The Unexpected: a Tactile Children's Picture Book



Introduction: The Unexpected: a Tactile Children's Picture Book

The Unexpected is a tactile children's story book that I had written and modeled myself. It's a story about a mother elephant who goes on a journey to find her son who was taken away from her. To recreate the book, follow the instructions down below. Enjoy! This project is part of the Tactile Picture Book Project at the University of Colorado Boulder. For more information go to



-3D printer

-Thermal Expansion Machine

-Thermal Expansion paper

-Poster board or any other material you would like to use for your pages

-Duct tape


Step 1: Download All of the Files

To start the books, you need to print the 3D models. So I have already uploaded all the files, all you have to do is download them

Step 2: 3D Print All of the Pieces

All you have to do is upload the downloaded files to your 3D printer and print the pieces. The pictures show the order of the models.

Step 3: Print the Text

For the braille, I had a special swell paper where I printed the text. I left a pdf file of the text, so you can print it out from there. After the text was printed, I ran it through a thermal swell machine which raised the text and made it tactile. I put the temperature at eight degrees, running it through the machine twice to really accentuate the text and make the braille readable.

Step 4: Create the Pages of the Book

The printing is going to take a while, so we have the text, but we need a base for all the models and text to be placed on. So this is honestly up to personal preference for what materials you would want to use I used black poster board. What I did was cut out Ten7.5''x4.5'' pieces. Again its up to your preference if you want to make it larger.

Step 5: Glue the Text to the Pages

With the paper full of text, you are going to want to cut and glue them to the pages however you would like. Make sure you have extra space for the tape when you bind the pages. I already separated the text to help divide the pages. There should be 6 pages with the text, and 4 blank ones, the blank ones will have the 3D models glued to them.

Step 6: Binding the Pages

I used black duct tape to bind the pages, but again it is up to your preference. So I had a pattern when binding. I uploaded a video on how I binded the pages. You are going to have to download the mp4 file, and then open the file to watch the video. Obviously the process of binding the pages would be much more neat, but just follow the pattern with the tape until you have binded all the pages. I had uploaded the pictures to show what the order of the pages should look like. In the photo four of the pages say P|P, thats just the blank pages without the text.

Step 7: Glue the 3D Models to the Pages.

Okay there are no labels to the 3D models to show you which one goes first. The first model that should be glued to the blank pages is the model with the truck driving off (page 1), the second model is the mother elephant going through the mountains and trees (page 4) , the third model is with the mother elephant and the full body baby elephant facing each other (page 6), and the fourth model is the one with the full bodies of both elephants walking together ( page 10). I uploaded some photos to show the order a bit better.

Step 8: Add Cover and Closing Flap (optional)

I used a faux leather I got from Joann Fabrics. Remember that it's an accordion styled book so I only put a cover on the back of the first page, and on the back of the last page. I cut it to size, cut it, and then I decided to add another piece of duct tape on the top just to give a smoother clean look. I did the same to the back cover. For the flap I just cut a strip that was around 12 inches, but this may vary depending on the thickness of your book. Remember how I said that I duct taped the edge of the back cover? Before you tape the edge of the back cover, place the strap so that it is secured. Then get some velcro and place one of the pieces on the top cover where ever you want and place the other on the strap. Make sure that they are placed correctly so that when you close the book the strap hits the other piece of the velcro.

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