Introduction: Magic Folding Photo Cube

Picture of Magic Folding Photo Cube

Like probably every other mother my mum loves getting photos for Christmas, but in my opinion normal photo cubes or books are a bit boring.

Being fascinated by instructable member golics "Unbelievable! White Or Black. Crazy Paper Cube", I had the idea of combining it with photos. The pictures work as hinges, so that you can unfold more of them on the inside of the cube.

Every year we are celebrating Christmas with my whole family (including cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents). My mum organizes everything, so I took photos from last year, to thank her for that.

To get a better idea, have a look at the video:

Step 1: Stuff You Need

Picture of Stuff You Need
  • 8 wooden cubes (best is a side length between 3 and 4 cm)
  • Printer
  • Box cutter
  • Ruler

Step 2: Select the Pictures

Picture of Select the Pictures

First you will have to find pictures that you would like to use, you need eight square ones of the length of two cubes and two images of the length of four cubes and the height of two. If you want you can put text on it, so that it tells a story.
Print them onto Self-Adhesive Film and cut them to the right size.

Step 3: Outside of the Cube

Picture of Outside of the Cube

We are going to start with the outside of the cube. You will need 6 of the square photos. The second image shows, how to cut the pictures for the top, front and right side (cut along the green lines and fold along the blue lines). After you are done cutting stick them onto the cube.
Now turn the cube so that the front is in the back and the top in the bottom. Cut the pictures for the back, left and bottom as shown in the fourth picture and stick them on the cube.

Step 4: Inside of the Cube

Picture of Inside of the Cube

Place the cube, so that the top is on the top again and open it as shown in the first picture.
For the middle you will need a picture that has length of 4 cubes and the height of two. Cut it and fold it as shown it in the second picture and stick it onto the cubes.
Open the cube as shown in the third picture, cut your second big picture as shown in the fourth image. Open it up in the middle again, cut a smaller image as shown in the fifth picture and stick it on the cube. Turn the cube around and stick the last picture on the cube.

Congratulations, you've made it. Please, don't forget to comment, rate and vote.

Step 5: My Try With Tape (by Mastover)

Picture of My Try With Tape (by Mastover)

I have given this a try myself using tape and 3m 77 spray adhesive.  I found it does in fact work, but there are a few issues you need to watch out for.  Here in the States you can find the 3m 77 spray at just about any hardware store e.g. Home Depot or Lowes.  I used packing tape that I purchased at Walmart and blocks I found at Hobby Lobby.  I've included pictures of each. 

I began by finding pictures I wanted to use and put them into photoshop to resize to the exact size of the blocks and printed them on photopaper.  I planned to simply cover each picture with the tape then cut them out leaving a sealed picture.  Well, here is where I found my first issue.  The tape isn't wide enough to cover the full picture.  I had to decide how the picture would need to be cut then make the first cut followed by covering the halves with tape.  This was more of a pain, but worked fine.

My biggest issue with using the spray glue was that it is a contact cement.  You spray it on the block then spray the back of the picture and let both sides dry.  Once you are ready, you put the picture on the block and its stuck permanently.  It works great, but if you did like I did and spray all sides of the blocks first, you will have issues when trying to line up the blocks and attach the pictures.  You see if a block touches another block that has been sprayed, they too will be permanently bonded.  You have to use something in between such as tinfoil as I did.  (See the picture using-tin-foil below) It works, but you have to be Very careful.

Also, I would HIGHLY recommend if you go this route that you purchase a good cutting system.  I tried to use a razor knife and a straightedge, but the packing tape is very tough.  I had many issues with my straight-edge slipping causing the pictures to not fit the blocks correctly (see the pictures below).  When I try this again, I'll get an X-acto razor paper trimmer from Staples which costs about $15.  That way you get perfect cuts that will fit your blocks perfectly.

One last word of advice.  The photopaper with tape covering it is tough.  Before you would give this away you need to play with it a bunch of times to get the creases set between the blocks or the whole cube wants to unfold.  Just squeeze it hard and use it and you will find it works great.

I've included the following pictures that I hope explain further what I did.


