These cut paper snowflakes are inspired by Japanese notan art. Use the free printable snowflake template to get started today!

Pretty much all of us have folded up scraps of paper and made snowflake designs, right? These Japanese notan art inspired snowflakes go a step further and incorporate the idea of positive and negative space based on the Japanese concept of notan.  A super small supply list, a graphic finished product, and little elemental art knowledge make this project a win!

What is Japanese notan art…

These snowflakes look super intricate and fancier than they really are.  They do require some scissors skills so scale the difficulty level up or down based on your kiddo’s age and developmental level

Notan is a Japanese concept that relates to the play of light and dark.  The positive shapes (main objects) in a work of art should balance or complement the negative shapes (the empty space around the main objects.)

In our case we’re going to create cut paper snowflakes inspire by Japanese notan art that use all the paper, thereby balancing light and dark.

Begin with circles…

Grab your compass and make a few circles in a variety of sizes on plain copy weight paper.  Don’t get too tiny unless you’re planning on getting into teeny tiny details with a craft knife.

Cut out your circles and fold into fourths.

Cutting notan art snowflakes…

The idea is to cut two to three shapes out of each snowflake and use those cut out shapes as part of the design, balancing the positive and negative.

I would recommend doing a “trial” run together with your kids before they get too serious.  Here’s how.

These cut paper snowflakes are inspired by Japanese notan art. Use the free printable snowflake template to get started today!


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How to begin cutting….

Start by cutting into the open, rounded edge and coming back to that same rounded edge.  You want to cut out a shape in one nice cut, not shave it out little, by little. The piece that falls out will be used. 

It is easiest if each shape cut out of a single snowflake is distinct.  Maybe one is very straight, one has a curve, and one shape is tiny.  These are just suggestions.  Start together till your kiddos get the hang of this!

Cut only one snowflake at a time.  Cutting more than one will be disastrous.  Seriously.  Don’t do it.

That pretty background…

You might notice that we’re working on background paper that has a life of it’s own!  I won’t go into the details in this post but if you’re interested the background here is number two in this list of nine watercolor techniques perfect for kids!

I love layering steps and techniques when working with even the youngest artists.  It helps create a really interesting finished product while not requiring more than what they are developmentally able to do!

Gluing your notan art snowflake…

Glue the larger center piece down so you have a reference point.  We used a glue stick. It’s okay if the snowflake goes off the paper but be aware that the pieces will extend past the original circle shape. 

Before any more glue is used position all the small cut out pieces in their coordinating spots.  These cutouts will mirror the spot from which they were cut.  If it helps students can fit them back into the original circle, like a puzzle, then flip them out.

Glue down every pieces before moving on to the next snowflake

Finishing touches…

If pieces of your Japanese notan art inspired snowflake extend past the edge of your paper now is the time to trim them.

Whether you choose to do these notan art snowflakes on this textured watercolor paper (find out how here) or on a solid color the results will be striking.  We used blank notecards to make some really beautiful notecards (above) that will last through Christmas and beyond!

More projects inspired by Japanese notan art….

Mix Japanese notan cut paper art with the art of zentangle.

Turn simple leaf drawings into striking notan art cut paper images and incorporate the concepts of complementary colors!

These cut paper snowflakes are inspired by Japanese notan art. Use the free printable snowflake template to get started today!

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