Introduction: Cardboard Shoji Screen - Room Partition

Picture of Cardboard Shoji Screen - Room Partition

This is a great inexpensive way of making a Shoji Screen room divider with cardboard, especially for those college students out there on a budget!

I made no new purchases and only made use of whatever items I had on hand. You can modify the dimensions or materials to suit your needs.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

This is a scaled-down version of a full-size screen because of the limited amount of cardboard that I had on hand. If I had larger and more pieces of cardboard, I would have made this taller and with 3 panels. Ideally, this screen should be twice its size in height (72" x 18") and with 3 panels instead of 2.

Materials I used to make a 2-panel, 36" x 18" Shoji screen:

4 pieces of cardboard (36" x 18"), the thicker the better. These pieces were all taken from a single moving box that I had. Cut carefully and make your edges as clean as possible. You can find free cardboard on Craigslist, if you live in the U.S. People that have recently moved or have bought furniture will usually be eager to get rid of their excess cardboard boxes and will list them for free.

12 pieces of onion-skin paper (8.5" x 11"). These can be purchased at any office supply store. You can substitute onion paper with rice paper, vellum, or any other semi-transparent paper. The semi-transparency will filter light and give it a nice glow.

3 Cable ties/Zip ties

Other items: ruler, fat color markers, pen/pencil, clear tape, box cutter, glue. I would've used Gorilla Glue, if I had any. ;-)

Step 2: Paper Layout

Picture of Paper Layout

Lay out your paper on a flat surface and carefully tape 6 pieces together. There's no need to seal the entire edges with tape, just enough to hold them together. Do the same with the other 6 pieces and then connect the two with a couple of small pieces of tape. You will be separating these 2 halves later.

Step 3: The Artist in Me

Picture of The Artist in Me

Now let the creative side of you take over! Start drawing whatever pleases you on all 12 pieces of paper. I used my markers to draw bamboo. Yes, it's bamboo! Sorry, I'm no artist!

I did not extend my drawing to the very edges of the paper, because this will covered by the borders of the cardboard.

Step 4: Using My Left Cerebral Hemisphere

Picture of Using My Left Cerebral Hemisphere

Mark a 2" border for the top and sides of one of the cardboard panels. Make sure you only make these marks on the printed side. You don't want to mark up the clean side of the cardboard.

I made the bottom border about 6" from the bottom. If you're making your screen taller, you will need to make the bottom border larger (higher) so that the screen will hold its rigidity. For instance, if you're making a 72" x 18" screen, make the bottom border at least 20" high.

Next separate your drawing, and place 1 half on top of one of your cardboards and start making marks so that you will know where to cover the seams of the paper. You will want to make your "seam" borders (where each paper is connected) about 1" wide, and make sure that these borders cover your paper seams.

Once you've made all your marks, lay your drawing on top again to make sure that all the seams are covered. You should be able to see all your lines through the transparency of the paper.

Step 5: Clean Cut

Picture of Clean Cut

Cut out your windows with a box cutter.

I find it easier to cut cardboard on top of my carpet rather than on tile. If you need to, use a ruler to guide your box cutter. Use your first cut-out as a template for the rest of the cardboards. Again, make sure you are not making any marks on the clean side.

Step 6: Gorilla Glue

Picture of Gorilla Glue

Now lay one half of your drawing on top of a panel, making sure the borders cover up the paper seams. Now carefully glue the drawing onto your cardboard panel. Take another cardboard panel and glue this on top of the paper, so that the paper is sandwiched between the 2 cardboard panels. Make sure you are not applying the glue to your unmarked sides.

Do this with the rest of your panels.

Step 7: Done!

Picture of Done!

Lay your completed panels side-by-side, and right side up, and cut slits near the edges for the cable ties. I placed the cable ties close to the bottom and top edges of the screen to keep the entire screen from flopping around. Use more ties for your larger screen. Your cable ties should be tied loosely to allow you to adjust the angle of the screens effortlessly.

Your very own cardboard Shoji Screen is now completed! I placed my Shoji screen in front of my fishtank to capture the light effect in the background. This project took me around 2 hours to complete.

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable, and I would appreciate any feedback and votes. Thanks!


June CeasarS (author)2015-01-15

putang ina ang panget naman neto tang ina ka magbate ka na lang ulul

mommywoman (author)2014-08-25

I really like this a lot. Making it yourself gives you the ability to customize it the way you want it to look vs buying one that looks like everyone elses. Someone suggested you could paint the wrong (ugly) side. I don't know if it makes a difference but you can buy paint specifically for cardboard but I don't know what other colors it comes in beside brown. Regular paint might bubble or wrinkle the top layer of the cardboard unless maybe if you could use it as your base coat/primer. I knew it was bamboo before you ever said it was. I'm definitely going to make this. Great job!

nfire (author)2014-05-06

Looks wonderful! So it's easy to add on a third piece? How do you attach the cable ties?

mynewestproject (author)2012-12-06

Pls don't apologize for your 'bamboo drawing'...I think it looks absolutely fantastic! Your idea is amazing too, I'm definitely going to attempt my own shoji screen

WriterChick (author)2012-10-11

This has just made it into my "To-Do" bookmarks folder. Wonderful 'ible, and thank you!

sunshiine (author)2011-07-18

this is beautiful! Thanks for sharing your hard work and great talent!

anishi (author)2011-07-16

I've been thinking of doing this for forever! i have sparkly tissue (the kind for gifts not the achoo kind) this will really help! domo arigato gozaimasu

jakyo (author)2010-12-02

Great indestructable .You rock.must try this ***** Oh, love your artwork **

Callum Snowden (author)2010-10-31

Lot cheaper than doing it with trellis for the size I want :)

saturdayseller (author)2010-10-28

Just arrived on this site and this project is one to keep me here! I loved these screens but could not bring myself to pay the price! It is lovely! And by the way, I knew it was bamboo! Thank you for your contribution to this awesome site!

