Steps on making complicated pop-up books

Updated April 17, 2017

Pop-up books employ 3D techniques to make a story come alive. Pop-up books can be simple to create, but by adding more complex designs you can really make them stand out. A unique gift or rainy day craft, pop-up book design can provide hours of endless creative possibility.


Stand-up, sliding, windows, and talking mouths are just a few popular pop-up techniques. Think about the number of pages, order of presentation, point of view, setting and characters to determine which ones to use where. You should need paper, sturdy card stock, scissors, exacto knife, cardboard, pencil, ruler, crayons and markers.


Count out the number of pages you will need for your story. Make a rough sketch in pencil of the design and text for each page. Pages will be glued back to back, so draw on every other page. On card stock, outline your pop-up pieces, remembering they need to be sized to fit on the page and stay in place when the book is closed. After cutting them out, but before gluing them into the book, colour and decorate the pieces with markers or crayons.


Create V-folding mechanisms for your pieces by folding small rectangular pieces of paper in half. Add tabs to these rectangles by cutting the edge of the bottoms 1/4 inch up. Match the fold of the rectangle to the book page's fold, gluing down the tabs on either side at a slight angle. A 90-degree angle will cause the piece to rise up vertically as the page is opened. A 60-degree angle will cause the piece lean back as the page is opened. A 100 degree angle will cause the pop-up piece to lean forward when the page is opened.

Rectangular Stands

Form these by making two cuts into the back of a page and bending it inward. Pop-up pieces can be glued to the front end of the stand (in front of the fold). A triangular-shaped cut into the back of a page can form a mouth shape when bent inward and cut in half.

Slide Mechanisms

To make a parallel sliding mechanism, start by cutting a narrow window across a page. Cut a piece of card stock a little wider and longer than your window. Lay it across the back of the window and form a sliding pocket using tape and small strips of paper. It should be secure enough so the card stock tab does not fall out, but not too tight so the tab sticks can still be manoeuvred. The pocket should be open on the right hand side of the book opposite the binding, with the tab sticking out just slightly. By gluing a pop-up piece to the middle of the card stock sliding mechanism only (not the page), the reader will be able to move it back and forth across the page by manipulating the tab.

Cover and Binding

Use cardboard to create a sturdy cover and glue or sew the finished pages to the binding. Cover the cardboard with coloured paper or fabric and add any illustration. Go back through the book and make sure all of the pop-up pieces fold and pop-up as desired.

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About the Author

Lynn Holmgren is a freelance writer based in York, Penn. She has published articles about writing, international exchange, travel and outdoor recreation in ShowcasePA! magazine and Homgren also enjoys writing and reviewing short stories on her blog Long Story Short.