Picture of Fine Art from Cardboard
I've been watching the 123DMake software and output for a while - seeing all the cool cardboard, wood, and plastic structures other folks have made was inspiring.   I wondered if I couldn't use that technique as a starting point for a "fine art" piece - or - a less expensive way to make a large-scale rapid prototype (although now having gone through the process, the word "rapid" doesn't really apply - lol).  I decided to do a "proof of concept piece" to see if it was a viable technique - and to see just how much work would be involved.

I picked a model that would be pretty challenging (all curves) but not ridiculously complex.  There are limits as to how delicate your details can be and still come through on the "printed" core - but adding details would be easy later on in the process.  It is a great way to obtain the overall structure of a piece.


Even though it's dramatically less expensive than having a rapid prototype printed (3D print), it's still not terribly cheap.  I got 40% off on my laser cutting and it still cost $115 for the service.  You *could* cut out all of the pieces yourself, but I'm in favor of retaining all the sanity I can - lol.  Once everything is added up, you could be looking at a few hundred dollars once you add in filler, primer, paint, sandpaper, glue, etc.  The price will be dependent on the size and complexity of your project (you pay by the linear inch of cut for the laser cutting service as well as materials) and whether you decide to go for less expensive materials (paints, primers, etc).


Cardboard "core" sculpture
Body Filler (I used the Evercoat brand as it's the smoothest I found)
Plastic spatulas (some way to spread and mix the body filler)
Glue (I used yellow glue because it allows for some movement as you place layers of cardboard)
Weights (some way to clamp the layers as they dry)
A few pins (used to align the layers with each other)
Sandpaper (I didn't use very much, really - maybe a sheet of each - 80, 150, 220, 320, 600 grits)
Primer (a good quality FILLER primer - I used a catalyzed filler primer by Keystone - #8882)
Paint (if you want it - could be rattle can paint - or something more exotic)
Sureform or Rasps (used to shape the rough filler)
Misc (this is the catch-all category - tape, drop-cloths, etc)
1-40 of 52Next »
dominus31 made it!10 months ago

Hi Jwilliamsen

Again me. I use different method remove material/sand. Unfortunately 123D Make it horrible for making that type work.

It makes sections/layers with lacks of material >>


IMG_0145.JPGsculpture C.JPGSculpture D.JPGweet sanding.JPG
jwilliamsen (author)  dominus319 months ago
Hi Dominus,

It looks like you used wood - very interesting :) Also, the thickness of the material must have been slightly more than the cardboard I used - the model looks a *little* taller than mine.

The technique is not really ideal for high-precision work. You are correct in that stacking cardboard requires a lot of filling and sanding. The good part about this technique is that you can make a large model for not a lot of money. Printing this with a more accurate 3D printer would be very expensive - at least for now. I'm hoping that in the future, printing large models will be more economical as I have a lot of models I'd like to print :)

Thanks for sharing your work - it looks good!

jwilliamsen (author) 1 year ago

Hi tonioram,

I just downloaded, extracted, and opened the file in both 123DMake V1.1 and V1.4 without a problem (Windows 7 64-bit on PC). What I would try first is to re-download the file and see if you still have the problem. If you do, I would then try to find an example 3dmk file and see if you can open it. Not trying to insult you, but you did extract the file from the ZIP first, right?

tonioram1 year ago

I get an error open the .3dmk file.

"Sorry, the application could not open the file because it is not valid 3dmk file."

How can I open the file in 123D Make?

Thanks in advance.

Great instructable!. Will use these tips in the future. Thanks :0)
roballoba1 year ago
very cool.
orQ2 years ago
dermord2 years ago
can you explain more of what did you use on step 3? I dont know if in my country have that.
jwilliamsen (author)  dermord2 years ago
Evercoat is a brand of plastic "body filler" sometimes referred to in generic terms as "Bondo" (the first company to produce talcum and polyester filler). "Body filler" or "body plastic" consists of a powder suspended in a polyester resin and has a paste-like consistency. Once mixed with a catalyst or "hardener" you will have about 5-7 minutes of working time (depending on how warm it is) before it starts to firm up and is too stiff to spread. Body filler should be available at any store that sells car body repair supplies. There are several brands available in the US that vary in quality and workability, and in this case I found that the Evercoat brand seemed to be the easiest to work with and sand.

