How To Build A Card Model

We will take you through the process of making a small building using one of our CartonBuiltModels plans.

CartonBuiltModels are versatile, simple to assemble and inexpensive. Making models with them is perfect for beginners and experts alike.

The model package that you get consists of the plan, in.pdf format, with a building that is sized 1 to 60. You can make that building in 1 to 60 scale or in any scale smaller than that by adjusting your printer settings. See Printing To Scale.

To make one of the CartonBuiltModels you only need scissors, a straight edge, a scribe, some glue and card like that cut from a cereal box.  Other card will do. For a complete list of tools see Tools To Use.

The assembly process that you will follow entails gluing the plan to card,  scoring the fold lines so that you can bend the corners sharply, cutting out the model with scissors and gluing it.
norgens assembled

This is the model we use as an example here looks when it it finished.  To make it easier for you to understand the modeling process, we will use a simpler version of that model in this tutorial.

For the advanced modelers, at the end of these instructions there is a section on advanced building techniques  that expand on this process.

So let’s start.

First, test your glues. Use them to glue some scrap paper to card and paper to paper.  Learn the characteristics of the particular glues that you will use.

Then try cleaning the glues off your fingers, workspace and tools. Know what you may face. Be prepared.

After testing, you may want to get other glues before you ruin your good work. Read Glues For Carton Modelers.

Print the model plan in the scale that you wish.  We recommend using 180 GSM weight paper. If you do not have that, print it on regular copy paper, cut it out and glue it to card.  We recommend you use office paste glue to do this.

Allow the glue to dry.  If you try working on the plan immediately, it will tear.

card model plan
Lay the plan out on the table and get familiar with what is on the plan. This plan was printed on 180 GSM paper and that is what we use in this tutorial.

card model guidelines Note the red lines around the plan. They indicate where you should fold your model. And they are guides that you use to place your straight edge accurately to score the folds.

scoring a card model

Score each of the folds. More information about scoring can be found at this link. How To Score A Carton Model.

cutting a card model

Use your scissors to cut out the model. Read about using scissors here. Card Models And Scissors.

plan cutout and ready to fold

Here are the model parts  cut out and ready to fold.

fold a card model

Place your straight edge on each of the fold lines and fold to get a sharp corner.

folded card models
After folding

color card model corner
With a pencil, chalk, or  felt tip marker, color those areas that show white in the fold areas. Also, darken the inside edge of side building tabs so when you glue the sections the white on the tabs will not show.

Be careful when using felt tip markers.  Some will bleed though the card and ruin the graphics.  Test yours on a piece of scrap before you use it.

Important Notes

There are three types of tabs. The bottom tabs keep the walls straight. The top tabs are used to attach the roof. The tabs on the left and right side of the walls are used to attach the pieces of walls together.

A cardinal rule of modeling : Check 3 times before  you glue.  This helps you avoid gluing things in the wrong place, upside down, backwards, etch.

card model applying glueApply glue to one of the wall tabs and join the pieces.

Hold or clamp the joint until it sets. If you use a fast drying glue like Vicol or Tacky glue., you only have to allow about five minutes drying time.

card model corner gussetsCorner Gussets

We will add corner gussets  to square the walls.

Cut some right angles out of thick card.

card model corner gussetsGlue all the pieces and add  corner gussets as you go.

Make sure that you glue so the building stands flat on the table.

card model modulesThe modules are now ready to join.

card models joinedThe building is now ready to add the roofs.

Test fit the roofs.  Depending on how accurate you cut and joined the modules you may have to trim a roof or two to make it look right.

card moel roofsDarken the edges and underside of the roof edges so white does not show. It is best to use a crayon or pastel. Felt tip pens may bleed through the paper/card and ruin the appearance of the top of the roof.

card model roofs attached

To add the roof, each of the side roof tabs will be glued in succession.  The wall roof tabs will be glued last.

Bend the side roof tabs up so that when you put the roof on the model, the roof makes contact with the tab.

With the building base flat on the table, line up the roof.

Test the fit 3 times before you glue.

Add glue to one tab and hold it in place until the bond is made.  A fast drying glue such as Vicol or Tacky Glue is best here. The bond will be made in less than a minute.

Then glue the remaining tabs.

norgens simple modelAdd the chimney.

card model norgensRemember that we have just assembled a simple version of this building. This is what the actual plan looks like when assembled. Note the foundation, window and edge trim. A complete set of pictures of this model can be found at

Additional Things You Can Do

There is room over the doors on the center module.  Add a sign.

Add stoops made of matchsticks or thick card.

Give the building a 3D effect by cutting out the windows and doors. Darken the edges of the cutout area.  Print the plan again and cut out the windows leaving a border that you can use to add glue.  Glue the new windows and doors on the backside of the walls.  You can even cut the doors so that the installed door is open.

Lighted buildings – Cut out the center of the windows and glue clear foil on the back of the walls.  Add window mullions by gluing thread behind the clear foil.

Extend the foundation out from the walls by cutting out the foundation section from another printed copy of the plan and gluing it over the original. Or use card or coffee sticks cut to size.

Add thick black acrylic paint around the base of the chimneys to simulate tar.

Cover the roof with tissue or emery paper (tarpaper or asphalt roof), peeled corrugated cardboard for a ceramic or asbestos roof, scribed thick aluminium foil (aluminium roof), or strips of scribed veneer for wood shingles.

Add roof frames by gluing matchsticks to the underside of the roof overhang.

Add roof fascia by gluing card, matchsticks or cut coffee sticks to the bottom edge of the roof.

Make gutters by shaping thick aluminum foil around a skewer or other round form.

Make gutter downspouts by rolling thick aluminum foil. Paste glue will hold the edges.

Make metal chimneys by rolling thick aluminum foil.

Cut chimney pipe holes. Blacken the cutouts

Weather with artists pastels or an airbrush.

Glue to a base and surround with trees, furniture and figures.

If you have questions, comments or need help, contact us by clicking here.

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