Cardboard 8-bit Tree - in the MineCraft Style




Introduction: Cardboard 8-bit Tree - in the MineCraft Style

Minecraft Trees
Earlier this year two wonderfully creative Minecraft enthusiasts got married at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and wanted full sized Minecraft-style trees for decoration. I wanted to share with you all how I designed and made these trees so you can do it for yourself - truly the world needs more 8-bit trees. First to give credit - These trees were inspired by and modeled after the incredible wedding of these two lovely people:

8-bit Tree Building Materials List

The tree consists of two main parts, the trunk and the "branches". The "branches" aren't individual branches - they're a set of boxes which sit on top of the trunk.

These lists are for a single tree. I made two trees, so I used twice the parts listed here. Many of the photos will show two trees in progress.

6 – 1 foot cubical cardboard boxes
1 – 8 foot pole, wooden or metal, 1 1/2 inches diameter
2 – 1/2 inch wooden boards cut 10 inches by 8 inches
2 – 1 1/2 inch square wooden rod, cut 8 inches long
2 – 1/2 inch by 5 foot rods (wooden or plastic)
Patio umbrella base

22 - 1 foot cubical cardboard boxes

2 – 1 1/2 inch square wooden rods, cut 3 inches long
2 – 1/2 inch square wooden rods, cut 4 feet long
4 - 1/2 inch square wooden rods, cut 3 feet long

Many 3 inch and 1 1/2 inch screws

Tape, X-Acto knife and a HUGE amount of hot glue.

Colored construction paper and glue
Spray paint 5-10 cans each of Eden, Moss Green, Hunter Green, Black and White
5 sheets of poster board (for stencils)

Step 1: Tree Structure

First off, let's go over the basic structure for the tree.

The heavy base is a patio umbrella stand, purchased from Home Depot for $30. You need something very heavy to keep that large branch structure in place. I used an umbrella stand that was the same size as the boxes, 1'x1', but the wider the base the better the stability.

Into the base goes a 1.5" diameter pole. I used a wooden one, you could use metal as well. This is what supports the branches, so make sure that pole is strong and straight. If it's slightly curved, your tree will list to one side and you'll have to correct it with a shim under the base. The trunk boxes will fit around the center pole. They are glued together and do not bear any weight from the branches, it's all on the pole. The pole sticks up past the trunk boxes with a wooden bracket that the branch structure will sit down on top of.

The branch structure is made of boxes that have wooden dowels running the length and width of the structure. These dowels are at the bottom of the structure and are screwed to a wooden structure that will sit on top of the center pole. The boxes are screwed to the dowels and screwed and hot glued to each other. It is surprisingly strong when assembled. The goal is to make it strong and as lightweight as possible.

Step 2: Make Stencils

Next, make stencils to use to decorate the boxes.
There are plenty of ways to design your stencils; if you're a Minecraft enthusiast you can probably freehand it. You could also download the tree skin images from the game itself. I looked very closely at the design on these trees ( and made the patterns on the attached images. My boxes were 1 foot square, so I made a grid that was 1 foot square, 16 boxes across and down, each box 3/4 inch.

Using a ruler I made these 16x16 grids on 4 sheets of posterboard with a pen.
Then I carefully colored out the boxes for each color - one for black, one for forest green, etc.
Using shipping tape, cover the grid of each posterboard - this is to reinforce and support the posterboard.
Using exacto knife cut out the colored squares of each posterboard.

You should now have a stencil for each of the colors: black, white, forest green and teal.
I wound up making 3 stencils for each because using spray paint they wore out quickly, and would then warp, and the color would bleed around the stencil, and that is a hard thing to fix.

Once again let me encourage you to use markers or tempura paint or anything other than spray paint. That respirator in the picture, you will hate it in no time and it won't protect the people, pets, plants around you from those noxious fumes.

Step 3: Paint Boxes

Alright, time to color those boxes. This is how many of each type you'll need:

6 trunk boxes (painted on all four sides, using black and white stencils)

22 branches boxes – cover with a light green base color (moss) on all sides you'll use. Then add the Forest Green and Teal stencils.

Twenty of the boxes are used as is, with the four sides painted. However, on a cardboard box, only the four sides are "clean"; the top and bottom have the seam down the middle where the box closes. I used an additional two boxes, cutting the sides apart and using them to cover the tops and bottoms of the exposed boxes.

The way I arranged my boxes worked out as follows. If you arrange yours differently, you may need different quantities of each. The important part is that your branch structure is symmetrical, so it can balance on top of the trunk.

  • 2 sides and a top (quantity: 4)
  • 2 sides and 1 bottom (quantity: 4)
  • 1 side (quantity: 4)
  • 3 sides and 1 top (quantity: 4)
  • 3 sides and 1 bottom (quantity: 4)

For actually painting the boxes, I’ll tell you how I did it and warn you don't do it the way I did it.

I used the stencils and bought 5 cans of each color of spray paint (black, white, winter green, teal and moss green) and then spent a week poisoning myself, my pets, my neighbors, and probably the ozone layer. It took a long time. It didn’t work perfectly either.