ChakkaS (author)2017-02-13

Hi, I made the cube and each side is 5cm x 5cm. I would like to know where can i size images to the cube side size online and where can i print them

BrittLiv (author)ChakkaS2017-02-14

I am sorry, I don't know. I printed them at home and sized them in Word, as far as I remember,

kedwards0107 made it! (author)2016-01-16

I made one with barrel hinges instead of tape for a more sturdy and steampunk feel. You can see it in action on my youtube video:

lauren.yoona (author)2013-03-09

I'm making this in photography class, and i plan on connecting the blocks with clear packing tape, and then printing the photos on decal paper, putting it on the tape, and then spraying with a clear sealer

amenhotep4 (author)2010-12-30

My favourite cheaper laminating method, which should work well for this type of project, is xyron makes rolls of adhesive laminating plastic called "clear laminate roll" (it's like clear contact paper, but stickier, shinier and protects better) you can get in 12 or 18" widths, if memory serves...
You have to be really good about it not sticking to itself and the bubble, but it's a lot cheaper than the sheets and gives a really nice presentation. Waterproof too. (I started using it on recipe cards when I figured that one out!)
Love the spray adhesive idea, too!

BrittLiv (author)amenhotep42010-12-31

Sounds a bit tricky, but interesting. I will try it when I have some time, thx.

mastover (author)2010-12-16

The 3m spray is a great idea. I've used it before and it usually works like a charm. I was thinking of a way to protect the pictures. How about printing the pictures on inkjet paper, but before cutting them out and spraying the back with 3m, cover the front (the picture side) using wide clear packing tape? Then cut out the pictures. I've done it before when making small decals. The link below is of some tape I've used that is 2" wide. Should more than cover the pictures as my blocks are 1.25"x1.25"x1.25". It's like a poor-mans laminating method. Just a though.

Soose (author)mastover2010-12-20

I have a laminator.

And I have different sizes of adhesive printing paper. (Avery printable labels.)

But I have no time to get the adhesive-backed laminating pouches. (Not sure how much they cost either.)

I am wondering if this will work: First, I can print the photos on the adhesive Avery labels, then laminate those printed labels in a pouch, then try to cut off the back part of the laminating pouch by slitting it at the edges. (The 3mil laminating pouches are inexpensive and on hand; I'm not worried about wasting them.)

Here is another option that might help someone who doesn't have a laminator. Before I had a laminator, years ago, I used to use Clear Contact Paper to "laminate" many papers and prints. I think in this project I would apply it to the whole photo before cutting the seams and trimming to size with an X-acto knife.

But for this project, I really like the packing tape idea. Simple. I never thought of that before. Since this seems simple compared to the laminating pouch-adhesive label process, I am going to try it first.

[Hope this is not a repeat. I thought I'd commented a couple of days ago but don't see this idea anywhere. Maybe I forgot to post it.]

Soose (author)Soose2010-12-23

What results are others having?

We did try applying the boxtape to laminate the little pieces of prints. It's just tedious because each little square has to be trimmed afterward, but does give good results. So I thought it would be so much easier to laminate my whole printout at once.

Before, I had wondered if I could "...print the photos on the adhesive Avery labels, then laminate those printed labels in a pouch..."

I experimented with this briefly tonight. Took a scrap of adhesive label (Avery 8165) and a scrap of a 3 mil laminating pouch. Cut a piece of the laminate (only one side of the pouch) which was smaller than the label, placed it inside the margins of the label and ran it through the laminator, plastic side up. Worked fine. I suppose there is an inside and outside of the pouch; they felt different to me and I made sure it was oriented correctly.

[Note: I feel sure the one-sided laminating method would work on my regular 24lb printer paper -- or card stock-- just as it did with labels. I'm not sure what would happen though if the laminating plastic were left bigger than the paper -- not going to risk the machine roller.]

Voila -- a laminated adhesive label. Afterwards, I cut the label with an xacto knife and applied it to a test cube.

Issues to work out:
1) I am not sure if the adhesive on my labels will be strong enough to make a really good long term bond with the wood. The spray adhesive might be a better option. (But maybe my scrap was old and the adhesive weak.)

2) We're finding it's better to pre-crease the laminated prints at the "hinges" before applying to the wood. With the backing paper on the Avery labels, once the prints are laminated, it's hard to get an accurate crease. (The backing paper is thicker and bunches up.) But we can't really crease the labels after the backing paper is removed, it all sticks together. So it seems easier to work with laminated paper than to work with laminated adhesive labels.

I'm wondering if it would yield better results to apply printed adhesive labels to the cube, which would be thinner and easier to work with, and then use the box tape to laminate the sides of the cube -- once the cube is constructed.

We'll keep experimenting... I should probably try the spray adhesive. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

BrittLiv (author)Soose2010-12-24

Hi, I finally got around to try laminating the photos, but apparently they were to thick, so that the cube didn't close properly any more. The idea with the one sided laminating paper is good, I will try that, as soon as I'm back home.

