Make Miniature Holly

  • 01 of 11

    Make Miniature Holly From Strips of Paper

    Holly branches in the paw of a 1:24 scale mouse figure.
    These tiny holly branches suit the size of this 1:24 scale mouse figure. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    The miniature holly branches shown here are in 1:24 to 1:32 scale sized for a Christmas village, but you can make them in many scales for seasonal floral decorations or arrangements. The technique for holly this small relies on leaves cut from paper strips using a small hole punch. Scissors won't be able to achieve this level of detail and commercial holly leaf punches are too large for anything smaller than 1:6 scale. This is a great example of how simple techniques can be used to make very small miniatures. To make them in larger scales than the one shown, just modify the technique as outlined in the following steps.

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  • 02 of 11

    Real Holly Leaves As an Example for Miniatures

    Small holly leaves photographed on a ruler for size.
    The smallest real holly leaves found on the tips of branches are roughly 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches long. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    The holly leaves shown in the photo on this page are the smallest 'regular' holly leaves usually found on the tips of branches. Most holly leaves range from the size shown up to four inches (10 cm) in length.

    Notice the color and gloss of these leaves, along with the fact that you cannot easily see the side veins, only the center vein. The leaves are stiff and waxy.  The area between the leaf notches is heavily rippled.

    A number of plants are commonly called holly. The leaves shown here are from the English holly, Ilex aquifolium of which there are smooth-leaved varieties, as well as a range of hollies with highly variegated leaves with white or gold edges.


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  • 03 of 11

    Materials Used to Make Miniature Scale Holly Leaves

    Materials used to make miniature holly leaves.
    Painted paper strips, scissors and a paper punch or hole punch can be used to make miniature holly leaves for a range of miniature scenes and decorations. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    To make realistic miniature holly leaves it is best to handcolor thin paper.  I used watercolor paints finished with a semi-gloss varnish to color a lightweight paper shade of dark yellow-green as shown. You can also mix tube watercolor with Gum Arabic watercolor medium to add a gloss to the final watercolor application.  If possible use tube watercolors for your leaf color as acrylic paints may make your leaves too thick for smaller scales.

    In addition to paper the correct color for your leaves you will need:

    • Fine Sharp Curved Scissors
    • A Small Single Hole Punch (I used one with 1/8 inch holes for the samples shown)
    • PVA (white) Glue
    • Fine Paper Wrapped Craft Wire (I used #28 or 30 gauge) 
    • Thread (brown or dark green)
    • Brown Acrylic Paint
    • Sharp Straight Scissors
    • Deep Red Polymer Clay, or Microbeads for the holly berries 


    The holly paper punch that is shown in the photo on this page is far too large to produce realistic leaves for miniature scale holly. It might be useful for 1:6 scale or larger miniatures.

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  • 04 of 11

    Comparison of Sizes of Miniature Holly Leaves

    Comparison of paper punched holly leaves using a tiny hole punch and a small holly leaf punch.
    This photo shows how much smaller you can punch miniature holly leaves using a paper strip and circle punch, than is possible with a regular miniature holly leaf punch. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    In the photo on this page you can see 1/8 inch (3mm) holly leaves cut using a hole punch, vs a 1/2 inch leaf cut with the holly paper punch shown on the second page of these instructions. The commercial punch does not make leaves small enough, or with enough of a size range to make realistic miniature holly. 

    The technique for making the small leaves requires you to determine how wide a leaf you need for your particular scale. Full-size holly leaves are seldom much more than 2 inches across. In 1:12 scale this would mean your leaves should be somewhere around 1/6 inch or less across (2/12), and for smaller scales, you need leaves which are less than that.

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  • 05 of 11

    Preparing Paper Strips to Make Miniature Holly

    A narrow strip of paper is folded in order to cut tiny holly leaves in dollhouse scale.
    A narrow strip of paper, no wider than you want your largest miniature holly leaves to be, is folded in half in preparation for shaping the holly leaves. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    To make realistic miniature holly leaves it is easiest to shape the leaves from a paper strip, leaving the leaves joined together until you have shaped a series of leaves along the strip. Punching out sections from a strip makes the tiny leaves easier to handle.

