Introduction: Glowing Miyazaki Fandom Cube

About: In which I turn the thoughts from my head into objects in my hands

My love for Studio Ghibli films knows no bounds. Hayao Miyazaki's retirement could hardly be met with more tears that the amount that flowed from my eyes when I found out, and scarcely can anyone refute my love for Miyazaki films once they've seen the amount of homemade Studio Ghibli... stuff... inhabiting only 70% of my room.

All right; admittedly, no tears leaked from my eyes when I found out, though I was heartbroken to hear, and 70% of my room is inhabited by my bed, desk and books instead, as is fitting for college students. But this hardly demotes my fondness for Miyazaki films! They've captivated me ever since I watched my first, Spirited Away, during second grade. Inspired by another project I was working on, (will show if I get permission) I decided to dedicate a project to my appreciation for Miyazaki films; specifically, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Spirited Away (considering making another cube for four more.. TBD). If any or all of these don't ring a bell, I suggest you drop whatever you're doing and watch it/them. Immediately.

I'm only half-joking.

This was originally an idea I played around with for the Fandom Contest a while ago, but things picked up as they always do so I never got a chance to see this to completion. I had been feeling down recently (sigh..) so I picked a project to splurge time on. Seeing the result has cheered me up, and hopefully it might cheer you up as well. (Plus I'm really proud of the circuit I came up with; simple, removable battery, no soldering--what could get better?).

If you like this instructable (congrats if you finish reading this; took quite the while to write, plus my laptop crashed only, you know, three times during the process), I'd really appreciate your vote in the contests I've entered this in!

Step 1: Materials

  • cardstock
  • software (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.)
  • electronic cutter (Cricut, Silhouette, etc.) or X-acto
  • LED
  • electrical wire (pliable)
  • coin battery (CR2032)
  • tape
  • clear polyester sheets (not very necessary, but give a nice glassy look
  • opaque paper (I used architectural drafting vellum since it diffuses light very well)
  • origami paper (for tinting the light)

Step 2: Files

Here are the completed files of the vector art I prepared for this project. These have been prepped and ready to go for you, but the next steps go over how I made them so you can customize your own. Each design required a different thought-process, so you can use that knowledge to design your own.

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Step 3: Howl's Moving Castle (Illustrator)

Of all the Studio Ghibli films, Howl's Moving Castle is my second favorite, after Spirited Away. I loved Calcifer's sass and Howl's gradual maturation throughout the movie, and the original book by Diana Wynne Jones was great too.

See the pictures above for step-by-step instructions of how I created the silhouette in Adobe Illustrator.

Step 4: Kiki's Delivery Service: Part 1 (Illustrator)

Kiki's Delivery Service is another fond favorite of mine; the characters were sweet and the gradual maturation of Kiki was just as great as Howl's (though more so, since, you know, this was a bildungsroman..). This one required a longer process from original picture to vector image, so follow the notes of the pictures above for instructions!

Step 5: Kiki's Delivery Service: Part 2 (Photoshop)

I had to use some functionalities from photoshop to complete this, so see the pictures above on how.

Step 6: Kiki's Delivery Service: Part 3 (Illustrator)

Aaannddd back to illustrator to transform everything back into vector art! See notes in pictures above.

Step 7: Princess Mononoke: Part 1 (Illustrator)

What kind of tribute to Studio Ghibli doesn't include the classic Princess Mononoke? Although it is more violent and gory compared to other very children-friendly Miyazaki films, I found the message behind the movie extremely touching and profound in its environmental conflict.

Anyhow, like the Kiki image it takes a bit more work.. illustrator and photoshop.. See the pictures above for notes on the illustrator part.

Step 8: Princess Mononoke: Part 2 (photoshop)

The photoshop bits are quick; just see the notes above.

Step 9: Spirited Away: Part 1 (illustrator)

And last but definitely not least, my favorite Miyazaki film of all time: SPIRITED AWAY. I just love how this movie spirited me away on an adventure of a lifetime, following the tale of a brave young girl who rose above her disadvantaged state. Plus c'mon, who can resist a powerful river spirit whose form is an awesome DRAGON (whose fur is coincidentally close to my favorite shade of blue, I might add)?

