01 of 10
Winter Trees From Paper Snowflakes
The miniature winter trees shown here are made from layers of simple cut paper snowflakes. These are an easy school or club project for children, provided you help line up the sizes of squares needed for each tree, and use lightweight paper which cuts easily in many layers. This is a great study in geometry! You can make the snowflakes to the simple 12-branched design shown in these instructions or assemble them from snowflakes cut to your own designs.
Gather Your Materials
- Materials are inexpensive and easy to find, lightweight printer paper (20 lb. works well), sharp scissors and PVA glue or a glue stick.
- The design is so simple the snowflakes can easily be adapted to fancier materials. Try using flocked paper, glittered wrapping paper or recycled newspaper to create your own style.
- The trick in making these trees is to use paper that folds well. We used 20 lb. paper as it was easier to cut through multiple folds, than even slightly heavier 24 lb. paper. Depending on the size of the tree you want to make, you will need two to three sheets of letter-sized paper for each tree.
- As well as the paper for the tree branches, you can modify the trees by changing the paper you use for the tree trunks. We used white paper for one of the trees in this scene, and brown kraft paper recycled from a grocery bag for the brown trunks. We like the trees in both ways!
Paper Tips for Miniature Projects
If you like these paper trees, you may also like to make the Scherenschnitte style cut paper trees.
If you want very realistic evergreen trees, you may prefer to make miniature trees from preserved lycopodium moss. Combined with tiny pine or fir cones made from paper, these can be used for railroad scenes dollhouses or Christmas villages.Continue to 2 of 10 below.
02 of 10
Measure and Cut the Paper for a Snowflake Tree Trunk
To make the trunk for a miniature snowflake tree you want to cut a triangle of fairly stiff paper. We used pieces of recycled brown kraft paper from a grocery bag, but a printer weight paper will work as well.
Set the Height of Your Snowflake Tree
The height of the snowflake tree is determined by the tallest side of a right angle triangle you cut from the paper. Paper snowflakes will be set along the trunk every 1/2 to 1 inch (1 - 2 cm). The taper of the tree trunk will be determined by the bottom edge of the triangle. The longer a triangle base you cut, the wider your tree trunk will be at the base. If you are going to make a range of trees for a village scene, vary the height and width of the tree trunks to make a more interesting "forest" or grove.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
03 of 10
Roll and Glue the Trunk
To assemble the paper tree trunk for the snowflake tree start at the right angle edge of your triangle and roll the paper as tight as possible from the right angle edge across to the point on the lower edge of the triangle (see photo). The tighter you roll your trunk, the easier it will be to add the snowflakes. When you have rolled across to the point of the triangle, keeping the bottom edge square, twist the top of the cone you have made to tighten your roll. With the roll tightened, apply some PVA glue or a glue stick to the underside of the last couple of inches of the roll and glue the final point around the paper roll to hold it together. If you want stiffer trees, you can apply glue along the upper and lower edges of your roll as you create it. We would try one roll to see how tight you can get it before you try gluing the trunk along both edges of the triangle. If you apply glue you won't be able to tighten up the trunk merely by twisting the roll at the top.Continue to 4 of 10 below.
04 of 10
Fold a Basic Six-Pointed Snowflake
To fold a basic 6- or 12-pointed base for paper snowflakes or stars, you need to start with a square of paper. You can either cut the measured squares for your snowflake tree or fold squares as you go.
Cutting Measured Squares
To measure the size of the snowflakes you need for your tree, first, measure how far up the trunk you want your branches to begin. Mark this point and decide how wide you want your branches to be. Measure from your mark up to the top of your trunk, marking the trunk roughly every 1/2 or 1 inch (use either half inch marks or one-inch marks, depending on how full you want your tree.) The top snowflake will usually need to be 2 to 3 inches in diameter (5 -7.5 cm). We made our snowflake trees with squares which are roughly one inch longer on each side than the previous square for each snowflake. For our tree, we used six to eight snowflakes, cut from two sheets of letter sized printer paper. The measurements of our squares were roughly one six inch square, one 5 1/2 inch square, one 5 inch square, one 4 1/2 inch square, one 4 inch square, one 3 1/2 inch square, one 3 inch square and one 2 1/2 inch square.
With your measurements, determine how many snowflakes you need to get from your base snowflake to the top of your tree. Use the width of the base snowflake to determine how much smaller each snowflake should be in your series to evenly scale to the top 2-3 inch snowflake. This will give you measurements for a series of squares to use as the snowflake bases.
Folding Paper Squares
To fold paper squares, turn a piece of paper up on one corner so the sides are at 90 degrees to the rest of the paper (see photo). Crease the fold across the middle. Trim the square to shape. Check that the paper is square by folding the opposite corners together, trim any excess after the second fold.
