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Tips and Tricks

The first thing you should probably do, is to go to the FREEBIES page and download the top folder, labeled A). In it you will find answers to most of your questions.


  1. Use sharp blades.  It should be obvious but it makes a huge difference in the quality of the finished model.

  3. Work slowly.  Force yourself to work at a slower pace especially when gluing parts.  Because of the flexible nature of paper, it can be difficult to line up and hold (with precision) more then one-glue seam at a time.  You will be tempted to fold up a complete shape like a box and just drop glue into the inside seams.  Don’t do this.  If you have a shape that is small or a bit more complex geometry, glue one seam and let it set.  Put it aside and move on to another part.  Once you have one good solid seam, the others will come together much easier and tighter.  It’s just good practice and you will enjoy a less frustration prone experience.  You can’t work too slowly.  You will be surprised how fast a model comes together when you work slowly.

  5. When folding very thin pieces, make the fold before you trim the piece to its final size.  Pieces of less then a quarter of an inch need the extra support of the surrounding paper to make a crisp fold.  So, cut out your part leaving an extra quarter to half inch of paper surrounding your finished part.  Score and fold then unfold and cut out the part.  The kits I make include some parts that fold that are 1/8th of an inch (6” in O scale) creating a 3” x 3” scale part.  That’s the smallest detail that it makes sense to fold though I’ve seen smaller.  The thickness of card stock is approximately ½ to 1” in O scale so in some instances it is best to laminate a couple of cards back to back in a kind of paper plywood.

  7. To get crisp folds, use a steel straight edge as a kind of “press break” to support and apply even pressure along the score line.  For tight spaces and small parts a long thin pair of needle nose pliers works great.

  9. Our kits use different paper thicknesses.  After trial and error (my brothers trials and my errors) we have begun printing masonry parts on the lighter 80# card stock (kind of like a postcard) because it gives a tighter fold and 100# card stock for wood siding, interior braces, window frames and some roofs.  If you feel that a wall fold crease is too visible you can cut off the tabs and butt glue those joints and reinforce them from the back.  The heavy 120# card is especially suited for this but not all printers will feed sheets that thick.very thin paper such as standard typing paper 24# to 36# can also be very useful for shingles and shaped requiring very sharp folds.

  11. When using CA glue, less is more.

  13. Really handy glue I’ve found is the kind that has a pen applicator.  This is great for tacking parts together.  They advertise it as permanent but I wouldn’t trust it to last too long, however it will hold very cleanly long enough for you to build parts that you can reinforce with stronger glue.  Think of it as tack welding before you lay down the pretty welds. 

  15. Touching up the thin white line that appears when you cut or score paper is a crucial step.  There are a lot of ways to approach it but this is what I’m currently doing.  I use light gray, (cool and warm) pantone markers.  Light colors will appear much darker on the card stock then you might think.  These alcohol-based inks are very aggressive in how they soak into paper.  Almost always going all the way through. What I recommend is that you apply the marker outside the cut line before you trim out the part.  Apply the ink about 1/8th of an inch from the line and let it bleed towards the line.  This may take a little practice on some scrap card to get the feel for the bleed.  When you cut the part, you will find that the ink has saturated the paper and hidden your edge.  For score lines I recommend using a partially dried out marker or apply the ink from the back of the printed surface.

  17. Clapboard siding can be easily dimensionalized by cutting the walls into individual boards and re gluing them to scrap stock with the addition of a thin strip of scrap to lift the bottom edge of each board.  This is not as much work as it sounds and is very satisfying when finished.

  19. I find it best to finish each wall with all of its details first.  Then attach the walls to each other and the foundation.

  21. The foundation or stiffener that I include in each kit is very critical to making a good model.  Folded paper gets surprisingly stiff and strong.  However interior bracing is a must.  The stiffer the better.  I recommend that you use my interior stiffener as a template to create a foundation from foam core or some similar material.  This will help you stay plumb and add some mass to the model.  The supplied stiffeners will do the job but feel free to improvise additional ones from the scrap card stock in the kit.  These can be simple triangular gussets or even simpler “L” shapes glued into corners and along interior walls where needed.

  23. Chisel blades are a great help in cutting out molding and window details.  Dulled blades (of which you will have many) can still be used for scoring.  Consider having a separate, marked blade, to use just for scoring.  another great trick for getting sharp clean corners is to make a pilot hole with a streight pin in each corner. this helps avoid over cutting the corners.

  25. It’s not unusual for a paper model to have some warping if it isn’t built with care (an example might be walls that don’t line up with a roof or base).  Generally this is not a disaster.  Because paper is flexible and has some ability to stretch it can often be forced into plumb.  Take the warped part and using a CA adhesive, glue it to a solid and plumb base or support.

  27. Moisture, weather in the atmosphere or in glue and paint is bad for your card model.  After finishing a model, seal it with several light, thin coats of artist’s matt medium or clear flat spray.

