Magic Folding Photo Cube




About: Hi, my name is Britt Michelsen, I'm a Chemical Engineer especially interested in Computational Fluid Dynamics. To balance all the theoretical work I like to make stuff in my free time.

Like probably every other mother my mum loves getting photos for Christmas, but in my opinion normal photo cubes or books are a bit boring.

Being fascinated by instructable member golics "Unbelievable! White Or Black. Crazy Paper Cube", I had the idea of combining it with photos. The pictures work as hinges, so that you can unfold more of them on the inside of the cube.

Every year we are celebrating Christmas with my whole family (including cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents). My mum organizes everything, so I took photos from last year, to thank her for that.

To get a better idea, have a look at the video:

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Step 1: Stuff You Need

  • 8 wooden cubes (best is a side length between 3 and 4 cm)
  • Printer
  • Box cutter
  • Ruler

Step 2: Select the Pictures

First you will have to find pictures that you would like to use, you need eight square ones of the length of two cubes and two images of the length of four cubes and the height of two. If you want you can put text on it, so that it tells a story.
Print them onto Self-Adhesive Film and cut them to the right size.

Step 3: Outside of the Cube

We are going to start with the outside of the cube. You will need 6 of the square photos. The second image shows, how to cut the pictures for the top, front and right side (cut along the green lines and fold along the blue lines). After you are done cutting stick them onto the cube.
Now turn the cube so that the front is in the back and the top in the bottom. Cut the pictures for the back, left and bottom as shown in the fourth picture and stick them on the cube.

Step 4: Inside of the Cube

Place the cube, so that the top is on the top again and open it as shown in the first picture.
For the middle you will need a picture that has length of 4 cubes and the height of two. Cut it and fold it as shown it in the second picture and stick it onto the cubes.
Open the cube as shown in the third picture, cut your second big picture as shown in the fourth image. Open it up in the middle again, cut a smaller image as shown in the fifth picture and stick it on the cube. Turn the cube around and stick the last picture on the cube.

Congratulations, you've made it. Please, don't forget to comment, rate and vote.

Step 5: My Try With Tape (by Mastover)

I have given this a try myself using tape and 3m 77 spray adhesive.  I found it does in fact work, but there are a few issues you need to watch out for.  Here in the States you can find the 3m 77 spray at just about any hardware store e.g. Home Depot or Lowes.  I used packing tape that I purchased at Walmart and blocks I found at Hobby Lobby.  I've included pictures of each. 

I began by finding pictures I wanted to use and put them into photoshop to resize to the exact size of the blocks and printed them on photopaper.  I planned to simply cover each picture with the tape then cut them out leaving a sealed picture.  Well, here is where I found my first issue.  The tape isn't wide enough to cover the full picture.  I had to decide how the picture would need to be cut then make the first cut followed by covering the halves with tape.  This was more of a pain, but worked fine.

My biggest issue with using the spray glue was that it is a contact cement.  You spray it on the block then spray the back of the picture and let both sides dry.  Once you are ready, you put the picture on the block and its stuck permanently.  It works great, but if you did like I did and spray all sides of the blocks first, you will have issues when trying to line up the blocks and attach the pictures.  You see if a block touches another block that has been sprayed, they too will be permanently bonded.  You have to use something in between such as tinfoil as I did.  (See the picture using-tin-foil below) It works, but you have to be Very careful.

Also, I would HIGHLY recommend if you go this route that you purchase a good cutting system.  I tried to use a razor knife and a straightedge, but the packing tape is very tough.  I had many issues with my straight-edge slipping causing the pictures to not fit the blocks correctly (see the pictures below).  When I try this again, I'll get an X-acto razor paper trimmer from Staples which costs about $15.  That way you get perfect cuts that will fit your blocks perfectly.

One last word of advice.  The photopaper with tape covering it is tough.  Before you would give this away you need to play with it a bunch of times to get the creases set between the blocks or the whole cube wants to unfold.  Just squeeze it hard and use it and you will find it works great.

I've included the following pictures that I hope explain further what I did.