Mastover used spray adhesive, he says, that the bond is really good, but it hard to get a good result, because once applied you can't move the photos any more, so you will have to get it right the first time.
My bond between the wooden cubes and the adhesive isn't to good as well, but I haven't had any problem so far (you can easily fix the corners with glue if they don't stick properly).

Mastover is doing exactly your final suggestion, we will see how it goes for him.

Please keep informing me, I'm sure, that we will find the perfect way and please show me a picture of your final result.

Soose (author)BrittLiv2010-12-24

BrittLiv, obviously your original technique gives excellent results.

I wonder if we should follow your method and then simply use a spray protectant instead of trying to make this laminated. Or as I suggested, use your original method and then use something like boxtape after the cube is finished to protect the photos.

We can always resort to that if these other methods fail. First we'll try what is on hand.

Soose (author)Soose2010-12-25

Reporting on results. We forged ahead with the one-side-laminated adhesive labels.

On one inch cubes, the adhesive just did not stick well enough. Probably, as BrittLiv said, these cubes are just too small to give a good sticking surface. Maybe my stock is old; maybe it was affected by the heat in the laminator. (But the leftover edges of the adhesive seem to work fine as normal stickers onto paper.)

Maybe the cubes I got need prepping more to give a good gluing surface. (Warning, the cubes we bought are not SQUARE or dimensionally accurate. We played with them to find an arrangement that would make a good cube. Maybe more critical with the small cubes.)

My son was making this cube; it was late Christmas Eve and he resorted to a LOT of box tape to hold it together. The resulting photo cube was then really too thick to totally close when sitting alone.

If using box tape to such an extent, we might as well have skipped the laminating phase. And it would help to plan the box tape usage a little more, with any adjoining sides all taped in one pass. I'm sure he has several layers of tape on some of the sides.

So really, a good adhesive and the right size cube is important. He's going to make another and I'm sure it'll turn out better. I'll make a larger one. (But there is a charm in the small one, too. :) )

Having said all of that, the cube was a smash hit! :) The effort was appreciated and the whole concept is great, the photos of his cube mean a lot to both the giver and recipient. :) The theme is box art from computer games they've played through the last decade.

Thanks again for the idea and great instructable! :)

BrittLiv (author)Soose2010-12-30

Hi, thanks a lot for the pictures and documenting your efforts! I'm glad, that it turned out so good in the end!

mastover (author)Soose2010-12-21


I've used the clear contact paper to laminate in the past too. It works great, but could get pricey. I found that for small things like this, the good packing tape works just as well (just don't use the cheap stuff as it's not really clear, it can be a bit opaque), and is less than 1/10 the price. I'm giving this a shot by printing the photos on photo-paper, laminating using the tape (tape will work as the hinge portion as well) and using the 3m spray to make them stick to the wood blocks (I already had some from a previous project). I did a test with regular paper on to the wood and it stuck like magic, but it also soaked through the regular paper. That is why I'm going to try it with photopaper. I'm hoping as it's thicker it will not allow the spray to soak through. I'll find out tonight. If it still soaks through, I'll use the tape on BOTH sides of the photopaper, then it should work fine as the spray can't go through the tape.

BrittLiv (author)mastover2010-12-16

this sound really good, if you try it please tell me how it goes!

sdudley (author)2010-12-11

If any of you are still looking for a way to stick your photos, here are two suggestions:

1) Use adhesive-backed laminating paper (need a laminator). I use it all the time for all kinds of projects. It's awesome because not only do you get a great adhesive bond, but the laminate protects your original photo from fingerprints, etc.

2) Try sticky dots.  Below is a link to buy sheets of it.  The sheet of paper is covered with little glue dots.  You simply place the picture or item on the sheet, then peel it away.  The glue dots will stick to the back of your photo turning it into a sticker.  I personally have not used it but I understand it works great.

BrittLiv (author)sdudley2010-12-11

Thanks a lot, I really like your first suggestion, but how well can you bend it?

sdudley (author)BrittLiv2010-12-11

The laminating pouches I buy are 3 mils thick (.076mm) and are very flexible. I make a lot of projects out of PVC pipe and will use the sticky-backed laminate to make labels to go around the PVC pipes. Other than that, I am not really sure of any other examples to give you of how well they bend.

To show you how nice they can make your printed images look I am attaching a picture of a couple mini-arcade game cabinets I made using the laminates to make the decals.