A better idea would be to cut the rectangular (tetris-looking) shapes out of colored construction paper and glue them to the cardboard. Or use brush paint with the stencils (long time to dry), or crayons, or scented markers. Just not spray paint. Really.

Step 4: Trunk Support

Trunk Support Assembly and Branch Support Assembly

Structurally, there are two key elements: the pole that runs up through the center of the trunk with a support assembly at the top of the trunk, and the branch support assembly that sits on top of it and supports the weight of the branches.

For the Trunk Support Assembly

Take the center pole and measure 6 feet up from the bottom. This is where your trunk boxes will end and where you want your branch structure to fit on the center pole.

Make the support structure on the center pole:

  • Take one of the 8"x10" boards, measure the center and place the center pole there.
  • Place two square 1.5" dowels on either side of the pole and screw them to the board, then to the pole, then screw the pole to the board. Secure everything, this what your branch structure rests on.
  • Add the other 8x10 board and screw it securely.
  • Put center pole in the patio base and screw it in solidly.

For the Branch Support Assembly

  • Lay the Trunk Assembly on the ground.
  • Insert two square 1.5" dowels on either side of the center pole, between the two 8x10 boards. Make sure they can slide in and out - shave them with a rasp if needed, they should move easily out from between the 8x10 boards.
  • Place two 4-foot long rods on either side of the center pole.These will make the crossbars for the branch structure.
  • Drill pilot holes through the 4-foot dowels and into the shorter dowels, then screw them together

You should be able to easy remove the Branch Support Assembly up and over the center pole.

Now your support structure is made. Next we add boxes to each.

Step 5: Trunk Boxes

At this point, the center pole (Trunk Support Assembly) should be attached to the base and screwed securely in place.

Take your 6 decorated trunk boxes and on each of the flaps cut a semi-circle from the middle edge. When you collapse the flaps they will encircle the center pole.
Bring a trunk box over the top of the pole and bring it down to the base.
Hot glue the box flaps closed around the center pole. Don't glue the boxes to the pole, just glue the flaps closed. Do this for the top and bottom of the box. Now bring another box over the top. Glue the bottom flaps closed. Now glue the two boxes together. Repeat for all 6 boxes.

I ran two thin plastic poles down through the boxes on either side of the main support to keep the column square. I think you can keep the boxes lined up without them, just with glue.

Step 6: Branches

Get out all your branch boxes, assemble them as boxes.
This where you design your branch structure. Decide which boxes go on the front, and which have the less stellar paint jobs and should face the back.
Use heavy books to hold your boxes closed and in place while you arrange them; they'll want to open up. Also it will make them easier to glue closed in the near future.

Keeping the structure balanced is more important than exactly how you arrange the boxes.
This is the order I used:

  • Bottom layer: 3 boxes by 3 boxes
  • Middle layer: exact same layout as bottom
  • Top layer: 2 boxes by 2 boxes in a cross formation.

Important Note: Where is your tree's final destination? How many doorways will it need to pass before it gets there? How wide are those doorways? I found most doorways are in the 2' - 2.5' width, not 3ft wide. Do not make my mistake of building branches wider than doorways. It's sad to prune your tree.

  • Take the Branch Support Assembly that you made in the last step and run it through the middle row of the bottom boxes. You will need to cut holes in the boxes to insert the Assembly. Hot glue the Assembly to the boxes.
  • Now attach all the bottom level boxes to each other. First hot glue them together, then further support with wood slats that are 6" long, 1.5" side and 1/4" thick.
  • To attach the adjacent boxes to each other, I put wooden slats in the boxes aligned with each other. I then put screws through the whole thing--first wooden slat, two layers of cardboard, wooden slat on the other side.
  • Add the second layer of boxes to the bottom layer, hot glue them in place.
  • Run 4' dowels through the layer, perpendicular to the support assembly and screw them to the assembly where they cross.
  • The top layer of boxes you just hot glue in place at they do not that extra structural support of dowels and slates.

Step 7: Tree Assembly

Victory time! Connect your branches to your trunk. This will require three people.

2 people to hold the branches up chest high, with the center bottom box being at a 45 degree downward angle
1 person leans the trunk to the side and guides the center pole through the hold in the branches center box. Lining up the support structure, the branches structure sits snugly against the trunk structure. Everyone uprights the tree.

Tip: on some surfaces its good to have shims to place under the base to make the tree upright.

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    8 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is so great! What a fun build.

    Not sure a sword is the best option to chop that tree down with, but I think I know what you are doing :)


    5 years ago

    Was that necessary? Be polite.


    5 years ago



    5 years ago on Introduction

    So glad folks are enjoying it! Go make trees and we'll have 8-bit forests!

    Check out our facebook page:


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is so good! Especially excited you punched the tree once it was assembled. :D


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Wow!!!! My son will LOVE to see this - I can't believe you made this and it is incredible! :) Have the neighbors said anything to you!? :) I would like to see and hear people's expressions and awesome!