Mechanical Iris Greeting Card




About: For more about my costumes, crafts and general craziness, check out my blog:

Need an awesome card for your next special occasion? How about something with moving parts that reveal a surprise photo or image?

While these mechanical iris cards are a little time consuming to assemble, they're definitely worth the effort. The versatile design can be used for everything from adorable baby announcements to party invitations. Create a camera for a picture perfect valentine's day card or a submarine porthole for a steampunk Christmas card - the possibilities are endless.

If you're into irises, you should also check out these awesome instructables that were instrumental in making this card come together:
Mechanical Iris by carlbass
Paper Mechanical Iris by dombeef
Paper Iris Glasses by art.makes

Step 1: What You'll Need

You'll need:
  • the template provided with this instructable (in either pdf or Adobe Illustrator)
  • cardstock or thin cardboard
  • mini brads
  • an x-acto knife or scissors
  • double sided foam tape - you can use cardboard and glue if you don't have foam tape
  • a printer
Depending on how you want your finished card to look, you might also want:
  • a glue stick or other glue
  • paint
  • markers
  • photos
  • glitter, stickers, sequins or other decorative stuff
Finally, if you plan on making lost and lots of these cards (for wedding invitations or a big holiday mailing list), you may want:
  • a digital cutting machine
  • an account with Ponoko or a similar service

Step 2: Cut It Out!

If you, like me, are not lucky enough to own a digital cutting machine or laser cutter, you've got some quality time with an x-acto knife ahead of you.

Add any text and images you want printed on the card to the template.

Print the template onto cardstock.

Start cutting out all the pieces. For the piece that forms the back of the card you'll need to leave a thin flap to connect it to the front piece. Which side you leave the flap on will depend on which way you want your finished card to open.

Seriously consider the benefits of getting robots with lasers to do the cutting for you.

Step 3: Assemble!

With the mini brads, connect the shutter pieces to the front of the card, using the inner ring of holes.

Add the ring to the front and put another 5 mini brads through the holes to connect it to the shutter pieces.

Score and fold over the flap on the back piece. Stick it to the front of the card using foam tape.

If your card opens along the short edge, you may also want to add another strip of foam tape and cardstock along the bottom edge of the inside front of the card. This extra foam helps give the shutters room to move freely.

Step 4: Decorate

Paint, draw or embellish the card however you like.

Glue pictures to the inside or stick a gift card or other surprise behind the open iris.

Ideas to try:
  • Camera
  • Porthole on a submarine
  • Spaceship airlock
  • Aperture Science experiment
  • Sphincter ...
I'd love to see what you come up with!

Step 5: Improve the Design

One of the problems with this card is that the shutter pieces sometimes get caught on the ends of the brads.

Using tiny rivets or some other fasteners might fix this problem.

It might also be possible to modify the shape and size of the moving pieces so this is no longer an issue.

Holiday Gifts Challenge

Finalist in the
Holiday Gifts Challenge

ShopBot Challenge

Participated in the
ShopBot Challenge



  • Classroom Science Contest

    Classroom Science Contest
  • Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

    Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest
  • 1 Hour Challenge

    1 Hour Challenge

19 Discussions


5 years ago on Introduction

I love these cards! You could try using to get your dimensions, it might help stop the pieces getting caught.
I think everyone is going to get an iris birthday card from now on! Awesome stuff!


6 years ago on Introduction

You mention running one of these files through a cutter machine? I have one but don't see how they could be used to transfer it to a cutting file? Do you have a pdf that prints the registration marks?

1 reply

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

You can use the software that goes with your cutting machine to convert the pdf to the correct type of file. We use Make the Cut which works with many different machines.


6 years ago on Step 3

hello im a year 9 student tryuing to make this and i am having major porblems with it if you could make a video tutorial that would be mucch appreciated


6 years ago on Introduction

Thanks. Looks like I got it all figured out. I'm going to use this to make a Magic 8 Ball box. I think I will modify this with Laser cut wood and brass sheets for the blades.


6 years ago on Introduction

Do you have a video of the assembly for this? I would like to use it for a project and this one is the best and easiest I have seen.

Great job!

1 reply

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

I don't currently have a video for this card, but I'll try to remember to film one the next time I'm putting one of these cards together.


6 years ago on Introduction

Awesome instructable, and the first one I've made! I used aluminum sheets for mine, but it works just fine:

2 replies

The blades are actually really thin and I cut then with a scissor from floppy disks' little metal covers. The circles in the outer ring were made out of a thicker aluminum sheet and cut with a cup saw, and the square was cut with a common metal saw.


7 years ago on Introduction

wow i love the idea i think i might make one of these someday


7 years ago on Introduction

Thank You. My dream home will have a larger scale version of this iris in it somewhere. I think air powered by a low voltage compressor.

I wonder if you want to make a camera, how to use a rubber band to make it ''automatic'' you know you pull the outter ring to close the iris (in this case the camera's diaphragma) it automatically opens again, like taking a photo. Any idea? i want to make for my brother.


7 years ago on Step 4

This is an awesome idea, and great timing too!
I'm going to try making an Aperture Science version for my brothers birthday (only 2 days away, aaaah!). It will go perfectly with the present, a Portal 2 water bottle from Think Geek.
Thanks for the istructable, I'll post a pic or two here if you like, when (if) I finish it.

1 reply