I start by re-listening to the book for details and symbolisms. I take a lot of liberties with the art, but I don’t want to stray from the spirit of source material. I love adding in as much symbolism and hidden details as possible so avid readers can spot them
I try to decide what dimension and size of frame I’ll use to house the papercraft. The depth and shape of the frame will help me coordinate how many layers of detail to include (foreground, middleground, background) and how to compose the scene within the space. I’m really adamant on highlighting the books’ world building into the papercrafts – it’s just as important as the characters. I will use Photoshop on my Surface Pro tablet to sketch out the composition and characters. I will also begin to paint the filigree or linework patterns – they are basically hard brushstrokes in Photoshop that I later will convert to vector shapes.
In order to expedite the process (and save my hand from immense pain) I use a Cricut to cut out the heavy or intricate pieces in the papercraft. Other pieces that are minor or too detailed for Cricuts are cut by hand with an X-Acto knife. Cricuts cut paper by reading SVG vector files which I can create and export from Photoshop by drawing each potential piece of paper with a vector pen tool. This requires a lot of pre-planning for when I have to assemble later on as I have to think about layering, line thickness, and leaving room for glue.
Quality Check / Export & Optimizing:
An issue I run into with these papercrafts is that I’m usually working with 12×12” stock paper, while the frames I use range from 11×14“ to upwards of 16 x 31”. The decorative paper (usually black) I used around the edges of the pieces are usually made up of several separate pieces as I cannot cut anything longer or wider than 12”. Before I export my SVGs to my Cricut, I have to meticulously check each vector shape to make sure that there are no strenuous bezier curves (or they may warp) but also to make sure the pieces can fit within a 12 x 12” area. Once I’ve exported the SVG, I import them into Cricut’s design area and probably spend an hour or two arranging the different pieces into groups of color and pack them like sardines in a can so that I waste as little as paper as possible.
Ahhh this is the most intimidating aspect – choosing paper colors. My color options in Photoshop are nearly limitless, but I have only so many colors available in paper. No matter how much I try, there will always be a slight difference in hue, saturation and light/darkness between digital and paper colors. For pieces that absolutely need a specific color in order to play nice with the others, I’ll usually cut them on generic white (or dark) cardstock and paint them the color I need.
Pre-Painting & Detail:
Most characters will need their faces prepped before assembly. I use my Surface Pro as a poorman’s (is it really, though?) light box to transfer and trace the face features to the paper from the guide I printed out from the digital concept art. I’ll then cut out the eyes and mouth (if open) and add scraps of paper or paint to fill in the rest of the features. Pieces that require custom color paint I will usually complete with sponges as this gives an even distribution of paint to the paper and limits the chance of seeing brushstrokes or other unwanted textures. On the flipside, almost every background is hand painted, and this is really where I want the brushstrokes to shine through for great texture. I’ll usually dry paint these with my cheap old acrylics I’ve had for 10+ years – nothing special.
Yay! The fun part! Pretty straight forward; I’ll use my printed guide to line up the pieces one-by-one and glue them together. Repeat! These are the videos you usually see on the WIP Wednesday Stories.
Any final touches needed like painted sparkles or skin blush, etc. will be added at this stage if not already done.