[How-To] – Papercraft

Build Models of Your Favorite Characters On the Cheap!


Collecting is a fundamental part of almost any fandom.  We’re all pretty familiar with the plentiful merchandise available to us as video game fans.  Collector’s Editions of games, soundtracks, artbooks, and especially statues and figures of our favorite characters are all available for us to spend our hard earned money on.  In today’s economy, however, disposable income can be a little difficult to come by.  So, getting thrifty with your collection can be pretty handy at times.  An interesting hobby known as Papercraft is one such option, and I’m here to help you get started!

My first experience with papercraft came about by visiting 4chan’s newly added (back in April of 2006, anyways) Papercraft and Origami board.  Origami was familiar enough, but Papercraft was a completely foreign concept to me.  Papercraft is similar to Origami in that it involves folding paper to make an object, but in this case printing out templates, cutting, and gluing are all added in to the mix.  The result is a built model that is far more detailed than a piece of Origami can be, and also makes for a very impressive piece of art to display in your house that you made yourself!  The best part is, many models available on the internet are free, and tools are cheap, so the cost of entry is very low compared to other hobbies.

So how does one go about getting started in the hobby?  First things first, you’re going to need a few things:


Tools – Papercrafting involves cutting, folding, and gluing paper parts together to make your model, so you will need to gather the tools needed to accomplish those tasks first. Pictured are the tools I typically use for making my crafts.  Some of these are tools you won’t necessarily need to buy if you have something already sitting around the house.  If not, all of these tools can be had on the cheap.

  • Ruler – For making straight edges
  • Cutting Mat – You don’t want to damage the surface you’re cutting on
  • Scissors – Use a nice, sharp pair that are made for crafting and comfortable to hold in your hand
  • Hobby Knife – Used for making fine cuts and cutting out isolated areas where scissors wouldn’t be practical to use.  Use an X-Acto #2 or #10 blade with a compatible blade holder
  • Glue – I personally use Aleene’s Tacky Glue, although any PVA based glue will work fine.  Just don’t use things like glue sticks or tape.  They don’t work well in most cases.
  • Tweezers – These are handy for holding parts together while gluing, especially tight, small spots that your fingers can’t easily reach.
  • Scoring Tool – To make clean folds, you’ll need a tool to score the paper.  I use a dedicated scoring tool, although items like empty ballpoint pens work too.  More on scoring later.
  • Rolling Tool – Some pieces need to be rounded rather than folded.  Items like a pen, marker, or a chopstick work great.  Scribes or other fine points can be used to roll small parts.
  • Paper – Use a paper that is thicker than printer paper so the model can hold its weight.  I typically use 67 lb. cardstock, which can be easily found at craft stores.


Models – You’ve got the tools, but now you need a model to build. Where do you start?  A great resource for finding free models is Ninjatoes’ Papercraft Blog.  Here you can find a plethora of free models available for you to download.  There are also pages dedicated to papercraft of varying categories on sites like Etsy and even Facebook as well, so Google Search away!  In this case I will be building models of Callie and Marie from Splatoon by a designer named Moomin Paper. You can find their website with free downloads to the templates I’ll be using by clicking here.  The site is in Japanese, but download links are posted in each of the author’s blog entries regarding models they’ve made, so they’re very easy to find.  Most artists make their models in either image-based (typically JPEG or PNG) or PDF formats.  Simply load up your paper and print!  Take note that many foreign models use A4 paper as a standard size.  This is slightly longer and thinner than our standard letter paper size (8.29×11.97 inches versus our 8.5×11).  Aside from sourcing A4 size paper online, you can also get 12×12 paper locally and cut the sheets to A4 dimensions, or have your printer scale the model to fit letter size paper.  Note that the model will be smaller overall when scaled down using this method!

