How to Make 3D Pictures for Frames

Written by andrea campbell
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Pin
  • Email
How to Make 3D Pictures for Frames

The Japanese have their origami, the French have their découpage and the Venetians have their vue d'optique, but you can create and make your own 3-D pictures. This craft has a lot of names, the most recent being "paper tole" work, but it's all about dimensional art that has several components such as print selection, cutting, shaping and sculpting. This article explains just some of the basics of this fun, inspiring artistry that almost anyone at any age can do.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Picture subjects, multiples of 4 or more
  • 3-D paper tole shaping pad
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Spray adhesive glue
  • Kleenex
  • Toothpicks
  • Craft knives and holders
  • Shaping tool (metal or wood)
  • Craft scissors
  • Clear dimensional silicone (neutral cure, not acetic)
  • Tweezers
  • High gloss glaze or glass kote lacquer
  • Paint brushes
  • Brush markers
  • Mounting boards
  • Shadow box frame

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Select the right paper. It's all about the paper weight and how well it will hold up to the craft elements and the design. Whatever subject matter you choose, make sure the paper has some heft and texture to it but something that is also able to be worked with fine scissors. A paper like shirt cardboard, for example, would be too hard to cut fine details into. Greeting cards---the original medium---were fine because the paper had a nice feel with a slight shiny surface. Also, the paper has to be able to take both gluing (and the optional, glazing). You wouldn't want to labour over a print only to find that the glue leaves grease, oil, or other bleeding characteristics. The paper in kits was selected for the specific craft; you might start there until you know the tools better.

  2. 2

    Choose a print that offers interest and challenge without being impossible to work. The object of the print selection is to find elements that create bold pictures with the ability to add sculpting detail. For example, cutting out tree branches and leaves will make you frustrated. Cutting hair, feathers, fish scales or any other intricate subjects may present a problem in difficulty, especially for beginners. Look at prints that are suggested in kits to familiarise yourself with realistic possibilities.

    How to Make 3D Pictures for Frames
  3. 3

    Mark your prints. Before you begin, it's suggested by paper tole kit distributors (see Resources below) that you label your pictures: your base print---the one used as the foundation; then designate the others as print 1, 2 and so forth. All the prints after the base will be cut and glued onto the base or foundational print. Mount the base on matt board. It needs to be acid free. Use a spray adhesive and coat not only the back of the print but also the surface you are sticking it to in order to ensure a formidable bond.

  4. 4

    Study your subject matter with perspective in mind. You should have an idea about what surfaces should remain lower or in the background and which areas of the picture you want to "pop out." For example, a boat on the water might mean that the calm water stays in the background, but the slight waves in front of the boat could come forward. The boat itself could be in the middle ground of the picture, but the sails should puff out and look dimensional.

  5. 5

    Cut slowly and precisely. It may take a while to get adjusted to using craft knives. There are fine scissors that can do the job while you practice with the other. Cutting out your images should be engaging, as, "Oh, I didn't realise how much time went by..."

    Shaping tools will help to bring your elements to life. If you can add a curve to a skirt or create folds in a shirt, that makes the dimension, feasible. Spend some time just learning to shape and sculpt the paper. (Have extra paper just for that purpose, then if it gets overworked or creased, it won't matter.)

    How to Make 3D Pictures for Frames
  6. 6

    Apply the sculpted pieces to the base picture with the silicone adhesive, which builds up without sinking into the paper and actually lifts the image out. If you are working in small areas, the tweezers will help a lot. Applying a glaze or lacquer is like adding a light source. The slight sheen helps to create the dimension that can bring things to life. Just as a shiny leaf reflects the sun, applying glaze to the high areas of an object draws your eye in, helping to cement the illusion.

Tips and warnings

  • This is a terrific way of recycling. Have multiple Christmas cards or a box of images you like but don't have envelopes for? 3-D art is your answer.
  • Mounting your work in a shadowbox frame allows your work a safe area where it won't get bruised or mashed. Glass or acrylic keeps it from getting dusty.
  • Really big projects can be taken to a frame shop or hobby store to be vacuum mounted.
  • All artists use light in their paintings. Study some famous oil paintings to learn how it's done. It will help to inform your own art.
  • This is a great project for making borders for important documents like wedding or birth announcements.
  • Too much white space around the edges of the cuts can be camouflaged with special paint markers.

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.