Before you can start building models you'll need some basic equipment and supplies:

  • Access to a computer and colour printer
  • Adobe Reader installed.
  • Sharp hobby knife or scalpel
  • US Letter / A4 sized cutting mat
  • Metal ruler
  • White paper glue
  • Empty ball-point pen or paper line scorer
  • Tweezers
  • Colored pencils
  • US Letter / A4 size. Thick paper or thin card 


Cutting Parts
Cut out all paper model parts carefully, following cut lines exactly.
Use a sharp hobby knife for all cuts to avoid tears.

Scoring Folds
Score "Peak" or 'Mountain' folds on the printed side of the card. See Figure 1. Use the back (dull) edge of the hobby knife, a dead ballpoint pen, a screwdriver, or some other semi sharp object that will dent, or scrape a line, but won't cut all the way through the card.

 Figure 1.


Score "Valley" folds on the back of the printed surface and fold inward. See Figure 2

Figure 2.

Gluing Parts Together
The rule of thumb for paper model construction is: Take your time. Rushing almost always leads to unsatisfactory results. The nice thing about paper is that mistakes can always be undone, new parts printed, and entire sections redone without too much difficulty. Prefit all parts together before gluing to make sure you know what goes where and you can plan the best order of assembly. 

Apply thin coat of glue to the surface of the flap, using an applicator (tooth picks or scrap pieces of card will do fine as applicators). Use tweezers to hold the glued parts together. Always glue one flap at a time, and wait until the glue has set before moving on to the next flap. Always try to keep your hands and tools free of excess glue. Keep a rag handy to wipe excess glue away.

The exposed white edge of the part to which the flap part is attached can be made to disappear or blend in with the rest of the model by touching it up later with sharp coloured pencils, markers, or even watercolour pencils. See Figure 3.

Figure 3.


Advanced Tips
Modellers with more advanced skills can join parts without any exposed white card edges by cutting off flaps, carefully matching and aligning part edges, and using separate strapping pieces on the inner surface to hold the seam. See Figure 4.

Figure 4.


Want "Detachable" Cargo Pods?
For those advanced modellers who want to be able to make cargo pods dock and undock from their models, or swap things around, or even dock future models together, here's a tip: Use magnets attached to the inner surface or the pods and the hull surface of the model where pods are supposed to attach. Small round magnets can be found at most hobby, hardware or craft stores cheaply. 

Make sure the poles of the magnets are aligned correctly before gluing them in place (see Figure 5 for an example of how to attach the magnets inside your models).

Figure 5.


WARNING: Remember to keep any models with magnets in them away from computers, monitors, or any other magnetic data storage medium (audio or video tapes, diskettes, etc.).


Want to Light Your Models?
Paper models can be made with working lights for added realism. An external light source with fibre optic threads (available from most hobby or electronics stores) running into the model via its stand can be made to illuminate windows, bridge area, running lights, engines, etc. Internal LEDs, or other lights can also be used, but power source, weight of the lights, and potential heat build-up should be primary considerations before choosing these options.

For larger models, an internal light source may be ideal. In these cases, use a light-tight "lightbox" such as an empty 35mm film canister of something of equivalent size. Pierce it with a hole for the light source wire in the cap, then pierce the drum with holes for fibre optics as needed. Close the cap and attach it within the model as needed. With a single light source, you can now run the fibres to all the places you want light to appear on the model's surface.

Lighting a model should be considered before assembling the model, as it will need a few extras in order for this to work. 

Light "leakage" can ruin the effect. It is best to coat the non-printed side of the model with black, either by painting it, or attaching an additional layer of black construction paper to all parts.

All seams and part joints should have an extra layer of black tape or black paper, to ensure a 'light tight' seal, as construction proceeds. Lit areas (windows, bridge windows, running light openings, should be cut out carefully, and a translucent material (plastic, fabric,) of the desired light colour should be affixed to the inner surface around that opening to ensure the light is a gentle glow rather than an intense spotlight. Intermittently flashing running lights can me made by using a separate light source with a timed flasher or other circuit capacitor arrangement.

WARNING: Never leave a light on inside a paper model for any length of time, no matter how confident you are that heat build up is not a concern. Paper is highly flammable, and small models have very little airflow or venting allowances for heat.

Preserving Your Paper Model
Paper models are remarkable sturdy but, like origami, they aren't intended to last forever. Heck, they're made or paper. However, there are a few things that can be done to make them last a little longer.
First of all, store and display them in a dry place. Paper's biggest enemy is moisture. Humidity will make the models sag or bow.

The ink on the surface will rub off, smudge and smear with handling, so avoid handling them too much. The ink will also fade faster in light, so direct sunlight is a bad idea (sunlight light will also make some papers yellow or become misshapen with time. It may even cause some glues to become brittle and break).

In order to preserve your paper model, consider spraying it with a clear gloss or satin finished acrylic varnish. The gloss doesn't end up being too glossy with paper, unless you apply several coats. One light coat is enough to fix the ink, give in a nice satin finish, and make your model sturdier. Be careful not to spray too close, or apply too much; the last thing you want to do is 'wet' or 'soak' your model with the varnish you're using to try to preserve it.

Displaying Your Paper Model
Paper models are ideal for models of real spacecraft, science fiction spacecraft, or aircraft, simply because they are so light, they can be easily hung from the ceiling by thin threads without major structural alterations to your home.

They also look very nice mounted on a painted post or dowel attached to a weighted base of some sort (a piece of wood, painted black or nicely stained is often more than enough weight and stability for most paper models).

It's always a good idea to consider how you intend to display your model during the early stages of construction, so that any internal mount points or structural considerations can be dealt with before the model's final assembly.


Copyright 2004, 2005 Stephen Robertson & Duncan Day, All Rights Reserved

Independence War and 1998, 1999, 2001 Atari & Particle Systems Ltd.