MFT Academy: Paper Piecing

Welcome back to the MFT Academy!  Barbara is returning as our Guest Professor today with a paper piecing tutorial.  Paper piecing is a great technique to use for “dressing” characters and adding pattern and style to your cards.  Paper piecing is a great alternative to coloring that allows you to add texture, interest, and pattern to your projects.  In addition, it is lots of fun, creatively!

We will starting with the basics and then move on to more complex designs, in case you are not familiar with the technique.

  • Copic-friendly paper and Copic markers of choice
  • Memento Ink Tuxedo Black
  • Liquid glue
  • Sharp detail scissors
  • Optional, but helpful: angled tweezers, curved detailed scissors, craft knife
  • Patterned papers of choice
  • Stamps of choice: Pure Innocence Birthday Girl, Pure Innocence Goldfish Girl, Pure Innocence Bedtime Story

Paper Piecing Basics:

When choosing your papers, it’s important to consider the size of the area to be paper pieced and the scale of the pattern in the paper.  Think about what this would look like in real life; for example, you probably wouldn’t see this dress or balloon with large patterns.

Choose images with large open areas, as they provide the perfect space for a smooth expanse of pattern that is not too fussy in design.

If you will be coloring any portion of your stamped image, be sure to complete all coloring before adding paper piecing, otherwise, you might accidentally color onto your paper pieced elements.

Use sharp detail scissors; curved scissors are often helpful.  Cut along the center of the stamped line. This ensures your pieced element will be neither too small nor too large.

Let’s begin with a simple image with open areas, Pure Innocence Birthday Girl.

Select the stamp and papers you want to use and stamp the image on
your base paper and as often as necessary on your patterned paper. For
this image, the dress and the balloon will be pieced, so it has been stamped three times; first onto white paper for the base, and then onto each of the two patterned papers.

You only need to stamp the areas of the image to be covered on your patterned papers, and some parts will be very small.  Scraps come in handy for this technique.

Step 2: Cut out the patterned paper.  Hold your scissors still while closing and opening the blades, and slowly turn the paper into the blades to maintain the best control.

Step 3: Run a marker around the cut piece to hide the white edge. This will help provide a smooth transition between the cut paper and the main image. Work from the back to avoid slipping and marring the front. Water-based markers bleed less than alcohol markers and are recommended.  However, alcohol markers can be used with success if done carefully.

Step 4: Color all portions of the image that will not be paper pieced such as skin, hair, and shoes.

Step 5: Adhere patterned paper to image using liquid glue.  This allows you a few seconds to slide the paper around
for the most accurate placement. Cover most of the area with a larger applicator.


Then, go around the edges with a glue pen to keep the edges down tight.

Step 6: Adhere patterned paper. Angled tweezers are optional, but often helpful for proper alignment.

This image is now ready to be used on a card.

The second card is a little more involved and introduces layers.

General Instructions:

Now that you’re familiar with the basic technique, you can begin adding some shading to build dimension and depth. Use a neutral color for shading.  Copic markers in the W range work well.  Start with a lighter color than you think you’ll need.  You can always add additional layers of color to deepen the shading.

With a more complex image like this, you will stamp, color, and add a second layer for arms and/or hands that are placed on top of your pieced layer. This provides dimension and texture to a flat image. This extra step creates a 3D effect with a more “natural” appearance.  Be sure to color small elements such as arms and hands, before cutting them out.

Decide where your light source will be coming from to determine where to apply shading. Lay down a narrow line for items close to each other, blend out more for items further away; darker area closest to item being shadowed

When making paper choices, vary the patterns: one floral, one striped, one with dots, etc., although two different floral patterns can work if one is subtle.  Keep at least one a subtle pattern, or as is found in some collections, a “solid” pattern. Too many strong patterns can look “busy” and detract from the overall design.  Here are the papers I chose for this card:

Step 1: Stamp the images. For this card, I stamped the image, or parts of the image, 7 times.

