Introduction: Introduction to Low-poly Papercraft

About: I am a queer, transgender, nonbinary, and mixed-race picture book writer/illustrator. As a young person, I didn’t have the words to explain the big feelings I had about my identity and relationships. It is so …


  • Paper
  • Printer
  • Glue/tape
  • Scissors/Exacto knife
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Software: Tinkercad (online) and 123d Make (free download)

Someone on Reddit posted a question about how to make low poly papercrafts. Their example was of a mountain range. For the purposes of this Instructable, I'm going with super simple everyday materials and free, simple to use software. This is a very basic prototype that shows technique and took me about an hour total from 3d modeling to final product.

I began by designing my mountain range in Tinkercad. Just overlay shapes on top of eachother. Make sure the bottom is flat. Scale shapes to add texture. I'm using a mixture of cones, half-spheres, and roofs from Tinkercad's geometric shapes section.

When you're finished modelling, go to design>download for 3d printing>.STL. Open 123d Make and import model. Choose size of your model and your paper size. Make sure you select the construction method as "folded panels". Choose your preferred joint type. I went with tongue for now instead of adding in my own tabs just because the tabs make it a little easier to see where to fold and glue when you're making a prototype. Reduce the vertex count! The more vertices, the more time it's going to take. When you're finished, click "get plans", click the page icon, and at the bottom of the screen print or save as a PDF if you plan on using this as is, rather than going into Illustrator to fine tune. For this prototype, I printed as is.

Step 1: Putting Together the Physical Model

Print and cut out your paper model. I left extra room around the tabs, but I should have left a lot more room around them to make it easier to glue and leave fewer gaps. fold along all the dotted lines in both directions and match up the tabs.

Start putting it together with the printed side inward. After you have a sense of how it should be assembled, go ahead and glue or tape. I dabbed just a tiny bit of tacky glue on the tabs using another small piece of paper to spread the glue evenly. You don't need to overdo it with the glue because a little goes a long way. Make your way slowly around the piece. Pinch the seams at the tabs gently for a moment before moving on to the next one.

When you've got everything put together, you're all done with your prototype! At this point, were I to make a new version of this project, I would make larger/better tabs for connecting the pieces, I would split up the model into more pieces and scale it up, and I would change the way the bottom adheres to the mountains. I would also make my mountain range more complex.

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