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How to Make 3D Paper Art

How to Make 3D Paper Art

Have you seen 3d paper art effects on scrapbook pages and wondered how they were achieved? Sometimes it takes very little to add a lot to a page or a card. It can look as though you have spent hours making a special item when in reality, it may only have taken some well placed presses or a little knowledge of how to go about shaping your hand made or store bought embellishments.

Make 3D paper flowers

One of the best tools I know for shaping paper flowers is actually called a flower shaping tool. It looks like a plastic stick that is rounded on both ends. One end is tapered and the other end has a half circle shape that allows you to crease your paper flower art. When you buy a tool, also purchase a soft mat (like a more forgiving mouse pad) to use when shaping your flowers.

If you have some basic paper punches (circles, hearts) you are then in business for making shaped paper flowers. A flower with petals is really made up of repetitive shapes. Punch out several hearts to form the petals, then place your flat piece of heart shaped card stock on the flower shaping mat.

Have you noticed that petals have a slight cup shape towards the centre of the flower? Press on the pointy end of the heart and roll the tool to add a cup like shape.

Have you also noticed that many petals have a little lip on the edge, or a rounded shape? You can create both with a few presses of your tool. Then simply do the same to all of the rest of the petals and assemble your flower, using adhesive to keep the petals in place. Sometimes it helps to punch out a circle to act as a base to adhere the petals to.

Make 3d paper leaves

Need some 3d leaves? Flat leaves can look fine, but adding a 3d element to them makes them look almost real. To make a simple leaf, punch a heart shape and cut it down the centre lengthwise, then finish trimming the shape into a leaf. You will have a rounded end (the stem end) and a pointy end to your leaf.

If you want raggedy edges leaves, tear the edges or cut them with decal edged scissors. If you want a mottled look now is the time to sponge your leaf with ink or splash it with paints or other treatments.

When it is dry, fold the leaf in half lengthwise, then crumple the card stock leaf and flatten it out slightly. Again use your paper shaping tool and pad to form a cup like shape on the rounded end, and maybe curl the tip of the leaf slightly. You can also draw in the veins and stem line of the leaf and/or ink the edges. I like to use gold ink on the edges of many of my leaves. Then make as many leaves as you like and add them to your card or layout.

If you compare these leaves to projects with flat leaves, the difference can be stunning.

Quill it

Another way to add dimension to layouts and cards is the quilling technique. for those who have not tried it, it looks very impressive yet is not very hard to do. Quilled shapes are made with thin strips of paper tightly or loosely coiled around a needle like shape. There are also quilling trays that will help the coils you make to stay a uniform size so you can make exact ‘building blocks’ for your embellishments.

The end of the strip of paper is either anchored down while the coil is tight or the coil is allowed to relax and the loose end is adhered when it has finished uncoiling. You will get better adhesion if you tear the end of your strip of paper as a torn end adheres more invisibly than a straight cut one. You can buy quilling tools, or just start with a darning needle pushed into a cork and use the cork as a handle while you wrap thin strips of paper around the needle. You can buy special quilling paper packs, though I have heard of people using thin paper put through a shredder for some of their projects. I personally find a shredder makes the paper a little too wide for card embellishments, but you may like that effect, especially on a 12″ x 12″ scrapbook layout.

Quilled embellishments can be made by repeating certain shapes. For example, the basic coil can make a flower. All you need is a yellow coil for the centre of the bloom, then five coils in another colour for the petals. If you pinch one side of your coil, you will have a leaf shape. If you pinch both sides of a coil, you will have a double pointed shape. There are lots more shapes you could learn to make the embellishments you would like. And you can build all sorts of shapes with quilled components, from animals to buildings to food to just about anything!

Recycle it

Another effective way to add 3d elements to your projects is to add a 3d recycled element to the mix. Has your feather duster lost a feather? Scrap with it! Is there an interesting insert inside a box? See if it is just what you are looking for with a certain layout. Do you have some old packing boxes? Tear one open and see if the corrugated card inside inspires you to make an embellishment from it. There is so much you can add with recycled materials.

Ribbon, material and more

I am sure you know how to use ribbon on a page or card. You adhere it down flat with a piece of double sided tape, right? Yes, that adds a little 3d element, but you can do much more with ribbon. You have probably already tied bows on a card or layout. But have you pleated it, sewn over the pleats, looped or curled it? Have you ruffled it and used the ruffle to wind into a flower shape held together with a button centre? How about tying knots in the end of a bunch of ribbons and then tying the bunch together and adding that to your project?

Ribbons can mimic stems for flowers too. Experiment with ribbon and twine and cord and leather. Try using netting or other pieces of material to add interest. Use a piece of material from a special dress or room furnishing to add value to the subject you are scrapping about. Use it as a background for a photo, or gathered or tied or scrunched – the choices are only limited by your imagination.

Texturise it

Yet another wonderful 3d element can be added with texture paints or gesso (coloured or otherwise). Slather colour on to the object and use various objects to ‘work’ it such as spatulas, paint brushes, a fork, a toothpick, a cotton bud, the end of a bobby pin. Use anything you think will make an interesting texture. Dab at it with an old hair brush or toothbrush. Embed beads, buttons, sequins or crystals in it. Add little shells. Throw on some glitter. Have fun! You will make something truly original and interesting to add as a background for your projects.

Remember that Cuttlebug or Big Shot machines dry emboss card stock. Make it even more interesting by sanding the ridges of the embossed patterns, or chalking them, or swiping an ink pad over them or painting and removing some of the paint with a tissue before it is completely dry. Crumple up the paper and smooth it out again.

I hope these ideas have inspired you to experiment and move a little (or a lot) outside your comfort zone to add some lovely 3d paper art to your handmade papercrafting repertoire.

Have fun!