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How to Build Paper Models

Updated on July 28, 2015
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Have had to stop working. Now I love to do crafts, build models, have fun and experience new things.

How to Build Paper Models


Paper models (or card models, or papercraft models) are 3-dimensional models made entirely of paper. By carefully folding, bending, and gluing small pieces together, you can build a model of almost anything...buildings, famous landmarks, people, cartoons, animals, movie characters, vehicles, props, and much more!

You can buy models preprinted on card paper, or you can print them yourself. Some designs are made by professional artists, while others are made by model enthusiasts. Building models can be a relaxing hobby or a fun family activity, and costs relatively little compared to other types of models.

Things You’ll Need

  • Time & patience
  • Scissors
  • A printer
  • Printer paper (preferably cardstock)
  • A craft knife and optionally a self-healing cutting board
  • A glue stick or white glue
  • A scoring instrument (empty ballpoint pen, letter opener, coin, dull knife, etc)
  • Tweezers (optional)


  1. Find a design. Search the internet for the words 'paper model' and the name of the specific item you're looking for, if any. See the links below for a few of the many sites offering free designs.
  2. Choose a model. Models can vary tremendously in difficulty and quality. Some have only a few large pieces and could be assembled by children, while others have hundreds of tiny pieces with intricate cuts and folds. Some models are very refined with quality graphics and detailed instructions, while others may require some interpretation, experience, trial-and-error, or they may require you to finish part of the design yourself--such as adding internal supports or artwork.
  3. Review the design. Make sure you understand the instructions and what is required of you. The instructions may list extra materials needed such as special paper.
  4. Print the design and instructions. It may be worth using high quality mode on your printer and quality paper since you may be investing many hours in building the model.

  5. Collect the items you need to build the model, and find a comfortable place where you can work on it. See the 'Things You'll Need' list above.
  6. Cut out and assemble the model. Read any instructions for each step as you go. Take your time...rushing will just lead to mistakes, poor quality, or accidentally cutting yourself.
  7. Display the model. If it does not stand on its own you may wish to make a display stand. Or, hang it from the ceiling with a string.
  8. Share your enthusiasm for paper model building with your family and friends who may not have heard of it before.


Mountain or Peak Fold - fold the paper so it points upward

Valley Fold - fold the paper downward

Scoring - Apply pressure along fold lines using a dull knife or other thin--but not sharp--object. This makes it much easier to fold the paper precisely along the line.


Make sure to read the instructions carefully to know the steps to take and the meaning of symbols, dotted lines, or different colors. Take frequent breaks to stretch and focus your eyes on something more than a few inches away. Print an extra copy of the model on plain paper in draft mode. This can be a useful reference to know what pieces looked like before they were assembled and how they are supposed to go together. Follow the steps in the specified order as it may be difficult or impossible to assemble other parts. Apply glue sparingly or you'll have to hold the pieces in place much longer while it dries. White paper will show through on tight folds and seams, but you can color it with markers to blend in with the surrounding colors. Only cut out the part(s) you're currently working on so you don't lose them or mix them up. For cardstock, you may need to set your printer to print on heavy paper or use an alternate paper path that doesn't bend the paper too much (if your printer has a choice). If you can't print on heavyweight/cardstock paper, you can print on normal paper and glue it to the cardstock. Spray-glue wrinkles the paper less than white glue over large areas. Start off with an easy model with relatively few pieces so you don't get frustrated and give up while you're learning. If the pieces are numbered, but the numbers are not visible after cutting them out, it can be helpful to write the number on the back of each piece as you cut it out. Later when you need to attach piece 47 to piece 22, you'll be glad you marked them. Cut on a flat, firm surface that you don't mind cutting into. A craft knife cutting board is helpful, but cardboard can also be used. Be very careful when using a craft knife since it is literally razor-sharp and has no safety cover when you're using it. Make sure to replace the blade cover as soon as you finish each cut. Take your time, and do not cut toward your fingers. Children should use safety scissors, not a craft knife. Look for models with a small number of pieces that are large enough to cut with scissors. Make sure the craft knife blade is sharp. As it dulls, it takes much more effort to cut out the pieces which leads to sore fingertips and slips.

© 2013 Gwendolyne Black


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