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Your Beginner's Guide to Making Pop-Up Books and Cards

A Roundup of Pop-Up Tutorials & Ideas

A handmade greetings card is always a thoughtful gesture, but a handmade pop-up one is extra impressive! There are many different techniques to use, including kirigami (a mix of paper cutting and origami) and simple strips which hold parts of a 'scene.'

Below, you will find lots of inspiration as well as the best video how-tos and free templates that I have found online. I've also included a list of the different types of pop-up mechanisms you can use.

I hope you like the page and I hope it inspires you to give this craft a go :)

Floral Bouquet

Floral Bouquet

The Basics

As a beginner to pop-ups, the V-fold and box fold techniques are likely to be the ones you will be using most:

V-Folds are very versatile and are where a V shape pops up when the card is open. They can be cut and folded directly into the main piece of card, or they can be created by adding an additional section of card for the pop-up shape. (It might help if you view an animation of a V-fold.) To create a more advanced effect, you can even add V-folds on top of other V-folds for more layering, and you can also create a V-fold lifter which produces an impressive floating effect. An asymmetrical V-fold pivot is another impressive effect which produces a side-to-side movement.

Box Folds (also called interval stands or layers): By contrast, these are created using parallel horizontal or vertical fold in order to produce 3D box shapes rather than making use of V shaped angles. You can leave these boxes as is, or glue other shapes onto them. They can be created by cutting directly into the folded card first, as explained here and here, or the boxes can be made with additional pop-up card sections onto the folded base card. Of course, if you cut the boxes directly into the folded card, you will be able to see through the gap in the card unless you add a backing.

Combining the Two: For more advanced techniques, you can also build extra boxes onto other boxes to create more and more layers, or you could build boxes onto V-folds and V-folds onto boxes!

Video How-To

Basic Technique: The Box

The box (or step) technique is the first thing to learn as a beginner, as you will see this technique used in many cards, both simple and advanced. It is an important mechanism to know.

The diagram below shows a single sheet of paper which has been cut and folded to create three different box shapes:

  1. The solid black vertical lines are where you cut through the paper with scissors or a craft knife.
  2. The red lines are valley folds, which are easier to do if you use something pointy (but not sharp enough to go through paper) such as a bone folder to score a horizontal line where you intend to fold. Scoring the paper makes it easier to achieve a sharp, straight fold.
  3. The blue lines are hill folds and are created last, along with the 'fold line.' Fold the piece of paper/card along the fold line whilst pulling the three strips of paper you have created inwards (towards you). Squashing the paper strips between the folded paper sheet should result in hill folds, so long as the paper strips remain flat and straight, and the (red) valley folds remain correctly folded.

You will find that the shortest distance between the fold line and a valley fold is equal to the distance between the hill fold and the other valley fold (i.e. x=x, y=y, z=z).

The dashed line represents the fold line where the sheet of paper has been folded in half lengthways, like you would do if you were making a landscape layout greetings card.

The bottom of the diagram shows the side profile of each of the three paper strips, when the paper is folded (along the fold line) to a 90 degree angle. So, changing where you make your cuts and folds changes the heights and sizes of the pop-up boxes.

The idea is usually to then to glue a picture or other card shape onto the front of the box, so that when the card is opened, it is this image that 'pops up.'

Please note: Because the boxes are created within that one sheet of paper/card, there will be gaps behind the boxes which you'll be able to see through. You would therefore need to add another sheet of paper/card as a backing like this. Or, you could make the paper strips from separate pieces of paper and add 'glue flaps' at each end so you can glue them to your card in the correct place without cutting into your base card at all.

pop-up-cards-mechanisms-templates-for-free-diy-instructions-for-beginners

Additional Techniques

For different takes on the regular box fold technique, there is also:

