Introduction: Cardboard Dinosaur Puzzle

Picture of Cardboard Dinosaur Puzzle

I was recently act my local hobby shop and I picked up a bunch of 3D wood puzzles for my son to put together. They are really cool, but they are a little small.So I decided to take the design, blow them up 500% and make them out of cardboard. Now instead of just being a simple decoration on the shelf, it is big enough to decorate a whole corn of the ceiling and it is still light enough to hang.

In this project, I am going to share with you how to make large dinosaur skeleton puzzles out of cardboard boxes. 

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

The primary material that you need for this project is corrugated cardboard. For making a large puzzle, I highly recommend using double layered cardboard. If you don't have easy access to two-ply cardboard, don't worry. You can easily make your own by gluing two pieces of regular cardboard together. Spray glue works well for this. 

Step 2: Find or Make a Template

Picture of Find or Make a Template

The first thing that you need to do is find a template that you like. You can find quite a few with a simple Google search. My favorites are these two by instuctacles users kaptaink_cg and stevemoseley:

Stevemosley actually made his from scratch by scanning a picture of a T-Rex skeleton and modeling it with CAD software.

Another way to get a template is to purchase a small 3D wood puzzle from your local craft store, then scan it and enlarge it to the size that you want. I have included several patterns in Step 8 that I scanned from puzzles that I recently purchased.

In the end, I decided to use a pteranodon template that I got from Kaptaink_cg's instructable.

Step 3: Print Out the Template

Picture of Print Out the Template

Now that you have a template, you need to print it out in the size that you want. There are a number of programs that you can use to print out pictures on multiple sheets of paper. The simplest one is Microsoft Paint. To do this, go to the Page Setup menu and find the "Scaling" options. You can specify the number of pages wide by the number of pages tall that you want the printout to be scaled to. 

Step 4: Attach the Templates and Transfer the Outlines

Picture of Attach the Templates and Transfer the Outlines

To attach the templates to the cardboard, you can use tape or a removable glue.

Then you need to mark the outline of each piece on the cardboard. You can do this by tracing each piece with a dark pen. You could also use a sharp object such as a knife or a needle to pierce through the template and into the cardboard.

Step 5: Cut Out the Puzzle Pieces

Picture of Cut Out the Puzzle Pieces

Next you need to cut out each individual piece. I used a scroll saw for this. It is fast and does only minimal damage to the cut edges. A sharp knife such as an x-acto knife will give you greater precision, but it is much slower at cutting thick pieces of cardboard. I do not recommend using scissors because they crush the edges as the cut.

Depending on the size that you made your template, the original connecting slots might not match the thickness of your cardboard. You want all of the connector slots to be the same width as the thickness of your cardboard (or a little smaller). Each connection should be tight but still be easy to fit together.

Step 6: Assemble the Puzzle

Picture of Assemble the Puzzle

Now comes the fun part, putting the puzzle together. This is a great opportunity to get small children involved. I recommend having a picture of the dinosaur (or at least the model) nearby for reference while assembling.

Step 7: Hang the Puzzle

Picture of Hang the Puzzle

One of the benefits of making the puzzle out of cardboard instead of wood is that it is much lighter. This makes it easy to hang from the ceiling. This is especially good for models of flying dinosaurs such as pteranodons which look much better when hung. 

If you decide to hang your model, I suggest that you hang it as you assemble the pieces. I started by hanging just the spine and rib cage with one loop of fishing line Then, I added the head and attached a second support line. Then I added the legs with a third line. Lastly, I added the arms. In most cases you will want to have a support line for each arm to help keep it balanced. In my case, I hung the model in the corner of the room and used the walls to balance and support the arms.

Step 8: Additional Models

Picture of Additional Models

I purchased a lot of puzzles at my craft store. After a little bit of research, it appears that these models aren't in any way copyrighted. So I scanned them and included them here for you to use if you want.


PedroM4 made it! (author)2017-06-25

Thanks for sharing. Very nice. My kid was delighted with it.

I am glad that you liked it.

porgo0 (author)2017-06-25


i´ve seen some like this in a garden in my town, but they are made out of aluminum or so :D

scuellar mesa made it! (author)2015-09-11

This was awesome! I made the triceratops for My 3 year old's Birthday (he's obsessed with dinosaurs), I had the idea and figured i look on Instructables. To my delight it was on the front page. lol meant to be. Anyways, enough of rambling, here is my dino!! About 4ft long, 2ft tall :D

PreciousD5 (author)scuellar mesa2017-06-24

hi I love this

Is It possible to send me the template for it

That looks awesome. Thanks for sharing.

Mehmetd10 (author)2017-06-10

hi, can you send this file to my mail please???

You can download the file from the instructable page.

hvergilas jr. (author)2013-12-30

That is really cool!
Is it possible to get the file in vector format?

paulsroom (author)hvergilas jr.2014-08-31

I converted the files to vector format and have them in dxf, svg, or Silhouette Cameo files.

