Thin elastic sheets bend easily and, if they are patterned with cuts, can deform in sophisticated ways. Here we show that carefully tuning the location and arrangement of cuts within thin sheets enables the design of mechanical actuators that scale down to atomically-thin 2D materials. We first show that by understanding the mechanics of a single, non-propagating crack in a sheet we can generate four fundamental forms of linear actuation: roll, pitch, yaw, and lift. Our analytical model shows that these deformations are only weakly dependent on thickness, which we confirm with experiments at centimeter scale objects and molecular dynamics simulations of graphene and MoS_2 nanoscale sheets. We show how the interactions between non-propagating cracks can enable either lift or rotation, and we use a combination of experiments, theory, continuum computational analysis, and molecular dynamics simulations to provide mechanistic insights into the geometric and topological design of kirigami actuators.