  • The open-top box which turns the box shape on its side.
  • The floating table-top plane which is where a piece of card seems to float in the air but is in fact supported by boxes.
  • Mouth folds: Mostly used to create the effect of an opening and closing mouth.
  • Tabs and Slots: This is a slightly more complicated mechanism which you can add onto a card to produce a sliding movement. The tab can be pulled and pushed to produce the movement, or an automatic sliding tab can be made so that opening and closing the card will activate the tab.
  • An X Mechanism: Created by cutting slits into two identical shapes so that they can slot together, and then placing this 'X' onto a box mechanism on the base card.
  • Rotating spinning discs: Attaching a card disc to the main card using a split pin allows the disc to be spun around. Different images are printed around the edge of the disc so that rotating it allows the displayed image to be changed at will.
  • Adding a Rotator produces a rotating movement.

For information on even more techniques, check out Popular Kinetics.

The Mouth Fold

The mouth fold does exactly what it says— it creates a fold that looks like a mouth opening closing when you open the card!

It's very simple to do:

  1. Fold your card (or paper) in half.
  2. Measure where the center line is (shown in red on the diagram). You don't need to mark this out unless you want to (in pencil). It doesn't have to be exact.
  3. Cut horizontally across the card from the folded edge to the center line. Do this wherever you want the pop-up positioned. In the diagram, I have chosen the center. (Cutting to the exact center isn't compulsory; in fact you can make this cut as short as you like (for a small mouth), but you don't want to go much past the center line and make the cut too long as this could result in the pop-up sticking out of your card when folded.)
  4. Fold the card corners outwards from where you just cut so that they are folded at a 45 degree angle, as shown in the diagram, to form two triangle shapes.
  5. Do the same on the other side of the card so that the 45 degree folds (shown in green) have been folded both forwards and backwards.
  6. Put the card flat again and open the card out.
  7. Push the folds inwards, to the inside of the card and fold the card in half again.
  8. Press down onto the folds to crease them once once.
  9. You should now be able open and close the card to open and close the mouth. Finished!
pop-up-cards-mechanisms-templates-for-free-diy-instructions-for-beginners

Basic Lessons for Beginners

Pop-Up Christmas Card

Pop-Up Christmas Card

Kirigami and Lattice Heart Tutorials

Dinosaur kirigami. Kirigami = a combination of paper folding and paper cutting techniques.

Dinosaur kirigami. Kirigami = a combination of paper folding and paper cutting techniques.

Design Inspiration & More How-Tos

Pop-Up Postcards

Pop-Up Postcards

Pop-Up Letters

Pop-Up Letters

Designs Inspired by Popular Games

Designs Inspired by Popular Games

Free Downloads & Templates

Robot Card

Robot Card

Geometric Origami

Geometric Origami

Ideas & Inspiration Videos

More Ideas

Accordion Card

Accordion Card

Cute Igloo Scene

Cute Igloo Scene

Impressive Projects

Norway fjord: I love the simple design and striking colours on this card.

Norway fjord: I love the simple design and striking colours on this card.

Inspiration & Photo Galleries

Please Leave a Comment!

Joanne M Muzzy on September 28, 2020:

Terrific Web site, Thank you!

Joanne M Muzzy on September 17, 2020:

This is a GREAT pop up teaching and inspiration site, I will visit often.

lou on April 22, 2020:

absolutley stupid

yael on May 30, 2017:

wow- this is an amazing page! so many ideas and info.!!

maybe you can help me out- i've made a pop up page for a mini album and the when i open the page- the images doesn't stand straight- they lean forward a bit. is there a way to improve it? thanks!

Kate Todd from London, United Kingdom on May 03, 2017:

Wow! This is a great collection of videos. Love the ideas, and I wish I had some more time to create such beautiful things. :)

flashmakeit from usa on April 20, 2017:

I like Blue 2 video. My question is how or where do go to publish a pop up book for a reasonable price.

sandeep on March 11, 2017:

This is very useful for beginners. thanks lot.

