This is an introduction to the art and craft of building cardstock models. One of the greatest advantages to building from cardstock is that you are starting with a computer file. If you make a mistake, all you have to do is print another sheet and you have a brand new model kit.
The first thing you will need are some tools. Here’s a recommended list. Please note that I do not work for any of these companies and only recommend them because I use them myself.
The Xacto #1 knife has been around for many years. Since it is no longer under patent, many companies sell variations of them. My personal favorite is from a US company called Excel.
Their K30 model has a hard rubber padded grip and a hexagonal shape on the back end that keeps it from rolling off the work bench.
Nothing replaces a sharp blade. Shop around and experiment until you find a good source of #11 blades for your hobby knife. I purchase them in packs of fifty.
A foot long, stainless steel ruler will save lots of time. They are available from many companies and can be found at craft, hobby shops and art supply houses. A six inch ruler is also useful.
Self-Healing Cutting Mat
Self-healing cutting mats are made from a unique composite PVC vinyl material, designed for both rotary blades and straight utility blades. These cutting mats provide a long-lasting surface that can be cut without showing marks or cutting lines. They are sold almost anywhere there are sewing, art, or other craft supplies.
Arlee’s Tacky Glue
This wonderful white glue comes in a Fast Drying Glue Pen and is available in most craft stores.
Pigma Brush Pens
I’ve been using these for fine detail work where you would normally use a brush. The Pigma Brush Pens from Sakura can be found in most art supply stores.
Copper Mini-Alligator clips with smooth jaws. A half dozen of these or more are invaluable for holding tiny parts while waiting for glue to set. I’m occasionally seen very small wooden clothspins that can fit some uses.
What card stock to use?
Generic 110 lb works and so does HP 80 lb. Most inkjet printers will handle these.
I’m going to use some photos of my own models to demonstrate basic cardstock techniques.
Before we go any further, be sure you are always working with a new, sharp blade. During this build, plan on using and discarding at least one blade for each full sheet of cardstock.
Always start with the smallest interior cuts. It is much easier to control these without tearing if you have the rest of the paper to control.
Take your time and place the steel straight edge on the cutting line where you can just barely see the line. The idea is that the knife blade is running against the steel rule and the actual cut is half the thickness of the blade away from the edge. You might want to experiment with a couple of scraps as practice. When you are done, you should see a very fine black line leftover on each edge.
In order to avoid tearing out or over cutting inside corners, make sure the knife is held vertically and carefully press the tip down at a corner point. Draw the knife along the steel straightedge until you are almost, but not quite at the end. Don’t try to cut it all the way to the other corner. Leave an 1/8” or so of space before you reach the end of the cut mark.
If you are cutting out a window, for example… After you have made each of the four interior cuts, go back over and start at the opposite end of each of the cuts and carefully insert the tip at the exact corner and draw the blade out to complete the final 1/8” of the cut. When you complete the last one, the scrap center should just drop out with no tearing. If something is still connected, CUT IT! Do not tug it loose as that will leave a nasty rough edge.
Scribe (Fold Cuts)
Carefully cut only halfway through the card stock seams. This will allow a nice, sharp fold at those points. You may wish to practice this technique on a few scraps. I do this by using the back side of the hobby knife blade and just barely allow the weight of the knife to break the “skin” of the cardstock.
Back Score or Scribe
In various places, you will note the parts have been marked for a “back score or scribe”. When you see this, use the blade to make a very small cut all the way through on each end of the fold. Then, turn the paper face down and use your straightedge to make a fold cut between the cut marks that are now showing. That way, you can back fold the paper along the score in exactly the right place.
Most models have tabs that are used as places to apply adhesive and hide behind other parts of the model. You will have to use clamps of some kind to apply pressure to these joints while they dry. That is where the tiny copper alligator clips with the smooth jaws are used.
The exposed edges and fold seams of cardstock generally show as bright white. There are two ways to solve this issue.
Use a felt marker or brush pen either of the same color or some darker shade to dress the edges by working from the back. If you work from the back to dress an edge and slip, you only disfigure the backside which will be hidden later.
This requires a steady hand with a fine-point marker or brush pen to slowly dress the exposed seams to match or blend with the rest of the model.
Additional online resources
Clever Models for the model rr community.
Fiddlers Green has been around for years. Great models.
A worldwide organization with a very active forum.
Canon Creative Park
Creative Closeup Free models
Lots of buildings around the world.
Links to LOTS of paper model websites.
Here is an extremely detailed description of these techniques. My thanks to Jim Kellow for finding this one.
Remember. We all have to start somewhere. Practice making several of the small, simple models available on this site, and when you feel comfortable, graduate to more complex kits.