Papercrafting FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I open RAR files?
I tend to use RAR files because they are far better at compressing the archive than ZIP format. You can open them with software such as WinRAR, AlZip, or 7Zip. A variety of free programs are available for both Mac and PC.

How do I open PDO files?
These are what designers consider the most important part of their template. PDOs open with Pepakura Designer, or Pepakura Viewer, the programs used to unfold the model! In short, they are a 3D model with a part list you can easily reference, to see which edge goes where. Immensely useful for complex models! Unfortunately Pepakura is PC only right now, but can be downloaded for free.

What do I need to get started?
No matter what, you're going to need these!
-Thick Paper or Thin Card (see below)
-Scissors or Knife
-Small Ruler (if scoring lines)
-Self healing cutting mat (if using a knife)

What sort of paper should I use?
The very short answer is not printer paper. Some claim they can do fine with it, but I really doubt it. Printer paper (80 grams per square metre) will likely be too weak, and will get soggy with liquid glue. The general recommendation of the papercraft community is paper of a weight between 120-200gsm. This will give you the strength and resilience needed without being too difficult to manipulate.
I personally use 160gsm 'smooth' paper for my big crafts, and 180gsm for my angular N64 ones.

What sort of glue do you need?
Liquid glue is the best by far. Standard PVA glue (also known as white glue, school glue etc) is excellent for models. There are also some other craft glue brands (tacky glue or gels) out there that do a good job too. Glue sticks should be avoided- although cheap and designed for paper, they actually have very little sticking power.

How much glue is needed?
Surprisingly little! Obviously if you don't use enough, parts will not attach, but believe it or not just a small blob on the tip of each tab will usually work! This means you'll have less overspill to accidentally put your fingers in! Also too much glue will wet the paper and take longer to dry.

Scissors vs Knives. Which is the best?
This is a hot topic of debate. Overall it comes down to personal preference. Either way, they should be small dedicated craft tools- i.e. big bulky kitchen scissors aren't ideal! You can be perfectly skilled with both, but they all have some pros and cons. All my models are cut 100% with a small sharp craft knife. X-Acto knives are very popular with the community due to their high quality. I myself use a batch of disposable lightweight Stanley knives, which despite the name can last a long time if you care for them.

+High degree of control on a bigger scale
+Slightly less deformation along the cut line
-Hard to work with small or oddly shaped parts

+Unbeatable for precision on cutting small details
+Can begin the cut anywhere
-Cutting mat essential, risk of self injury!

What is scoring and should I do it? How does it compare with smooth builds?
Scoring means to take a narrow but blunt instrument and run it along the fold lines to create an imprint. This will make folding much easier and cleaner along a straight line. You can use a blunt knife (I use an old Swiss Army one!), or an embossing tool, or simply a dry ball-point pen!

If a model has many angular faces or high angle folds, then scoring is recommended. Polygonal N64 models greatly benefit from scoring the majority of the lines in order to get a clean fit. Smooth building is a technique for higher detailed models, where you ignore 95% of the fold lines (only score steep angles and the tabs for ease of manipulation). After cutting out a part, you glue it in place by gradually wrapping it around in a smooth curve.

There are pros and cons to whether you should smooth build or score and fold. Usually it will depend on a combination of your preferences, skills and the detail of the model.

-Score and Fold
+Clean lines
+Greater precision as the model matches the 3D data better
+Very good for N64 level detailed models around 20cm tall
-Looks less natural unless you are trying to replicate the in-game look
-Scored lines may be very visible if poorly done
-Need to use a lined template, or constantly reference the lines for a lineless version

-Smooth Building
+Saves a lot of time dealing with minor folds
+Very good for high detailed models of all sizes
+More natural finish
-Less precise- many small inaccuracies can add up
-Could require minor to moderate improvisation if things go wrong
-Won't work on low detailed models as well- gaps and white spaces likely

What other tools are useful?
A toothpick to deal with small tabs, matte spray to preserve the paper, coloured pencils or pens to colour ugly white line edges. These are non-essentials but may boost the quality of your build if you take the time to use them.