AbsorbArt from United States on October 09, 2016:

Wow this is awesome! Stunned at the carousel pop-up card!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 02, 2016:

This is pretty cool and awesome. I loved that tiger lily kirigami. I never heard of kirigami before. Thanks for sharing this lens.

Skye.S on August 26, 2016:

Best website ever for POP-UP BOOK

Samuel orris from Texas on March 14, 2016:

Try to make a pop up gift by following your tutorial.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on November 27, 2015:

What a clever and ingenious idea! I love it! It's also so cool! I would love to make this this year or try it next year.

O from New York on October 14, 2015:

Such an amazing article following you now! Check out my art article it's amazing! I would appreciate it and I'm following anyone who follows me :) I love my hub people.. I'm new to this by the way but I love reading your hubs

Diana Abrahamson on April 25, 2015:

Thanks for all the info and beautiful photos of pop up cards. Ever since I was a child I have loved them.

Charlyn June from Philippines on April 21, 2015:

I just liked to check on crafts and art ideas every time I am tired of the views of forms and spreadsheet on my screen.. great ideas you have posted here.. will be noting some of the recommended designs for my collection.. Thanks!

IslandBites from Puerto Rico on April 18, 2015:

Loved it! Great hub.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 18, 2015:

You are right...a card is always such a nice little surprise to receive. I have made a few pop up cards but am not fabulous at it.

You have such an extensive collection here...I am bookmarking and pinning.

Voted up and shared too. Superb

Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps

Mara Alexander from Los Angeles, California on February 28, 2015:

This is such a great idea. When I was very young, I loved these pop-up-cards, and still do (but don't tell anyone). Thank you for showing us how to make them. You are very creative. Now I can make my little cousins (I've got two) some of these.

Thanks for sharing, I voted up your hub

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on August 14, 2014:

Thank you so much for sharing this terrific information about how to make pop-up greeting cards. I've always wanted to try this, and maybe now I finally will. :)

CalobrenaOmai on July 28, 2014:

So many memories were sparked from reading this. The Super Mario scene with the Koopas was very nostalgic. The lens in general brought to mind a pop-up card I made to accompany a class project where a lot of trial and error took place; I didn't measure correctly so some elements protruded out of the card once folded. It took a while but it finally worked out; except the missing letters on the banner. Lovely lens. Now I got so more projects to dive into. Thanks for sharing!

amandascloset0 on May 06, 2014:

I would love to do this just for fun. I believe this summer I'm going to try to simple ones to start out and I certainly want to try the tiger lily, that is awesome.

glowchick on April 22, 2014:

Wow, This is a great lens full of so many ideas! Thanks for sharing :)

GEMNITYA5 on April 18, 2014:

You're lens is a Great Example For Others.

Blessings

GEM

JuDe83 LM on March 06, 2014:

Oh, and I have to add this to my to do list, it's so pretty

AnonymousC831 from Kentucky on March 01, 2014:

Very nice lens, love your creations.

teelover on February 14, 2014:

Cool, its definitely worth to try!

Rose Jones on February 06, 2014:

I love this lens so much, but then I love cards. Linked to my letter writing and postcards board, and linked as related to my own lens: http://www.squidoo.com/what-to-write-on-a-postcard

ismeedee on January 26, 2014:

I'm thinking of my son- he loves making pop-up cards and there are some great ideas here that are easy enough for him to do!

indiarae-marriott on January 12, 2014:

Okay but need to have a few that's simpler

VictoriaSeres89 on January 09, 2014:

me encanto el blog, de verdad maravillosas obras de arte

Mikarazgriz LM on December 31, 2013:

Love this lens! So many tips and ideas~

vera718 on December 12, 2013:

impressive

randomthings lm on December 07, 2013:

Very cool!

tonyleather on November 09, 2013:

Interesting and creative lens! Thanks!

anonymous on September 17, 2013:

nice as visit.

anonymous on August 29, 2013:

Very nice. i love it

anonymous on August 20, 2013:

Bellas tus tarjetas. Me voy a animar a ver si alguna me queda parecida a las tuyas. Gracias por el aporte

josietook on August 19, 2013:

I love the igloo!!

