3D Layered Paper




This is a simple 3D layered paper project that anyone can do from home. The paper sculpture is simply several layers of cutout paper that enhances and defines the image, making the 2D paper look as though it is 3D. It does take REALLY long to complete but once it is done, it looks beautiful. Hope the steps are clear and easy to understand.

- image (any image you want to use but simpler the image, the better)
- tracing paper
- pencil and eraser
- very nice paper to make the 3D layers
- mat board
- x-acto knife with lots of extra blades
- glue in a container with a small tip

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Step 1: Initial Drawing

I wanted to make a 3D layered deer so I pretty much looked up several images on google till I found one that I liked. To create this 3D layered look, any image will work but the simpler the image is, the easier and faster it will be to produce it. The image I choose took several days to finish and it was quite tedious. I printed the image in the size that I wanted the design to be, then I got some tracing paper and traced the image into simple shapes that I would be able to transfer it onto another piece of paper later.

Step 2: Tracing Paper

After finishing the tracing paper drawing, instead of putting graphite powder on the back of the tracing paper, I just flipped the tracing paper over and re-drew the image backwards tracing over the lines. That way, when I do begin transferring the image, it wont get the nice paper too dirty. If you put a white sheet of paper behind the tracing paper, it will be easier to see the lines that you have drawn on the other side.

Step 3: Tansfering

Now that the back of the image has graphite on it, you can flip it over and begin transferring the image onto you nice paper for the 3D layering. You can transfer the whole image, but I suggest transferring a couple shapes at a time and putting together the 3D image as you cut. Trying to transfer the whole image and cutting all of it at once is okay but the hard part will be when you try to put together the 3D layers. It will be very difficult to remember where each of the shapes belong. 

Step 4: Cutting Out the Shapes and Glueing the Layers

With the mat board and x-acto, begin cutting the shapes that were transferred onto the paper. Because the shapes are complex they may take time to cut. Take your time to cut each shape slowly. When trying to cut them quickly, you may accidentally cut a piece of the shape off. Once you have cut the several layers and begin glueing each of them on top of the other, don't glue the entire piece on. Before glueing, bend the shape a little to make it look more dynamic and put small bits of glue on the areas that will be attached to the lower layer. If you look at the second picture of the deer's face, you can see that the layers on top are all slightly bent to create the 3D-look. Sorry about the lack of pictures. The cutting took several days and I realize that I didn't take any photos during those couple of days.

Step 5: Finish

When all the shapes are put together it should look very similar to the flat virtual image you picked out. Once again, sorry about the lack of images from the cutting to the final piece. If I do another one like this again, I will make sure that I take more pictures. So here is how my final image turned out. I just found a nice frame to put the design in. I placed a simple dark background paper (so the white artwork stands out), removed the glass, and glued the image on top of the frame so that the deer does not get squished.

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    31 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 5

    Awesome instructable! I love the way you used the 3D paper technique and I hope to try it out myself sometime.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm still getting my feet wet with papercrafting/cutting/layering but have been doing origami for years. Please, please, please offer me some tips on making such great works as yours mount and "POP" out from the frame. My very talented girlfriend explained the use of miscelanneous backings and curling techniques to get the desired 3D effect, could you elaborate on that technique a bit further, and/or maybe offer some better tips on glueing and arrangement? What if your subject was a rottweiler for example? A fine-haired, mostly black dog with modestly bridled patches? I ask with a gift in mind.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is wonderful! How 3D is this? That is, how many layers would you say there are in the highest point, or how deep is the image?

    In your pictures, the deer looks like it could have similar dimensions to a "real" deer head mounted on the wall, but I'm guessing it's flatter than that. Or it is?

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It's much flatter than a real deer head. I don't know how many layers there are but it's about an inch and a half/ two inches deep. I was considering counting all the layers but I can't find all of them. I glued layers on top of layers so some of the layers are hidden.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I guessed as much, but the pictures look so realistic. Thanks for responding.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Beautiful! And such a pleasure to see an instructable like this that isn't using something like a laser cutter. I don't know if I would ever try something like this but if it had to be done with a laser cutter I know I never would. I don't know how easy it would be to transfer the image but I can see this in my mind in a light weight copper foil. I also like the way you glued the image on top of the frame. I think it extends the dimensionality of the piece. Really beautiful piece and very helpful, useful instructable. I'm thinking about trying it with images of buildings.

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. Unfortunately I am much better at the planning to do something than the actual execution. But maybe I'll get this one going.


    7 years ago on Step 5


    I may have missed it somewhere, but how many sheets of paper did you use for this?

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, I didn't think of mentioning how many sheets I used. I think I used like 6 to 7 sheets of reeves paper, maybe more. I honestly don't remember. I had a little stack of the reeves paper at home and I knew I had enough so I didn't count. I guess it depends on how big the design in going to be and how many layers are going to be added.


    7 years ago on Step 3

    Are you transferring the image by rubbing the eraser on the back? How interesting!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    No, but that is a great idea. I actually just retraced over again with a mechanical pencil.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    What kind of paper did you use? At firs ti thought it was reeves, but on another glance it looked like a hot press watercolor paper? I'm just curious. I'm looking at images and have been thinking about your project and may attempt. I go back and forth on adding color to the paper, if it's a watercolor paper it could be cool, but then again it might also take away from that awesome layered look, there is something very peaceful and sculpture like about having it all one tone. Again wonderful job, I downloaded the PDF of your project and keep finding myself coming back to you link because I'm just enamored by this!