Introduction: Just Cardboard: the Kraken Artistic Sculpture

Too many materials are needed for creating a "cardboard" sculpture. Glue, tape, sandpaper? I just have leftover cardboard.

In this project, I created an sculpture of an octopus, or, more imaginatively, The Kraken, made entirely out of cardboard.

You can follow my specific directions to create this exact animal or modify some steps to create any animal of your choosing.

In this project, I reference photos to make it easier to understand difficult parts. The photo number, such as photo 3, is understood like reading a book, from left to right, and then top to bottom.


  • Pencil or Pen
  • Utility Knife (preferably, but you can use scissors as a last resort)
  • Cutting Mat (or something to cut on that won't kill your table)
  • Ruler
  • Cardboard
  • Paper

Step 1: Get Kraken

Find pictures of the animal you want to create, such as the octopus above.

Make simple sketches of how you want the individual cardboard pieces to form into your animal, using just a single line to represent a piece of cardboard. Make sure you draw multiple views, including front, side, and top, and any other side that may be important to specific parts of your animal.

Step 2: Draw Away

Plan out the "spine(s)" of your animal. For my octopus, I created four different spines at 45 degree angles from each other. Many vertebrate animals have 2-as many as you want cardboard spines, but I suggest creating more than one spine for structural stability.

First draw one, then use this newly created spine to trace the others.

Cutting the spines out: Before you use one to trace the others, you will need to cut it out with your utility knife. Cut carefully and slowly with a sharp blade, lightly cutting or scoring the cardboard to create a track for your knife to follow. Make many passes with your knife to ensure a clean cut. Remember, cardboard doesn't like to be cut quickly or haphazardly; it's a slow and smooth process.

If a spine varies from the others in size, trace parts of it and then draw the rest.

In this octopus, one of the spines does not have a large, ovular head. I traced the limbs and then drew its head roughly, cutting more than I needed for the spine. (Photo 4)

Step 3: Piecing Together Spines (Select Animals)

Using a ruler, measure from the top to the bottom of your creature in the area you want the spines to converge. If your spines do not converge (as many don't), skip this step. In this octopus, the measurement was eight inches. (Photo 1)

Make sure your other spines are the same height, and cut off any extra. This is where I used the "special spine" for my octopus, to create the rounded shape of the head. (Photo 2)

Create slits half the height of the spine and slightly slimmer than the thickness of cardboard on opposite sides of each piece. (Check Photo 3)

Make sure the two pieces fit together snugly, and do not fall apart. As you can see above, my legs are not at the exact same level, so I shaved off small amounts to level the creature. Most animals/whatever you imagine making will stop here, as they only have two spines converging. If you have more, continue. (Photos 4 and 5)

Take these spines apart, and create two more slits in them on the opposite side as the current slits, half the length of the slits you already made (2 inches in my octopus). (Photo 6)

Make one more slit on the same side as the earlier slits, widening this slit until halfway down it. (Photo 7)

Create a larger slit in the other spines, measuring 3/4 of the height of this spine (should be the same height as the other spines) and two times as wide as the thickness of cardboard. Make this slit on the top of one spine and the bottom of the other.

Fit all spines together, starting with the first two and ending with the recent ones. (Photo 8, only shows three spines together)

Step 4: Connecting Spines

For my octopus, I created small cardboard pieces to connect the spines and keep them at 45 degree angles from one another. I made 4 3x3 inch squares with a 45 degree slit in them, fitted them on my spines, and marked where I needed to cut them. (Photos 1, 2, 3, and 4)

I took them off, and cut along my marks, then refitted them onto my spines. (Photos 5 and 6)

I did this two times, making eight connecters, and made sure to mark/arrange them so that I could remember what goes where. This is very important, as each connecter is specifically cut for one part of the animal. (Photo 7)

I then wanted to shape my octopus's head by pulling together the three spines that make it up. I did this with a single connecter, but found it was a little hard to get on and off. I also had to take apart my animal to make more cuts (see the ones at the back of the head?), which was a little annoying, but will be necessary later. Try your own way, or stick to this. (Photos 8, 9, and 10)

Overall, I made nine dividers/connectors to keep the spines in line, but you can make as many as you want, to make your animal more detailed or strong. I put the animal back together to see if everything worked, but you will have to take it apart again in the next step. (Photos 11, 12, and 13)

Step 5: Detail!

First, I created eyes for my octopus using circles half cut through with slits, fitted onto a spine. If you didn't put everything together last step, you can do this part with your animal apart. Just create 2-however many you want circles with slits running halfway through them to define the eyes of your animal. (Photo 1)

Next, and you do have to have your animal apart for this, cut slits the thickness of cardboard halfway through the tentacle parts of the spine. adding detail like this will greatly contribute to your animal's escape from the two dimensional plane. Cut as many of these as you want, just don't go too crazy as you will have to create and cut many pieces of cardboard fitting into each of these slits. (Photo 2)

Mark both edges of a tentacle at a slit (make sure you know where and which one it is) and the farthest point into the slit (pretty much the middle of the tentacle, if you did the last part right) on a piece of cardboard. Draw a circle the diameter of the tentacle, using the two spots you just marked, with a radial line leading from your middle mark to the side. (Photos 3 and 4)

Cut this out, making a slit on the radius you drew, and make sure it fits into the slit on the tentacle. Repeat this for all other slits. (Photos 5 and 6)

Step 6: Final Exam (Exclude the Exam Part)

Reassemble, make sure it looks good, and display it! (Photos 7 and 8)

Cardboard Speed Challenge

Participated in the
Cardboard Speed Challenge