So you want to learn about papercrafting. I’m not talking about making fancy cards for people, but making 3D figures out of paper. There are people who make life-size replicas of video game characters using nothing but paper and glue. Here is a beginners guide to get you started.
The easiest way to get started with papercrafting is to download a free program that opens 3D files. The best, in my opinion, is Pepakura Viewer. The Pepakura program takes images and turns them into 3D images and then takes the 3D image apart into small pieces. You print those pieces and then glue or tape them together to make the 3D figure.
The Pepakura Viewer only opens Pepakura files for you to print. The Viewer is free and you can find many free Pepakura files throughout the Internet. Here are some popular sites to find files. All Pepakura files end in .pdo.
Pepakura Web Database
The Pepakura Index
Printing Pepakura Files
The type of paper used to make these images vary based on the creator. Many use letter size, while some use A4 size. Some require you to print in portrait while others require landscape. You can find this information by clicking “file” and then “pattern info.” Set your printer settings to the same so your pieces print correctly.
About Pepakura Files
Some Pepakura images contain tiny pieces separated on pages. Some files might have a piece or two that covers more than one page. How you work with them differs. For images that don’t overlap pages, you simply cut out all the little pieces and begin your building process. For those where a piece overlaps more than one page, you must tape the pages together, lining up the edges of the piece, and then cut it out as one whole piece.
Understanding Image Lines
Every image piece has lines on it that tell you how to cut or fold the piece.
- Solid lines: Cut them. Always look for small areas throughout the pieces that need cutting. Sometimes you have to cut small slots in random places.
- Dash lines: Mountain fold. This is an origami term. You fold the paper along the dashed line so that the paper folds down and the crease creates a mountain.
- Dash and dot lines: Valley Fold. This origami term means you fold the paper up on the line so that the crease creates a valley.
How do you know where to glue or tape edges together? Hover your mouse over the lines on the computer screen. A line will appear showing you where that edge connects to another. Tape and glue those edges together and then move on to the next piece. In the end, it all comes together.
Tips and Tricks
1) Click on “show part name” on the top bar. This labels all the pieces. Before you cut out the printed pieces, write the part names on the back. This makes it easier for you to find the correct pieces when you need them.
2) Assume that pieces that are taped or glued together fold as a mountain fold where they are connected. While this isn’t always the case, it is the majority of the time and will help you imagine the 3D shape as you go along.
3) Score the lines with a bone folder before folding them. This makes the folding easy and smooth. To use a bone folder, place a ruler along the line you want to fold and then run the tip of the bone fold down the line, using the ruler to keep your line straight.
4) Fold the lines before gluing or taping the pieces together.
5) While there is no particular order to attach pieces, beginners should follow the part names. Attach part 1 to part 2 and then part 2 to part 3, for example. As you get better at the process, you’ll learn which parts to attach to make the process easier.
6) The hardest part of making a 3D figure is the last few pieces. Try not to get frustrated and crumple up all your hard work.