  1. The main image
  2. Shirt
  3. Second arm to be colored
  4. Fish food can
  5. Second sleeve
  6. Pants
  7. Fish bowl stand


Step 2: Color the image, cut out the papers, and edge each piece with a marker. Note that I left a little extra on some of these pieces.   This helps avoid butting two pieces against each other, which is often difficult to do perfectly, and also makes for a much smoother transition from one paper to another. Some areas will have paper layered on top, so they don’t need to be trimmed off.

Step 3: When adhering the pieces, keeping in mind how the layers will fall. First the pants.

Step 4: Then add the top.

Step 5: Next the fish food can, followed by the second arm.

Step 6: And last, the tiny sleeve and fish bowl stand.

This view shows the dimension achieved with the layers.

Step 7: Add some shading under the added-on arm and sleeve, and under the edge where the top covers the pants, and it’s ready to put on a card.

For the last card, we will use paper piecing to build a scene using a more complex image.

Step 1: Stamp the image onto scraps of paper for each element in your scene. Examine the scene and, working from back to front, visualize the layers and which paper works best for each layer.  For Pure Innocence Bedtime Story, it has been stamped nine times.

  1. The entire image has been stamped onto orange chevron paper, this will become the room’s wallpaper, the very bottom layer of our image.
  2. This complete image was stamped to Copic-friendly paper and will be used for the headboard and the night stand and lamp base.
  3. This image will be used for the Pure Innocence head.
  4. This will be used to add Pure Innocence hands holding the book.
  5. This layer is for the pillow behind her head.
  6. This layer will be used for the turned down sheet.
  7. This layer will be used for the book cover.
  8. This layer will be the bed spread.
  9. This layer will become the lamp shade.

Step 2: Color the image portions and cut out all the pieces. For small pieces like the extra set of hands, be sure to color first and then cut.  Tight areas, like that shown by the arrow, are easier cut out with a craft knife.

Here are all the layers, colored, cut out, and ready to assemble. I could have paper pieced the little PI’s pajama top, but to keep from adding another pattern into the mix, I colored it.

Step 3: Start to build the scene. Begin by adhering the bed/night stamp image to the “wallpaper” layer.

Step 4: Next, adhere the pillow layer.

Step 5: Add the turned-down sheet.

Step 6: Add the bedspread

Step 7: Adhere the colored PI layer.

Step 8: Next, add the book cover

Step 9: Add the hands and the lamp shade.

Step 10: Trim off the bottom, add shading with markers, and it’s ready to put on a card.

Low-key patterns were used in the card design, and a few from the scene were repeated in order to keep the card from looking too “busy”.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and that you’ll be inspired to give paper piecing a try!  Use the keyword MFTED8 in your gallery upload on Splitcoaststampers so we can admire your creations.
If you have any questions, email, and we’ll be happy to help you.

30 Responses to MFT Academy: Paper Piecing

  1. 1
    Gisela says:

    Paper piecing is my favorite technique, I need to do more of it. This post took me back home to when I was a little girl (many moons ago LOL) and totally loved playing with paper dolls. Thank you for the inspiration and sweet memories. Love your line of products.

  2. 2
    janette nelson says:

    Thanks so much for the indepth tutorial !! Paper piecing can seem overwhelming at first glance and your tutorial really simplified it and actually makes it look easy. It may be alittle time consuming, but the end card is worth the effort. Thanks again !! Beautiful work !!

  3. 3
    Karli says:

    Fantastic tutorial! Very thorough & well-explained. Beautiful samples too. I can’t imagine anything more you could have added or explained. Well done! Thanks :)

  4. 4

    Loved the tutorial – I have been paper piecing for a long time but really picked up some very good tips from this tutorial.

  5. 5
    Gina H. says:

    WOW! Those all turned out gorgeous! Your tutorial is the BEST. I haven’t dove much into paper piercing, but you have inspired me to give it a go now!!

