How to create Paper Models

Paper Modelling is a great hobby that costs practically nothing. It is suitable for all ages except children too small to use scissors. This is a beginners guide to making paper models.

My first paper model – Baron Von Richthofen’s Fokker triplane

fokker triplane paper model

Paper Models are cheap (the triplane above was free) and readily available. There are lots of websites that allow you to download pdf files which you print out at home, cut out as directed and glue together. So, as long as you have access to a computer and printer, the only other equipment you need is a pair of scissors and some glue. Oh, and a bit of patience. The plane above was cut from one sheet of A4 paper, took me about 3 hours, working at a slow steady pace one evening while my wife was watching television.

The next fokker triplane I tried was a 1:32 scale model from fiddler’s green website. Again it was free (once you register) and this took me about 4 evenings.

fokker triplane 1:32 scale paper model

What glue is best for making paper models?

Poly Vinyl Acetate (PVA) glue is available everywhere. PVA dries in a just few minutes and is water-based so there are no nasty vapours from solvents.

Papercraft tool kit

My tool kit comprises a pinboard, pins, craft knife, steel ruler, glue and an old biro without any ink left inside (the ballpoint is great for pre-scoring folds).

modelling board and kit

How to start paper modelling.

Why not try the Fokker triplane above. It is a free download and the site has lots of photographs showing how to make it step by step.

Where to find paper models

Google searches on “paper models” and “papercraft” yeild a lifetime of free and cheap model plans to download.

Paper modelling tips

  1. Score folds before folding them
  2. when cutting out shapes, make accurate edges.
  3. Take it slowly
  4. Don’t use too much glue
  5. Practice assemby before glueing pieces together.
  6. Consider each tab to be glued as a project in itself with a beginning, middle and end.
  7. Wait for glued parts to dry before gluing them to other parts.
  8. If you make a mistake, print out another sheet and try again.
  9. Use the thickest paper possible for big projects. Smaller scale models can work with normal thickness paper.
  10. If you want to really impress people, scale up to a massive size, glue the paper onto really thick cardboard or even plyboard, then cut it out and make a really large model. (This is a fantastic way to make huge garden toys for kids).

What thickness paper is best?

For normal modelling I find between 90 and 120 gsm is great.

paper model - star wars

Dealing with edges of paper models

Cut edges show the white paper, regardless of what colour was printed on top. You can see this clearly on the photo of the 1:32 scale triplane near the top of the page. A solution to this problem is to get yourself a set of felt tip pens and recolour cut edges after the model has been assembled. In this way you can dramatically improve the look of your model.

Photographing paper models.

The models are only paper, so why not make sure you photograph them before the dog tries to eat them. There are no hard and fast rules. However, here are my model photography tips.

  1. Try both flash on and flash off versions.
  2. The more light the better. Go outdoors if it isn’t too windy.
  3. If you have a macro lens, get nice and close.
  4. Don’t photograph from above too much. Try and photgraph your models from the same angles you would if they were full size.
  5. If you are photgraphing indoors, use more than one light source from different directions to avoid harsh shadows.
  6. Try a backlight to crisp up the edges of your model.
  7. Take lots of photos. If you have a digital camera, you should shoot multiple pictures at different distances. Wait till they are all transferred to your computer before choosing the best.

me109 plane being photographed

There are better ways than standing in the garden holding a wing, but even this slipshod approach can yeild decent results.

Messerschmidt ME109 paper model

Where can I get Paper Model Plans

Look at our collection of free downloadable paper models or search on the terms ‘paper model’, ‘papercraft’ or ‘pepakura’

Crafter Author