The Secret Of Designing & Building Custom Paper & Card Models With Pepakura

Christian Cawley 09-08-2012

fold up paper modelsRecently on MakeUseOf we showed you how to How To Print & Build Your Own Free, Beautifully Detailed 3D Models Having been enthused by the continuously dropping prices of 3D printers, I was recently checking out the latest models and making a decision on which one to choose when I had a moment of what... Read More find, download, print and build your own card models.


This got me thinking about just what card models I would enjoy printing out and building. After all, when you’re downloading templates, you’re accepting a prescribed design and method of construction. Like me, you might prefer to create different models, preferably with a better focus on building rather than a heavy bias on the end product (like impacting on an otherwise excellent design by providing narrow tabs, for instance).

Fortunately, there is a way that you can design and build your own custom paper and card models using Pepakura, a freeware application for Windows 2000 and later.

3D Card Models (Including The Link)

Building 3D models isn’t something that you should jump into without an understanding of exactly what is involved. You’ll need to be patient and a little creative, steady of hand and sharp of eye (with or without glasses or an eyeglass) but most importantly you should strive to find models that you would be happy to admire once they’re created. You’ll also need a good-quality printer.

Our guide to downloading and printing 3D card models How To Print & Build Your Own Free, Beautifully Detailed 3D Models Having been enthused by the continuously dropping prices of 3D printers, I was recently checking out the latest models and making a decision on which one to choose when I had a moment of what... Read More provides you with a good grounding in this area, explaining how to source models, choose the correct card stock and use a craft knife, scissors, glue and other tools to get the desired results.

If you’re just starting with 3D card models, check it out; otherwise, if you’re ready to create your own, read on!


Download & Install

To get started with the Pepakura head to here. There you will find a download link for Pepakura Designer 3 which you can use as a limited evaluation version.

Once downloaded and installed, Pepakura Designer 3 can be used with the following 3D modelling applications.

  • Metasequoia (.MQO) (this has the highest compatibility)
  • Wavefront (.OBJ)
  • AutoCAD 3D (.DXF)
  • 3DS Max (.3DS)
  • Lightwave (.LWO)
  • Binary/ASCII STL (.STL)
  • Google Earth4 (.KML, .KMZ)
  • Collada (.DAE)

Files created and saved in any of these formats can be imported into Pepakura and converted into a model that can be printed out and constructed.

Creating Your Own 3D Card Model

Creating a 3D card model means that you will first need to create a 3D model using software that outputs in the formats listed above. If you don’t have any to hand, you should be able to find some free-to-use models in the appropriate formats via Google. If you don’t manage to find anything suitable, Pepakura comes with some sample models built in.


Once you have the 3D model ready, you can use the File > Open option to import it into Pepakura.

fold up paper models

A 3D representation of the model will appear on the left-side of the window; on the right, you should find a 2D representation, detailing the item as it would appear when printed, complete with tabs for gluing.

paper models


Pepakura features a wealth of options, but most useful are those in the 2D menu. Here you will be able to add page numbers, label items and toggle the glue tabs on your model on and off. There are also various buttons on the main toolbar menu that will change the view of the 3D item.

paper models

Via Settings > Texture settings you can add or change the existing colours and textures for a model, while Settings > Print and Paper settings will enable you to configure the output to your printer.

paper models


Settings > Other settings, meanwhile, will enable you to determine how your model appears once printed; options on the Line Style tab concern whether lines are solid or dotted, and custom formats can be introduced. Lines can also be coloured, if necessary.

Once you’re happy with your model, it’s time to click File > Print and prepare yourself for a lot of fun!


fold up paper models

Whether you’re interested in building card battleships or gift boxes, Pepakura provides the tools you need. Paper and card crafting is relatively simple to start, but requires a lot of work on larger projects – if you have had trouble finding suitable projects then Pepakura is a great way to get you started.

With a good selection of features that can help you import, create and print a suitable model, Pepakura effortlessly converts 3D models into 2D versions that you can print out onto card and build.

Note however that this is an evaluation copy, with save and export features disabled unless the product is registered for $38. This shouldn’t stop you from having a bit of fun with it, so get crafting!

Related topics: Digital Art, Printables.

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  1. Phill Johnson
    August 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    this software can help people increase the way of making paper and card models

  2. Shakirah Faleh Lai
    August 10, 2012 at 8:50 am

    I love paper and card models. I found pop card designer app at Pepakura, it'll help me a lot, thank you.