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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Adobe Photoshop

How to Create a Paper Cutout Effect in Photoshop

Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

Create this stunning layered paper cutout illustration using Adobe Photoshop! This unique style is fun and can be used in a variety of ways.

This tutorial will teach you how to do paper cutout Photoshop illustrations in Adobe Photoshop from scratch. However, if you're short on time or need something right now, check out this Paper Cutout Photoshop Action from Envato Elements!

paper cut photoshop actionpaper cut photoshop actionpaper cut photoshop action

Fan of video tutorials instead? The Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel will become your favourite channel! Here's a new video tutorial on how to do a paper cutout in Photoshop:

What You'll Learn in This Paper Cutout Effect Tutorial

In this tutorial, I'll teach you how to make this decorative and intricate construction paper texture Photoshop image from scratch and what things you need to consider when creating it. Topics we cover will include:

  • How to create a paper cutout illustration from scratch using Adobe Photoshop
  • How to do paper cutout Photoshop effects and digitally cut out the shapes that you'll be using for your image 
  • How to create a paper cut Photoshop action to apply the cutout paper effect
  • How to add a construction paper texture in Photoshop using blend modes

What You'll Need

To follow along with this tutorial, you'll need your own version of Adobe Photoshop. We'll also be using stock images from Envato Elements to help us create the tropical island shapes. Click on the links below to download them.

summer vector illutrationsummer vector illutrationsummer vector illutration

1. How to Create a Composition for the Paper Cutout Illustration

Step 1

Let's start by creating a new document. In this tutorial, we will be using the dimensions below. Once you're happy with the size of your document, click the create button.

  • Width: 1920 pixels
  • Height: 1080 pixels
  • Resolution: 72 dpi
create a new documentcreate a new documentcreate a new document

Step 2

Create a new layer in the Layers panel and rename it "window 01".

create a new layercreate a new layercreate a new layer

Step 3

Now let's create our composition by first determining the shape of our top layer. This layer is the most important as it will affect the shapes and sizes of all the layers below. At this stage, we will work in greyscale for simplicity. 

Begin by creating the initial window shape using the Pen Tool (P). Click and drag using the mouse to create a curved outline.

use the pen tooluse the pen tooluse the pen tool

Step 4

Once you are happy with your shape, right-click on the outline you've created and choose Fill Path. Use the Contents dropdown menu and choose Color.

fill pathfill pathfill path

Step 5

Using the Color Picker, choose black #000000 and then click OK to continue. This will fill the outside area of the shape you have created, leaving a window in the middle.

use the color pickeruse the color pickeruse the color picker

Step 6

Next, just grab the tropical vector shapes from your stock images and place them on top of the window layer to create an interesting composition. You can also create your own tropical shapes using the brush tool if you want.

Fill the shape layers with the same colour as the window layer so that they match.

add vector shapesadd vector shapesadd vector shapes

Step 7

Once you are happy with the composition, go to the Layers panel and select all the layers. Once they are selected, right-click and select Merge Layers. This will create your first window layer.

merge layersmerge layersmerge layers

Step 8

Create a new layer in the Layers panel and rename it "window 02". Make sure that this layer is below the window 01 layer.

create new layercreate new layercreate new layer

Step 9

From there, just repeat the steps above, using the Pen Tool (P) and then choosing Fill Path to create the initial window. Use the tropical shapes for each layer to make your image look more interesting.

You can also try using other shapes as well, such as a beach chair, clouds, or boats sailing in the background.

create new windowcreate new windowcreate new window

Step 10

Make sure to use a lighter shade of grey when choosing the colours for each window layer (going from darker colours at the top to lighter colours towards the bottom). This will allow you to see the composition of your construction paper background more clearly.

create the greyscale compositioncreate the greyscale compositioncreate the greyscale composition

2. How to Create a Seamless Craft Paper Texture Pattern

Step 1

To create your seamless craft paper textures, first we need to create a new document in Photoshop with a 200 x 200 px canvas.

create a new documentcreate a new documentcreate a new document

Step 2

Select Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. You can name the layer "Paper Color" and then click OK.

create new fill layercreate new fill layercreate new fill layer

Step 3

The Color Picker window should now appear. Set the colour to #f5f5f5 and click OK.

use the color pickeruse the color pickeruse the color picker

Step 4

Select Layer > New > Layer and name the layer "Texture", and then click OK.

create a new layer called texturecreate a new layer called texturecreate a new layer called texture

Step 5

Use the Fill Tool (G), set the colour to #f8f8f8, and then fill the "Texture" layer.

