Introduction: Welcome to the Jungle- Elephant Head Papercraft

About: Welcome to Verticees Papercraft. I am specialized in paper model design. You can view all my work at my website:, or at my Etsy shop, Thanks for viewing!

The elephant is a very elegant and majestic creature, despite of its massive size. Unfortunately, many elephants are illegally poached for ivory. Thus, I designed this papercraft in tribute to the endangered elephants. This beautiful paper craft of the largest living land mammal is a great addition to anyone's room. The elephant is around 25 inches long from head to trunk (when printed on letter sized paper).

I just released a new variation of this design with a raised trunk! Check it out here:


Original Version:

The PDF Pack contains:

  • 1 A4 Sized Elephant Head Papercraft Template
  • 1 Letter Sized Elephant Head Papercraft Template

Step 1: Stuff You'll Need

There are three ESSENTIAL elements to this project:

  • Glue: I'm using Aleene's Quick Dry Tacky Glue, which bonds pieces of paper together in around 30 seconds. However, any tacky glue will be fine, but don't try to use a glue stick. It will leave a sticky mess on your hands which will get on the paper whenever you handle it.
  • Paper: Good quality cardstock is also a must. I'm using acid and lignin free cardstock from Michaels. It has a 65lb or 176g/m^2 weight. For those of you who are thinking of using copy paper, it's not going to work. You are welcome to try it, but I can assure you that you will be disappointed, or left with a very flimsy elephant.
  • Scissors or Knife: I personally prefer to use my stainless steel scissors for cutting out the pieces. If you choose to use an X-acto knife, you'll need a ruler to make sure all the cuts are straight.

While those are the essentials, here are some optional, but very helpful items:

  • Ruler and Scoring Tool: To make folds neat and clean, I highly advise the use of a ruler and scoring tool. The scoring tool I used is a mechanical pencil WITHOUT ANY LEAD. By using the ruler to make a straight path while you run the tip of the pencil over the lines, you can make very crisp, professional folds. If you use lead in the pencil, you won't be able to distinguish the different folds, so make sure your pencil has no writing capabilities! However, any object with a blunt, yet precise tip can be used for scoring.
  • Tweezers: Tweezers are useful for holding flaps that need to be glued while you wait for them to dry. They are particularly helpful in the tusks. I didn't use mine too often, but when they were needed, they were certainly helpful.
  • Toothpicks: Like the ruler and scoring tool, I highly recommend you keep around 20 or so toothpicks with you. I used them for spreading the glue around the flaps once I put on a drop. The toothpicks help spread the glue evenly and avoid excess glue from oozing out when the flap is pressed to the paper. Once again, highly recommended.
  • Clear Packing Tape: I use clear packing tape when for some reason, the glue won't hold the paper together. I also use it right before I put on the back of the elephant. During this time, I covered the entire interior with masking tape to reinforce the entire structure. It's super strong, and once its on the paper, it's not coming off the paper cleanly. Great to have, but not an urgent need.

Step 2: Printing

In case you haven't already, you'll first have to purchase the PDF Pack for $3.99 USD.


Original Version:

Next, you're going to need the right kind of paper. Cardstock is your best choice to make this model sturdy and long lasting. I am using 65lb, or 176 g/m^2 cardstock. For fun, I am going to be using blue and cream cardstock for this papercraft. Blue (in particular, this shade of blue is called "Lunar Blue") is for the body, while cream is for the tusks. You may use white if you wish, although real ivory is closer to cream in color. But don't forget, this is an art piece! You can use whatever colors you want, because the final result will still look great! Get creative!

There are 29 pages in this PDF, and the last two are for the tusks. Thus, I am going to make a stack of paper with 27 blue sheets and 2 cream sheets, with the two cream sheets being on the bottom. Load this stack into your printer.

Your final step is to print. Download the PDF, then go to File > Print.

Once you have printed all 29 pages, you will notice each page has the part name in the top right corner. However, BEWARE! The left ear is actually on the right side of the model when you put it together, and vice versa. The same applies for the tusks. In fact, all the parts are a mirror image. Why would I do this? Because, if you needed to inspect the model in Pepakura, the left ear is on the left side, and so on. So if you ever compare the 3D Model to the physical papercraft, remember, they are mirror images of each other (the right ear on the papercraft will be the left ear on the computer).

Step 3: Left Ear

Can you hear me now?

The first part in the stack is the left ear. I find it easiest to cut out every piece, then score all the lines, and then glue them. I used to cut a piece, score it, fold it, and then find an adjacent piece, cut, score, fold it, and glue it, and repeat the process. However, by first cutting all the pieces, and then scoring, etc... you can tune your brain to each task instead of having to constantly refresh for every single piece.

So, first cut all the pieces. It's time consuming, but fun.

Next, score all the pieces. Align the ruler parallel to the line you wish to score, leaving about a millimeter distance between the ruler edge and the line. This is so that the tip of the scoring tool will fall directly on the line instead of next to it. Then, firmly run the tip of the tool all the way across the line. Repeat for every line. It sounds like it will take a lot of time, but you'd be surprised how quickly scoring gets done.

