the moving around, I ended up placing our dining room set in front of two large glass doors that lead out to our patio. It has been so wonderful to eat there with a beautiful view of the garden and trees. Lately, we've noticed that every evening around 6:30 pm a Robin perches himself at the very tip-top of an enormous pine tree behind our house. The setting sun shines beautifully on its highest branches and the Robin just sings his little heart out up there. We have been enjoying watching him and even pulled out the telescope to get a better look at him.

I was reminded of a Chinese proverb I came across recently in one of my books:

If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.

It seemed so fitting and I set out to make a cut paper illustration of the proverb. I started with a complete cleaned-up sketch and a rough color layout.

To the cutting board! I started with the bluebird and transferred (either with my light pad or tracing paper) its parts onto colored card stock.

Then each little feather of the front wing was cut out and glued in place...

Here are most of the bluebird and the bough:

I added some subtle details to the bird and painted the details of the branch.

I then mounted them onto the background using 3D foam squares. Then all that was left was the bluebird's song! The music staff was made by quilling strips of pink card stock.

The treble clef and music notes were then cut out and glued to the staff.

The finished piece!

And the aftermath of the creative process! 

P.S. Bonus points if you noticed "Pride and Prejudice" at the bottom left corner! This project was fueled by listening to this fantastic mini-series on repeat. I love it so much!