  29. Should a scored corner or fold “delaminate”, fix it by working some matt medium or a small amount of CA into the separation.  Gently rub the delaminated area with a burnishing tool until the glue sets.  A spoon works well.  Work with light pressure and slowly but keep it moving so you don’t glue the spoon to the model.

  31. Don’t worry, be happy.  Even if a fold goes wrong or you cut a part incorrectly, keep building.  Paper is very forgiving.  Often the irregularities look completely natural on a finished model.  You can always re print a part if you really screw up.

  33. WARNING:  Card models are FUN and addicting.  Consult your physician, he’s probably building them too.

            The following tips are exerpts from the card faq web pages.

There are hundreds of tips, ideas and personel experiences documented there.  I recomend it.

     Basic Tips and Tricks for building Paper Models

     Almost all paper models consist of primary shapes like cones, tubes and boxes arranged in any number of ways.  Once you get the hang of making these shapes, you’ll be able to do even the most complex  models.  Below are a few tips to help you get started building paper models.

     Basic Tools Needed:

     Those of you who are already scale modelers but have not assembled paper models before will be happy to know that there is considerable “cross-over” of both tools and skills.  It is possible to assemble these models with only a scissors and a bottle of white glue, but I highly recommend the following tools  and supplies in addition:

* An X-Acto knife
* A cutting board (use a bread board, or one of the “self-healing” boards sold at sewing supply stores)
* A small needle-nosed pliers
* Various sizes of metal binder clips, clothes pins, or small clamps
* Several cheap paint brushes (for applying glue)
* Felt-tip markers or inks (e.g. Windsor Newton) in various colors ( gray, black, red, metallic silver)
* Glue (small glue gun works best) we recomend CA
* Scissors
* Ruler (any straight edge will do) a steel rule is recomended
* “Dead” Ball Point Pen (no more ink) for scoring.  This is a personal choice some people prefer other methods.
* Cutting Matten* *Not necessary, but can be very handy in a lot of cases.

There are two folding tips that will help when assembling your models.  Score the fold lines, and fold all parts before gluing.  This will make your projects go together a lot easier and much faster.  Use a ruler and “dead” pen to score the fold lines.

Here are a few other tips to help put your models together.  Read the instructions through all the way one time before cutting out any of the parts.  Cut out each part as you need it.  After you cut out each part, use a ruler and a “dead” pen (no ink) to “draw” a score line along each fold.  This will make the fold more accurate.

Fold all parts and test fit them before applying any glue.  This way, you will not be fighting to get that last tab folded down in some awkward position.

Making Tubes:
Tubes are pretty simple to make.  To make them even easier, try curling them using the edge of a desk or table before gluing together.  Cut out the part that is to become a tube.  Start with one end on the corner of your table and slowly pull it across the corner.  This should make gluing the tube a lot easier then trying to glue and form it at the same time.

Making Cones:
Cones are very similar to tubes, just tapered down on one end.  Cut the part out and start to curl it using the edge of a table or desk.  The only difference between curling a cone and curling a tube, is when curling a cone, you want to keep the pointed tip in one place on the edge of your desk while rotating the curved part over the edge of the desk.

Finishing Details:
A couple things you can do to make your models look really good when finished.

Finish the edges of your model.  That’s right, the edges.  A printer can’t print on the edge of the paper, so this edge will show white on a model that may be dark green or blue.  Use some colored pencils or pens to color the exposed edges before gluing the parts together.  Use good quality paper in your printer if you have to print the model.  If you have a color inkjet printer, use the special paper so the colors and details of your model look good.  If you accidentally get too much glue on a part, take a moment to wipe the excess off before it dries.  Take your time and make sure all the parts line up properly before gluing.  Just like anything else, it’s going to take some practice to get each model exactly how you want it, but you’ll find the more models you do the easier they become.

Paper Selection (not our recomendations)

The term “paper” models, while not incorrect, is a bit misleading in that most models are printed on a heavy paper sometimes called “card” stock and paper models are sometimes called card models as a result.  For most paper models, a minimum weight of 65 lb. is recommended.  Paper heavier than 100 lb. may not feed properly in your printer, and is too heavy for smaller parts.  (The traditional method of measuring and describing the thickness of paper is to quote the weight of one ream, or 500 sheets, of the paper that has been cut to standard size.  For bond paper, this size is 17 inches by 22 inches, exactly four times the area of an 8.5 inch by 11 inch sheet, so one ream of 100 lb. paper would weigh 25 lbs.)

Cutting tips
Usually, a part is cut in two stages.  First, the part is separated from the rest of the parts by cutting roughly around it with scissors.  Don’t attempt to cut on the lines at this step.  Once the part is separated, you can work on it without fear of damaging other parts.  Often, it’s best to do the scoring and folding before proceeding to the fine cutting.  Especially with small parts and narrow tabs, it’s easier to fold them neatly while there is still waste paper around the part.