Now, fold every piece. Small dashed lines are valley folds, which are folded inwards. Large dashed lines are mountain folds, which are folded outwards. To see what I mean, look at the pictures above. Normally, the folds would've been the other way around, but to avoid seeing all the ugly lines and flaps, I inverted the directions of the folds so they cannot be seen.

Here comes the fun part: gluing. Find the number on any edge, and find the flap with the same number. If you can't find a pair, open up the PDF on your computer, and hit CTRL and F (or COMMAND and F on Mac). This will allow you to search the PDF. Just type in the number you are looking for, and you will be shown which two pieces it's on. You can also look in the 3D model in the papercraft for the piece you need, and find the piece next to it.

Next, apply glue to each flap. Here's a good rule of thumb: one dot of glue for every inch on the flap. Applying any more than that will leave you with excess glue. Use your handy dandy toothpicks to spread the glue across the flap, even at the narrow end areas. Finally, join the flap to its edge buddy. Repeat until all the pieces are used. I find gluing to be the most entertaining step because you get to see all the pieces form a physical object!

While gluing, make sure the flaps are directly flush with their edges. Otherwise, small holes will appear in the vertices of the papercraft, which doesn't look good in the finished model.

After all that, your left ear should be done! Remember all these steps, because they apply for every part in this elephant. Now, we need to move onto the other side of the head!

Step 4: Right Ear

Well, now that you know the steps, go for it! First, cut out all the pieces, then score the lines, then fold those lines, and glue the pieces together!

This step is relatively easy, because the right ear and left ear are nearly identical. Therefore, the process for building the right ear is very similar to making the left ear.

Step 5: The Head

The largest part of this papercraft is the head. When you assemble it, stay as organized as possible, because there are A LOT of parts for it (they didn't even fit on my workmat). I didn't show every piece being glued, because if I did, there would be A LOT of pictures. Even though there are a lot of pieces, the head is actually very easy to assemble, it just takes a while to do so.

Note: Don't glue on the back yet, that is the final part of the papercraft.

Step 6: The Trunk

Ah, the famous trunk: a signature feature of the elephant. There are a lot of long triangle pieces for the trunk, and a lot of them look quite identical. This is why it's important to pay attention to the edge numbers on this piece. Make sure all the edges are glued only to their corresponding edge buddies.

The trunk is a really difficult part. Why? Because of all those narrow triangle pieces. Folding their flaps cleanly is really hard to do, which is why I recommended a scoring tool in the beginning of the instructable. When folding the flaps, make sure you fold them all the way to the ends. This makes your papercraft free of holes, and as a result, it will look more professional.

If you ever feel discouraged, stop working on the papercraft and do something else. Working while frustrated will do more harm to your piece than good. But don't worry, you can do it!

Step 7: The Left and Right Tusks

Finally, you've made it to the easiest part of this papercraft. The tusks have all their parts on a single page (one per tusk). While folding the tusks, make sure you that you make clean and crisp creases to emphasize their sharpness.

You may find using the tweezers helpful when making the tusks. Due to the narrowness of the tusks, its hard to hold the flaps with your fingers. I used the tweezers for this purpose while the glue dried.

Step 8: Assembling the Parts

Here comes the best part: putting it all together! Start with the ears; remember: the left ear goes on the right side, and the right ear goes on the left side. Next, move to the trunks. You may need some packing tape to hold it in place if the glue can't handle its weight. Finally, glue on the tusks. Like the ears, the left one goes on the right, and the right goes on the left.

Now, you can see what your elephant will look like. If you've made it this far, congrats, you've already finished all the hard stuff!

Step 9: Reinforcing (Optional)

Although you don't have to, I like to cover parts inside of the elephant with packing tape to reinforce the edges. This helps add a little weight to the papercraft, as well as some structural stability.

Step 10: Put on the Back

There are only two pages for the back, one flap, and two folds. Cut out both pieces, and glue them together.

Now, we have to glue it onto the back of the head. You can either put the flaps on the outside, or on the inside. I find that keeping the flaps on the inside is easier, and makes the back look better (even though you won't see it). Apply good amounts of glue, and even add some strips of packing tape to the inside before placing the back down. Glue each flap one at a time, until you reach the last two. You can glue those two at the same time.

You can also sign the back of your elephant with your name and date, because it's your artwork!

After this, inspect everything on your elephant. If you like it, you're done!

Step 11: Conclusion and Going Further

I hope you enjoyed making my papercraft just as much as I enjoyed designing it. If you make it, I would appreciate you posting a comment with a picture of your finished creation. If you need help, you can PM me or comment a picture of your problem, as it is possible that others are having the same problem as you.

There's tons of room for modification for this instructable. You can add lights to the inside and make an elephant lamp, or add a wooden plaque to the back to make it look like a hunter's trophy. Feel free to comment your modifications or modification ideas!

Thanks everyone, and keep innovating!

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