Horrorgami Walks You Through Basic Kirigami Techniques with Spooky Results

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Horrorgami Walks You Through Basic Kirigami Techniques with Spooky Results


Architecture, kirigami, and horror: these three fascinations led artist Marc Hagan-Guirey (AKA Paper Dandy) to begin papercrafting homages to his favorite haunted houses and creepy crypts. In his book, Horrorgami: 20 Gruesome Scenes to Cut and Fold, Paper Dandy provides the templates and some step-by-step instructions so you can recreate his spooky designs at home.

Kirigami is the art of cutting and folding a single sheet of paper to make a scene or image. Horrorgami let’s you ease into the basics of the craft and work your way up to more challenging creations. The following excerpt covers practical tips for making the spooky horrorgami models featured in his book.

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.

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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.


Familiarize yourself with these terms for the folding instructions.

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.



I find it best to work from the center of the model and move outwards. Next I move on to details such as a character’s outlines — anything that isn’t a straight line.

Then I 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 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.

Marking mountain scores

Only one side of the paper is printed, which is fine for seeing where you need to cut and perform half-score valley folds, therefore you’ll need to make some small incisions on the back of the card marking out where you need to perform half-score for mountain folds on the front. On the printed side of the template, use the tip of the blade to make a small incision on both ends of the orange dotted mountain fold line. When you flip the paper over, you’ll see the two small holes. Line up your ruler between these points and half-score. For longer mountain folds create one or two markers along the length of the line.

Progressive folding

Never crease the folds sharply in the first instance. Apply a little pressure and help them move in the direction you want. Gently work your way around the various folds of the model; return to the beginning and apply more pressure to the crease each time. Do this two or three times before the model is complete. This is progressive folding. The breaking point of the paper is where the crease becomes ‘memory’. Successful folding of horrorgami relies on the various valley and mountain folds being correctly half-cut before you begin folding. Double-check that you’ve completed all the half-scoring before you start folding.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

Try out one of the Horrorgami designs for yourself!

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(Excerpt from Paper Dandy’s Horrorgami: 20 Gruesome Scenes to Cut and Fold by Marc Hagan-Guirey, 2015. Reprinted with permission of Laurence King Publishing.)

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Marc Hagan-Guirey

Marc Hagan-Guirey is a kirigami paper artist and design director. Visit him online at www.paperdandy.co.uk/ for more information about his latest creations and upcoming exhibitions.

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