How Does a Pop-Up Card Work?

Updated February 21, 2017

The pop-up card holds a secret that will be revealed as soon as it is opened. Magically a paper sculpture springs into place. Flat folds of paper have instantly transformed into a three-dimensional illustration. Pop-up cards are created when paper has been strategically cut and folded, then tucked between the front and back pages of a greeting card. It is secured in place with part of the folded insert attached to the interior of the front cover, and another part attached to the interior of the back cover. As the card is opened, the inserted piece is pulled open accordion-like, revealing the paper sculpture. When the card is closed, the insert refolds itself, once again flat, and hidden away.

Start Making Your Pop-up

To appreciate the basic fundamentals of a pop-up card, create your own simple card by starting with a 8 ½ by 11-inch piece of construction paper. Fold the paper in half, so that the full width of the card is 11 inches. Draw a straight line along the lower portion of the page, using the ruler and pencil. It should be about 3 ½ inches from the bottom. Cut along this line. You should now have two pieces of paper. One will be the card, which will measure 11 inches by 5 inches, and the lower strip, which will be used for the insert. At this point the insert strip will measure 11 inches by 3 ½ inches.

Cutting and Folding

Cut the narrow insert strip in half, creating a piece that is 5 ½ by 3 ½ inches. Throw one half away. Fold the remaining piece in half. The half should be 2 3/4 inches by 3 ½ inches. Tape the right and left ends of the folded insert strip inside the card. For illustration purposes, the insert strip in the image is red. The folds of the two pieces of paper should be in opposite directions. Position the insert strip so that when closed, it will be hidden in the card. When you open the card, the insert should pop open. Fold a picture that measures 3 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches in half and attach it to the insert strip.

Elaborate Cards

Creating the simple pop-up card will demonstrate the basic principle of how strategic folds will open and re-close with the pull and push created by opening and closing the card. Elaborate pop-up cards can be designed where multifaceted three-dimensional pop-ups spring to life in a domino-like reaction to the initial pull when someone spreads open the front and back of the card. The folds then allow the pop-up to return to a flattened state when the card closes.

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About the Author

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.