advanced photoshop

Make digital papercraft

Posted in:
General, by Adam Smith

Learn how to create geometric shapes with your own hands then perfect these in Photoshop

It’s hard to quantify what makes good digital art and how traditional media ties in with this.

Its application was once perceived as an opposition to synthetic styles.

However, in recent times the pair became an inevitable coupling of creative resources, producing stunning mixed-media works.

At present, digital papercraft is trending, and the appeal of this technique is understandable. Digital papercraft is both imaginative and playful, concerned with vibrant colour and expressive shapes.

Geometric styles are particularly popular, no doubt due to being highly accessible and ultimately retro.

So, in this Resource Project, we explain how to construct, shoot and edit papercraft elements, which can be used in our own digital artwork. We also talk to some professional designers who promote this trend.

Create papercraft shapes

Fold in half

Here we’ll explore how to create polygonal paper shapes without the need for glue or tape – it’s all about folding. Start by taking an A4 piece of paper, folding it horizontally and then cutting along the fold.

Make digital papercraft

Folded corner

We’ve created two new halves. Take one then fold the top-right corner, aligning it with the left side of the paper. We rotate 90 degrees anticlockwise and cut along the fold again, trimming off the excess.

Make digital papercraft

Fold triangle

We’re now left with a triangle shape, which we want to fold in half. Do so, ensuring the centre corner is directed upwards. Take the right corner and then fold it so that it aligns with the left corner.

Make digital papercraft

Diamond fold

Unfold your last fold. Now take the bottom-right corner and fold this so it aligns with the top corner. Next, take the left corner and fold this so it also aligns with the top corner, creating a diamond.

Make digital papercraft

Fold slots

Unfold the last two folds, then repeat steps 1 to 5, making two more similar shapes. Now for the fiddly part – slot these shapes together, tucking the protruding edges inside the adjacent shape’s folds.

Make digital papercraft

Finished shape

We end up with a completely formed 3D polygon shape. If pieced together correctly, then the shape will hold – there’s no need for glue or tape. We’re now ready to shoot and use our shape.

Make digital papercraft

Clean shapes in Photoshop

Clone out

We start by removing our shape from the background, selecting it with the Pen Path tool and extracting it with a layer mask.

Then select the individual sides again with the Pen Path tool and clean away visible folds using the Clone Stamp tool. The Patch tool will also help.

Make digital papercraft


Now we use the Pen Path tool again to select one side of our shape. Press Cmd/Ctrl+C, Cmd/Ctrl+V and make this layer a Smart Object.

Apply Add Noise to the layer, setting an Amount between 5% and 10%. Then add Dust & Scratches, setting a 1px Radius and Threshold at 5 levels.

Make digital papercraft

Edit colour

These filters will now become Smart Filters, which means that they can be edited any time we want. Use these if effects are too strong or too weak.

Finally, clip a Hue/Saturation layer to each duplicate layer and then tweak settings to enhance the colour or change it  completely.

Make digital papercraft

  • daniel

    why couldn’t you just make those shapes in photoshop? the end results looks like 3 triangles created using the shape tool.