This tutorial will first teach you how to create 3D paper models of the Platonic Solids with any image on the faces of each shape. This is done using a free graphics program called The GIMP with some add-ons to create a tiling of the specified images that can be folded up into the 3D shapes. Then these images will be printed and folded into 3D geometric shapes that can be placed overtop of incandescent Christmas lights.
You will need:
- a colour printer
- some black electrical tape
- incandescent Christmas lights
- excitement and patience :)
Step 1: Install the GIMP and Platonic Solids Foldables Scripts
The GIMP can be run on most major platforms. For instructions on how to obtain and install The GIMP download page.
Now Download the Platonic Solids Foldables Plugin by clicking on gimp_foldables_scripts.zip. Then unzip the files into your GIMP scripts folder. From The GIMP documentation: Installing Script-Fus
You will also need to install the Kaleidoscope plugin for GIMP. Hopefully you are running Linux and can follow the instructions here to install the Kaleidoscope plugin. Otherwise acquire some other software in your chosen OS that will allow you to create kaleidoscoped images.
Step 2: Create Foldables for Each Platonic Solid
Included in the scripts zip file were some GIMP xcf files that will make it easier for you to prepare an image that can be converted into the foldables. Enter into the scripts directory and you should find files named
Open the first one using The Gimp. You will see that it is a pentagon border. Now we need to fill this border with an image, preferably one that look the same no matter what side you turn it on in order to give the faces uniformity. Kaleidoscoped images are great for this.
Now you're invited to find an image you would like to kaleidoscope into a face for the solid and open it in the gimp. Remember that it has to be at least big enough to fit inside that border, so compare the selected image size to the border size to make sure it will fit.
For the face image I like using images of fractals. You can explore/create your own fractals using your choice of software. Free/Open Source choices include Gnofract4D and Xaos. From these programs you can export an image that can be then opened in the Gimp.
Now you can kaleidoscope the image using the GIMP plugin you installed earlier. Just go to Filters->Distort->Kaleidoscope. Use 5 (or a multiple of 5) in this case. For the other faces you will use a multiple of the # of sides on the given face. Set the Angle 2 so that one of the reflection lines is perfectly vertical. If you can't get it perfect, then use the GIMP's rotate tool to get it right.
Save the kaleidoscoped image. Return to the frame you opened up in the beginning. File->Open as Layers... the file you just saved.
If the image is too big, scale it down so it will fit in the fram. Now move the image so its center is in the middle of the frame. You may have to repeat this a couple of times to get the fit just right.
In the layers dialogue, right click on the "Bordered Layer Mask" layer, click "Alpha to Selection". Now right click on the imported layer, "Add Layer Mask", choose "Selection" and OK.
Delete the 2 layers with "mask" in their name, right click on border layer and "Merge Down:. This image is now ready to be ran through the tiling script. "Save as..." it now to a familiar directory and repeat this step for all 4 other files listed above.
For each of the faces you have created you can run the magic script that will convert it to a foldable. Just go to Filter->Render->Foldable->[choose the right shape for each respective face].
Lastly, you will print each foldable image. You may need to rotate the image 90 degrees or change the page alignment to fit it on the page tightly. The face templates are specially designed to ensure a resolution of 300px/in when the image is printed right to the edges of an 8 1/2x11" Letter page. I print them out using 308px/in for all them to give a little room for my non full-bleed printer. Thin cardstock or photo paper give the most robust results. Adjust the number of copies you print to suit how many lights you would like to cover with lanterns.
Step 3: Construct the 3D Solids
First cut out the images that you have printed out.
Now you must crease the edges and tape the shape together. You can look here to find out more information about how the shapes fold together. You will not need tabs.
Use electrical tape cut to half width to tape the shapes together. For efficiency, I recommend preparing many measured pieces of tape and hanging them on the edge of the table, then taping the shape together. I like to use my index finger as a kind of measuring tape, marking off with a pen how far from the point of my finger the edge goes. Then I put the end of the tape on the side of my finger and cut it at the mark.
Leave the last taped edge open wide enough to fit your Christmas light bulb. For the Icosahedron, and doedecahedron, I leave the whole last edge open.
This is where the patience comes in handy. I recommend some chill beats for this step :)
Step 4: Stick Em on and String Em Up
Now the most satisfying part is placing the lanterns on the bulbs :) Squeeze the 2 corners of the open edge together to create a gap where you can stick the lightbulb in. I find it most attractive to repeat the sequence of shapes regularly. Now find a way to hang up you lights in whatever way suits your space. Enjoy the magical enlightenment of these sacred forms !
Step 5: Take a Peek at What I Have Done With This Method
Here are a couple samples of things I've done with the plugin:.