In this instructable you will learn everything from editing 3d computer models into flat nets, to creating your own finished paper sculpture.
I love using paper for drawing, making pop up cards, models, paper aeroplanes and origami… so why not use it for making beautiful 3d scale models of anything you desire! Paper models can be quite time consuming depending on their complexity, and making one requires lots of patience and fiddley-ness. I have had lots of fun making paper models and they create stunning pieces to display around your home, so let’s jump right in.
You will need
A pair of scissors – The sharper the better, I prefer using a longer pair with a big handle, they’re easier to control.
A printer – Nothing fancy just something that prints things onto paper.
Paper! – This will differ on your model size and complexity. For bigger and simpler models, go for thicker card (between 200-300gsm). For complex and smaller models, use standard card (120-200gsm). I would not recommend using thin paper as the model will be flimsy and weak.
Pepakura Designer – Unfortunately this program is not free to download but I would very much recommend you to buy it it’s great for everything papercraft.
Meshlab – This is free software used for converting the model into low polygonal shapes which we can use.
Glue – I used PVA glue in a little dispenser bottle but you can use any other craft glue on the market. Do not use superglue, it doesn’t need to be that strong and it’s expensive.
Acrylic Spray Paint – You will need these if you intend to colour your model (if you do not already have coloured card). Water based paints could deform and weaken the final structure of the model so stay away from these.
When choosing a model you intend to make, try to keep it
simple. Objects with thin long sections are very hard to recreate using nets (e.g. whiskers or very thin tails). Rounder, more curved models work best and retain their shape the most. The example I will be making along the way will be an African elephant, it has a perfect mixture of large rounded edges with a few complex areas like the trunk, tail and tusks.
To find the base model you would like to begin with, look for it on Thingiverse, this is a site which contains thousands of free downloadable models used mostly for 3D printing. When you find your model you need to download it as a “.stl” file.
Instructable member ‘krummrey’ has made a brilliant
instructable for this stage of the build; check out their instructable here for a more detailed explanation if you need, but I will go through the basics here...
Open Meshlab and import your chosen model by going to file>Import Mesh> and opening the .stl file. The new file should appear in the centre of the screen.Now go to the filters menu, to ‘Remeshing, Simplification and Construction’ and select ‘Quadric edge collapse decimation’. A new window will open displaying your face count and other options. Your face count is the current amount of flat surfaces that make up your model and the quantity usually relates to quality of model. We now want to turn the face count to anywhere between 200-500 faces, select ‘preserve topology’ and click apply. Unfortunately Meshlab has no ‘undo’ button so you may need to import the mesh again if you overshoot with the amount of faces you choose. Your aim is to have a comfortable number of faces whilst still keeping the rough shape of the model. Here you will choose how detailed your model will become (over 500 faces will be a nightmare to cut out of paper so don’t make your model too detailed).
Your model should now have a low polygonal style and will look the way it will when it is finished. You can now export the file into ‘.obj’ format; this is a format which can be opened in Pepakura designer.