Introduction: Skin a 123D Make Project

123D Make is rather awesome, I agree. The projects created with this process are truly amazing. For this project however, I set out with to see if I could develop a low cost method for enclosing 123D sculptures in a paper skin - to literally take 123D Make to the next level visually. 3d models are texture mapped, why not 123D make? To begin, I researched paper sculpture, "how to make a lampshade", among other things and eventually came to look closer at the amazing work of renowned Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi and his "Akira Light Sculptures". In particular, be sure to watch this very informative video of "The Making of Akira Light Sculptures". The processes I've adapted here for this instructable are directly inspired by the techniques shown in this video.

A quick note on the hand. This is the left hand of a two handed sculpture - you can read more about the lineage and meaning of the making of the "Taliban Hands" here on my website, as well, I posted some time ago an instructable on the making of the first sculptures from these hands in 2011.

Ok, lets get started...

Step 1: Materials

•123D Make sculpture from posterboard (you can likely use cardboard but I wouldn't recommend it, you will see why as things go...)

•Roll of white "Mulberry Paper", this I picked up at the local art supply store. Rice paper or similar will likely do fine. You could likely use other decorative papers, colored or patterned, you may need to test your paper to be sure it works with the techniques used for this project.

•PVA PH Neutral Glue (for bookbinding and paper projects), for this project I used one and started in on a second 4 ounce bottle. You could likely us straight up Elmer's White Glue if you prefer.

•Spray bottle or mister.

•Xacto knife with #4 blades and scissors


•Wide flat brush, what I used was a 3" Gesso Brush

•1" soft bristle brush

•1/4" brush for gluing (cheap utility brushes work fine for this).

•Heat gun or blow dryer (not pictured)

Step 2: Create Your Sculpture in 123D Make

Using 123D Make, I created a project from 3D data of the left hand. 123D Make can work with any 3D file you either have made, scanned using 123D Catch or downloaded from a site such as Turbosquid. If you are using this program for the first time, I'd suggest keeping it simple. A hand such as this one is likely one of the more difficult objects one can choose to create with the program - it is of course possible, just takes a bit of time and patience to do so. Anyway, I cut the form using a laser cutter out of two sheets of 20x30" posterboard. Be very careful that when you create your diagrams for cutting, you compensate for the width of the material - the default is set in 123D Make for standard cardboard which is quite a bit thicker than the posterboard I used for this project. I didn't want to use cardboard as I was not sure it would hold up well to the use of water necessary to make the skin.

One thing to note, as I was planning on covering these hands, I was not too worried about the red colored areas that are defined in 123D Make, areas that would cause connecting problems on assembly. I simply cut any offending pieces in two and put them in place, using hot glue to secure - as all would be eventually covered by the skin these glued areas would not be visible in the finished work.

Step 3: Laying on the Skin...

Be sure and watch the Noguchi techniques as shown in the video I linked earlier before proceeding. The main difference between the Noguchi technique and mine, is that my shape is not symmetrical, therefor I could not use large pieces of paper to quickly cover large areas of the sculpture as in the video. Due to the complexity of my form, and in order to have a smooth skin of paper, I cut smaller sections, generally strips or small shapes of paper to roughly fit the areas to be covered as I went.

I started with the center of the hand.

1) Cut a piece of paper to fit over a chosen area, leave some overlap, you will trim or tuck this in while gluing.

2) Use the small, 1/4 inch brush to apply the PVA glue to the edges of the sculpture, only brushing this upon the area for a given piece of paper that has already been cut. Be generous with the glue as you want it to soak through the paper where it meets the surface of the 123D structure.

3) Use the 3" brush and your fingers to gently push the paper into full contact with the glued edges. Get the paper to be as tight as possible over the area being covered and secured to the glue. If need be, feel free to brush on to the paper some more glue directly.

4) Use your spray bottle to dampen the piece of paper you just glued down. Move it around and stretched it a bit, very carefully, if you have any dramatic depressions from the moisture.

5) Finally, using the heat gun or blow dryer, blow over the area you just made moist until dry. The paper will shrink while drying thus creating a tight skin. You will see in the Noguchi video, they use a lightbulb heated cabinet for this step, you could do this but I think this would rely upon the entire piece being damp - the complexity of my sculptural shape and the time necessary to cover the piece translated to the heat gun/blow dryer approach.

6) Once dry, trim any large bits of excess paper overhanging the next empty section - you can also do some of this when you first glue on the paper using either the xacto knife or the scissors.

6) Repeat again and again, overlaying the next piece by 1/8" to 1/4" over the last section, until you have covered the entire piece!

A word of caution, this 16" long hand took approximately 7 hours to fully cover, plus the 3+ hours to assemble the hand - this is a slow but very rewarding process. Have fun!