Louise’s DIY birthday: Papel Picado

When I decided on a Cuatro de Mayo theme for Louise’s birthday, I knew I had to have papel picado. I didn’t know that was the name of those tissue paper flags until I started googling around. They look like this:

Papel Picado

The first place I went was Etsy since I knew they’d have gorgeous options. And they did…for a price.

Papel picado Etsy

As I mentioned before, Mike and I were trying to be on a strict budget this spring, so buying flags for one dollar each on Etsy just didn’t seem like a fiscally smart move. I also knew very early on what the theme of her birthday was going to be, so I had the time to make them myself. I knew they wouldn’t be as intricate or perfect as purchased ones, but I thought it would be better to have personalized flags.

I found a couple of templates online, and then made my own. One January weekend after getting the tissue paper in the mail (I ordered in bulk from papermart.com, which had the best prices and the larger 30″x20″ sheets), I cut the tissue paper into 5×7 rectangles, clipped them together under the template, and got to cuttin’. I used an Xacto knife that’s specifically for stencil work – it’s blade is a lot shorter – and stacked a couple of catalogs on the table to prevent any cuts from going through.

I started with all of the sheets below my template, which made for slow going. I had to make the same cuts over and over again to get through the 72 sheets. Once I finished the top, I separated them out into two groups and it went much faster (and the cuts were cleaner).


Once I got the first set done, I started on the second. I cut the border with scissors, which was much faster.

Papel Picado II

One set of 72 sheets (12 of each of the six colors) took pretty much the whole weekend. I decided to stack even less for the more intricate templates, so I only put 24 under instead of 36. It was a smart move.

Papel picado 2

I mirrored the “Happy Birthday” template to make one that said Louise…so next to each other, they’d say Happy Birthday Louise. I kind of messed that up when I strung them up so it says “Louise Happy Birthday,” but whatevs.


It took most of my free January and February weekends to finish cutting the three templates, and by the end I had callouses on my fingers and me wondering why I decided on this project to begin with. But they were done!


Well…not quite done. I still had to string them up. I had leftover red yarn from Carlie’s couples shower so I used that. I decided to use a glue stick because it was the least messy option and worked well with the thin tissue paper. I was determined to finish these so I could move on to the other projects, so I spent about four evenings with a glass of wine and some Real Housewives, gluing the papel to the yarn.


After all of that, I was finally finished. Whew. I think it looked great!


The good news is they can be used again, so later on down the road, if Louise decides she wants another Cinco de Mayo themed party, they’ll be ready to go.


8 thoughts on “Louise’s DIY birthday: Papel Picado

  1. These are amazing!!!!! I have been looking for a customizable papel picado template to do a similar project. Where did you find it? Or did you just make it yourself? Any tips on making one?

    Thank you!

    • I think I just googled “papel picado template” and found the Happy Birthday one, which I also used for the “Louise” papel (just replacing the words). I free-handed the one with her birth date. Glad you like them!

  2. Hi, your banners look amazing!!! I have been looking for a Feliz Cumpleanos template and I can’t seem to find anything that can be printed for free online. I’m also on a very strict budget for my son’s 1st birthday. I found your page on pinterest after searching for a month now.

    could you tell me what website you found your template.?
    thank you

    • The “Feliz Cumpleanos” papel picado was from Etsy. For the “Happy Birthday” one I just google image searched “happy birthday papel picado,” and then traced one I liked from the computer (putting a piece of paper on the computer). I’m sure you could do the same for the Feliz Cumpleanos one!

  3. Thank you !!for your prompt response.
    I couldn’t find anything searching on the web so I just created the banner on microsoft word , I printed a copy and used the x acto knife to cut the letters. It’s going to take a while for me to finish all the little flags since I don’t have much time during the day .My son is 10 months old and he is non stop all day that’s why I’m starting to make everything ahead of time plus his name is really long (Cristian) and I’m also making all of the other decorations for his 1st fiesta …oh lord the things we do for our children!!
    You did an amazing job~~!! 🙂
    thank you again

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