Paper Sculpture Introduction

Sculpting in paper is just as creative as working in wood, metal or stone, and like all true art, it can be practised and enjoyed at any level. Even the inexperienced can produce attractive sculptures that will give pleasure to themselves and others.

At the same time, paper sculpture has practical applications, too. It is widely used in the teaching of art and design, for education generally and in displays, exhibitions, advertising and book illustration.


Broadly speaking, paper sculptures fall under one of two categories. Full-round sculptures can be viewed from all sides, while half-round or low-relief sculptures are designed to be viewed from the front only. The effect of the light and shade is an important factor in the completed sculpture, and the artist will need to consider how best to exploit this when working out the original design and selecting the arrangement of the basic forms.


Paper sculpture is traditionally carried out using white paper, which is readily available in various weights. The best choice for the beginner is cartridge paper. Particularly large structures can be made from heavier paper, but this is more difficult to work. At the other extreme, ordinary printer or photocopy paper is quite suitable for small, low-relief subjects.


You can also use coloured cartridge paper, but you have to be careful. Some papers are coloured just on the surface, and when they are cut a white line may be visible. Gold, silver and other metallic foil papers are frequently used to enhance the sculpture, bt they have little or no inherent strength and need to be glued to a sheet of cartridge paper before use.



The essence of paper sculpture is representional shape, the shallow form of a leaf, or a facial mask produced perhaps by scoring and folding, relies on the basic structural forms of cone and cylinder, shapes that can be produced using the bending, scorind and folding techniques.

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Combination of straight and curved scores can produce a multitude of interesting and decoative forms, ideal for panel and border decoration and display work.

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When assembling your sculpture, sometimes adhesive tape, double-sided tape or an unseen staple may be all that is needed. But for most fastenings, use a good-quality glue that is quick drying but that allows you time to change your mind. Adhesive pads are useful when mounting a half-round or low-relief sculpture for display, and you can easily remove the sculpture by slicing through the pad.


Alternatively, you can use tabs to attach one component to another, or a half-round sculpture to its armature. these can be separate or integral.


A full-round sculpture needs an internal support that generally follows the shape of the sculpture and enables other components to be built onto it. It could be rolled paper cylinder, a poster tube or a wooden dowel with suitable cross pieces if neccessary.


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