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55 Discussions


Answer 7 months ago

I tried it with thin strips of fabric and wood glue, and or a very strong high grade glue and it seems to work well. Just make sure the fabric and glue are as flat as possible or the cube won’t close properly


2 years ago

Hi, I made the cube and each side is 5cm x 5cm. I would like to know where can i size images to the cube side size online and where can i print them

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

I am sorry, I don't know. I printed them at home and sized them in Word, as far as I remember,


6 years ago on Introduction

I'm making this in photography class, and i plan on connecting the blocks with clear packing tape, and then printing the photos on decal paper, putting it on the tape, and then spraying with a clear sealer


8 years ago on Introduction

My favourite cheaper laminating method, which should work well for this type of project, is xyron makes rolls of adhesive laminating plastic called "clear laminate roll" (it's like clear contact paper, but stickier, shinier and protects better) you can get in 12 or 18" widths, if memory serves...
You have to be really good about it not sticking to itself and the bubble, but it's a lot cheaper than the sheets and gives a really nice presentation. Waterproof too. (I started using it on recipe cards when I figured that one out!)
Love the spray adhesive idea, too!

1 reply

8 years ago on Introduction

The 3m spray is a great idea. I've used it before and it usually works like a charm. I was thinking of a way to protect the pictures. How about printing the pictures on inkjet paper, but before cutting them out and spraying the back with 3m, cover the front (the picture side) using wide clear packing tape? Then cut out the pictures. I've done it before when making small decals. The link below is of some tape I've used that is 2" wide. Should more than cover the pictures as my blocks are 1.25"x1.25"x1.25". It's like a poor-mans laminating method. Just a though.

8 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

I have a laminator.

And I have different sizes of adhesive printing paper. (Avery printable labels.)

But I have no time to get the adhesive-backed laminating pouches. (Not sure how much they cost either.)

I am wondering if this will work: First, I can print the photos on the adhesive Avery labels, then laminate those printed labels in a pouch, then try to cut off the back part of the laminating pouch by slitting it at the edges. (The 3mil laminating pouches are inexpensive and on hand; I'm not worried about wasting them.)

Here is another option that might help someone who doesn't have a laminator. Before I had a laminator, years ago, I used to use Clear Contact Paper to "laminate" many papers and prints. I think in this project I would apply it to the whole photo before cutting the seams and trimming to size with an X-acto knife.

But for this project, I really like the packing tape idea. Simple. I never thought of that before. Since this seems simple compared to the laminating pouch-adhesive label process, I am going to try it first.

[Hope this is not a repeat. I thought I'd commented a couple of days ago but don't see this idea anywhere. Maybe I forgot to post it.]


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

What results are others having?

We did try applying the boxtape to laminate the little pieces of prints. It's just tedious because each little square has to be trimmed afterward, but does give good results. So I thought it would be so much easier to laminate my whole printout at once.

Before, I had wondered if I could "...print the photos on the adhesive Avery labels, then laminate those printed labels in a pouch..."

I experimented with this briefly tonight. Took a scrap of adhesive label (Avery 8165) and a scrap of a 3 mil laminating pouch. Cut a piece of the laminate (only one side of the pouch) which was smaller than the label, placed it inside the margins of the label and ran it through the laminator, plastic side up. Worked fine. I suppose there is an inside and outside of the pouch; they felt different to me and I made sure it was oriented correctly.

[Note: I feel sure the one-sided laminating method would work on my regular 24lb printer paper -- or card stock-- just as it did with labels. I'm not sure what would happen though if the laminating plastic were left bigger than the paper -- not going to risk the machine roller.]

Voila -- a laminated adhesive label. Afterwards, I cut the label with an xacto knife and applied it to a test cube.

Issues to work out:
1) I am not sure if the adhesive on my labels will be strong enough to make a really good long term bond with the wood. The spray adhesive might be a better option. (But maybe my scrap was old and the adhesive weak.)

2) We're finding it's better to pre-crease the laminated prints at the "hinges" before applying to the wood. With the backing paper on the Avery labels, once the prints are laminated, it's hard to get an accurate crease. (The backing paper is thicker and bunches up.) But we can't really crease the labels after the backing paper is removed, it all sticks together. So it seems easier to work with laminated paper than to work with laminated adhesive labels.