ClarissaS11 (author)paulsroom2017-03-13

Do you still have this in the svg? Would like to have it I'll pay for it if you still have it.

Sorry, I just scanned the puzzles. But you can easily enlarge the pictures or trace them in an editing program.

CH21 (author)2016-06-28

Hi! I'm looking for more dinosaur skeletons for an upcoming class project. Can you help?



I have posted all the models that I have. But you can always check your local crafts stores for more.

PedroG67 made it! (author)2016-02-03

Thanks a lot for sharing the file. I made it with foamboard, it's a little bit complicated than cardboard but it have a better look in my opinion. Greetings from Mexico :D

StevenS179 (author)PedroG672016-06-08

Awsome, I was thinking the exact samething. Glad to see it works.

MikeP153 (author)2016-04-05

do you have instructions for the triceratops? my son's birthday is dino themed and this would be a great addition. thanks so much

Sorry. All I have is the digital picture. You can download that and use it. But you would just have to go by the pictures.

sounds good! thanks!

scuellar mesa made it! (author)2015-11-03

I made the Triceratops and my little man was very happy. Here he is with his Dinosaur! The head was supost to stay up, but at that scale the small "bone" that held it would have needed to be of a much stronger cardboard.

That is awesome. Thanks for sharing.

Dear Sir, Can you please give me the templates to my email id : . it is so interesting that i want to do for my son....


Sorry. I don't have the original files any more. But you can save/download the pictures from this site and use those.

PedroG67 made it! (author)2016-02-03

Thanks a lot for sharing the file. I made it with foamboard, it's a little bit complicated than cardboard but it have a better look in my opinion. Greetings from Mexico :D

DayvenC (author)2016-01-24

hey ! can anyone send me this pdf or AI files ? i cant download it here :(

AanX1 (author)2015-12-28

Can you send any puzzle cardboard again?

Just save the images of the puzzles and print them out to scale.

HamishM7 (author)2015-12-18

Two puzzles complete. The pterosaur has a wingspan of over 3m and is made of a kind of plastic signboard. The plesiosaur is about 1.8m long and made of foam board...a complete nightmare cutting all those pieces...but the kids love them both.



IslamY (author)2015-11-30


slifesize (author)2015-10-24

hi, can you send this file to my mail please???


rick.jochem (author)2015-01-13

This was an awesome project. I made it with Corflute (real estate signs) with a 6 ft wingspan.

I spent some time drawing the outlines and have then as JPeg Files if anyone would like them. email <>

Oh.. and I added a Tail !

GlueGun_RaR (author)rick.jochem2015-06-14

Love it! The isn't strictly hoyle, but it's uber-cool. Thanks for identifying your building materials - that's a critical factor. Can I get a copy of the plans, too?

hi, can you send this file to my mail please???


Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

KimD3 made it! (author)2015-05-12

First a little one out of chipboard, then a bigger one on a laser cutter out of 1/4-inch wood. Wingspans about 8 inches and 5-1/2 feet.

Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

sarahsrikumar (author)2014-11-16

Dear DIY Hacks and How Tos,

I would like to do for my son on his birthday T Rex and other itmes. Is it possible to give us in PDF format. Thanks


The T-Rex designs were referenced from these instructables:

Sorry, but I don't have a pdf creator on this computer. You can find free pdf creators online that can convert the jpeg files into pdf's.

cassie.friesen.5 made it! (author)2014-09-13

Made this for my daughter's fourth birthday party, which was Paleontologist themed. She really wanted to build a life size fossil. I didn't have any of the proper tools and labored on this with an Exacto knife for far more hours than I care to admit. The wingspan is easily over 6 ft long. She loved it!

Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

paulsroom (author)2014-08-31

I used 400gsm cardstock and made two of each image, cutting them out with a Silhouette Cameo, then sticking them together to make a 800gsm cardstock. This is about the limit of thin one can go with cardstock, but it does work. I made one adjustment - I moved the slot for the back legs to the top instead of where it is. Then I moved the middle slot in the back legs correspondingly. This means that this piece then holds by gravity like the ribs. I used A3 cardstock basing the whole structure on the largest the wing claw would fit - it's still quite large.

battman2036 (author)2013-11-03

Congrats on the award. Well deserved.

quirxi (author)2013-10-31

Cooool ! Thank You !!! :)

Woodit (author)2013-08-29

Thanks for sharing, I will try it!

javl (author)2013-08-27

Nice model. Here is a related project I did with Jiskar:

kaptaink_cg (author)2013-08-26

Very cool!!

rexxkentrix (author)2013-08-26

thanks alot!
(not a very good english)

poofrabbit (author)2013-08-26

Awesome this is great!

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Jason Poel Smith I am a Community Manager here at Instructables. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker ... More »
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