Clone Your Friends Faces on Cardboard Boxes ! (Cardboard Boxes Characters)

Introduction: Clone Your Friends Faces on Cardboard Boxes ! (Cardboard Boxes Characters)

I used to live in a shopping street in the heart of Lille, France, where retailers threw away their cardboard boxes every Thursday at the end of the day. The street was full of those trash until the next early morning with garbage men passing by.
One day I decided to take advantage of this ephemeral trash that was part of our usual environment and try to intrigue passersby on their daily routine back home. The idea was to paint little faces on boxes all along the entire street, making ephemeral public art.

On the same idea, I did again this project for my little sister's birthday party, where I painted the faces of her and her friends on cardboard boxes we had home. They were much excited to recognised themselves on the boxes. In the end, some of the boxes have been attacked by darts, others have been brought back home by their face owner.


- Cardboard boxes

- Black paint

- Adobe Illustrator

- Cardboard (again!) or thick paper

- Access to a printer or a laser cutter

Step 1: Choose Your Pictures

First of all, you need to pick some pictures to make the face on the boxes. After multiple tests, I found that baby/kids' faces are easier to work with because the eyes are often wider, which makes the look on the box more recognisable and also more sensible. Also, it is better to have quite contrasted pictures, with a white spark in the eye, it will help to define better the shape of our final unicolor vectorized face.

If so, you could also take photos of your sister/brother's fellows, just follow the step above for the photos to get a good vectorized result afterwards. Just check your lighting to be sure to get the little spark in the eye.

I mostly used happy faces because I think it's more communicative to have a smiling face but it can also be fun to have different emotion faces, like thoughtful, curious or anger looks. From that, you can create lot of different situations with those charaters.

Step 2: Vectorize the Pictures

After picking some pictures, let's vectorized them with Adobe Illustrator to obtain one unique color which will be the stencil for your painting.

Open your picture in Illustrator (step 1). Select your picture, then open the "Image Trace" tab (step 2 & 3). In the Presets, pick "Sketch Art" (step 4). After that, depending on the picture, you have to play with the "Threshold" to adjust the whites and blacks to define the better the shape of the face (step 5). If you want a sharper result, play around with the Advanced setting (Paths, Corners, Noise).

Once you're there, you just need to remove the outline of the face to only keep the eyes/nose/mouth, depending on what you want to keep. To do so, you first need to "Expand" your vectorization (step 6). It makes the whole vector explode in multiple vectorized shapes (step 7). Then, remove the non desired vectors with the "Direct Selection Tool" (A) (step 8). You could also adjust a shape with the "Eraser Tool" (Shift+E).

At this point, to finalise your vector, make sure that all void (white) parts are connected each other in order to not have any falling part after the cut (step 9).

Then, export your file in .jpeg/.pdf if you plan to print it or in .ai if laser cutting is the next step for you (or .dxf/.dwg).

I included some examples/samples below (.ai) if you want to check in detail the final result I got.

Alright, you now got your picture ready to be cut !

Step 3: Cutting the Vectorized Face (printing/laser Cutting)

Two possibilities for you at this point : printing and cutting it by hand, or laser cutting it.


Well, it is pretty basic, just print the vectorized face you have made and cut the black part of your vector. You may use a thicker paper than regular one to keep the little details of your vector once painted. You could also trace the vector to cut it on the cardboard you have in extra.

Laser cutting

Well, also pretty basic here, depending on your laser cutter, just import the .ai file you just made in your cutting software. The first time I have made it, I haven't been smart enough to think to use cardboard that I found in the street to make the stencil. I used scrap old wood sheets from past projects, so it's still "okay" but it would have been more complete if I took advantage of the cardboard found in the street as you may do.

You will find below some .ai that I have made if you want to give it a try first :)

Step 4: Get Your Boxes and Paint Them All !

Well, once you're done with the stencil, you just have to find cardboard boxes in the street, in your garage, anywhere where a cardboard box might stand alone by itself :'( Give it a second life ! If you can have different scales of boxes, it makes them more personnalized, with stronger characters. But from my experience of the birthday party, bear in mind that wider boxes might be quickly smashed while smaller boxes might be kept more preciously.

Step 5: Play Around !

From this, you can stage your boxes to make different situations involving your different little face characters. If you try it in your shopping street, enjoy watching the faces of people passing by, it can be funny how surprised they are sometimes. I even had one person taking one little face box. Have fun !

Just a little thing to add, if you do that in the public places like the shopping street, please, don't make a mess with cardboard boxes. I mean by that don't make a box of every cardboard box stacked by the stores because you have to keep in mind that in the next early morning garbage men will pick up that trash and unfold ALL boxes does not help them at all. Make some of them boxes, the rest can stay unfolded with faces painted, it also works. Hopefully you might get a smile out of the garbage men (but you have to wake up early to know that !).

And finally, I hope you understood well my english, I am not a native english speaker :)

Cheers guys !

Cardboard Speed Challenge

Participated in the
Cardboard Speed Challenge

Be the First to Share


    • Anything Goes Contest

      Anything Goes Contest



    2 years ago

    Clever and fun, nicely done! : )