I'm wondering if it would yield better results to apply printed adhesive labels to the cube, which would be thinner and easier to work with, and then use the box tape to laminate the sides of the cube -- once the cube is constructed.

We'll keep experimenting... I should probably try the spray adhesive. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Hi, I finally got around to try laminating the photos, but apparently they were to thick, so that the cube didn't close properly any more. The idea with the one sided laminating paper is good, I will try that, as soon as I'm back home.

Mastover used spray adhesive, he says, that the bond is really good, but it hard to get a good result, because once applied you can't move the photos any more, so you will have to get it right the first time.
My bond between the wooden cubes and the adhesive isn't to good as well, but I haven't had any problem so far (you can easily fix the corners with glue if they don't stick properly).

Mastover is doing exactly your final suggestion, we will see how it goes for him.

Please keep informing me, I'm sure, that we will find the perfect way and please show me a picture of your final result.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

BrittLiv, obviously your original technique gives excellent results.

I wonder if we should follow your method and then simply use a spray protectant instead of trying to make this laminated. Or as I suggested, use your original method and then use something like boxtape after the cube is finished to protect the photos.

We can always resort to that if these other methods fail. First we'll try what is on hand.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Reporting on results. We forged ahead with the one-side-laminated adhesive labels.

On one inch cubes, the adhesive just did not stick well enough. Probably, as BrittLiv said, these cubes are just too small to give a good sticking surface. Maybe my stock is old; maybe it was affected by the heat in the laminator. (But the leftover edges of the adhesive seem to work fine as normal stickers onto paper.)

Maybe the cubes I got need prepping more to give a good gluing surface. (Warning, the cubes we bought are not SQUARE or dimensionally accurate. We played with them to find an arrangement that would make a good cube. Maybe more critical with the small cubes.)

My son was making this cube; it was late Christmas Eve and he resorted to a LOT of box tape to hold it together. The resulting photo cube was then really too thick to totally close when sitting alone.

If using box tape to such an extent, we might as well have skipped the laminating phase. And it would help to plan the box tape usage a little more, with any adjoining sides all taped in one pass. I'm sure he has several layers of tape on some of the sides.

So really, a good adhesive and the right size cube is important. He's going to make another and I'm sure it'll turn out better. I'll make a larger one. (But there is a charm in the small one, too. :) )

Having said all of that, the cube was a smash hit! :) The effort was appreciated and the whole concept is great, the photos of his cube mean a lot to both the giver and recipient. :) The theme is box art from computer games they've played through the last decade.

Thanks again for the idea and great instructable! :)

PhotoCubeFront 5x5.jpgPhotoCubeOpened.jpgPhotoCubeOpened Again.jpg

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Hi, thanks a lot for the pictures and documenting your efforts! I'm glad, that it turned out so good in the end!


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction


I've used the clear contact paper to laminate in the past too. It works great, but could get pricey. I found that for small things like this, the good packing tape works just as well (just don't use the cheap stuff as it's not really clear, it can be a bit opaque), and is less than 1/10 the price. I'm giving this a shot by printing the photos on photo-paper, laminating using the tape (tape will work as the hinge portion as well) and using the 3m spray to make them stick to the wood blocks (I already had some from a previous project). I did a test with regular paper on to the wood and it stuck like magic, but it also soaked through the regular paper. That is why I'm going to try it with photopaper. I'm hoping as it's thicker it will not allow the spray to soak through. I'll find out tonight. If it still soaks through, I'll use the tape on BOTH sides of the photopaper, then it should work fine as the spray can't go through the tape.


8 years ago on Introduction

If any of you are still looking for a way to stick your photos, here are two suggestions:

1) Use adhesive-backed laminating paper (need a laminator). I use it all the time for all kinds of projects. It's awesome because not only do you get a great adhesive bond, but the laminate protects your original photo from fingerprints, etc.

2) Try sticky dots.  Below is a link to buy sheets of it.  The sheet of paper is covered with little glue dots.  You simply place the picture or item on the sheet, then peel it away.  The glue dots will stick to the back of your photo turning it into a sticker.  I personally have not used it but I understand it works great.