I designed the artwork in my layout software, printed it to standard white paper and laminated it with the adhesive-backed laminate. Then I cut them out and applied like I would any other sticker.

They look great and are somewhat scratch resistant too. So if you have projects that will be used by kids they will hold up quite nicely.

I typically use the glossy laminate, but they make a matt finish also in case you don't want it to shine.

sdudley (author)sdudley2010-12-11

By the way...

I think the laminates would work extremely well for a project such as this photo cube because people are always touching it and you'll never have to worry about the oil from the fingers messing up the photos.

sdudley (author)sdudley2010-12-11

Ok, I am really sorry to keep adding more comments (forgive me).

I originally misunderstood what you meant by "bend". After looking further at your instructable and the comments I realized you were asking if the laminate is foldable.

So... to find out, I printed a picture and laminated it. Then I folded it back on itself it to see how well it works. Attached is a photo showing three images. The top image is one side, the middle image shows the fold and the bottom image is the other side.

I hope this answers your question.

BrittLiv (author)sdudley2010-12-11

Oh wow, thanks a lot for your help! If it's ok by you I would like to add your suggestion to the instructable.

sdudley (author)BrittLiv2010-12-12

Sure thing. Remember, the drawback to this idea is you will need a lamintor. As for me I own one that I bought years ago for a project. I have since used it for all kinds of projects.

If you are a hobbiest who likes to mess around with crafts and such, a laminator just seems to be a perfect addition to the toolset.

Soose (author)sdudley2010-12-24

I have seen my Scotch laminator around for under $20 nowadays, and the 3mil pouches to fit regular 8.5x11" are available at Sam's Club 200/$20 range, so about 10 cents US / page.

babyruthless (author)sdudley2010-12-20

I love those little games! How cute!

Soose (author)2010-12-23

Another issue unrelated to the adhesive labels is the size of the prints versus the size of the cubes. (One inch cubes from Hobby Lobby.) My exact prints are turning out to be a little larger than the cubes so of course it interferes with adjoining sides. Plus, I'm getting a little kerf at the hinges, which is making the problem worse.

(This is just a test using fast draft photos on regular xerox paper, and double-sided tape applied to the cubes.)

We'd already decided to use a sharpie pen on the edges/seams before assembly in case the prints were not quite big enough. I think we'll do that and intentionally make the prints smaller than the blocks.

We would like to get more professional results. Any advice? Thanks.

BrittLiv (author)Soose2010-12-24

Hi, thanks a lot for your efforts, in my experience one inch cubes are pretty small, bigger cubes will give you a better result. The sharper your cube edges are, the smaller your kerf is going to be. But if they are too sharp they might tear the paper, just try to find a good balance.
So the problem is that you can't print it to the correct size? What program are you using? I've printed them a bit bigger and then used a box cutter, to cut them to the correct size.
I think using a sharpie pen is a good idea.

Soose (author)BrittLiv2010-12-24

Thanks, BrittLiv. I bought cubes at Hobby Lobby and they were pretty sold out; I do have some larger 1.5" AND 1.25" cubes. I was just using the 1" as a sacrificial test case. More cubes to waste. Homemade cubes are not a good option on Christmas Eve! And the grain in these is better than scrapsI have on hand.

My printouts are from Photoshop at 300dpi. So the photos are 600dpix600dpi. I made a template which can be scaled up. We spent a lot of time editing our photos. I just printed FastDraft on regular paper to play with it.

I would prefer to "trim" in Photoshop for these images, then print as close to the right size as we can, rather than printing a bigger image and trimming to fit cubes. But it would be better to print a tad smaller and let the sharpie fill in edges than have the photos too big and interfering with the cube operation.

So it's the wooden cubes that are not exactly to size -- when going to the final product we will try to make sure they match. I knew better than to assume the cubes were exactly 1 inch -- just chose to ignore that for this quick test as we iron out the bugs.

Soose (author)2010-12-20

We are going to try to make some of these for Christmas presents. I bought cubes and we are getting excited about content! :)

Has anyone made a TEMPLATE of some type? (To fit the photos to the right size before printing on the adhesive paper?) We want to make several cubes, and I want to make it easy for my teen and myself to just pick photos, paste them in, and print personalized photos for each recipient.

So maybe, a template in a Photoshop or other graphics program, or in something like MSWord? Seems I downloaded and used a passport photo template in Photoshop which had the masks already sized and made, so the photos came out exactly the right size when I printed.

