What is 'papercraft'? Techniques, materials and tips

What is papercraft

Papercraft is a paper construction technique that allows the creation of three-dimensional figures. This creative activity offers a wide range of possibilities and has become particularly well-known among fans of video games, movies, and animation.

In this article, we are going to explore everything you need to know about papercraft: from its origins to the necessary materials, the different techniques, as well as some useful tips to get started. If you're a lover of art and crafts, or simply interested in learning about this original form of expression, keep reading to discover more about the fascinating world of papercraft!


The term "papercraft" refers to the use of paper ("paper") for the purpose of crafting or handiwork ("craft"). It is believed that the origin of combining cutting, folding, and modeling of paper took place in 17th century Europe, although it was really popularized during World War II, with the creation of military models, such as ships or airplanes, constructed from cardstock and cardboard.

During the second half of the 20th century, the widespread use of plastics in the manufacture of toys and models led to a decline in interest in models made from paper. However, with the arrival of the new millennium and the proliferation of 3D design software (such as Cinema 4D, Autodesk Maya, and Blender), as well as the massive access to the Internet, emerging artists from different parts of the world now have the opportunity to design and market their own creations.


Papercraft, origami, and kirigami are techniques that have in common the manipulation of paper to create objects, figures, and scenes, but the steps to construct these elements are very different from each other.

Origami consists of repeatedly folding a sheet of paper, following specific patterns, to create figures of people, objects, flowers, and animals.

Kirigami allows the creation of three-dimensional images by folding a sheet of paper where carefully designed small cuts have been made.

Compared to origami and kirigami, papercraft relies on the use of glue to join numerous pieces, which have been previously cut and folded, to form a specific design.


One of the biggest advantages of papercraft is that it does not require expensive or complex tools to get started. The basic materials you will need are paper, scissors, a ruler, and glue. However, as you gain experience and venture into more complicated projects, you may want to add some additional items to your inventory. Below is a list of the most common materials used in papercraft:


Papercraft - ¿Cuál es la mejor impresora?

A printer is necessary to print the papercraft templates. Since most patterns are usually in black and white, you will only need black ink to print them. The HP LaserJet models work quite well (that’s what we have). If you don't have a printer at home, you can always go to a print shop.


Papercraft - ¿Cuál es el mejor papel?

Paper is the main component of papercraft. The most important thing is to choose a quality paper with a weight greater than 150 gsm so that the assembly of the design you are going to create is sturdy. A4 and US letter sizes are the most common.


Papercraft - ¿Cuáles son las mejores tijeras de precisión?

Good scissors are essential in papercraft. You will need them to be sharp to cut the paper pieces precisely. It is advisable to have a pair of scissors specifically for papercraft, used exclusively for cutting paper, as dull scissors or those used for other materials can damage the paper edges and affect the quality of your project's final assembly. We recommend that they are not too large to have better control over cutting the pieces.

Cutting tools

Papercraft - ¿Cuál es el mejor cúter?

In addition to scissors, you can also use a craft knife to cut the paper pieces with greater precision in more detailed or complicated areas, such as internal holes that may be in the templates. Keep in mind that the blade of these tools is very sharp, so it is important to take extra precautions during use to avoid unexpected cuts on your hands.

Cutting mat

Papercraft - ¿Cuál es la mejor alfombrilla de corte?

You will need a protected cutting surface, such as a cutting board or cutting mat, to cut the paper without damaging the table or surface you are working on. This also helps make clean and precise cuts. Since 2018, we have been using the Am-Tech cutting mat in A2 size, as can be seen in each of the video tutorials on our YouTube channel.


Papercraft - ¿Cuál es la mejor regla?

A ruler will be useful for folding the paper along the fold lines. You can use a metal or plastic ruler with straight edges to ensure that the paper pieces are folded precisely. We really like the scale ruler (also known as a triangular metric ruler) because it is very easy to handle, unlike some traditional rulers (due to being flat).


Papercraft - ¿Cuál es el mejor pegamento en barra?

Glue is essential for assembling the paper pieces and shaping your model. You can use liquid glue, glue sticks, or double-sided tape, depending on your personal preferences and the type of project you are working on. It is important to use a glue that dries quickly and is strong enough to ensure the glued pieces do not come apart. We use the Pritt glue stick (43g) for our projects; it dries relatively quickly and adheres paper very well.


Papercraft - ¿Cuáles son los mejores sprays de colores?

In addition to the tools and equipment mentioned above, you might also consider using other optional materials, such as acrylic paints, brushes, color sprays, or even adhesives to give your papercraft creations a personal touch. The brand Pinty Plus offers a wide range of acrylic paint sprays (with very good quality-price ratio) that we have used to color many of our masks. In some cases, when the cardstock used already had the desired color, we transformed the matte texture of the paper into a very bright finish once the design was assembled, thanks to their gloss varnish spray.