SusanAston on July 31, 2013:

I love these - the tiger lily is fabulous.

Klinetka on May 10, 2013:

I love pop up cards bu I have never tried to make one. Mybe I will try now :-)

anonymous on April 11, 2013:

We love pop-ups and we base our ideas around them too! We just love the way they allow us to interact with the material, especially with photos and mementos.

DecoratingMom411 on March 10, 2013:

This is a very nice lens! What's not to love about this? :) I like the Floral Bouquet pop up card! Really really fantastic! Thumbs up!

anonymous on February 26, 2013:

This is a nice collection you put together! You might also be interested in my pop-up paper house and other OA templates at www.makepopupcards.com

anonymous on February 20, 2013:

great ideas, really helped with my project

anonymous on February 15, 2013:

Looks amazing

birthdaybluepri on February 14, 2013:

Great Lens! Personally, i like the simplicity of the fjord card. I'll have to google Rosa to see what else she has out there for great designs.

ChenB on January 09, 2013:

Wow. Awe-inspiring. I've never seen such intricate, elaborate pop ups. The sculpture video is amazing; and that tiger lily flower, I thought was real at first glance. Incredible stuff, what a great lens.

rockingretro2 on January 01, 2013:

Great lens! I am really excited to try some of these ideas.

scribenet lm on December 29, 2012:

Tons of resources here. Gorgeous designs!

June Nash on December 27, 2012:

I love pop up cards. Thank you for showing how it is done. Enjoyable lens!

Tumblestar LM on December 02, 2012:

These are all very nice : D I made a pop up Tardis (Doctor Who) card once.

anonymous on October 31, 2012:

Very interesting I would love to try these

SomethingInteresting on September 25, 2012:

Thanks for the information. I will try making my own pop up cards.

shauna1934 on September 18, 2012:

I want to master the art of making pop up cards!!!

Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on September 17, 2012:

Great lens...my creative mind is already whirling with ideas for this Christmas.

ikrave on September 15, 2012:

Amazing!! I think these are great!!! Great lens!!

Katie Harp on July 18, 2012:

blessed! :)

CoeGurl on June 30, 2012:

Awesome lens! I love the Norway Fjord pop-up card.

psiloveyou1 on June 29, 2012:

Very cool lens. I have made some pop up cards, but not as intricate as these.

Caromite on June 21, 2012:

I like to make pop-up cards :) Very nice lens, I found a bunch of ideas for cards!

biggking lm on May 28, 2012:

cool. Did it take a lot of time?

papermotor on May 08, 2012:

My favorite is the xmas tree. Simple and spectacular. Thanks for this lens! :)

IYenForZen on March 14, 2012:

Wonderful ideas and designs. You have inspired me to try this! Thanks!

Kim from Yonkers, NY on February 17, 2012:

OMG I have tried to think of a way to make a pop up on occasion & I LOVE that Tiger Lily one. (that would be a keeper for me I'd hang it on the wall if someone were to give me that!)

I've included it on my Favorite Lenses lens under the creative DIY section. (not sure if I missed it, but was there a link how to male the Tiger Lily one?

Happy Random Acts of Kindness day!

anwyn on February 17, 2012:

a great range of sites for creating pop up cards :)

jimmyworldstar on February 02, 2012:

That dinosaur pop out looks like it took awhile to make. I can't imagine trying to get some of these open up inside a greeting card.

printabledolls on January 31, 2012:

wow my dream to make pop up cards, I can learn now, so happy, thank U!

JohnMichael2 on January 05, 2012:

very intricate and artistic - thanks for sharing

kathysart on December 25, 2011:

How fun.. yes I must try it. THUMBS UP ANGEL BLESSED