Paper tole, also known as three-dimensional decoupage, is the art of handcrafting three-dimensional pictures from flat prints. This art is created by skillfully cutting, shaping, and assembling pieces of paper layered onto an image until a three-dimensional version of the image emerges. Though there are a number of ways to use paper tole, one of the most popular is to frame the image in a deep wall frame and display it as wall art.
Though it stems from decoupage, a paper craft that originated sometime in the 18th century involving cut pieces of paper shellacked onto wooden furniture and other objects, paper tole has reemerged over the years in several different forms. While framed prints are most popular, people often employ the same techniques used in making paper tole when creating handmade greeting cards and other paper crafts.
The techniques used in paper tole are specific and quality projects involve specific skills. Precise cutting with no tattered or cracked edges is the key to creating the pieces that are reassembled onto the project. Cutting is thus generally done with an Exacto® knife or other precision cutting tool. Assembly requires patience while the artisan carefully attaches the separate pieces onto the print. An understanding and knowledge of perspective is also an important skill.
Learning paper tole takes time and attention to detail along with patience. Many arts and crafts centers offer classes for both beginning and intermediate level artists. Projects can range from basic, such as a single flower, to extremely detailed and layered scenes such as landscapes. Buildings, people, animals, and nearly any other image imaginable can be crafted in this artform.
In addition to classes, there are an abundance of books available that demonstrate paper tole through explicit instructions and photos. The basic tools needed for beginning a project include a precision cutting tool, a cutting mat, paper in varying colors and textures, and glue. There are many more tools that can be used to create advanced projects.