Introduction: Handmade Custom Shaped Gift Box Series: Beginner - Tri-Fold Box

About: I've been an artist all my life. Probably nothing I couldn't accomplish according to my grade school teachers who said "I would make a perfect student if I would just stop drawing all the time". I'm …

When I saw the paper contest pop up, I was like hmmmm I’ve got a slew of paper projects worth sharing. I’ve ended up spending the time, since it posted, searching through my archives looking for something fun. I found a bunch. But I’ve settle on these handmade custom shaped gift boxes that anyone can make. In some ways they are similar to Instructable’s Robot & Christmas Ornament challenges.

I'll be posting each shape as series of separate Instructables, One for each design I have. A Triangular box (Tri-Fold), 3 Sided Pyramid box, 4 Sided Pyramid box, Pentagon box, Hexagon box, the Challenging Rhombicuboctahedron box, and lastly the Insane Flip box (really this one will drive you insane, it did me, but I'm feeling much better now). I'm not even going to picture it just yet for fear of scaring everyone. These are all sized to do on a 8.5” x 11” paper, with the exception of the last two which is on legal size. Of course if you have access to a larger format printer you can do them even big if you so choose. You can do on regular paper stock but I prefer doing these on card stock for better stability.

It really depends on what end result you desire. Regular paper stock is easier to cut and fold and a quicker turn around, but flimsy for any kind of a sturdy box. Paper Stock much more durable an steady when folded and glued properly, which will last longer. But can be more difficult cutting down and frustrating getting accurate folds.

Depending on your presentation you can do digital artwork or pretty much any kind of art supplies to decorate your boxes either as an art project for your kids, or participants to do, or whatever you find that’ll work best for your finished intended use.

If I were to use a rating system for complexity and patience level it would be as follows:
Beginner Tri-Fold Box:

  • Complexity Factor 1
  • Patience Level 1



  • Digital Templates (See attached)
  • Card Stock or Paper
  • X-acto knife
  • Metal Ruler or straight edge
  • Cutting board
  • Glue Stick or Double Sided Tape
  • Burnisher (optional)
  • Random Art Supplies (your options)
  • Computer
  • Laser or Ink jet Printer

Step 1: PRACTICE - Print Blank Copy First

PRACTICE... I recommend when doing any new design to just print it out on plain paper and practice your cuts and folds. By doing this, you'll have a better understanding on how the box actually folds up and joins together.

Now anyone can do a boring standard cube square box, but what’s memorable about that? So I’ve got many different shapes for custom boxes. Keep in mind the more number to the sides to a box design, the more complicated the work. So for an instructional introduction the triangle design (Tri-Fold) is a good beginners box. Fewer cuts and folds.

  1. Print out die on paper stock.
  2. You can just use scissors to cut out the shape. Be careful to not cut past the edges into the box.
  3. With box completely cut, review which side you want to make your folds.
  4. Fold along dotted creased lines, just keep in mind fold all creased lines in the same direction.
  5. Do all folds, be sure to make folds all the way flat. Not just partially.
  6. With all the folds made slowly close up. Putting tape or your choice for securing the shape. In this design only two spots are needed to secure the shape.
  7. If unsure hold in position and review your folds.
  8. Finished box

You can do your artwork one of two ways.

Conventional Method 1. Open the Triangle box design (Tri-Fold PDF at the end of this Instructable) and print out a blank to your printer just like you did for practice. Cut fold and decorate. Or decorate, cut and fold. (Which might be easier if you aren’t computer savvy).

Also Cricut™ fans can go nuts with these as well.

Digital Method 2. Open file in Adobe Illustrator or place the .PDF into your favorite design program and then populate or create your art or design in place under the template shape.

Step 2: Conventional - Print Die Template, Cut, Fold, Decorate & Assemble

After doing your practice box, Open and print the template onto card stock (or paper). NOW STOP!

At this point you have a decision to make. Depending on what art supplies you are going to use, you may want to decorate the box now before cutting and folding. Or you might prefer to finish the box then decorate.


Crayons, Crepe paper, Markers, Construction paper, (Dreaded Glitter, ugh please don’t) Spray glue, or any other art medium you desire. I would however recommend NO water colors or water base paints as the card stock will more than likely warp, making it difficult to create an acceptable looking finished box. Unless of course your looking for a soggy warped look, then go for it.

Step 3: Digital - Print Die Template, Cut, Fold, & Assemble

Using your favorite computer program create and decorate your design how ever you choose. Now, if you’ve never done box design work before, here are a couple pointers to keep in mind. It might be worth taking your practice sheet and pencil out your design then fold to see how it will look. Sometimes what you think is right, isn't always the case.