Folding the Points for Your Snowflake
Folding the points for your 6- or 12-sided snowflake is the trickiest part of this exercise. You can use standard four folds if you wish, but your tree won't appear as rounded as it will with a six or twelve point star. To fold the six points, leave your square of paper in a triangle and make sure you have a slight crease to mark the midline of the triangle under the point. Fold one of the corners up an across the point (one folds at 30 degrees on a protractor) then fold up the other corner so the free side of that corner matches the line of the previous corner fold. If you are folding these without measuring, you may have to fudge the sides back and forth a bit before you can match up all the edges as shown. Once you have the edges matching properly, crease the folds, a bone folder will help you make great creases but isn't a necessity. These two corners folded across the center point will give you a six-point star or snowflake. See the next step for how to trim the folds to make the star even.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Finish the Folds
When you get to this stage of the folding process, your folds should be set to the six-point star or snowflake fold you can see on the left of the photo on this page. To make a 12-point star or snowflake, you just have to fold this one in half as shown in the middle of the photo. Finally, trim the top edges so all the edges are even, this will make sure your snowflake or star is roughly circular after you cut it to shape.
When you have your folds neatly creased move on to the next step to see a suggested cutting pattern for a branched snowflake.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
06 of 10
Accordion Fold the Snowflake Before Cutting
For complex cut paper snowflakes or stars, it pays to reset your folds into an accordion pleat once you have folded the main crease lines. This helps keep all the sides of the snowflake as even as possible, as they don't have to wrap over each other.
To fold the accordion pleats, unfold your first set of folds, and use the crease lines you made to bend the folds so they alternate back and forth to make accordion pleats. Now you should be able to cut your star or snowflake so the arm sections are very even.Continue to 7 of 10 below.
07 of 10
Cut a Simple Branched Pattern for a Snowflake
To make your snowflakes have sides that look like branches for a simple miniature snowflake tree, you can cut your pattern similar to the one shown in the photo on this page. Experiment; you may find other patterns you like for your particular style of trees, any snowflake will work for making the trees, and they don't need to all be the same.
Start the Cuts With V's
To begin cutting branched stars or snowflakes cut two v's at the wide end of your folded paper as shown above. The distance you leave from the edge of the V to the fold of your snowflake edge will be half the width of each branch.
Once you have the two V's cut on the outer edge of the snowflake, work down each side, cutting free another branchlet angled to match the side of the V, we kept our branchlets even with the other side, but you can make them alternate if you wish.
Cutting the Center Hole
To cut the hole for the tree trunk to pass through, clip a very small piece off of the narrow pointed end of your folded paper. Don't make this a very large cut. If you do get too large a hole you can patch it closed with a scrap of paper set under the hole and then trim a new one.
Open your snowflakes/stars carefully. You can press them flat with a dry iron on a low setting if you wish.Continue to 8 of 10 below.
08 of 10
Prepare a Graded Series of Snowflakes
To make a miniature snowflake tree cut as many snowflakes as you will need to create the branched sections for your chosen size of the tree. Lay them out according to the size, you will need to begin with the largest snowflake. If you wish, you can curl the ends of the branches slightly against a metal ruler or the side of a pair of scissors, taking care not to tear your branches. The snowflake trees also look fine with plain, uncurled branches so it is your choice.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
To assemble the snowflake tree, take the largest snowflake and slide it gently down the trunk from the top of the tree, turning it gently down the trunk as you go towards the mark you made when measuring the number of snowflakes you would need in step 4. By turning it gently as you slide it down the trunk, you enlarge the center hole if necessary without as much risk of a tear. The snowflakes should hold in position with a friction fit. If you wish, you can apply a tiny amount of PVA glue or gluestick glue on the trunk at the base of each snowflake to hold the snowflake in place.
With the first snowflake in place at the base of your tree, add the next largest snowflake so it fits somewhere between 1/2 inch and 1 inch (1 to 2 cm) above the first. Keep adding the snowflakes in order until you reach the top flake. For the top snowflake you can set it down on the trunk like the other snowflakes (see photo) or you can choose to glue it over the top of the trunk, disguising the top twisted end of the trunk. Choose whichever method suits you.
The final step in this tutorial shows you how to stabilize the base of the miniature winter snowflake trees in order to place them in displays.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
10 of 10
Stabilize the Base
To stabilize the base of a miniature snowflake tree for a village scene, you can glue it permanently to a base, then add snow over the base, or you can hold the trees square by setting them into a blob of modeling clay. Use clay which will be a natural color for your display (green, brown or the grey of rocks, or white of snow.
Trees with low branches that sweep the ground may not need to be stabilized as the lowest snowflake branches may hold the tree upright.