Introduction to papercraft

I believe that those who may visit my blog already know what papercraft is all about but for the sake of those who stumbled by accident I'm going to write a simple introduction to papercrafting.

So, what is papercraft?
Papercraft, or paper model, is a technique where you build objects in 3 dimensions using paper. We can say it's similar to Kirigame (in which the user only folds and cut small parts of paper to get the result) and origami (where the user only folds to get the final result).
There are many papercrafts available for free on the internet about the most various themes, from simple animals to complex buildings or even articulated humanoid models.
Commercial models are available, sometimes, on magazines and on specialized sites but you can, without a doubt, have an infinity ammount of fun building only the free models available out there as there are some pretty awesome and complex models for free.

And what do you need to start on this hobby?
You'll need:
- printer
- scissor/x-acto knife
- glue
- cutting mat
- patience
- tweezers
- toothpick
- scoring (carving) tool

And the questions that everybody makes....how do I print? Which kind of paper do I use? And what about glue? What's a cutting mat? X-acto knife?

How to print?
Like you would print any other document, be it text or image document. Open the document, go to File -> Print (or ctrl+P for most of the programs), adjust the printer and have fun.
Since print quality is a factor here you will probably prefer the laser ones instead of the ink ones because ink normally has lower quality.

Which kind of paper to use?
There are lots and lots of different kinds of paper out there to choose from but one thing that you should know it about paper thickness.
Check the gramature (grams per meter square or gms) of the paper to decide whether you should use it or not.
The most common kind of paper is 75gsm. It's not thick enough for most of the projects you may find out there but it is still usable for simple projects (like cubic papercrafts). My Totoro test build was made on a 75gsm paper so you can have an idea how it turns out.
Normally I recommend people to use a 120gsm paper as it's not too thick for small pieces but it's thick enough for bigger pieces. My Totoro final build was made on a 120gsm paper.

Ok, so you live in a country that doesn't use grams per square meter but pounds. What to do? It's really hard to give an answer for this because the measure parameter is different.
Taken from Cardfaq.org :
"The American measures of paper weights are nothing if not confusing. The weight (e.g. 80 pounds) of a paper refers to the weight of 500 sheets in the paper's basis size. The basis size varies with the type of paper."
On that site you'll find further information but as you can see, it's confusing and since I use gsm I know nothing about pounds. Though I have seen many people refering to 30lbs paper and 64lbs. I think 30lbs would be better since it should be as thick as 120gsm.

What I recommend here is that you try different types of paper and find out the one suits better to your taste. You'll find out that some models work better with thicker paper than others and when you're more experienced you'll be able to decide the thickness of the paper that will give a better result to that specific model.

What kind of glue to use?
That common paper glue is fine. You know the ones you used on kindergarten? But stick with the liquid ones and not the stick ones. Liquid glue tend to be more efficient, it's easier to apply and will glue for longer time.

X-acto knife? Cutting mat? What?
X-acto knife (x-acto, exe-acto, exeacto, exacto, exact!) is a precision knife that give you more mobility when cutting specially curved surfaces. It also gives a cleaner look on the board of the cutted surface than the scissor but if you work better with scissors than go on and use it.
Cutting mat (or self-healing cutting mat) is a surface made of a material that allows you to cut things on it. The advantage of having one is that you won't leave cut marks on the furniture you may be cutting on (probably your table), it won't (or shouldn't) dull your blade as much as other surfaces and the mat surface stay smooth and clean even after you've used it many many times (hence called self-healing).

Here's my x-acto and cutting mat:
Cutting mat+x-acto knife
Our friend Wikipedia have entries on both items:
Self-healing mat

Tweezers? Toothpick? For what are those?
I normally use a toothpick to apply glue on the tabs and surfaces. I heard there are glue guns or something like that that is made specifically for applying glue and I heard it's better than using a toothpick. I never used one so I can't compare and won't say anymore about it. Feel free to search about it and use it if you feel like.
Toothpicks may also help you to apply pressure on tabs that are out of your finger range, be it because the tab is inside the model and the only opening is too small for your fingers or whatever other situation you may find.
Tweezers are useful on the same manner as the toothpick as you can apply pressure on tabs out of the range of your fingers but it's also useful to work with smaller pieces in general.

If you don't know what a tweezers is check Wikipedia again

Why is there a PEN in the first picture?
Well, that's what I use for scoring. There are tools made specifically for this task but since they look pretty much like a ball pen I end up using a dead ballpen (dead=no ink) to get the same result.
This is a way to reduce even more the costs (that aren't high).

And WHERE can I find all these items?
You may find those items on craft store easily or even on the internet.

Thank you for reading

Introduction to Papercraft - Part 4
Introduction to Papercraft - Part 3
Introduction to Papercraft - Part 2


  1. Very interesting craft! My grandfather created sculptures out of paper mache--brilliant post!

  2. This post is good. It could have been instilled with photos to make it more appealing as this requires more visual understanding of the topic but nevertheless, you did well.

  3. Thanks for the comments.
    Yeah, I though about adding some pictures to it but didn't want to simply hotlink them so I though about taking pictures of my own tools and all. Since I wasn't with too much time to post this I ended up leaving only the text but will surely add some pictures later.

  4. It appears you definitly have a talent for this form of art! I really like the finished products, painted and all.

    Thanks for this brief introduction!
    (now heading to part 2 and 3)

  5. Txs for sharing this info. Didn't know about this kind of paper art beside Origami :P.

  6. OK..this sounds like something that would be very difficult for me, as there is not a craftin' bone in my body. However, I am always up for something new, so perhaps I'll give it a whirl!

  7. Well, there are models for every skill level :)
    Give it a try with simpler models.
    There are some links to simple models on part 2 if you're interested


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.