If anyone has a template, please let us know. Thanks!

the poodleo (author)2010-12-18

where ca you get the cubes?

BrittLiv (author)the poodleo2010-12-18

I've ordered mine online, just search for "wooden cubes"

zwebbo (author)2010-12-17

ich baue den Würfel schon seit geraumer Zeit, cool das es noch Jemanden gibt der den Würfel kennt und schätzt ;-)
Sag mal, wie hast du das mit dem Kleber gelöst? Was genau benutzt du da?
Ich klebe erst mit Ductabe den Würfel und dann klebe ich darüber Papier um dieses anschließend zu bemalen. Sieht auch nicht schlecht aus (ist jetzt nicht gerade das beste Bild, war ein Prototyp von dem Würfel).
Geile Idee mit den Bilder, hatte ich auch schon überlegt aber bin leider am "kleber Problem gescheitert"
Frohes Fest und guten Rutsch!

BrittLiv (author)zwebbo2010-12-17

Hi, sehr cool, dein Pirat hat mich auf die Idee gebracht daraus eine Schatzkarte zu machen... Ich habe bedruckbare Klebefolie benutzt. In den Kommentaren wird empfohlen selbstklebende Laminierfolien für Fotos zu verwenden, ich werde das im Laufe der nächsten Tage mal testen. Ich halte es für eine sehr gute Idee, um die Fotos zusätzlich zu schützen. Frohe Weihnachten und einen guten Rutsch!

AlpineButterfly (author)2010-12-13

Awesome instructable!! I've been wanting to make one of these for a while now... I have the blocks... now I've got the motivation, thank you!!!

BrittLiv (author)AlpineButterfly2010-12-16

you are welcome, please show me some pictures of your result!

mastover (author)2010-12-16

I have one of these cubes on my desk which I received in a class. It's covered with lessons from the class. I hadn't thought about making one myself, but it's a great idea...I'll be buying wooden cubes at lunchtime today. Your pictures from a German Christmas sure bring back memories for me of living in Stuttgart many years ago. Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea. Frohe Weihnachten!!!

BrittLiv (author)mastover2010-12-16

Please tell me how it goes and post some pictures. Frohe Weihnachten! Schön mal etwas Deutsches auf Instructables zu hören!

idesignstuff (author)2010-12-16

Hey guys, I was just going to suggest 3M super 77 spray adhesive.
1)Spray the blocks, let em dry.
2)Spray the back of the photos(with or without lamination), let em dry.
3)Stick them together.

Super 77 is amazingly strong and flexible. Good for folding joints, textiles, whatever.

I am so going to try this 'structable! thanks!

BrittLiv (author)idesignstuff2010-12-16

very interesting thanks a lot, I think in this case laminating is better, else the paper might tear pretty easily. Please tell me how it goes!

k452938994 (author)2010-12-16

Wow awesome! And you explain all the instructions so clearly.. I'm gonna try to make one :D!

BrittLiv (author)k4529389942010-12-16

thanks a lot, if you do please post some pictures!

profpat (author)2010-12-16

yes, me too! we are going to make one too!

BrittLiv (author)profpat2010-12-16

please tell me how it goes, especially if you encounter any problems.

unklstuart (author)2010-12-10

Anyone come up with a source for the Self-Adhesive film? Also, I was thinking of sticking the picture on the blocks first and then cutting, bad idea?

BrittLiv (author)unklstuart2010-12-10

Hi, have a look here, it's better to first cut the pictures and than sticking them on, else you might damage the picture on the other side. An other idea is to put all your images into one picture and let a copy shop print it as a sticky poster.

unklstuart (author)BrittLiv2010-12-11

Thanks, that looks like it will work. It's interesting that the company's name is Coastal Business Supply and they are based in Missouri.

ZackBlack (author)2010-12-10

What exactly is "Self-Adhesive Film" and where does one acquire it?

BrittLiv (author)ZackBlack2010-12-10

I hope I translated it right, I meant blank stickers on which you can print. I bought them online.

ZackBlack (author)BrittLiv2010-12-10

Ok so basically a large sheet of sticky backed paper correct?

BrittLiv (author)ZackBlack2010-12-10

Hi, I just searched for "baked paper" and couldn't find anything. It's not really paper, else it would tear pretty easily. (author)2010-12-10

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About This Instructable




Bio: Hi, my name is Britt Michelsen, I'm a Chemical Engineer especially interested in Computational Fluid Dynamics. To balance all the theoretical work I like ... More »
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