Layered Portraits Process

What are they?

Layered Portraits are an artistic creation of a person or pet using sheets of paper that are hand-cut with an X-acto knife and stacked together to represent the person/object.

How are they done?

Layered Portraits are created in 3 phases: preparation, cutting and assembly.


  1. A digital/electronic photo is selected that is closest to a ‘head shot’ as possible to ensure that accurate details can be created.

  2. The photo is then ‘posterized’ using computer software, which renders the photo in layers.

  3. Each layer is assigned a color which will be individually hand-cut and stacked to form the final art form.

  1. The artist generally start with the lightest color and work toward the darkest (i.e. background layer(s), followed by skin tones and finish with hair/facial details if creating a person).

  2. When cutting a layer, all previous layers are actually removed (cut out), leaving only the darker layers to ‘stack’ on top of previous (lighter) layers. This process is repeated for 5 layers – this gives enough details to make the portrait realistic without being impossible for cutting with a knife.

  1. As each layer is cut, it is stacked and glued on top of the previous layer(s). In general, each progressive layer gets more difficult, since the detail becomes progressively finer and involves an increasing number of ‘floaters’ (cut pieces that are not connected to anything else – i.e. eye brows, eyes, hair shades, etc.).

  2. Once assembled, the completed portrait is trimmed, signed and framed.