While instructions and styles can vary slightly depending on the papercraft designer, to build your own papercraft figure there are some basic steps that are common in most projects:

1. Choose your favorite model

Choose the papercraft model you like the most; adapted to the free time you have and suitable for your skill level. You can find templates on the internet, or create your own designs. At hekreations, we have been creating paper masks for adults and children since 2018, check out our free templates!

2. Choose the appropriate paper

It is recommended to build papercraft figures with high-quality paper, such as cardstock or photo paper, which is more resistant and durable. You can also choose paper with different colors or textures to add more detail and personality to your creation.

3. Print the templates

If you already have the papercraft templates ready to print, make sure to follow the designer's instructions for printing the pattern. The best free program for this is Adobe Acrobat Reader DC for computers. Remember not to modify the dimensions in the print settings, leaving the scale at 100%, to maintain the predefined size of the model in question.

4. Cut the pattern

Use scissors, and rely on a cutter or craft knife if the project requires it, to cut out the pieces of the pattern, following the solid lines that form them on each of the sheets.

5. Fold the pieces

Once you have cut out all the pieces, use a ruler, set square, or right-angle to fold them along the lines that are inside the pieces. There are 2 different types of folds; one in the form of a mountain and the other in the form of a valley, and they are usually indicated with dashed lines and dotted dashed lines, respectively (although this can vary depending on the designer). Try to make the folds well-defined and as precise as possible.

6. Glue and assemble the model

Each of the pieces, in addition to the fold lines, contains tabs and small numbers affixed. To build the model, you must glue the pieces together, looking for the pairs of these small numbers on the other pieces, trying to follow at the same time the assembly order recommended in the instructions in question. Some designers name each piece with a letter (A, B, C...), while others put hashtags with numbers (#1, #2, #3...). Use glue or adhesive to stick the tabs on the inside of the model, making sure they are well aligned and fit correctly.

7. Customize your creation

When you have finished assembling the model, you can use paints, acrylics, or spray paints to add a personal and creative touch to your model, or simply leave it assembled – it all depends on you!


Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when doing papercraft:

Practice on simpler projects

If you are new to papercraft, we recommend starting with simpler and less complicated projects to acquire basic skills in cutting, folding, and assembly. As you gain more experience, you can move on to more complex and detailed projects.

Use the right tools

Use appropriate tools for papercraft, such as precision scissors, rulers, folding tools, and high-quality glue. This will help you achieve more precise and professional results in your papercraft project.

Experiment with different types of paper

Paper is a key element in papercraft, so we encourage you to experiment with different types of paper, colors, and textures to add more variety and detail to your models. You can find specialized paper for papercraft in physical or online craft stores.

Be patient and careful

Papercraft requires patience and careful attention to each step of the process. Make sure to follow the template instructions closely. Taking your time and being patient will help you achieve a high-quality final result.

Customize your models

One of the best things about papercraft is that you can customize your models according to your tastes and preferences. Use the colors and textures you want to make your models unique and special.

Share your creations

Once you have completed your papercraft project, don't hesitate to share your creations with other craft enthusiasts. You can show off your models on social media, join online communities, or even participate in local craft fairs or exhibitions to share your work and receive feedback from other hobbyists.

Keep a clean and organized workspace

Papercraft requires precision and care, so it's important to keep a clean and organized workspace. Make sure you have enough space for cutting, folding, and assembling your models, and keep your tools and materials organized to streamline the process and achieve cleaner results.

Learn from other enthusiasts

Papercraft has an active and passionate community, so you can learn a lot from other people. Join forums, watch tutorials, or attend workshops to learn new techniques, tricks, and tips. Additionally, these experiences will allow you to connect with other craft enthusiasts.

Be creative and experiment

Papercraft is an art form where you can be creative and experiment with different styles, designs, and materials. Don't be afraid to try new things, like combining different types of paper, adding three-dimensional elements, or creating your own designs. Creativity and experimentation are part of the charm of papercraft and can lead you to discover new forms of artistic expression.

Enjoy the process

Last but not least, make sure to enjoy the process of creating papercraft. Papercraft is a relaxing activity that allows you to disconnect from daily stress and immerse yourself in a creative process. Appreciate every step of the process, from selecting the templates and materials to cutting, folding, and assembling. The final result will be a unique, handmade work of art that you can proudly enjoy and showcase.


In summary, papercraft is a fascinating form of art and craft that combines skills of cutting, folding, and assembling to create three-dimensional paper models. It's a creative and rewarding activity that offers a wide variety of possibilities in terms of designs, styles and difficulty levels.

We hope this article has provided you with a comprehensive view of what papercraft is and everything you need to know to get started. From the history and origins of papercraft, to the necessary materials, the basic steps to create a papercraft model, and additional tips to succeed in your projects. So get to work, choose a template, grab your scissors and start creating your own 3D paper models!

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