Introduction: 3D Butterfly Dragonfly Frame - Cut Stencil Art

About: I studied Maths and Computing, worked in an Operation Research department, retrained as a civil engineer, worked on site for some major projects. I'm learning to be a structural engineer at the moment! I've al…

Last year I made my wife a 3D map heart picture frame for valentines ( and wanted to keep a theme going, so decided to make another 3D picture frame this year.

You can make this for yourself or you can make it as a present.

It cost me about £5 to make.

Date Made: Feb 2014
Approx Cost: £5
Approx Time: 2 to 3 hours
Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Step 1: Things You Need

Materials You Need
1. A deep picture frame - I used an ikea ribba frame. £3.50
2. White Paper/Card (A3 ideally)
3. (optional) Coloured Paper/Card (A3 ideally)
4. (optional) Map of personal place (A3 ideally)

Tools You Need
1. Sharp Knife/Scissors
2. A ruler for getting straight cuts (or a guillotine)
3. Printer/Computer

Step 2: Measure Your Frame

If you are using the same ikea frame as me, the dims are
250mm x 250mm = Frame Outside
230mm x 230mm = Background Picture (size of usual picture the frame takes)
215mm x 215mm = Internal Frame Size (working area - size of visible area that will fit inside the void former box)
120mm x 120mm = Mat Board opening (the size of the hole in the frame border)

You need to measure these so that your prints and templates are all the right size.

We will not need the Mat Board for this project, so all you really need are the Background Picture Size, and the Internal Frame Size. 

Step 3: Design Individual Butterfly/Dragonfly Template

You can do this by hand, or you can get a bit more technical.

I wanted to get it right (identical, symmetrical and evenly spaced), so I used Autocad. Autocad allows you to easily move, replicate, scale, mirror and rotate all the lines.

I used two methods to create the individual butterfly and dragonfly templates.

1. The butterflies I did by eye; drawing half of it using polylines then mirrored it.
2. For the dragonfly, I googled for an image, then inserted the image as a background into Autocad. I then effectively traced half of it with a polyline, once again mirroring it to make sure it was symmetrical. Afterwards deleting the original image.

After creating them, I made sure that the lines did not connect as I wanted to end up with the cut lines only - this way my design could be used with an electronic cutter as well as template to be cut by hand.

You could do this in any program such as paintshop etc, it is just that I am familiar with Autocad.

(my Autocad file can be found later on if you wish to use/edit it)

Step 4: Arrange Templates Within Your Work Area

Once you have your individual templates, create a box the size of your background and also the size of your visible area. In my case 230x230 and 215x215 respectively. I also created a kind of 'grid' to help me.

You can arrange your individual templates in any position/orientation/spacing/order. Just replicate, rotate, scale until you are happy with the design.

Just make sure that they fit within your frame working area! 

(my Autocad file can be found later on if you wish to use/edit it)

Step 5: Print/Convert

Make sure that you print to the right scale. Print to PDF to control the size easily. You can check this by measuring the dimensions I have labelled.

I have attached the pdf for my template. This is set up for the ikea frame size, and should be printed on A3.

Print on to paper at 1:1 or 100% scale.

If you are going to use an electronic cutter, convert to the correct file type for your machine.

I have attached the dwg for my template.

Step 6: Cut Design

As I mentioned before, this could be done automatically with an electronic cutter, but for those of us without one, we can follow the template with a sharp knife.

So put your template on top of the white card/paper (best to tape this down so that it doesn't move) then cut through with your knife. Make sure that you have something underneath so you don't damage your worktop!

Make sure that you don't cut too far (joining up the lines) - you don't want to cut out the image, just allow the wings to fold out.

Once you have cut them all, trim the edges to the background size (230x230).

Step 7: Fold Out

Fold out all the wings. Either push from behind or use your knife to prize them open. I used the ruler as a fold guide, to make sure that the cuts didn't split and join each other.

note that in the end I found the best way to use the ruler was actually on its end (pointing to the sky), not as per the photos, as this short length didn't mean that I flattened others during the process.

Step 8: Choose Background

You may want the image to stand out, or you may not. So choose a colour for the background. This can be white if you just want the shadows highlighted or chose a bright colour - its up to you.

Or you could use a map - make it personal - the city you met, the city you live. See my map heart valentines frame instructables for more information on how to obtain maps.

I think I liked the blue best, but went with red, seeing as it's a valentines present.

Which ever you choose, cut it to size; in my case 230x230, and slot behind the cut page..

Step 9: Take Frame Apart

This comes apart in the order of the photo. I will number these as follows (left to right):
Frame including Glass (1), frame void box (2),  mat board (3), picture (4), backing (5)

Step 10: Put Frame Back Together

The frame needs to go back together slightly differently.
So they should end up in this order: 1, 2, 4, 6, 3, 5.

(4 is now your cut picture, and 6 is your background colour sheet)
(You could throw 3 away, but if you hide it at the back, then you can re-use it if you ever decide to put something new in the frame.)

Step 11: Enjoy

Once you're done, put in the frame and give as a present (or hang on your own wall if you like it too much!).

The main change I would make if I did it again is to make the dragonfly halves further apart, as I wanted the body to fold out too, but the body was too close and would have ripped otherwise. This can easily be achieved in Autocad.

I think I would also use a much bigger frame, but leave the design a similar size, so that there was some room between the cuts and the frame, giving it a border, and more space!

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