How to create a cardboard city

Written by jane smith
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How to create a cardboard city
Make a model city from cardboard. (city image by Lovrencg from

If you want to rule the world, start small. Create your cardboard city one building at a time. Making your own city allows you to practice planning skills and helps reinforce practical geography. Your city can be made to any scale you choose, or no scale at all. Build several cities to test ideas about placement of services and logical city growth.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Cardboard milk cartons, various sizes
  • Glue
  • Cardboard sheets
  • Scissors
  • Utility knife
  • Acrylic or latex paint
  • Wallpaper samples
  • Scrap cloth
  • Sand
  • Crushed stone
  • Spanish moss

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  1. 1

    Wash cardboard milk cartons and allow them to dry. Glue the tops shut to form roof peaks. Paint each carton to make individual family homes. Use half-pint cartons as cottages, pints for larger homes, quarts for town houses and half gallons for large apartment buildings

  2. 2

    Make office buildings and factories from cardboard sheets or larger boxes. Use buildings from a city near you as models. Cut clear plastic sheet protectors to make windows. Make window frames and crosspieces from craft sticks or other flat found materials. Use a utility knife to cut holes for windows and doors. Make fire escapes from metal trellises.

    How to create a cardboard city
    Use trellis sections to make fire escapes. (arbor image by palms from
  3. 3

    Lay one or more large sheets of cardboard on a flat surface such as a workbench, side table or window seat to make a city plat. Cut the sheet as needed to reflect the shapes of various sections of the city. For example, the intersection of Dana Avenue and Victory Parkway in Cincinnati, Ohio, creates triangle-shaped city blocks.

  4. 4

    Place your buildings where they are in the real city you are using as a model, or where you think they should be. Secure each building in its place with clear epoxy or hot glue.

  5. 5

    Sketch the streets and sidewalks between buildings. Paint the roads black or grey if they are paved. Use a combination of grey or brown paint mixed with crushed stone for gravel roads or mix coffee grounds with clear acrylic for dirt roads.

  6. 6

    Paint each building as desired. Add awnings, cafe tables, dustbins, street lights, shrubs, trees and other details that make your city come alive.

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