One of my favorite ways to design is to start out with a simple paper cut. I use black construction paper and an Exacto Knife and just start cutting. Sometimes I sketch out the image first in white pencil, but often I start out with just cutting out the negative space. Here are some samples of some simple paper cut designs.
I scan the paper cuts into the computer and develop them into colorful designs with the help of Adobe Illustrator.
Then I use the paper cuts to develop simple stencils that define the negative space on my ceramic collections.