use the fill tooluse the fill tooluse the fill tool

Step 6

With the "Texture" layer selected, go to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object to convert the layer into a Smart Object.

convert to smart objectconvert to smart objectconvert to smart object

Step 7

Select Filter > Filter Gallery and in the new window that appears, under Texture, select Texturizer. Apply the following settings:

  • Texture: Sandstone
  • Scaling: 100%
  • Relief: 4
filter galleryfilter galleryfilter gallery

Step 8

In the Layers panel, double-click on the Filter Blending Options icon. In the Blending Options window, set the Opacity to 50%.

reduce opacityreduce opacityreduce opacity

Step 9

Select Filter > Filter Gallery, and under Brush Strokes, select Spatter. Apply the following settings:

  • Spray Radius: 10
  • Smoothness: 5
filter galleryfilter galleryfilter gallery

Step 10

In the Layers panel, double-click on the top filter blending options icon. In the Blending Options window, set the Opacity to 50%.

reduce opacityreduce opacityreduce opacity

Step 11

Select Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Apply the following settings:

  • Amount: 2%
  • Distribution: Gaussian
  • Monochromatic: Checked
add noiseadd noiseadd noise

Step 12

In the Layers panel, double-click on the new top filter blending options icon. In the Blending Options window, set the mode to Linear Burn and lower the Opacity to 30%.

linear burn effectlinear burn effectlinear burn effect

Step 13

Set the blending mode for the "Texture" layer to Multiply.

set to multiplyset to multiplyset to multiply

Step 14

Select all the layers and then right-click > Merge Layers.

select all layers and merge themselect all layers and merge themselect all layers and merge them

Step 15

Go to Select > Select All to make a selection of the entire texture image.

select allselect allselect all

Step 16

Go to Edit > Define Pattern to open the Pattern Name dialogue box. Name the pattern "Paper Texture" and then click OK.

define patterndefine patterndefine pattern

3. How to Create a Paper Cutout Effect Photoshop Action

Step 1

Now we will learn how to add a construction paper texture in Photoshop by creating an action. Once the action has been created, it will allow you to change the look of any shape that you create in Adobe Photoshop quickly and easily, with just the click of a button.

Return to the Paper Cutout Composition file and navigate to the Actions panel or go to Window > Actions. Make sure that the "window 01" layer is selected, and click on the Create New Action button in the Actions panel. 

create new actioncreate new actioncreate new action

Step 2

Once you've clicked on the Create New Action button, you'll be prompted to fill in a few options first. These settings can be useful when creating your new Photoshop action and can help you identify it more quickly. 

  • Name: Paper Cutout Effect
  • Set: Default Actions
  • Function Key: None
  • Color: None
create new actioncreate new actioncreate new action

Step 3

Once you're happy with the initial action settings, you can click on the Record button. After you click on this button, everything that you do in Photoshop will be recorded as part of the action. The small button on the Actions panel will also change to a red dot to let you know that you are recording.

record the actionrecord the actionrecord the action

Step 4

Now that we are recording and our Photoshop action is set up, it's time to start editing our Blending Options to change the look of our shapes.

Select the top layer "window 01" and then click on the Add Layer Style button at the bottom of the Layers panel. From the menu, select Blending Options.

add layer stylesadd layer stylesadd layer styles

Step 5

In the Layer Style window, select Bevel & Emboss and choose the following options:

  • Style: Inner Bevel
  • Technique: Smooth
  • Depth: 100%
  • Direction: Up
  • Size: 1 px
  • Soften: 2 px
  • Angle: 90°
  • Use Global Light: Checked
  • Altitude: 30°
  • Gloss Contour: Linear 
  • Highlight Mode: Linear Light #ffffff
  • Opacity: 40%
  • Shadow Mode: Linear Light #ffffff
  • Opacity: 40%
bevel and embossbevel and embossbevel and emboss

Step 6

Select Inner Shadow and choose the following:

  • Blend Mode: Overlay #ffffff
  • Opacity: 45%
  • Angle: 90°
  • Use Global Light: Checked
  • Distance: 3 px
  • Choke: 0%
  • Size: 3 px
inner shadowinner shadowinner shadow

Step 7

Select Inner Glow and choose the following:

  • Blend Mode: Linear Light
  • Opacity: 10%
  • Noise: 0%
  • Technique: Softer
  • Source: Edge
  • Choke: 0%
  • Size: 144 px
  • Contour: Linear 
  • Range: 50%
  • Jitter: 0%
inner glowinner glowinner glow

Step 8

Select Pattern Overlay and choose the following:

