Image: A paper model.
In the future, a desktop fabricator may be as common as a desktop computer today, 3D-printers might complement inkjet printers. Downloading, sharing and printing of appliances might become as ordinary (and controversial) as it is today with music, movies and texts.
Yet, downloading objects is already possible with a familiar computer configuration. At least, if the objects are made of paper and if you are willing to spend some time cutting and pasting. Paper cut-outs have a long history, but thanks to the internet they are making a comeback.
Using imaging software, the objects can be scaled to your liking. Some models are very simple and childlike, others are extremely complex and are rich in detail. They can be surprisingly strong. There are tonnes of paper models to find – many of them are downloadable for free. An overview.
Historical paper models
French blog Agence Eureka has several pages of downloadable cut-outs from far gone times - buildings, soldiers, classic cars, theatre scenes, farms, a circus, a camping site, and much more. These models used to be sold as books or printed on food packaging. The high-resolution paper models are available at Flickr.
Computers & gadgets
Apple has a nice collection of cut-out computers and iPods. At last, you can afford them in any colour you want. More iPods can be collected here. An iPhone and an old Commodore computer are available as well.
Also to be found are two model cameras, a Nikon Coolpix and a very nice Pentax MX, as well as a paper camera that actually works (more pinhole cameras). Collecting this set of arcade machines is quite addictive, especially in combination with the hooked Barbie dolls. And check out this piano and drum set. More geeky stuff: games characters, a vacuum tube, the Land IronClad, several spacecraft and a model of the SpaceShip One.
The Paper Bus Connection is a catalogue of paper buses from the US, Canada, China and Hong Kong. Both Stage Coach Fan and Greater London have a huge collection of paper buses from the UK. This website has an overview of trams. TGVWeb offers models of high speed trains.
We love paper cars: they don’t pollute, they are silent and they don’t drive over children and pets. The amount of free downloadable cars on the internet is huge - check out the general sites at the bottom of this page. Some exceptional models are this very detailed Volkswagen bus, this vintage Citroën, some DAF trucks (go to ‘DAF fun’) and a collection of classic cars (click on the Japanese links below). More rolling stock? Here you have a snowsweeper, a motorcycle or a work truck.
They don’t float for long, but they sure look nice: paper ships are among the most detailed cut-outs around - though most of them are not for free. Here you find some nice free downloadable card models from warships, sailing boats, cargo ships and hovercrafts. There are also dozens of plane models available.5. General sites
There are several websites that collect all kinds of paper models, some of them are updated frequently. Spacestation42 seems to be the best one at the moment. Also 3Dpapermodel has a very nice collection, but the site is mainly in Japanese. Papertoys is another place to go. Canon has quite some cut-outs available. Card Modellers, Paperforest and Free Paper Toys bring news and information on paper models.
All models mentioned above are free to download. Other websites offer cut-outs that need to be paid. Examples are Fiddlersgreen, Papermodels, Hobby Factory and Instant Durable. Most commercial cut-outs can be downloaded, others are sent by post.
Micromodels, cut-outs that were very popular from the 40s to the 60s, are again for sale on the internet (US, UK). The downloads are much cheaper than the (rare) originals, but unfortunately still quite expensive.
- It turns out that Creative Closeup published a similar article like this, some days earlier. They have some extra models that we missed.
- The Toymaker has folding paper toys for kids
- The Bryn Mawr College has an exciting collection of 19th century panorama paintings and drawings from Philadelphia. These were never meant as paper models, but they’re great for building a wall-to-wall paper city.
- This Russian site has 387 paper models, mostly planes, ships, cars and buildings - and quite some military stuff, too. Only the older (antique) models are free to download, but there are still enough of them to keep you busy for a very long time. The cut-outs (from the 60s and the 70s) are of an exceptional quality. Via Agence Eureka.
- Tatebanko is a Japanese paper art of creating dioramas from paper. It was popular from the 17th century to the early 20th century. The site shows some inspirational details of how they can be made.
- Build your own paper rocket (Via Make)
- Paper art arcade (Via Drawn!)
- Another great series of creatures, dozens of them
- Can Cars (via NTM)
- Paper model buildings & cars (Thanks, Hans Dirkse)