Introduction: How to Make a Cardboard Stand Up of Someone!

About: I'm an industrial arts major at SFSU with an empahsis in product design. I'm online all the time and I find myself constantly checking out these sites:, wikipedia,,, inst…

So you wanna make a cardboard stand up of someone?

Well with a few hours and a few bucks you can make one.

Now I just have a standup of my brother but imagine all the possibilities. Who will be the first to make a cardboard stand up all the furniture in their friends living room. Take a picture of the living room as is. Remove all furniture. Install cardboard stand ups in their respective places!

There are really two, well maybe three approaches to making a cardboard stand up.

First you can have someone make one for you.

Prices for a 6'4 figure are about $165.00 not including shipping.

A cheaper approach calls for taking the photo and breaking up into desktop printer sized parts.

This would only cost the ink and paper. Ultra cheap if you have a decent printer and can deal with some lines.

I wanted something a little more.
I had a life size photo of my brother printed at Kinkos and I mounted it to the cardboard myself. Cost about 125.00

Keep in mind they charge by the square foot. Smaller person, smaller print cost. Cost to print 6'4 brother came to $110.00 with 10% student discount. About 15.00 for foamcore + gluesticks.

Step 1: Getting Your Image.

Get your hands on the largest megapixel camera you can.
The larger the megapixel the better the printed image will be.

I recommend at least a 7 megapixel camera. They are pretty common now. You can rent a 12 megapixel camera at some camera rental stores.
The next step involves enlarging the photo, a smaller megapixel will give you pixelation and a higher megapixel won't be affected as much.

Picture below is what we want to avoid. This would be a 4 megapixel photo blown up to life size.

Step 2: Isolating Your Image.

A good tip here is to use a background that doesn't have a lot of clutter. Otherwise you will spend a lot more time isolating the image.

Green screens work because you can later remove the green in photoshop or other image manipulating program.

So find a nice wall or use a sheet of material as a background.

Remember you will pay by the square foot. I think but I'm not 100% sure if you leave the background in you will have to pay more.
I deleted the background.

To delete the background use the magic wand tool.
Use the Control button while you click to add patches of the same color and to make it easier :) Lot's of tutorials on the magic wand tool and techniques just google that to get some ideas.

In the images below the first is the original photo. The second is the background removed. The third is the ground added back. Remember if you want to make a cardboard standup you will need a base to hold your figure up. If I were to make another I would fill in the white space between his legs. It makes it look more realistic. Fill it with a neutral color like gray. Gray will tend to blend in with other colors and make it more realistic. Brilliant white just stands out too much on the final stand up.

Step 3: Time to Blow It Up.

Use any photo editing software to blow up your image.

In Photoshop CS I demonstrate how to enlarge the image.

Before you do that I recommend closing all applications.

Blowing up the image to life-size takes some computer resources/memory.

I have a 3ghz + 1 GB memory PC with a nice video card and it took a minute or two. But things stopped moving but it was still "rendering"

Let Photoshop do it's job and take a coffee break.

Step 4: Time to Print

So now in order to print this life size image you will have to find a larger printer.

Kinkos will do jobs up to 36" maybe more, double check ok?

If you have access to a wide format printer you can save $$$ here.

These are what the printers look like.

Anyone know the difference between a plotter and a printer? Is a plotter just simple lines?

Anyhow I went with Kinkos.
Keep in mind there are different print qualities/types.

I printed on glossy paper. You can get different finishes as well as printing on different materials.

They have a nice sample booklet of the different options. Go check it out see what works for you.

Basically I got the glossy photo paper. Very similiar to stuff you buy to print your own photos on. A word of caution here. Any liquids on the finished photo can bleed them. Any sandpaper or rough surface can ruin the image as well. The plus side it's the cheapest at about 7 dollars a square foot.

After you get your printed photo, unravel it, to get the "spring" out of it, unroll it completely and put books on the corners or some other weighted objects. Let it sit over night.

If you have any experience with this and know a better technique please add comments or private mesage me!

Step 5: Mount to Cardboard/foamcore.

I couldn't find any cardboard pieces long enough for this project so I went with foamcore.
Standard foamcore peices are 30" by 40" by 3/16" inch thick.
For a skinnish 6'4 person, 2 peices of foamcore are enough to mount the photo to. However you will need to build structural supports as well as "legs".

I started out by trimming the excess white off the photo. Securing two foamcore peices together from behind with more foamcore I then mounted the image using spray adhesive from 3M called Super 77. A word of caution, although completely convenient to use and cheap I reccomend experimenting with other adhesives. I would try using the Kinkos adhesive backed photo paper. Just peel and stick. I ended up spraying the foamcore with Super 77 all at once. The Super 77 was fast and cheap but no manipulation was possible after the photo made contact with the Super 77 adhesive on the foamcore. Thus I ended up with some bubbles. If you squished the bubbles they made wrinkles.

Step 6: Trimming and Finishing

I originally trimmed the excess white photo paper to about 2 inches from the outline of my brothers photo. After I mounted it I wanted to trim it further.

I found that having a white "outline" around the whole image acted as a highlight. It also added a professional look to it. However I had realized this after a few minutes and didn't have the white outline completely around my brother.

I used a Dremel tool and figured out quickly that the "routing" bit gave a better cut at a certain depth. I made a ghetto routing attachment using pen and tape but my Dremel originally came with a nice routing attachment.

I basically used this set up and cut around the image using about a quarter of an inch white border all the way around. This was with the photo glued to the foamcore. The thicker areas of foamcore that act as the back support were a little tricky to cut. They took more effort and more Dremel power. The thicker areas were more prone to "kick back" or "kick in" as the Dremel tool sometimes wanted to drift into your image! If you turn you Dremel up higher this reducded this some but use strong steady hands to get a better true cut around your image.

Step 7: Finish Up

Clean up all your mess. I personally like the element of surprise, to catch the first responses, to gather first impressions, to see the faces of surprise. Hide your seams :)

Art is the concealment of effort right? Who was quoted as saying that?

I was planning on getting one of those recordable hallmark cards. I wanted to do a fake rap star promotional stand up. Record a song or some lyrics or even a funny phrase that people could push and play. Can add signs on front or add a talk bubble. Lot's of options here.

I'll add a photo of brother next to his cardboard stand in soon. :)