Introduction: DIY Cardboard Super Mario World Question Mark Block Shelf

About: ★ It's what I do. I craft and I know things ★ Autistic/ADHD Self-Taught Artist & Maker ★

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- Thank you for voting! This Instructable won FIRST PRIZE in the 2017 Cardboard Contest! -

In this Instructable, I am here to guide you through how I made a Super Mario World themed shelf entirely out of cardboard for displaying Funko Pops or other collectables. I used cardboard from a shipping box for the main block itself and I used cardstock from microwave popcorn boxes for the layered design on the front and sides. The most expensive items needed for this build are the Command Strips used to adhere it to the wall.

Supplies & Materials:

1. Printed pattern files [Download here:]
2. Regular cardboard from a shipping box
3. Cardstock from cereal boxes or other packaged food (I do not recommend frozen food boxes)
4. Cutting tool - Razor, box cutter, X-acto knife, etc. (I used a box cutter with replaceable blades)
5. Ruler(s)
6. Pencil for transferring design to cardstock
7. Blue painters' tape to hold patterns to cardboard
8. Glue (I used Aleene’s Tacky Glue and Gorilla Wood Glue)
9. Paint - Black, white, yellow, orange, and brown (I had to mix paints for a couple of the colors)
10. Mod Podge or other sealants
11. 3M Command Strips (I used the large plastic velcro type)

Step 1: Print Pattern Files

Super Mario World for SNES is one of my favorite Nintendo games, so I naturally chose this game to get the sprite from. I patterned these out on Google Sheets and then resized them in Photoshop. You could use this Instructable to make a block from any Mario game. I printed each pattern from Photoshop, making sure that each one’s size was 16cm x 16cm, so I used one page per pattern. Printing in color is optional but helpful. You can mix paints to the correct shade by comparing to the printed version. If you print in black and white, you can use the digital copy to compare paint shades.

You should have at least 5 pages, a light gray one that says “Base Side”, a brown one, an orange one, a yellow one, and a black and white question mark one. I usually trim them so there’s less guesswork when placing on cardboard to transfer the design.

To download pattern files, either save the image file to your computer or click here to download the compressed .rar folder containing the pattern files.

Step 2: Harvest Cardboard & Cardstock

I got my cardboard from a Newegg shipping box we recently got computer parts delivered in. Cut along the deep creases in the flaps and you should end up with a good amount of usable cardboard.

The cardstock I use is just flattened out boxes from cereal, popcorn, snack food, etc. I used microwave popcorn boxes for this build. The outside is glossy but the inside is smooth and blank, perfect for a great number of uses. I prefer the 2 largest sides, but the flaps and edges can be used for small things. #ReduceReuseRecycle

Step 3: Make Your Pattern Designs Transferable

DIY pattern transfer using just a pencil or a graphite stick. I’ve been using this method for years to transfer images or designs to most things that can hold a pencil line. The best part is this is that it's usually free, since most already have a pencil or two somewhere in their home. I found a stick of graphite at a craft store that I now use for this transfer method, however, I’ve used regular pencils for years before finding this awesome tool.

Draw in pencil or graphite stick on the opposite side of your printed pattern, following the lines of the design. Make it rather dark, as this is what will be transferred to the cardboard and needs to be seen in order to make good cuts. Holding the patterns up to a window or using a light box can help to make sure you’ve covered all the lines you need. When in doubt, you could always color the whole back with your pencil or graphite stick. This will make a carbon copy without carbon paper.

Step 4: Transfer Base Side Pattern to Cardboard

Use the pattern “Base Side” to make the box sides themselves. We will be making 6 sides, as this is a cube and all sides are the same size. I use blue painters’ tape to stick the pattern to cardboard. It doesn’t stick to the cardboard as much as regular tape, so removing it usually leaves a good looking surface. I used a ruler and a pencil (you could use a wooden pencil, a mechanical pencil, or even a pen) to trace on top of the pattern, directly over the lines I want transferred to the cardboard. To make sure you’ve gone over every line, peel back the corners to check. Remove the pattern and reuse to trace out 6 base side pieces (4 sides, 1 top, and 1 bottom).

Step 5: Cut Out Box Sides

Use your ruler and cutting tool to cut along the 4 main edges of each of the 6 base side pieces. The best cuts are made when your blade is sharp and you don’t press too hard. Press lightly and go over the cut a few times to cut all the way through. Each side should all be the same size, as this will be a cube. Cut out the corners carefully. You should be able to stack the 6 box sides on top of each other and have them be the same. I trimmed the fluffy bits off the edges with a pair of sharp scissors.

Step 6: Cut Notches in Edges

I am a perfectionist and I wanted each side to be the same, so I cut the edges back to a notch to accommodate the thickness of the adjoining side. I worked toward the left and labeled the edge with a letter and matched it to the next edge. I also cut away alternating edges along the top and bottom. We’re making the first 4 sides of the block. The cardboard I used was 4mm thick, so I measured back from the edge 4mm. Don’t assume your cardboard is this thick, you should measure your cardboard to make sure. Lightly cut through the top layer and the wavy corrugated layer using a ruler, leaving the bottom layer intact. Match yours so that you have cut away notched edges where the red arrows are.

