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Day of the Dead Printable Papel Picado

Photograph by Elba Valverde

Making the papel picado for the ofrenda, or altar de muertos, was one of my favorite things to do for the Day of the Dead as a child. The papel picado is basically perforated or punched paper sheets cut into beautiful designs and used to decorate Day of the Dead altars. The designs are traditionally made from tissue paper and created using a stencil, hammer and chisels.

As kids, we grew up making our own version of papel picado to decorate. We folded the tissue paper and used scissors to make squares, flowers and all sorts of shapes around it. Our designs were never as cool as some of the papel picado you can see around Mexico, but it was definitely fun to make and it still looked colorful and beautiful decorating the altar de muertos or ofrenda.

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Your kids will really enjoy helping you decorate the Day of the Dead altar or ofrenda with this papel picado printable coloring page. Let them color or paint a few of them in different vibrant shades, then cut them and make a colorful garland for the altar.

One interesting thing to tell the kids about papel picado: artisans traditionally make this decoration by hand in Mexico. They usually layer 50 to 100 layers of tissue paper and punch designs into them using a hammer and chisels. This allows the carving of many copies of a design at once!

Papel picado in the Day of the Dead tradition represents the wind as a joy in life and although in some places of Mexico, the colors used for the Day of the Dead altar are yellow and purple, since these colors represented the duality between life and death, your kids should feel free to paint the coloring pages with as many colors as they want. You can also add yellow paper marigolds to your altar.

I think the papel picado adds a festive feeling to the tradition, and it's one of the fun things that kids can help you make so they feel involved and part of this unique celebration.

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