Pop-up books can be difficult to make, but they don't have to be! This simple tutorial will teach you how to make a short and sweet handmade pop-up book with just a few art materials.
If you’re not an artist but enjoy doing crafts, you can always replace the illustrated portions with colored paper cutouts or art prints you find online! Most of these supplies could be found around your house or at your local craft store, but you will need strong glue like the X-Press It Clear Gel Glue for binding your book.
- Watercolor paper (or any heavy paper) - for basepage, pop-ups & spine
- Colored card stock paper - for cover
- Binder's board - can be found on the back of any type of notepad
- Small square of tracing paper
- 0.05 Black Copic Multiliner pen
- Copic markers
- X-Press It double-sided tape
- X-Press It double-sided foam tape
- X-Press It clear gel glue
- Small and large paintbrush
- X-acto knife
- Grey tracing pen - for text
Prepare the Book Cover
Get your supplies ready—fold all the paper for your (base) pages in half. Then measure the height and width of the folded page and add 1/4 of an inch to the height and 1/8 of an inch to the width. Mark these measurements onto your binder’s board and cut out using an X-Acto knife (for thick materials like these, the trick is to cut the same line repeatedly until it cuts completely through). Make two, one for front and back covers.
On your (cover) paper, trace the shape of the binder’s board. Then with a ruler add half an inch to all sides (height and width), and cut out. With everything measured out, you can begin illustrating your pages. Use separate paper from your base pages, but use the same brand for consistency. Draw and color everything before cutting and gluing. I just wrote a short and simple rhyme before starting my project and illustrated based on the text. I used a 0.05 black Copic Multiliner pen for tracing and various Copic markers for coloring. Make sure nothing peeks out from the edge; part of the magic of pop-up books is that everything fits neatly and stays completely flat inside the folded book.
Pages One and Two
The pop-up technique I used for pages 1 and 2 are called the floating platform. First, for the illustration I drew the cake separately from the rest, and then cut them out.
I cut little pieces of the double-sided foam tape and spaced them out on the back of the cake drawing. I then peeled and stuck it onto the larger illustration. Repeat for the drawing on page 2. Since these drawings are a double page spread, make sure to establish beforehand where the main fold (center crease) will be.
Depending on how tall you want your pillars for the floating plane to be, measure each to be the exact same height so it can be a level platform. The middle portion of the pillar is the body (the section that must be equal to the others), and the outside portions are the legs. Cut down the middle line on both legs up to the bodyline. Fold along the drawn lines—fold body in half and fold the legs down toward each other. Use a small paintbrush to spread the clear gel glue inside the body fold. Repeat for all pillars.
Remember that this will make the pop-up illustration taller (it won’t rest snugly onto the crease of the base page). Make sure to leave plenty of space on the sides of your drawing so that it still won’t exceed the edge of the page even with the added pillars.
When gluing on the pillars, there should be at least a minimum of 3 pillars to support the platform. When laid out on the back of your drawing, the body of the pillar should be parallel to the main fold. Put at least one pillar on the fold. Glue.
To fix the pillared platform onto your base page, fold the pillars down toward the main fold to flatten your illustration, then glue down all the pillars on the main crease first. To glue the rest, begin first with all the pillars on one half of the page. Once the glue is applied, fold the pop-up, brush glue on legs, and then close the page onto the drawing. This is an easy technique that ensures that the pop-up will be perfectly flat when the book is closed, because it’s not a guarantee it will be if you glue while the page is open. Repeat for page two.
This type of pop-up is called a wheel and, if done right, should rotate. With a compass, make 3 circles—one large (to fit on half a page), one medium, and another slightly smaller than the medium. Draw/color on the large and medium circle then cut out all 3 pieces with scissors.
On the slightly smaller medium circle, draw an X and cut along the lines, but don’t cut all the way—leave a small area in the center alone (draw a circle to mark the spot) and cut until it meets the line. Fold down the flaps that are opposite, but keep one side unfolded. This will be the paper grommet that allows the wheel to rotate.
Next, draw a small circle on the center of the largest circle and also another of the same size onto the base page, then cut out using an X-Acto knife. Glue the large circle onto the page and make sure the small holes line up.