Step 7: Glue Sides Together

Match edges A to A, B to B, and so on. I used Gorilla wood glue for this step because I wanted the bond to be incredibly strong. You can use any glue you prefer. Press together so the two pieces make a 90 angle, matching an edge to a notch. You can use Lego blocks and/or a 90-degree triangle to help the edge dry sticking straight up. Smooth out the notched paper edge with your finger to get rid of the bubbles and seeping glue. I added an extra bead of glue on the inside of the corner to strengthen it. Keep gluing the edges like this until you get 4 sides, minus the top and bottom.

Step 8: Glue Top On

By notching the edges on the top and bottom, the top piece can fit into the main body of the cube like a puzzle. Just like when gluing the main body, put glue on the edges and fit together. If anything is misaligned, gently tug to make straight. I used blue painters’ tape to keep the top in place while drying. It did leave the cardboard fuzzy when removed, but it’s not noticeable when it’s painted and finished. Add extra glue in the creases on the inside for added strength.

Step 9: Add Braces & Supports to the Inside [Optional, But Recommended]

The L-shaped braces are 10cm x 2cm, with a scored corner running lengthwise. To get this effect, lightly cut along the line through the top layer and the wavy corrugated area and bend. I also added diagonal supports on the inside of the corners. You do not have to make braces or supports, but it really helps to strengthen the sides since I want to use this as a shelf.

Step 10: Glue Bottom On

I added 2 braces to the inside of the bottom piece. To place the brace in the correct spot on the edge, I used a scrap piece of cardboard measure it out. Glue the bottom on just as you glued the top.

Step 11: Make the Corner Pieces

To attain the pixel look on the corners, I made a grid on thin white cardstock and cut out L shaped 3-pixel pieces.

Step 12: Glue in the Corner Pieces

Take the 3-sided corner pieces and glue them to the cardboard. You will need 3 three-sided pieces per corner, with 8 corners that means you need 24 three-sided pieces total. Legos help hold the pieces in place when setting the glue. Overlap is fine, as you can trim these with either scissors or a sharp blade.

Step 13: Paint Box Black & Seal With Mod Podge

I sealed the cardboard with Mod Podge before I painted it black. You don't need to do this. You can paint the box black first and then seal with Mod Podge. All that matters is that the black paint is sealed in with about 2 coats of Mod Podge. I started at the corners with a smaller brush, and then covered the sides using a larger paint brush.

Step 14: Pattern & Cut Out Cardstock Layers

Similar to how we patterned out the sides of the box, use blue painters' tape to secure design to the cardstock (the cardstock we harvested from popcorn boxes). Use a ruler and a pencil to trace directly on top of the lines you want to be transferred. For the top and bottom of the box, I just used the outline of the bottom colored layer (the brown one). You'll need to make 3 of each pattern, as we'll only cover the front, left, and right with the sprite design. Carefully cut on the lines using a ruler and a sharp blade.

Step 15: Paint Layers

Once you've cut out 3 of each layer pattern, prepare to paint. The largest bottom layer will be a light brown. I tried to match both the digital version of the sprite and the color printed pattern. You may need to mix your paints to get the shade you need. Make sure to get the edges/sides. The middle layer is a sort of orangey yellow, and the top layer is a brighter yellow. The cardstock I used to cover the top and bottom was painted the same color as the top layer, a bright yellow.

Step 16: Glue Layers to Box

This is where the question mark block comes to life. Glue the layers on the front, left, and right sides, starting with the bottom brown layer. Try to line up with the edges nicely. Continue gluing each layer, going from brown to orange to yellow. I coated the entire backside of each piece with glue. Press each piece down and wipe away the excess glue seepage around the edges. Once the sides are done, glue the top and bottom pieces on.

Step 17: Pattern & Cut Out Question Mark & Shine

Just as you did with the colored layer pieces, transfer the design lines of the question mark and the top left shine to cardstock. Only do 3 sets. Cut these pieces out carefully on the lines with a ruler and a cutting blade. I made my question mark 4 pieces of cardstock thick and the shine 2 pieces thick. To do this, glue your question mark to another piece of cardstock (I used the scraps leftover from cutting out the main colored layer pieces. Once the glue is satisfactorily dry, use a razor or cutting blade to cut excess cardboard, staying as close to the top layer's edges as possible. Glue and trim, glue and trim until your question mark is 4 pieces of cardstock thick and your shine is 2 pieces thick.

Step 18: Paint & Glue on the Question Mark & Shine

Paint your question mark and shine pieces white. You may need a few layers for this to look good. You can even add some glow-in-the-dark paint to it so it glows. Make sure you paint the edges too. I sealed the paint with Mod Podge before gluing to the box. Reference the sprite when placing the shine. Each side should look the same now. You can choose to cover the entire box with Mod Podge, varnish, or resin to seal it.

Step 19: Attach to Wall

The backside will be used to attach your question mark block to the wall. I really like to use 3M's Command Strips for these projects, as it's easy and doesn't damage your wall or your project. I used 3 large plastic velcro-type Command Strips, but I may add one more small one if I feel I need it. Follow the instructions on the strips' box.

This shelf won't be able to hold very heavy objects, but it's good for holding Funko Pop vinyl figures, plushies, or other small/light collectibles. It sticks out 16cm from the wall, so make sure it's in an area where you won't be bumping into it.

You can make any sprite into a block shelf with this instructable, you would just need to make the patterns yourself. Have fun! And if you make one, I'd LOVE to see it in the comments! :D

Cardboard Contest 2017

First Prize in the
Cardboard Contest 2017