Up first are the illustrator bits, with step-by-step instructions in the pictures above.

Step 10: Spirited Away: Part 2 (photoshop)

Photoshop bits explained in the pictures above..

I'm only showing the process for the four Miyazaki film faces and not my two additional ones because I forgot to take pictures. I encourage you to come up with your own custom images yourself. ^^

Step 11: Cube Units

Now that you have your finished images, you just have to cut them out after sizing them for your cube. But first you have to make the cube in order to properly size them so that the cut outs fit within the cube face and have access to the light..

I used a simple origami design here for the base cube. Follow that instructables' step-by-step instructions, or take a gander at my rushed (sorry) images above. It requires only 12 units, so it should be too bad even for beginners at origami. I HIGHLY suggest using stiff paper for this base; it will really improve how sturdy your cube feels. I used 180lb paper, which was tough on the fingers but produced very satisfying results.

Paper tip: The paper I used was super thick (180lb is no joke) so folding origami using that was quite difficult. My tip for this is to line a ruler up against the line you want to fold along (so yes, this means that you need to draw out all the lines; fold a test unit to see where lines go before using a ruler to mark them out on all your paper). It does become quite time consuming, but hey--perfection or not? You'll also need to trim the edge a bit (see last picture above) because the thickness of the paper is such that you can't neglect it when you insert the tabs together.

Step 12: LED Circuit and Cube Assembly

The LED's are powered by a contact switch, so basically the coin battery rolls between two wires to complete the circuit or open the circuit. To do this, I customized two units to accommodate the battery and the wires; see the images above on how I did it.

Afterward, I put together the rest of the cube starting from the two units I used for the wiring. Only when the cube was finished did I add the LED, but it doesn't matter if you add the LED before finishing the cube. Just make sure when you add the LED that you connect the leads in the correct orientation (i.e. positive and negative poles of the battery are connected to the positive and negative poles of the LED). Slip the battery into the little slot you made for it and roll it in between the two hidden wires in the pocket. Then arrange your LED poles so that it lights up before soldering or just twisting in place. I actually ended up putting two LEDs in parallel for additional brightness, but up to you. To further diffuse light, I also ended up wrapping a thin piece of tissue around the lights.

Step 13: Prepping Cube Faces

Now that your cube is finished, measure the inner square (so the window in the cube) and take that as your maximum size for your cutout. Add about 1 inch to those dimensions to get your final face dimension (so you have 0.5" border for gluing). You can now use those dimensions to properly size your image and... CUT.

For those who are cutting your images using an Xacto knife or something: I wish you the best of luck. May luck fare you well.

For those who have it easy and have access to electronic cutters, do whatever your machine requires to cut your designs. In my case, I have a handy Cricut Explore to do this leg work.

To diffuse my LED, I used cheap drafting vellum for its opaque white color. I paired it with clear acetate sheets to get a finished, glassy look, and for the Miyazaki film faces, I used corresponding colors of origami paper to "tint" the acetate the right shade (so the blue Spirited Away face would have a blue tint, etc). All of these layers were centered around the face cutout and taped down. (yes, TAPE because glue will leave a residue on the acetate.)

I ended up cutting 90 stars and gluing them to the border since it looked too barren, but up to you of course.

Step 14: Gluing

To finish up everything, apply glue along the border of the square window of each face and press down a corresponding cube face. Put a textbook on top (look at that; my 1223 page organic chemistry book is finally being useful) and let the glue set for a good 10 minutes before continuing for the rest of the faces. You can save time by doing both top and bottom face at the same time, since the book can hold down two faces (so glue on one face, flip the cube over and glue another face directly opposite of the first, then add your textbook.

Voila; a cute cube to cheer you up. I hope you enjoyed this, and feel free to ask for clarification in the comments.

Papercraft Contest 2015

Participated in the
Papercraft Contest 2015

Epilog Contest VII

Participated in the
Epilog Contest VII

Make It Glow! Contest

Participated in the
Make It Glow! Contest