Glue the unfolded flaps of the grommet onto the medium sized circle, and then put the folded flaps through the hole in the page. Do not glue the folded flaps down, the wheel will not move if you do!
The cake is drawn on the base page and the oven (with a hole cut out with X-Acto knife) is on a separate paper. Cut pieces of regular double-sided tape and stick them around the oven hole. Peel and place a piece of tracing paper onto tape and smooth out to prevent wrinkles. Use Step #3’s technique with the foam tape to stick on the oven (and handle).
Draw, color, and cut out an oven mitt, or any other accessory you would like to add. Put regular double-sided tape onto the top half to stick the mitt onto the oven, then foam tape on the bottom portion to stick onto the base page, the mitt will be the same height as the oven.
For the final page, I found a birthday cake template online. You can print this out or hand-draw the template yourself. Draw, color, and cut the designs and fold along the lines.
For the candles: fold down the middle (main fold), the v-fold should be folded inward and the glue tabs folded upward. For the cake: fold down the middle, then fold the glue tabs inward and the frosting outward.
Since I didn’t print out the template, I had to test and figure out where to glue the pop-ups on the base page. If it’s glued at an incorrect angle or location, the pop-up will most likely not function as well. Put double-sided tape on the glue tabs (so you can adjust and peel off later) and place on your page until you are satisfied that everything moves properly. Trace the shapes of the glue tabs for both the cake and candles. Now you know exactly where on the page to attach the pop-up.
Glue the candles onto the base page first. Brush glue on the tabs and align it with the traced shape. Repeat with cake. If done properly, the candles should rise up from the cake when you open the page.
Typically, any type of hand-made book (artist book) includes a colophon, which is the birth certificate of the book. It usually tells who, when, and where the book was made and what materials were used to create it. Your name/signature and date is probably most important, everything else is optional. I kept mine short and simple, and added a dedication as well because I made this book for my niece. I ended up putting this additional page in the front before the first page.
Once everything is glued in, write in the text with the grey tracing pen.
Create the Spine
To bind the pages together, make an accordion spine. Take a piece of paper (same brand and height as base pages) and fold in half. Open again and fold both ends into the middle crease. There should now be three creases on the paper. Then pick one of the two outside folds and bring towards the main center fold. Fold the paper’s edge to the crease beside it and repeat with the other side. This will make an accordion.
If you have more pages than can fit your accordion, you can easily make more folds using the same process. If there happens to be an excess of folds, you can just cut off the extra.
Glue one side of the fold at a time to prevent the glue from drying too quickly. Put the folded end of your first page right up against the gluey spine, then fold and smooth out any air bubbles. Glue the next fold and press against the page. Page one is attached to the spine! Repeat with the rest of the folds and glue on the other pages. Make sure that no pages are upside down.
To attach the pages to each other, brush glue on the very edge of the page’s back (height-wise) and stick to the next page, repeat until each page is glued together. Do not glue the top/bottom edges or the entire back surface of the pages. Doing so may cause problems for the grommet, or other maneuverable features of your book.
Finish the Cover
Take the binder’s board and using a larger paintbrush, quickly spread the glue onto one side of the board and align it onto the traced square of the cover paper. Flip over and smooth out any air bubbles. Repeat with the other board.
Remember that with liquid glue, less is more—too much can get lumpy and messy!
Cut off the corners, but leave a tiny space from the corner of the binder’s board.
Glue the edge of the board and the flaps, and then fold over. Once all the flaps are glued and folded, take your scissors (or any kind of flat utensil) and put the blade up against the sharp corners and press repeatedly until the corners ‘soften’.
Next, spread the glue on the inside of the covers. Don’t go all the way to the edge except on one side of the board—stick the first page onto the board with the accordion spine flush up against the gluey edge. There should be about 1/8" border on 3 sides of the colophon page. Repeat with the last page on the other board.
You can write a title or draw a cute design on the cover if you like.
You can now make and bind your own pop-up book! Because it is handmade, it would make a very cute and heartfelt gift for friends or loved ones, or just something fun to make on your arts & crafts get-togethers. And now that you know the creative process, you can always make multiples if you ever want to keep a masterpiece for yourself!