I hope that answers your question - if not - just clarify what part is confusing and I'll answer what I can ;)
I knew a guy how used it to fix a radiator leak. just forma a golfball sized glob of it and pressed it into place over the hole. It worked until he sold the car a couple of years later.
it´s like putty/mastic?
jwilliamsen (author)  dermord2 years ago
Not really. Putty would be too difficult to work with, and mastic is more of an adhesive. Body Plastic is designed to fill, be easy to feather, and easy to finish. Here is a YouTube video of someone applying body plastic to a car body : Applying Body Filler
just want you to let you know* xD
thanks I was investigating the body filler online and look at these page: http://www.secondchancegarage.com/public/555.cfm
it says these: "Mixing the filler on cardboard isn't a great idea, since the paper itself will absorb some of the styrene solvent and upset the chemistry. Also, the styrene will release any trapped chemicals in the cardboard, so unless you know precisely where the material came from and how it was handled, use a sheet of glass or plastic or freezer paper."
just one you to let you know hehehe thanks for the help! I´ll seek alternative
dermord dermord2 years ago
by the way, excellent job!!! it´s awesome!
jwilliamsen (author)  dermord2 years ago
Thanks :)
Helder4u2 years ago
Very pretty. Inspiring.
valveman2 years ago
Wow what a great job. It looks Art Studio quality. Congratulations on such a great project!
bayleenator2 years ago
I don't think the back can bend that way... But the piece is beautiful, just makes me a little uncomfortable to look at because it makes me feel like my back is breaking..
jwilliamsen (author)  bayleenator2 years ago
Ah, never underestimate what the human body is capable of. You might want to check out the Ross Sisters to see some stuff that will make you rethink the term "flexibility": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1J3NLNWAPU
JennJenn1052 years ago
All I can say is WOW! Very impressive! Bravo!
lhsk8r2 years ago
Very appropriate...
mcooper172 years ago
iMPRESSIVE, and BeautifulMike
Joe_Maker2 years ago
Beautiful work! I look forward to adopting this process for some of my own creations.
8steve882 years ago
Thank you for posting this. Absolutely brilliant and using pearl paint was a genius thing to do.
ghazal12 years ago
Just wow... I couldn't even do the first step. And i find myself kinda talented...
quietlynx2 years ago
crispycat2 years ago
now if you wanted a real challange how about making a multi part mould (similar to how you did in your tablet stand instructable) from this and then pulling a carbon fiber copy of this model out of it ;)
jwilliamsen (author)  crispycat2 years ago
Now THAT would be a challenge of both skill and sanity - lol.
KentM2 years ago
Beautifully done and a very artistic representation. I could easily see a bronze casting of this piece being sold in an art gallery. Thanks to your instructable I'm inspired to learn more about 3D modeling and laser cutting and would love to try it myself.

The variety of your interests and ability to turn out such an impressive body of work is fascinating to me. I envy your talent.
bajablue KentM2 years ago
lol... I was thinking rubber... as in "inflatable". ;-)
inspirational, I want to have a go. Great instructions too. I should share this with the art department.
JMorton32 years ago
Is it possible to export the profiles as a series of jpg files, or as a PDF file?
jwilliamsen (author)  JMorton32 years ago
Yes - you can export from 123DMake in either EPS or PDF formats.
ianmi2 years ago
Brilliant work, have you got the files or templates for the cardboard design?
jwilliamsen (author)  ianmi2 years ago
The 123DMake file is attached - you can produce export templates from there ;)
bennay2 years ago
also is this torso taken from your other instructable "from 3D to reality-making a resin sculpture from a CG character"? it looks very similar, with the position of one leg changed, and some detail removed..... that was an inspiring instructable too :)
jwilliamsen (author)  bennay2 years ago
You know, I thought I had the model, but I think I tossed it. It was a quick extraction from another rigged model and more of a test than anything else. I also thought I had the template files, but I apparently tossed those as well - sorry.

This torso model is actually from a different character - the proportions are a little less.... epic ;)
1-40 of 52Next »