Cardboard model

The cardboard model uses paper and cardboard , materials that are easy to implement, to make various objects ( cardboard ) like models .

For this it is necessary to realize, on the sheets of paper or cardboard, the “plan development” of the object to be built: it is in a way the 2D pattern of the 3D object which is assimilated to an assembly of developable surfaces .

The pattern will then be cut and the object will be obtained by folding and assembling (usually collage). In popular language, this type of model is frequently called cutting or cardboard construction . The terms English papercraftor cardmodel are sometimes used.

Model of Notre-Dame-du-Port Basilica , Tomis Edition, 1986.


It seems that one of the first models had either a crucifix German of the xvi th century , but this type of construction has experienced a very strong expansion in the late xix th century as lithographs disseminated by printers / European publishers, especially German.

In France , they are popular image editors like Jean Frédéric Wentzel , printer in Wissembourg and Charles Nicolas Pellerin , printer in Épinal , who launched around 1850this type of toys .

The Imagerie d’Épinal thus published several collections of cutting-edge models, including “Le Petit Architecte”, “Grandes Constructions” on 39 × 49 cm formats , “Medium Constructions” and “Small Constructions”. From 1880 to 1908 , several hundred models were published with the subjects of architecture (collection of the Universal Exhibition of 1900 ), costumes (“Full – Face Characters”), various vehicles, ships and planes.

At the same time, theaters of paper , considered as “theater at home” and which are almost always cardboard constructions, were also very popular throughout Europe .

This mode of expression and construction developed and persisted around the world until the Second World War . From Europe to Japan to the United States and Canada, the editors were quite numerous with models of various qualities. Some models for children were unpretentious economic model toys while others, very complete and complex to mount were real models. In this category we can place the models Ingenia in France, the models JF.Schreiber in Germany .

During the Second World War and in the years that followed, given the lack of means and raw materials, the cardboard model was a popular hobby. A remarkable collection is that of the Micromodels published in the United Kingdom as early as 1941 , each model of which was printed on some small cards of 13 x 9 cm and which once built was held in a cigar box! The collection included no less than 120 models with classical subjects (architecture, planes, trains, cars, ships).

The appearance of the plastic model in the 1950s , easier to assemble, and often more faithful, put an end to the development of the cardboard model in most countries, including France.

Nevertheless, it persisted in some countries:

  • in the countries of the former Soviet bloc (Hungary, Poland, East Germany, etc.), by saving raw materials,
  • in West Germany with extremely active publishers,
  • in Japan , this is called pepakura (ペ パ ク ラ), probably because of paper folding (see Origami )

In other countries like France, Italy, Spain some publishers have survived, others have disappeared. Generally, those who have stayed are specialized on a type of subject such as architecture ( Domus in Italy , Merino in Spain , The Instant Durable in France).

The computer graphics developed on PC and Internet are now completely upset this hobby. Indeed, a model to build is nothing more than a set of pages to print on paper or cardboard: it comes down to a file that can be stored, transmitted easily and printed as many times as ‘it is necessary.

For the classic model, the cost of making the model ready to print, printing itself in color on a suitable paper, storage and transport of large boards were far from easy and therefore expensive.

On the contrary, the design, printing and storage of a model board using a suitable graphics software no longer presents any of these difficulties.

In addition, the democratization of printers , the diversity of available papers, both in print quality and variety of grammage , opens this creative leisure activity to the greatest number.

Still used today by architects, the model is the best way to learn and develop 3D mental representation. The design of paper objects in 3D, the decomposition into elementary forms, the determination of their dimensions, their development and their intersections lead to practical applications of geometry. The realization of the paper or cardboard models thus becomes the demonstration by the example of the mathematics in a playful frame.

Thanks to all these developments, the paper / cardboard model becomes an independent leisure activity that can combine applied computer science, mathematics, creativity, imagination and manual skill, or simply be limited to making the thousands of boards available.


  • Dieter Nievergelt, Paper Architecture , Lausanne 2000, ( ISBN  2951503326 )
  • from ) Historical circle of the cardboard model (AGK), Zur Geschichte Kartonmodellbaues , Scheuer & Strüver, Hamburg 2004-2006

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