  6. 6
    conil says:

    Awesome tutorial. So well planned out and easy to understand. Really, really helpful and informative.

  7. 7
    Rebecca Ednie says:

    I’ve done a ton of paper piecing and thought I was pretty expert at it but I learned quite a bit! You are amazing at this! Excellent tutorial! One of my favourite tips is to make clothing look more natural, if it is large enough and the pattern is dominant enough to be noticed, is to paper piece various sections like sleeves, collars, skirts and bodices (on dresses) separately. Real clothing is made from different pieces of fabric so doesn’t match at the seams smoothly like paper appears to so that makes it more believable. Most people wouldn’t care but anyone who takes the time to piece the pillow and the folded down sheet separately when they could be done together probably would! Not many images suit piecing this carefully but a few do and they look great done this way.

  8. 8
    jacqueline says:

    Holy crapola! I had no idea nor have I thought of doing paper piecing like this – especially the last [scene] card. I usually just cut out all the little outfits (like paper dolls) or other elements but your step by step instructions are a must try! Can’t wait to pull some stamps out and give it a try when I get home. Awesome. Thanks for the great informaton.

  9. 9
    Cyndi says:

    Barbara. Great tutorial. You have done an awesome job with this tutorial. The step by step pictures are perfect.

  10. 10
    Paula S. says:

    What a well done post! I have done some paper piecing but really appreciate the great, detailed photos in this and all the great tips you’ve included. Thank you!

  11. 11

    This whole tutorial was like pure magic!! I loved watching unfold in front of me!!! It was really well done!!! :)) :)) :))

  12. 12
    Gigi says:

    Thank you for the great tutorial! I paper pieced quite a few PI images, but didn’t get too involved because wasn’t sure that it was possible to get the right look. With the easy to understand steps the tutorial illustrates, I’m ready to add more pieces!

  13. 13
    Tricia Barber says:

    Great tips that you have shared and love the details! I shy away from paper piecing because I never feel that I cut the images out cleanly. This provided some great tips that I think will make it easier.

  14. 14

    What an amazing tutorial! Thanks for all the fabulous samples!

  15. 15
    Zehra says:

    Awesome tutorial, thank you what lovely cards

  16. 16

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  17. 17
    Julie Rae says:

    Thank you for the wonderful tutorial. Very thorough! I am a paper piecing holdout–own many stamps (mainly MFT) that would look great using this but did not know how to proceed. I do now! Can’t thank you enough.

  18. 18
    micro jobs says:

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  19. 19
    Betty says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I never thought of paper piecing using stamps, I love the look. Your cards are so great. I am certainly going to try this.

  20. 20

    So cute, every one of them. Now to see if I can layer in the right steps for the multi layer. Thanks for sharing!

  21. 21

    I tried to call and all I got was the run around and not from a person but from a computer!!!!!!! I spent six mins on the phone and got no where.

  22. 22

    Love your new stamps/ dies. I’m a fan of MFT,,,and have quite a few…but not enough…never! I’ve been paper piecing almost since I started making cards…was one of my first class. Your tutorial was very well done! Thanks!

  23. 23
    Cindy Hall says:

    Awesome tutorial! I love Pure Innocence designs and I think they are the perfect images to use for paper piecing. Each of these segments are exceptionally wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing this tutorial.

  24. 24
    Joy Gainey says:

    I like the tutorials and the butterflies the best.

  25. 25
    Shannon says:

    This was awesome to see!! I love paper piecing, and it’s something that my daughters have grown to enjoy also. It’s something we can all do together!!

  26. 26
    Trina says:

    Great tutorial!

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  28. 28
    Margo says:

    Absolutely LOVE this thorough tutorial on paper piecing! Each image/card made is so adorable! :) For me being pretty much a newbie is so much of this technique it’s great to realize, for instance, I don’t have to be so ‘exact’ when cutting out pieces when layering. :) So much of this tutorial makes things less daunting when I want to paper piece a project! Thanks so much for the help and sharing the adorable work! :)

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