Tezcumpapa (author)2010-10-13

You could string some white Christmas lights on the backside for some backlighting.

ChrysN (author)2009-07-25

This is really nice! The bamboo looks great, what do you mean you are no artist.

tonictina (author)ChrysN2009-07-25

Thank you!

dblake862 (author)tonictina2010-09-15

Great info! I like how your screen rooms Florida looks!

h3idi (author)2010-08-16

Refrigerator boxes are EASY to get, just call an appliance store, and ask them if you can get one. I painted one white, with a roller. Easy, awesome, and just used free white latex paint - which you can likely find on some craigslist type site. Dollar store rollers.

reedbabe (author)2010-06-21

You could spray paint the cardboard a shiny black before you assemble and no one would be able to tell it was cardboard.

pomeegranate (author)2010-06-15

this is a great idea! and your drawing is great.

st_gutfree (author)2010-02-09

How would one go about laminating cardboard? Could you take it to a copy store, or to Staples or Office Max?

Anianna (author)st_gutfree2010-03-17

I believe LordMekk is referring to using an adhesive to join two pieces of cardboard for strength. 

A spray adhesive, rubber cement, or a similar adhesive should do the trick.  Avoid water-based glues for something like this because it can weaken and curl the cardboard. 

If you paint the cardboard a gloss black, I bet it would be very hard to tell it is cardboard.  This is a great instructable!

blueangelcat (author)2009-12-24

 I was thinking it would be nice to be covered or painted,decoupage maybe architectural pieces in the corners?(made from air dry clay and mold),maybe leather hinges from scrap leather? I love this idea!I thinking that it might make a nice window screen just have to make it to fit my window since I have a three sided window with seated area and cannot put curtains in it. Thank you for a great instructable!!!

__Master_ (author)2009-11-03

your art is gr8 like amzing better than i can do

JolieK (author)2009-09-18

Nice job. -Don't be silly, your bamboo looks great. Smart project. I wonder if the screens could be made more durable with some waterproofing treatment and liner cardboard for the sides. I'd want it to last a while.

luxus (author)2009-09-09

thank for your great idea, I will will be making this as soon as possible.

mickchick831 (author)2009-09-05

if you were to sand down the edges of the cardboard after cutting you would have a nice finished edge.

laurendavis87 (author)2009-08-20

This is a fantastic idea! I was looking at Shoji Screens and their prices are phenomenal... so glad you have come up with a cheap solution. I was thinking though; if you weren't big on the cardboard look, you could use fabric, or nice wrapping paper (I have found some awesome designs!) to cover the exposed cardboard pieces. All you would need to do is (after cutting out the cardboard, but before gluing on the decorative paper/vellum stuff) lay the cardboard face down on the fabric or paper. Then you would need to cut the fabric in the spaces in the cardboard, leaving an inch or two margin. Then cut diagonal slits in each corner so that the fabric can be folded over to leave a smooth finish on the edge and then be taped to the back of the screen. The same would be done for the outer edges of the frame. Do this for all pieces of the cardboard and you could then proceed to attach the bamboo image as per the rest of your instructions. If fabric is too expensive and you cant find anything but the merry christmas gift wrap, a nice look can be achieved with old printed paper: either newspaper or from books. The brown/yellowed colour (which can be sythasised) has a pleasing aesthetic, especially if you are using the screen to create a reading corner, which is what I shall be doing! anyway, thanks again for the great instructible.

tonictina (author)laurendavis872009-08-30

Excellent idea! Would love to see pictures (or an Instructable) if you do decide to put one of these together.

leepinlarr (author)laurendavis872009-08-21

here is an idea, since the card board look is a problem, check out some of the different texture spray paints at home depot, once you build the frame you could shoot it with texture and color of your choice

eetzel (author)2009-08-28

These are beautiful - after I finish my cat toy, I will will be making this. Thank you for this Instructable.

radiobath (author)2009-08-27

Very cool instructable! I've always loved Shoji screens, but even cheap knock-offs at superstores are still expensive as sin. Though, I don't like the 2D look it has. So, optional decorating idea! Cut thin slits of cardboard and line the sides, top, bottom, and around the screen "windows" to make it look more like carved wood. But, then it might need little feet at the bottom so it doesnt topple over...

BrindaMS (author)2009-08-24

This is cool. I was thinking of buying a screen. Now i will make one :)

bethmwl (author)2009-08-06

Not an artist? I think it's wonderful, better than anything I could do.

adam adkison (author)2009-07-30

your drawings are fine :) Maybe an easier way for non-artists to put patterns on the paper would be to download and print patterns, then paint or marker then onto the paper..

tonictina (author)adam adkison2009-08-02

i will definitely try the tracing method on my next full-size screen. thanks!

LordMekk (author)2009-07-30

To make the Cardboard stronger, you could laminate two pieces of cardboard together. A bigger sheet could be made in the same manner by laminating and overlapping smaller make a bigger sheet like plywood.

tonictina (author)LordMekk2009-08-02

great idea for those of us that can't find large pieces of cardboard. thanks!

tonictina (author)2009-07-28

thx for all the great comments!

SnarflesTheWolf (author)2009-07-26

That's really cool! Great Instructable!

spartana (author)2009-07-25

That looks really cool. We moved about 6 months ago and had tons of boxes, i wish i could have made one then.

Stew2 (author)2009-07-25

Sweet! That looks cool, and I bet with the light coming through it that it looks quite authentic... I have always loved those screens in the movies, wish I had some in my house! :)

bruc33ef (author)2009-07-25

Really ingenious and useful. A great way to repurpose a common, ubiquitous material into something quite special.

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