Introduction: TinyCade - the Tiny Cardboard Arcade

Have you ever wanted to own your own tiny, cardboard arcade, filled with plenty of games that you can easily switch between? We have just the thing for you.

How does it work?

The tiny DIY Arcade works through your phone camera. As you move the arcade controls, they move small markers on the back that the camera can recognize. The marker's movement is then reflected off of mirrors into the camera lens, and your phone takes in that data as input to run the arcade game.

DISCLAIMER: As you build the arcade, some measurements might be slightly off, due to the imprecise measuring and cuts from human hands. If this happens, use common sense and adjust the measurements to fit as needed please.


  • Cardboard - At least 4 square feet
  • A working smartphone. This project is modeled after an iPhone 12, but it can be easily scaled up or down if your phone is a different size
  • 2 small craft mirrors. In this example we use 6" by 6" mirrors, but any size within a few inches should work. You can find some at a local craft or hardware store, or online. You just need to be able to see the entire control panel from the perspective of the phone camera.

Tools needed:

  • Hot glue gun. You can also use tape but hot glue works much better
  • Exact-o knife. For cutting the cardboard
  • Cutting mat
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Printer

Step 1: Print Out the Template

Download the template file from the JPEGs here in the instructable, and print it out using your printer.

Instructables was giving errors with attached PDFs so we had to upload it through JPEGs, sorry!

Step 2: Cut Out the Template

Once you have printed the template out, cut out the separate pieces using scissors.

Keep the paper templates as a reference. It will help you keep track of which piece is which, it also has guides for where to place the mirrors

Step 3: Attach the Cutouts to the Cardboard

Use some double sided tape, regular tape, or glue, to attach the paper cutouts to your cardboard. Make sure to pay attention to how many of each piece you need, and allow yourself enough cardboard to comfortably cut out each piece.

Step 4: Cut Out the Cardboard

Once you have all your template pieces cut out, get your exact-o knife and cutting mat and start to cut out your cardboard pieces. Again, make sure you cut out the right number of pieces and keep track of which is which.

It can help to copy the letter labels (A,B,C, etc) onto the cardboard once it is cut out.

Step 5: Assemble the Mirrors

This step is fairly straightforward. You need to glue the mirrors onto their support piece. (The piece label is 'I'). Set these aside for later. Once your box is assembled you will be able to easily slide these pieces in and out.

Step 6: Assemble the 2 Large Side Pieces

Now we will start our assembly for the box.

Take the 2 large side pieces, and also grab the 2 sets of support pieces. One set should be labeled 'J' and the other 'K'.

It helps to trace the template onto both side pieces. This way you can be accurate with your placement of the support pieces.

Following the placement guide on the paper template, glue in the hooked 'K' piece and the lower 'J' piece onto each large side piece. You should end up with 2 mirrored side pieces once you're done.

Step 7: Assemble the Control Panel Placement

You should have 3 pieces labeled F, F2, and F3. These are all a part of what will become the control panel.

For now, grab the F and F2 pieces and glue them together as seen in the images above. These are what will hold the F3 piece after your control panel is assembled.

Set the F3 piece aside for later, you will use this to create a control panel in another instructable. [insert link here]

Step 8: Assemble the Box (quick Note)

Before you begine assembling the box, it's important to pay attention to how it gets assembled. All the middle pieces should be glued IN-BETWEEN the 2 side pieces, not on top of them. Overall, this makes it easier for you to assemble the box.

Step 9: Assemble the Box

Following the paper template guide, start to glue on each piece in order.

We like to start with one big side piece and glue the other smaller pieces on top of it, ending the construction by placing the other big side piece on top of everything.

Make sure that you are paying attention to the labels and gluing each piece on in the correct place.

Once the glue is all dry, you should have the frame for your Tinycade constructed. Congratulations!

Step 10: Insert the Mirrors

For the final step, insert your two mirror placements into your Tinycade. The paper template has visuals for where the mirrors should go. If you measured and cut correctly, the mirrors should slide in snugly and sit right on top of the supports.

Step 11: Finished!

You should have your arcade cabinet all assembled now!

If you are missing a game and a control panel, check out our website to get links to those!

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