    Size the paper strip to suit the scale of holly leaves ​that you want, making the width of the strip no wider than you want for your widest (largest) holly leaf. I used a strip just over 1/8 inch (3mm) wide, and for my purposes, made sure I cut the leaves thinner.  A 1/8 inch strip is fairly easy to handle for this particular technique. 

    Cut your paper strips from your painted paper so they are roughly 4 inches (10 mm) long and fold them neatly in half, scoring the fold with the back of your fingernail or a bone folder


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  • 06 of 11

    Shaping Miniature Holly Leaves With a Hole Punch

    Shaping a miniature holly leaf in 1:24 dollhouse scale using a small circle punch.
    A regular 1/8 inch circle punch is used to shape a tiny holly leaf from a folded strip of painted paper. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    Miniature holly leaves are made using a hole punch to shape tiny overlaid curves along a strip of paper. It is a technique where you punch away the voids to leave the holly leaf behind. 

    Starting at the end of the strip, line up your hole punch at an angle with the fold of the paper so it almost meets the fold of the paper. Cut on the side of the paper with the open edges, leaving the fold intact.  This will cut a point for the end of your holly leaf. Now cut another hole from the paper strip slightly overlaying the first hole you cut, and add a second hole that is the same distance in from the fold, but which overlaps the hole you made just before.

    Finish the length of your leaf by cutting another hole back closer to the folded edge.  You should end up with something similar to the folded shape shown in the photo on this page. Continue to cut down your strip, leaving all your 1/2 leaf cutouts connected together by their ends (see photo next page).  It may take a couple of practice folded strips before you become at ease with the technique.

    As you use your punch, don't worry about seeing exactly where on the paper strip the hole will punch, concentrate on watching the folded edge of your paper strip and noticing how close or how far away it is from the edge of the punch.

    Make sure your paper is slightly crisp and sharply folded down the crease. Very fine tissue paper or paper covered with acrylic paint may not punch as cleanly as paper colored with watercolors or markers.


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  • 07 of 11

    Strips of Tiny Holly Leaves

    Strip of folded paper punched along the open edges to make tiny holly leaves in dollhouse 1:24 scale
    A strip of folded paper has been cut into a string of miniature holly leaves using a small (1/8 inch) hole punch. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    In the photo on this page, you can see a finished cut strip of miniature holly leaves beneath a folded strip ready for the hole punch. In some cases, the paper strip was punched too close to the fold line, and in other cases, the leaves were made quite large or quite small. Don't worry about making every leaf exactly the same. When you unfold the strip (see the next step) you will have a range of leaves suitable for a branch.

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  • 08 of 11

    Cutting Holly Leaves Free From the Strip

    Strip of punched paper ready to separate into individual half scale sized paper holly leaves.
    When the folded punched paper strip is opened, it can be separated with curved blade scissors into tiny miniature holly leaves for dollhouse or miniature Christmas village projects. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    To finish shaping your miniature scale holly leaves, carefully unfold the paper and flatten the crease. The crease will make the vein mark for your holly leaves. To finish the leaves, use your sharp curved scissors to cut into towards the fold to separate out suitable leaf shapes for your holly branches.  You will need several strips of leaves, separated, to make a single branch of miniature holly.

    If you are working in larger scales, you can shape or ripple the edges of your holly leaves fairly realistically by gently pressing a fine round ended embossing tool into the edges of the leaf between the points of the curves.  Set the leaf on a piece of craft foam, a mouse pad, or an eraser and gently press the ball of the embossing tool (or a rounded end of a toothpick) against the leaf to ripple the edge.


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  • 09 of 11

    Berries for Miniature Holly Branches

    Miniature holly leaf shown with berries made from micro beads or polymer clay.
    Miniature holly berries can be rolled from small amounts of polymer clay or made from micro beads. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    Depending on how small you are making your miniature holly branches you can use a variety of materials for the berries. Polymer clay will make good berries if you roll out very thin rolls of dark red polymer clay similar to those made using an acrylic block roller in the miniature pasta instructions.  It helps if your clay is mixed with a bit of translucent clay/porcelain clay to make it more malleable. Cut small sections from your roll of clay and roll them gently into tiny balls for berries.

