Paper birds are great fun to make, and over the years I have noticed that almost everybody enjoys making them – even those who come to an Open House loudly proclaiming that “I am not creative.” Even better, paper play can lead to all sorts of other paper creations – dinosaurs, frogs, dragons, butterflies and dragonflies, flowers…you name it. Directions are here for those who like directions – but, please, do your own thing if you are called to not follow directions!
This page shares three different types of paper birds you can create – from the simplest, to pretty simple, to as complicated as you would like. Need paper?? If you don’t have much paper at home, I am mailing small packs of paper to anyone who would like some – send your mailing address and the number of people in your family to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a package of lovely paper scraps. I hope you will send me photos of your paper creations and you making them!
Whether you receive a packet of papers in the mail, or have collected them from around your house, take some time before you start to observe the papers – perhaps sort them into favourites, colours, sizes…..
Let the beauty of the paper lead you as you create!
Scrap paper…could include tissue paper, wrapping paper, the inside of envelopes, paper from magazines or candy wrapper, or paper from tin cans
Cardboard – a used cereal box is perfect
Wax Paper – only necessary for the first bird but helpful for the rest as you can glue on the wax paper and keep your table top clean
Glue Stick – is much easier to work with than wet glue, and is necessary with tissue and rice papers. Wet glue will work well for foils and opaque paper
Marker or pencil – Permanent marker works better on wax paper
Bird 1: Simple Bird (easiest bird, great for small hands)
Use tissue paper OR other paper. (The tissue paper will make a translucent bird whereas ordinary paper will not.) I will show examples of both types of birds in the photos.
1.Start with wax paper. Using a marker draw (or trace) a bird on the wax paper.* The bird should not be too small. The bird pictured to the right is approximately 5″ tall and 6″ wide. *Scroll down to the very bottom of this page if you need help drawing a template.
2.Tear or cut pieces of paper – a good size is between one and three loonies. (Small children often like to use scissors. This can be hard with tissue paper which is better torn.)
3. I cut a shape around the template and begin to glue papers onto it. The papers can go over the lines of the bird.. I follow my instinct here and have fun!! I keep glueing until I have covered the bird completely. When working with tissue paper, It’s important to overlap the different pieces of paper. This helps give a stained glass effect when the bird is hung in a window.
4. Let the glue dry.
5. The final step is to cut out the birds, and if you wish, cut out a hole for the eye. The tissue paper bird especially likes to be hung in windows or in natural light. You can tape your bird to a window or attach it with a thread or piece of string.
Bird Two: The Pretty Simple (Organic) Bird
The pretty simple bird I sometimes call the “organic bird”. She is a lot like Bird One – the main difference is that when you collage the pieces together, you don’t glue them onto the wax paper. You collage a little quilt, big enough to cover your template of a bird.
I created a short video to show you how.
- Using a marker or pencil draw a bird on to the cardboard.* The bird should not be too small. 4-5 inches tall and 5 or 6 inches wide is a good size. *Scroll down to the very bottom of this page if you need help drawing a template.
2. Tear or cut pieces of paper – a good size is between one and three loonies. If you want a translucent bird, use papers you can see through such as tissue paper or rice paper. If the light shines through, then you have translucent paper.
3. Put down some wax paper to work on. Glue your torn or cut bits of paper together, creating a small quilt. Each time you glue a few pieces, lift it off the wax paper so that your collage doesn’t get stuck onto the wax paper. Keep gluing until you have a piece of collaged paper which is large enough to cover your bird template.
4. Let the glue dry.
5. Place your bird template on top of your collages rectangle. Trace around the edge with a marker. Then cut your bird out. Remember to cut an eye hole if you want your bird to see! You could make a paper eye instead. Put your bird somewhere that it will give you joy!!
Bird Three: The (Slightly) More Complicated Bird
This bird is a lot of fun, takes a little longer, requires some bigger pieces of paper to start with, and allows you to exercise your imagination and add patterns to the bird’s feathers, eye makeup, little mohawks, curly-cues, and crests atop the bird’s head and fancy tails. The process is not quite so organic!
I will be making a translucent bird in this demo, but these ideas will work for a bird with opaque papers as well. When making a translucent bird, stop often and hold your bird up to the window. She will look completely different with the light coming through her.
1.Draw your template, including the whole wing. Cut out your template, also cutting out the wing. Keep it simple.
2.Using the template, trace the body of the bird on two pieces of paper. They could be the same type of paper – in my example, I have used two different pieces of paper. This is because the body of the bird needs to be strong – and some rice and tissue papers are delicate. (Not necessary if you are making an opaque bird.)
Trace the wing two times as well, but as noted in the photo, make the wing larger than the template at the bottom…this extra bit is where you will apply the glue to attach the wing to the body.
3. After you have cut all 4 pieces out, glue the two body pieces together. You could play around with the wings a bit. In this mock up ( left), I tried two wings. In the end however, I decided to glue them together to make one wing and to cut a design in one of the wings to make it look more interesting (right).I also cut out the eyehole – a little bigger than I meant to, but it will give this bird lots of character. This is your basic bird – the rest is window-dressing!
The Bird’s Head– I am going to make prominent eyes, and give our bird a hair do! Also a partial neck collar. My bird is in the bottom right corner of the photo below.You can see a variety of possibilities for heads, eyes, and necks.
Wings and Tails – Some birds have two wings, some birds have one. In the pictures below, you will see a variety of wings and tails. I often make the tails match the hairdos of the bird. As I add these embellishments, the bird develops a character.
I encourage you to draw your own. As you will see from the illustrations below, birds are series of shapes, and the bird you draw will be yours and yours alone. If you can’t, won’t or don’t want to draw your own, search “bird templates”, “frog templates” and you will get some. Abra Cadabra!!!
All done? Maybe you would like to create a spring tree?