Cheat Sheet

Paper Engineering and Pop-ups For Dummies

Paper engineering and pop-ups is a fun hobby and you only need a few supplies to get started and create intricate, fun designs. Knowing the thickness of the paper you're working with helps when you're engineering paper designs. If you choose to draw your own designs, follow a few basic tips.

Items for Your Paper Engineering Toolbox

Paper engineering is a fascinating hobby and relatively inexpensive. To get started, you only need a few tools for your toolbox. Remember to get the best scissors you can, along with these supplies:

  • Long-blade scissors

  • Short-blade scissors

  • Sharp, scalpel-style craft knife with extra blades

  • Self-healing cutting mat

  • Ruler, preferably clear plastic

  • Glue spreader

  • Tweezers

  • Drawing compass

  • Protractor

Converting Paper Weights

Knowing a paper’s weight is important when working on paper engineering and pop-up designs because the thickness of the paper is the feature that most defines its stiffness. Finding the weight of a piece of paper can be tricky if you don’t have the original packaging. Use the following table to convert different paper weights and thicknesses:

Microns Thousandths of an Inch Grams/Meter2 Pounds (Bond Paper)
80 3.1 60 16
120 4.7 90 24
150 5.9 115 31
180 7.1 150 40
200 7.9 180 47
230 9.1 220 58
250 9.8 250 67
330 13.0 285 76
380 15.0 315 87
445 17.5 385 105

Materials for Your Paper Engineering Workshop

When you’re organizing your workspace for creating paper engineering and pop-up projects, it’s a great idea to have a variety of items within reach. So, when you visit a craft store, keep an eye out for paper engineering supplies to build up your collection. These tools should be included in your workspace to help create your designs:

  • White paper and card in different weights

  • Colored, textured, and glossy paper and card

  • White school glue

  • Glue sticks

  • Solvent-based glue

  • Mechanical pencil

  • Quality erasers

  • Fine black felt-tipped pen

  • Range of crayons

  • Watercolor paints

  • Googly eyes, stickers, glitter, sticky-back jewels, wood cutouts, and other embellishments

Drawing Your Paper Engineering and Pop-up Designs

If you’re marking your card with a pencil and ruler rather than designing on your computer, you can do a few things to help the process and keep things neat. Keep the following paper engineering and pop-up drawing pointers in mind:

  • Draw your design with a pencil rather than a pen so you can correct any mistakes. Don’t press too hard with your pencil; you want the line to be easy to erase.

  • Keep your pencil well-sharpened or use a thin mechanical pencil. A thin line is more accurate than a wide line.

  • If possible, draw on the back of your design in reverse. That way, you can keep the front of the design clean and tidy.

  • Always use a ruler for straight lines. To be most accurate, measure your lines twice, once at each end, and then join the two marks.

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