    Micro-beads will also make good berries for scale miniature holly. Check online or via the stamp and scrapbook section of hobby stores to find a size of micro-bead which is suitable for berries. The beads can be colored with acrylic paint if necessary. I used a .5mm microbead.

    For tiny berries, you can also use embossing powder granules or in a pinch, sand or bits of grit from sandpaper.  Tiny bits of perlite (a filler for container plant soils) or very small styrofoam beads will also work.   You can see these materials in a comparison shot for the instructions for making miniature berries.


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  • 10 of 11

    Setting Branches, Berries and Leaves on a Holly Stem

    Miniature holly branches with berries on stems made from thread.
    Stems for the berries on a miniature holly branch are made by gluing sections of painted thread to a wire stem, trimming them to length when the glue is dry. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    Once you have prepared a range of leaves for your miniature holly branches, you can prep the branches and berries.  Use a brush (or your fingers) to rub some dark brown acrylic paint onto the paper coating of a piece of fine craft wire. Set the wire aside to dry.

    Spread a bit of acrylic paint on your thumb and roll a piece of brown sewing thread between your thumb and first finger to coat it with acrylic paint. Set the thread aside to dry. The paint will stiffen the thread so it will support the holly berries.

    When your thread and wire are dry, cut your wire into suitable branch lengths for your scale, and cut small sections of thread (roughly 1/4 to 1/2 inch (5 - 12 mm) long). Use tweezers to dip one end of a thread section into a bit of glue, and gently press the glued end of the thread to a section of wire to make a branch. (see photo). Apply several sections of thread around the branch wherever you want groups of berries. (Mostly towards the top of the branch.)  When the glue has dried, trim your thread sections back to a length 1 -2 mm from the branch as shown in the lower photo.

    To apply the beads/berries.  Apply a bit of glue to the end of each section of thread, and dip it into your chosen berry material. Allow the glue to dry, and color the berries with a marker or paint if necessary. (Usually, it is easiest to color the berries and allow them to dry before you glue them to the ends of the branches.  Allow the glue on the berries to dry thoroughly before you begin to add the leaves to the branches.

    To add the leaves, hold a leaf in your tweezers and dip the least pointed end lightly into glue. Press the glued end of the leaf against the branch. Alternatively, you can apply a small drop of glue to the side of your wire branch using the tip of a pin, then set the leaf against the glue using your tweezers. 

    Leaves on holly alternate down the stem. The leaves should not be placed opposite each other.  The smallest leaves should be at the top of the branch, with the leaves gradually getting larger as you go down the branch.  When you have all the leaves on a branch, set the branch aside to dry.


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  • 11 of 11

    Making Different Varieties of Miniature Holly

    White acrylic paint used to make variegated holly leaves in miniature.
    White acrylic paint on the edge of a punched strip of paper will make variegated holly leaves for a miniature village or dollhouse scene. Photo © 2013 Lesley Shepherd

    You can easily make a range of types of miniature holly for your displays. Variegated holly leaves can be made by brushing a small amount of white or yellow acrylic paint along the punched edges of your leaf strips before you separate the leaves.  (See photo this page).  You can also cut smooth or non-prickly holly leaves using your curved scissors to cut small oblong leaves instead of the shaped leaves with indentations. 

    In larger scales, (1:12 and up) you can accentuate the cut 'prickles' of the ​holly leaves by teasing small amounts of tar gel or gloss acrylic medium out the end of the curves to extend the prickles.

    Using Your Miniature Holly Branches

    Like the miniature pussy willow branches, holly branches can be displayed on their own in a vase or vase made from a bead.  As the branches are made of wire, they can also be shaped into miniature wreaths or used for miniature yule log arrangements or simple miniature floral arrangements. They also make great decorations for miniature Christmas platters and Christmas cakes.