This tutorial will show you the steps involved in making a 3D tree sculpture from wire and paper. It takes a while but can be completed in a weekend, including the time needed for glue to dry.
What you will need:
- Book pages; Using pages from a book looks especially effective, but you can use other types of paper if you prefer. I didn't count how many I used for this tree but I doubt it was more than 15.
- Wire; Look for wire that is labelled as modelling wire or armature wire. I used 1.6mm diameter aluminium armature wire.
- PVA glue; I used two types - Aleene's tacky glue for general glueing duties like attached the leaves, and Mod Podge matte glue that I watered down for the papier mache stage and also used as a final coating for the tree. Only one type of PVA glue is vital though.
- A plastic container to put your glue in; I used some fruit packaging.
- Wire cutters and pliers to shape the wire; preferably round nose pliers if you have some
- Masking tape; I used painters tape. What you don't want is sellotape that is shiny because then you can't glue anything to it.
- Leaf punch; You could cut leaves out by hand but a little leaf punch is so quick and handy. Plus it's not expensive.
- Paintbrush; A thin paintbrush that is cheap (because you're going to be getting glue on the bristles.)
- Scrap paper; some to bulk up the sculpture, and some to protect your work surface from glue.
- Safety glasses; You are working with wire that has spiky ends so better be safe than sorry!
Step 1: Cutting the Main Frame
Decide how big you want your tree to be, and how wide you want the lower branches to be.
Then cut out 5 lengths of the wire so that they are long enough to be the tree trunk and the lower branches.
I bent my pieces of wire to represent how I wanted them to look as the tree shape...this helped me decide on the length. Bend your wires where the trunk will join the lower branch.
My tree trunk was about 12cm (5") high, and the branches were slightly shorter than that. Overall my wire lengths were around 23cm (9") long.
Step 2: Forming the Main Tree Shape
You'll need to roll up a piece of A4 scrap paper to form the tree trunk shape. You can cut and manipulate the paper to add more shape to it than I did (I wish I'd splayed the trunk out at the base now I look back on it but oh well!
Use masking tape to keep it in the shape you want.
Then add the 5 wire pieces to the paper trunk and secure all over with tape.
You'll want them spaced quite evenly around the tree.
Bend the wires to make them look how you want it to look. You can make the branches more realistic by putting kinks in them instead of leaving them smooth and straight.
Cut off any excess paper and wire.
Step 3: Inner Branches
Next cut length of wire to use for the inner branches that will expand the tree upwards.
I used 4 inner branches and I wouldn't use any less than that otherwise it will look a bit sparse.
The fuller you want the tree, the more branches you will want.
Put these branches inside the rolled up paper and shape the branches how you want them. Tape the branches into place.
Step 4: Adding Little Branches
Next, I cut out short lengths of the wire and used round nose pliers to add a loop in the centre of each.
I shaped the wire pieces a little and then slid them onto a few of the larger branches of the tree. I added 4 of these smaller branches.
To secure them in place, I tightened the loop around the wire branches and used a bit of masking tape around the joint.
This is the 3rd, and last, 'layer' of branches I'm going to add. If you want a fuller tree you can add more branches, and add even shorter branches to these branches.
Step 5: Paper Mache
Now it's time to get messy!
Put scrap paper down on yor work surface to protect it from glue. Then, in a plastic container, water down PVA glue to make your paper mache mix. You can use PVA glue without dilution but it gets a bit too sticky and messy then.
So it's best to add a little bit of water to your PVA to make it flow better and not be so sticky. 2 parts glue to 1 part water is the common mix, but I wouldn't dilute the glue any more than that.
Cut a few book pages into strips. Cut off the bank page border first if you'd like no blank paper bits on your tree.
Then put a strip into your PVA mix to coat it, slide the strip between your fingers to remove the excess liquid, and then wrap the paper around your tree.
I started with the trunk first.
Step 6: Finishing the Branches
I rolled up short pieces of scrap paper and slid them to the base of each branch in order to 'bulk up' the parts where the wires meet the tree trunk. I taped these in place, before applying paper mache to the branches.
I found it easier to do a short section of each branch first, then do another section of each branch, then other etc. because this meant that by the time I'd got around to adding paper and glue to the first branch again, it had become much drier so it was harder to get in a gluey mess!
I covered all of the branches and the joints, before coating the whole thing in Mod Podge as a final finish.
I also curled each of the wires at the base of the tree into loops so they didn't scratch the table surface.
Step 7: Adding the Leaves
Next, I cut the border off a few more book pages and used my leaf punch to turn the book pages into lots of small leaf shapes.
I individually glued each one onto the branches until the tree looked how I wanted it to look.
Step 8: Finished!
And there you have it...a finished tree sculpture!
I've seen some amazing ones elsewhere online including a tree with a paper swing hanging off one of the branches, and little hearts in amongst the branches. Maybe I'll attempt that next time :)
Thanks for reading my tutorial, and please let me know if you try it yourself. I'd love to see your projects.