  • Blend Mode: Normal
  • Opacity: 75%
  • Pattern: Paper Texture
  • Angle:
  • Scale: 100%
  • Link with Layer: Checked
pattern overlaypattern overlaypattern overlay

Step 9

Select Drop Shadow and choose the following:

  • Blend Mode: Multiply
  • Opacity: 70%
  • Angle: 90°
  • Use Global Light: Checked
  • Distance: 4 px
  • Spread: 0%
  • Size: 10 px
  • Contour: Linear 
  • Noise: 3%
  • Layer Knocks Out Drop Shadow: Checked
drop shadowdrop shadowdrop shadow

Step 10

To finish your Photoshop action, simply go to the Actions panel again and click on the Stop button to finalize your paper texture action.

stop the action buttonstop the action buttonstop the action button

Step 11

With the paper cutout effect Photoshop action completed, it's really easy to change the texture of all the layers that we have created.

Simply select the layer you want to change, choose the "Paper Texture" action that you created, and press the Play button.

apply the paper texture apply the paper texture apply the paper texture

4. How to Change the Colour of the Paper Cutout Effect

Step 1

Once you have finished using the paper cut Photoshop action on your whole illustration, it is time to colour it in. Select the layer whose colour you want to change in the Layers panel. From there, click on the Add Layer Style button at the bottom and select Blending Options.

add layer styleadd layer styleadd layer style

Step 2

Choose Color Overlay and set the Blend Mode to Linear Burn with 100% Opacity.

color overlaycolor overlaycolor overlay

Step 3

Click on the colour box and then choose the colour you want to use with the Color Picker. Once you click OK, the colour will be applied.

color pickercolor pickercolor picker

Step 4

Repeat the steps above to colour the other layers in your composition to complete the illustration. You can use all sorts of combinations and colours to create, for example, a red or green construction paper texture. Check out some of the examples below for some inspiration.

color the illustrationcolor the illustrationcolor the illustration

Awesome! You're Finished!

Congratulations! And that's how you can create a paper texture cutout effect using Adobe Photoshop. 

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and that you've learned some new tips and tricks that you can use for your own projects. See you next time!

final imagefinal imagefinal image

Top 5 Paper Effects From Envato Elements

Want to create cool paper cutout Photoshop effects, but short on time? Then head on over to Envato Elements, where you can download many different construction paper texture effects that you can use and customise. Here are five of my favourites.

Paper Cutout Photoshop Action (ATN, ABR, ASL, PAT, PDF)

Paper Cutout Photoshop ActionPaper Cutout Photoshop ActionPaper Cutout Photoshop Action

Create colour paper texture illustrations quickly and easily! With just a few simple clicks, you can create a variety of different styles such as a ripped edge, a clean-cut edge, or zig zags. This pack features nine different actions and 54 different layer styles to choose from, including a green construction paper texture.

Paper Cutout Text Effects (PSD, PDF)

Paper Cutout Text EffectsPaper Cutout Text EffectsPaper Cutout Text Effects

Here's another super easy colour paper texture cutout text effect that you can use for your own projects and designs! This pack features eight easily editable PSD templates with easy editing via smart objects, at 300 dpi with a size of 2560 x 2000 pixels. Create a paper cutout text effect in Photoshop quickly and easily.

Papercut Text Effect (PSD)

Papercut Text EffectPapercut Text EffectPapercut Text Effect

Create clean headlines, website banners, posters, flyer designs, and more with this cutout text effect Photoshop template. This pack features a high-quality PSD file that is 300 dpi and 3000 x 2000 pixels.

Paper Kingdom Illustrator Graphic Styles (AI, EPS, PNG)

Paper Kingdom Illustrator Graphic StylesPaper Kingdom Illustrator Graphic StylesPaper Kingdom Illustrator Graphic Styles

Paper Kingdom is designed to be used with Adobe Illustrator. Create cute and fun illustrations in just a few clicks using the premade scenes available or using the assets to create your own construction paper background! This package includes 26 Illustrator graphic styles, 260 seamless paper textures, 320 vector shapes, a vector alphabet, and five premade compositions.

Fabric Kingdom Illustrator Edition (AI, EPS, PNG)

Fabric Kingdom Illustrator EditionFabric Kingdom Illustrator EditionFabric Kingdom Illustrator Edition

Create cute and fun illustrations using Fabric Kingdom! This pack uses the most popular fabric textures for your projects and designs. Inside, you'll find 14 graphic styles with seamless textures, over 280 stitch brushes, over 500 vector illustrations, and an original vector alphabet.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial on how to add a construction paper texture in Photoshop. If you'd like to learn more cool Photoshop skills, we've got more tutorials for you:

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