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Paper Modelling: Technical Hints

Author: Lutz Pietschker
Version: 2011-03-12

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Techniques for Paper Modelling

Parallel Lines - Basing models - Terrain Modelling - Triangular Terrain Meshing - Mounting Paper on Cardboard- Algebra

This section is meant to collect some experiences I made while building models. They do not make any claim for originality, completeness, correctness in a universal sense, or whatever. They may well come from other sources I do not remember (otherwise I would quote them, of course). They may even be completely wrong (if so, please tell me). And never forget: Bring your own thoughts when building paper models!


A mistake many people (including myself) make when cutting with scissors is to hold the blade in an oblique angle to the paper. You get the best results when the scissors blades are perpendicular to the paper, otherwise you may get tapered or frayed edges and may even experience splitting cardboard layers (if the cardboard was cheap). Especially when cutting rounded contours keep an eye on this and check yourself regularly; it is easy to develop a bad habit!
To be sure, there are cases when you want to cut at an angle, for example to hide the cardboard edge. In such casees it is better to use a knife than scissors. And talking about knives: Depending on how the blade is designed, it may be necessary to guide the blade at an angle to get a vertical cut. The technique is discussed here.

Obviously, you can make the same mistake with a scalpel.

Parallel Lines

This one is so simple I thought everyone knew it, but it turned out some did not: To draw (or cut, or score) parallel lines, use a set square (drawing triangle) plus a ruler. Leave the ruler in place while sliding the set square along its edge. It helps if the ruler has a rubber underside so it does not slip easily.

Drawing parallel lines method 1

Drawing parallel lines method 2

There is also an ingenious tool for drawing parallels, drawing centre lines and even circles. It is a small ruler with built-in rollers and a compass pin:

Patent Ruler from Swabia

Mine is by Dr. Blasko, Schwenningen, Swabia, and I bought it at some trade fair; in my experience this is the place where all such tools are bought. You seldom see them in shops, and certainly not when you are looking for them.

Basing Paper Models

One of the big problems of paper models is to base them in a way that the base contributes to the strength, shape and beauty of the model. Unfortunately, many basing materials detract rather than contribute. Here is a short list of materials I used or heard about (take a look at some of them on the Modulor website):

Terrain Modelling

This section addresses the question of how to model the terrain that surrounds architecture models- the rocks around lighthouses and castles, for example. Below is a description of some established techniques. The purpose is to give you an idea what others did and, who knows, maybe to come up with ideas how to improve the terrain modelling of bought models or even of your self-designed models.

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Written and published by Lutz Pietschker. Please send comments about technical problems to the site master.
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, last change 2011-03-12