You’ll want to make sure any words or images are oriented in the right direction for when the box is finally assembled. For example my original design with my Lion Den’s logo would have been a natural triangular shape to fit in to the triangle area. But when the box sits down or stands up, as the case maybe, the Lion head will be upside down. So I rotated the head to be opposite of the triangle shape itself. You'll notice that I angled or rotated my Tiger art so the when the box sits down the face is right side up.

Make sure you include some bleed. Bleed is a term where color or art runs past the cut edges so no white ends up showing when finally cut an assembled. Plus try not to put color or images on the glue flaps. This isn’t necessarily a problem on handmade projects or with this type of card stock but leaving these areas color or art free will help when glued/taped together.

If your computer program has the capability of layers put them to use by placing your box template on the top layer. Lock it down and then do your design underneath it on another layer. When happy with design print on paper again and do another quick cut and test fold to check orientation of design for desired effect.

Step 4: Final Production - Print, Cut, Folds & Tape

Print out however many copies of your box you need and begin the final production. Note: How in the first picture card stock can have a tendency to curl. Best remedy for this is to flip over and lay face down so the curl or bow is sticking up. Place several large books or something similar on top to flatten back out. I find if you leave overnight or a day, the curl will be gone for the most part. At least enough to not cause any aggravation when moving to the next step.

Start cutting out and folding your final design. Take extra care to keep the visible surfaces free from scratches that can be caused by your knife, scissors and metal rulers. At this point taking a little extra time and care will net you better finished results.

Option: Another trick before cutting out your design cover with a sheet of clear contact paper. Depending on what kind you use it can give it a glossy look and protect your art at the same time.

As you did in practice, cut along the solid lines. I usually like to cut all my printed boxes out first before going to folding.

Before folding its time to crease, score or burnish your fold lines. In my pictures I've featured various implements that can be used for this process. Metal burnisher, Wood burnisher, Ball point pen, a hand held scoring utensil with rotary blade. Heck you can even use a butter knife if all else is unavailable. Flip box over and line up a straight edge along where the creases need to be. Using your straight edge run your burnisher of choice along the edge. Again take your time. It's important to apply enough pressure to indent the stock but not cut through. This process helps makes the folds easier and the box to assemble properly.

Tip: Even with out the art being visible its pretty obvious where fold need to be. Typically from point to point. If however your unsure, flip back over and taking your xacto knife make a small tick in the paper where its to crease. Then when you flip back over you'll have a reference where to line up your straight edge.

After all your burnished edges are done start folding along your scored edges. On most of these boxes the folds are going to upward when art is facing down. Plus the folds are typically 90° when folding a box, but with this Tri-Box design to achieve the triangular shape folds are going to be a bit more extreme on the long corners.

Again with your printed design face down. The two large triangular faces will be 90° at the base. Fold all the glue flaps upward.

Fold the box into proper position.

Step 5: Final Assembly - Glue or Tape

Another Choice to make:

• White Glue can be messy if not properly applied. To little and it won’t hold up, Too much and you’ll have a mess.

• Glue Stick works great for paper versions. But can be difficult to get the two sides pressed together to hold.

• Hot Glue is great for card stock. But again can be can be messy. Keep in mind a little goes along way.

• Regular Tape can be effective but tricky to apply. You have to apply on the the inside tuck flaps for the best look. Putting invisible scotch tape on the outside edges can work but can make for a less than attractive look.

• Double side tape gives you the best of both in my opinion. You can pre-cut and pre-apply the tape where you want a secure edge. There is a down side to this as well though. If your not careful you can end up with edges not quite plum or make your folds uneven. So again take your time lining up your edges.

So again it comes down to your preference.

BONUS TIP!!: I hope you save all those free advertising magnets you get on phone books, mailers, etc.

They make perfect closure sets. Their low magnetism is just enough to stick together and you can cut them down to whatever size you need. Double sided tap on the printed side and stick to the flap you want make closed. Then another portion on the opposite flap.

Step 6: Finished Boxes & Other Designs

Attached I've include an Adobe Illustrator CC file. And a PDF as well. Set up for letter size output.

If I were to use a rating system for complexity and patience level it would be as follows:

Beginner Tri-Fold Box:

  • Complexity Factor 1
  • Patience Level 1

This design makes for great gift boxes especially when you want to mark an event, occasion, or make a gift a little more memorable.

I’ve been doing custom boxes for several years. Some more complicated than others. But all with a special design to promote an event or mark and occasion. I hope this helps to inspire you to make your own.

As you can see the Tiger Tri-Fold Boxes will be a big surprise for my Tiger Scouts.

This concludes the beginner Tri-Fold Box.

Next Box: The 3 Sided Pyramid. Be patient. I'll start working on it as soon as I can.

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