Give your typography a craft-like 3D effect with this paper cut-out tutorial for InDesign and Illustrator.

The paper cut-out effect is a popular member of the digital craft design trend, which sees old art forms recreated for the digital age. It looks especially good when applied to typography and used for display fonts on posters, stationery, and social media. Best of all, it’s quick and easy to create using InDesign. I’m going to apply it to a swirly ampersand, but you can easily adapt it to the letter or word of your choice.ƒp
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!


What You Need to Create Your Text Effect

As well as using Adobe InDesign to create the effect, we’ll also be dipping into Adobe Illustrator to edit vector graphics. I used the following images for my design, but you can select any stock vector font that you like.<

*Make sure to download the EPS (vector) version.


Part 1: Create a Colorful Fill for Your Text

Step 1

Open InDesign and go to File > New > Document. You can create a page to any size, but here I’ve opted for a Landscape A3 page. Click Create.

Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on Layer 1, renaming it Waves.

Then create three more new layers in this order — Paper Texture, Ampersand and, finally, Gradient.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Layers Panel

Lock all the layers except Waves, which we’ll work on first.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Lock Layers

Step 2

Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and choose New Color Swatch from the panel’s top-right drop-down menu.

Name the swatch Pink and set the CMYK levels to C=0 M=91 Y=33 K=0. Click Add and Done.

Create a further five swatches with the following names and CMYK levels:

  • Dark Pink – C=10 M=94 Y=32 K=2
  • Purple – C=36 M=100 Y=31 K=32
  • Orange – C=0 M=73 Y=79 K=0
  • Mustard – C=0 M=47 Y=95 K=0
  • Red – C=0 M=91 Y=89 K=0

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – New Swatch

Step 3

Working on the Waves layer, select the Pencil Tool (N) and draw a rough wavy line diagonally across the page from top-left to bottom-right, uniting the shape into a whole across the right and top sides of the page.

From the Swatches panel set the Fill of the shape to Purple.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Pencil Tool

Step 4

You can use the Smooth Tool (inside the Pencil Tool’s drop-down menu) to stroke over the wave and smooth out any rough edges.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Smooth Tool

Step 5

Repeat the process to create a second shape over the top of the first, making it a little smaller.

Set the Fill to a contrasting color, like Red.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Make a Colored Wave

Continue to build up more wavy shapes working towards the top-right corner of the page, setting each in a different swatch color.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Make a Colored Wave

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Make a Colored Wave

Step 6

Once you’ve built up a group of four or five wave shapes, select all the shapes and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste them.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Make a Colored Wave

On the copy, Right-Click > Transform > Rotate 180 Degrees.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Rotate Waves

Move the rotated group of shapes to the bottom-left corner of the page.

Adjust the Fill Color of each shape in this group so that they contrast with the shapes sitting at top-right. Scale or reposition the shapes so that there are no visible white gaps between the two groups of shapes.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Rotate Waves

Step 7

Select all the shapes sitting on the page and head up to Object on the main menu, and Effects > Drop Shadow.

Click on the colored square to the right of the Mode menu and set the Effect Color to Purple, before clicking OK.

Increase the Opacity of the Drop Shadow to around 80%, set the Distance to 4 mm, Size to 2 mm, Spread to 7% and add about 12% Noise.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Apply Drop Shadow

Then click OK to exit the window.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Apply Drop Shadow

Step 8

Lock the Waves layer and unlock the Paper Texture layer.

Create an image frame over the whole page using the Rectangle Frame Tool (F). File > Place, choose the paper texture you downloaded earlier and click Open, allowing it to fill the whole frame.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Paper Texture

Step 9

With the paper image frame selected go to Object > Effects > Transparency. Set the Mode to Multiply and click OK.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Multiply


Part 2: Add a Letter to Your Design

Step 1

Open up the vector ampersand (or other letter of your choice) in Illustrator.

Adjust the artboard size to match the page size of your InDesign document (here, I’ve set it to Landscape A3). Then use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to pull the corners of the colored area surrounding the letter so that they meet the corners of the new page size.

By using the Direct Selection Tool and selecting individual anchor points you won’t risk warping the shape of the letter in the center.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Direct Selection

Step 2

Open the Pathfinder window (Window > Pathfinder), select the vector illustration and choose the second option from the window, Minus Front.

This allows you to select only the outside (colored) area of the image. Select this, and Edit > Copy it.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Minus Front

Step 3

Head back to your InDesign document and lock the Paper Texture layer. Unlock the layer above, Ampersand.

Edit > Paste the vector directly onto the layer, and position it centrally over the page.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Pasted Vector

Step 4

From the Swatches panel set the Fill of the vector to [None], removing any color from it.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – No Fill

Then with the outside area of the vector selected, go to File > Place. Choose the paper texture and click Open, allowing it to fill up the frame.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Apply Paper to Image

Repeat with any inside areas of the letter which need filling up with the paper texture too.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Paper Texture

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Paper Texture

Step 5

With all parts of the vector selected go to Object > Effects > Drop Shadow.

With the Effect Color set to Purple, bring the Opacity up to 90%, Distance to 6 mm, Size to 4 mm, Spread to 25% and Noise to 10%.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Drop Shadow

Click OK to exit.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Drop Shadow

Step 6

You can add more depth to your text effect by applying a gradient effect over the top of the design.

To do this, lock the Ampersand layer and unlock the top layer, Gradient.

Create a shape over the top of the page using the Rectangle Tool (M), and set the Fill to Pink.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Draw Pink Rectangle

With the shape selected go to Object > Effects > Transparency. Set the Mode to Multiply and bring the Opacity down to 10%.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Transparency

Click on Gradient Feather at the bottom of the window’s left-hand menu. Apply a Radial gradient, that extends from darker at the outer edges to lighter towards the center.

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Apply Gradient

Then click OK to exit the window. That’s it! This is what your finished paper cut out should look like. Why not try mixing up the color palette for a different look? Or swap in the letter for a whole word or phrase?

Paper Cut-Out Tutorial – Paper Cut Out Typography<


If you’re on the hunt for more typography-related tutorials and tips, make sure to check out: