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3D Pop-Up Coloring Book: Tips & Video

3D Pop-Up Coloring Book: Tips & Video main article image
Posted on March 28, 2021 by Katsiaryna Sipakova

I remember my very first pop-up book. It was the simplest mechanism of an inverted parallelogram cut from the base. But at the age of five, I thought that was magic. When I started buying modern pop-up books for my kids, this was even more of magic to me. And even now that I’ve learned to make simple pop-ups with my own hands, the magic didn’t go – I would even say it grows.

Pop Up mechanisms in this project

All paper pop-ups are based on a number of mechanisms that can be customized and adjusted to your idea. 

For my pop-up coloring book, I’ve chosen fairly easy paper mechanisms with slight variations: basic V-folds (pages 3 and 5), parallel folds (with curves (page 1) and extra creases (page 2)), a box with a pull strap (page 4). They look more complicated than they are – it took me more time to pick the topic for this book and to choose mechanisms than to produce it 🙂 


3D pop-up book supplies

For this project we’ll need just a basic list of supplies:

  • Cardstock or heavy-duty paper (from 160 gsm)
  • Paper knife
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Double-sided tape
  • Pencil
  • Cutting mat
  • Metallic ruler 
  • Fineliner with archival ink (I used Pigma Micron)

The idea

This is a 3D pop-up coloring book. I wanted the pages to be united by one topic, not to be just a random collection of pages. So I called it “Brief history of houses” 🙂 

The cave and the hut were made just by folding, cutting, and gluing paper. As for the castle, the condominium, and the city skyline – these needed some drawing to shape the silhouette and make them look like the buildings I had in mind. The most complicated mechanism in this project was the box for the condo.

All of them are demonstrated in the video. I’m adding more details about the process in the text below. 

Before we start

I would like to start with some basic rules that we need to follow for any pop-up to work. 

  1. Make every crease thoroughly. Fold the paper piece on its own several times, use your fingers and nails or even additional tools to make the creases open and close easily. I use a wooden stick or another side of a thin paintbrush to mark the crease. 
  2. The central crease of a pop-up shape should align with the central crease of the base it’s placed on. 
  3. Stick only one side of the pop-up first. To find the natural position for the other side, stick it with your base closed. 
  4. Make sure the sticking tabs don’t overlap with the crease on the base or other elements they should not stick to. 

If you are new to pop-up mechanisms, you might want to train first on thinner paper to check the principles of the mechanisms and their variations (e.g. different angles between the pop-up sides or between the pop-up and the base; different ways of sticking and gluing the tabs, etc.). 

Page one: Cave

Poper pop-up coloring book page 1 - cave

The first page is to show the first housing of our pre-ancestors – a cave. The plain paper shape looks more like a tent, but my idea was that kids could stick some “rocks” to it later. For that, I’ve prepared a stony color painted sheet. 

The pop-up mechanism here is a curved parallel fold. I’m attaching the final scheme below and the video showing how it was assembled. 

Later I decided to add a fireplace inside the cave, which is cut from a basic V-fold pop-up. 

If you decide to try making your own cave, you may use the template (at the bottom of this article). And here’s a video instruction to it:

Page two: Hut

The second page demonstrates a hut made with tree branches and giant leaves. The hut is a parallel fold with two extra creases and a window on one side. 

I will try to describe the making of this pop-up step-by-step: fold in half, make narrow tabs on free sides, then fold two angles at the central crease and pull those inside the shape. 

I’ve also cut an oval window on one side to see what’s inside the hut. The Lego figures match well there 🙂 

3d pop-up book - paper hut with leaves

Page tree: Castle

This one was easy: the mechanism is a basic straight-angle V-fold. To make it, you just need to fold the paper in half and make the tabs. Then I sketched some roofs and towers with a fine liner that is water-resistant and does not bleed when kids paint over it. 

Though basic V-folds are, probably, the easiest pop-up mechanisms, there are some rules to remember: (1) always stick one tab first, then close the pop-up, put glue or tape on the other tab, and close the base. That’s how the tab finds its natural position. (2) If you would like to place the pop-up at 90 degrees to the central crease on the base, you’ll need a pull-strap to keep it upwards when opened. Otherwise, you should rather pick a smaller angle. 

3d paper pop-up coloring book - castle

Page four: Condo 

My condominium looks rather schematic, indeed, but its mechanism is the most interesting and complicated in this project. This is a box, also based on a V-fold. Its “roof” sticks to a pull-strap that helps it to go inside the shape when it’s folding, and stay in place when the page is opened. It’s better seen in the video. 

pop-up book - box mechanism

Page five: City skyline with skyscrapers 

This one is made by the same principle as the castle (page 3). 

Assembling the book

Compiling all the pages together was my favorite part. It’s so satisfying to see the big project shaping into a final product. 

I started from the first page (with the cave). I’ve put glue on the backside of it (when closed) and stuck the second page (with the hut) to it (also closed). Then repeated the same steps with other pages. Just pay attention to the edges – all four of them should align, and to the order of your pages. 

Then I made a spine. For that, I creased a fairly narrow piece of cardstock like on the picture below and glued it to the pages. Then added cardstock squares to the front and to the back. And this was my chance to fix the mismeasured part. The angle of my condo box was sticking out from the closed page. To hide it, I just made the cover wider than the page. 

pop-up book - spine

And the last step – putting a name on the cover. For that, I also used the fine liner with archival ink, which does not bleed from water. 

My older kid started coloring the book even before I finished this article 🙂

Template for the cave (see video instructions above):

pop-up mechanism - cave template

Which page is your favorite and will you be making this project? Leave a comment below!

Happy Crafting!

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