.PDO Based Models – In the case of these Callie and Marie models, .PDO files are provided in addition to picture instructions. What the heck is a .PDO?  Simply put, a .PDO is a file used by Tama Software’s Pepakura Viewer and Designer programs, which can be downloaded at the link here.  Using these files, you can use a 3D model of what you’re building to aid you in the assembly process, as well as print templates straight from the .PDO file. This is very handy when you’re working with a complex model, as you can see how the model goes together, piece by piece.  Pepakura Viewer enables you to do all sorts of things to aid in building your model, such as:


  • Select individual pieces:


  • Select individual faces:


  • And even check how edges connect together:


The controls for Pepakura Viewer are very easy to learn and intuitive to use.  Give it a download and check it out!  Take note that Pepakura Designer is a paid program geared towards editing and designing your own models and templates.  Pepakura Viewer is a free program used to open and view .PDO based models.

Now that you have all the tools necessary to start building your first papercraft model, it’s time to start prepping the parts to be cut out.  First, if your model was printed in color, especially on an Inkjet printer, you will want to use a sealant to protect the color while you’re building the model.  A popular choice for most modelers is Mod Podge.  It’s a sealant that you spray down on top of the paper, which helps prevent damage to the ink underneath.


To use it, lay the paper down on a protective covering such as a piece of cardboard (to prevent spray getting where you don’t want it to), hold the can 8-12 inches away from the paper and lay a couple of *light* coats down, letting the paper dry a few minutes in between coats.  Don’t spray the sealant too heavily, otherwise you run the risk of warping and curling the paper from it getting too wet.  Less is more in this case!  Let the paper dry in a well ventilated area for a few minutes to an hour.  Mod Podge sort of stinks, so it’s not advisable to let it sit around inside your house to dry.


After the spray has set, it’s finally time to get cutting and gluing!  To begin with, you’ll want to “score” the parts.  This process makes light indents or cuts in the paper so you can make crisp, clean fold lines.  To do this, take your ruler, lay it along the line you want to score, and using medium pressure run your scoring tool along the length of the line using the ruler as a guide.  The key here is to make enough of an indent to make a fold.  Don’t push so hard you tear into the paper!  Score each fold line and glue tab until all of them have been scored.  If you need to score a curved line, you can use a wide variety of tools to make the line, or you can do like I do if you have a somewhat steady hand and freehand the curved line.


After scoring all the parts, use your scissors and cut out as much of the piece as you can.  If you cannot reach tight areas, leave them for later.



After you have cut as much excess paper away as possible, use your X-Acto knife and trim away the tight or isolated spots your scissors couldn’t easily reach.  These blades are pretty sharp, so be careful and cut slowly!



Now that the piece is all trimmed out, it’s time to start assembling it.

Using the fold lines you made by scoring the paper earlier, fold the faces and tabs of the part.  Once everything is folded, apply a small amount of glue to the tabs one at a time and glue them to the faces they connect to.  Use the instructions and/or .PDO files as a guide.  If necessary, test fit the parts before gluing so you can get a feel on how the part is supposed to glue together.


For models that are printed in color, it is a good idea to use a marker of a matching color to “fill in” the edges of areas that you cut.  This helps prevent white lines from showing on the edges of the paper and helps make your model look cleaner and more professional.  Copics, Pantones, and Prismacolors are good choices for markers with a wide range of colors available to choose from.


Continuing to use the instructions included with the model, assemble each piece for the model until it’s complete!  Congratulations, you’ve just built your first papercraft model!


While papercraft can be time consuming, especially depending on the model you choose to build, it is a very simple hobby that is very accessible for a wide range of interests.  Aside from video game models, there are categories for pretty much anything you can imagine.  Anime, vehicles, architecture, even abstract art.  Get out there and create, and be sure to show us over at Hey Poor Player what you make!  We’d love to show off your work!


Happy Crafting!


Kevin has been serving in the USAF for 10 years as a jet engine mechanic. He's married to Susie, and they have five cats and a dog together. His hobbies are almost too numerous to list, but his favorites are video games, electronic music, drawing, Gundam models, food, and turning wrenches. His favorite video games include the Ys, Yakuza, and Senran Kagura series.

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