Once the part has been scored and folded, lay it flat again and cut to the outline.  There are three methods of cutting: scissors, knife, and chisel.  Scissors are used for most curves, as it’s very difficult to cut curves freehand with a knife.  For sharp curves, it’s easier to first make a cut about 1/8”, 3 mm, outside the outline, then cut on the outline.  With only a thin strip on the waste side, the waste paper doesn’t push against the scissors, and it’s easier to guide them.

A knife guided by a straight edge is used for straight cuts.  Unless the line is very short, it is very difficult to make an accurate straight cut with scissors.  Use a steel straight edge, line it up with the cut, and draw the knife along the edge.  With a sharp knife and firm pressure, you should only need to make one pass.

Chisel cuts can be made with the tip of a knife, or with small chisels you can make or buy.  These cuts are useful for curves and areas too small to get into with scissors.  Use the chisel or knife tip to ‘nibble’ your way around the outline.  Chisel cuts are also useful as ‘stop cuts’, when you have a straight cuts that intersect at an interior angle.  Small chisel cuts made before cutting the line make it possible to feel when to stop cutting.  This is useful with both knife and scissor cuts.

There is a natural order to the cuts on most parts, as you work your way around the outline.  This is difficult to explain in text, but will become obvious after some practice.  It’s different for left- and right-handed modelers, of course.  If there is an interior area to be cut out, I find it usually works best to cut that out first.

The printed cutting lines have some width, of course, and this introduces some limit on how precisely the cut can be made.  If the outlines are thick, I usually find it’s best to try to split the line with the cut.

How do I butt glue edges together?
Often with small parts, especially small cylinders, it’s necessary to glue two edges of card together, without an overlapping tab.  These butt joints can be challenging, because the glued surface is tiny, but there are several approaches which can give good results.

In butt joints, it’s very important to have a good fit.  Use a straightedge to guide your cuts, and test fit the pieces carefully.  It may be necessary to bevel the edges if the joint isn’t flat.  You can make the initial cuts at an angle, or use sandpaper or an emery board to make the bevel.  Use fresh sandpaper, because as it wears and gets dull it will tear rather than cut the fibers, and you end up with a fuzzy edge.

If carefully done, it’s possible to simply glue the edges together.  You need to be very sparing with the glue, and it soaks readily into the fibers on the cut edge, so it’s difficult to get the right amount of glue.  Double gluing is often helpful here.

If the butt glued joint isn’t strong enough, you can back up the joint with a bit of scrap stock overlapping both sides.  If this adds too much thickness to the joint, you can use vellum or onionskin paper instead of card stock for the overlap.

Paper clips, clothespins, and cross-locking tweezers are all handy.  You can also put a rubber band around the handle of your smooth-jawed needle nose pliers.  For some parts, such as tiny cylinders, there’s no substitute for fingers.  As you acquire practice in getting just the right amount of glue in just the right places, you’ll find you need clamps less and less.

Preserving your models.
Most high quality cardstock now is acid free, but you never quite know.  If you want to find out if a particular stock is pH neutral, pH testing pens are available.
I recently went on a search for a finish that would waterproof soluble ink-jet printer inks for models I was printing on card.  The best I came up with was Krylon (#41311 Matte Finish).  Although it doesn’t waterproof to the point where you can soak the card in a bucket of water, it does protect from splashes, glue slops, etc.  (Sorry, didn’t test A&W).  Comes in a spray can, gives an invisible finish, has no effect on colour inkjet ink, is fairly inexpensive, is available in any artists’ supply store and is considered pretty high quality stuff.  It’s used by artists to protect their work, photographs, etc.  If you’re handling your models a lot (i.e. wargaming) remember that you’ll be transfering acid to the paper from your fingers, so two or three coats of Krylon would be a good idea I’d think.  I’ve started spraying the cardstock (both sides) before I begin building.  The matte finish takes glue well.  Also a UV matt sprey will help protect printing from fading over time.  We have models over 5 years old that have shown no color fading.  The cheap fixatives will become yellow over time - be careful.
Try UV-lacquer.  It exists in matte and gloss.  It´s a 100% transparent layer (spray), which protects photographs, airbrush, aquarelles, objects of window display, screen printing, art printing and - in our case - models.  It dries immediately.  Do not apply too thick, better more often, but only one time - in general - is enough. It protects against bleaching from sunlight.

Laminating or doubling card stock.
Our kits are designed to be completely self suporting however you can extend the life of a model greatly by adding additional interior reinforcment.  The simpelest step is to double up the thickness of walls by using scrap card and gluing it to the back of walls etc.  Some people create foam board structures using our images as a template.  This takes some skill but gives excelent results.

Check the internet.
We stand behind our products 100% and will do everything possible to insure that these products perform as expected.  There are hundreds of tips on building with paper on the internet as well as hundreds of free models.  We recomend that you explore the web. 
We are sure you will enjoy working with paper as a modeling media just as hundreds of our customers do, not to mention the thousands around the world for who, paper models are the favorite model experience.