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What is Papercraft?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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Papercraft is a form of crafting in which paper is used to create three dimensional objects such as models or sculptures. Some people refer to papercraft as pepakura, in an homage to the large Japanese papercrafting community. Papercraft can be large or small, humble or ambitious, and it is incredibly varied. It is also easy to learn, and the Internet has greatly facilitated the exchange of papercraft designs and patterns. In addition, many Internet forums provide useful tips for budding papercrafters who may be struggling with their work.

Unlike origami, papercraft involves cutting up paper or cardboard and gluing it back together, although some folding and bending may be involved. Very basic papercraft is often taught in schools, so that children can bring polygons to life in the form of polyhedra. Simple papercraft does not require extensive math skills, but it can be used to illustrate basic math, or to get people excited about mathematics. More advanced papercraft can call upon impressive math abilities, which is part of the fun for some crafters.

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Paper sculptures can get quite elaborate, running the gamut from replicas of sculptures made from other materials like marble to models of things like trains, boats, and planes. Really dedicated crafters will sometimes devise papercraft objects with moving parts, which requires a very fine eye and a lot of patience. The structure of the three dimensional object may be supported with stiff paper, cardboard, or even wood, to ensure that it will not collapse, and it may be painted, dyed, or textured with applied materials as well. To prevent warping, some papercraft is covered in a protective coating which will make it even sturdier.

Freehanding papercraft is challenging, though enjoyable, and it requires a good eye for design. Some papercrafters use software design programs which do much of the work for them, by converting a three dimensional object into a flat pattern which can be printed out. When a papercrafter devises a particularly complicated pattern, he or she may share it with others, in the spirit of cooperation among crafters, and in the hopes of seeing new takes on the design which may integrate more elements or solve design flaws.

The tools for basic papercraft are very simple and affordable. It helps to use a razor or Exacto® knife to cut, rather than scissors, since the blade can create precise, clean lines. In this case, a firm cutting surface is needed. Tape and glue are also useful, as is thick paper stock. You may also find dies and stamps useful, along with tweezers and other tools for manipulating very small pieces of paper while you work.

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