Paper Toy Theater as a Hobby - Check out the links page for more great sites.

Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop - Located in London's Covent Garden, this store is great! If you can't make it to London, you can buy reproduction paper theaters here - online.



Peep Show Pop Up Box

by Charles

Ok, it’s not what you think, so get your mind out of the gutter. But the title did pique your interest, didn’t it? And this little box will pique your viewer’s interest when you present it to them.

Pop up cards are a mainstay of the greeting card business, but their heritage goes back to children’s paper theaters, akin to Punch and Judy, and peep show boxes, which have a much different connotation today.

Creating a scene within a small box, very similar to those Easter eggs you peer into, creates a real sense of intimacy with the viewer. Only one person can see what’s in side at a time. People can’t help but pick something up, and look inside to see what is hidden from their view. It’s the mystery, and intrigue that makes it exciting.

Following are instructions and templates for you to create your own peep show pop up box. Think of it as creating scenery for a play. Different backdrop, foreground elements, and side panels are combined to produce the set--a series of art panels. The construction of the box is based on the accordion. The viewer will be able to expand or contract the box to create the space between the art panels, and in turn create a three dimensional scene from 2 dimensional images. This effect is somewhat hard to describe, but once you've read through the instructions, and reviewed the pictures you'll have a good idea of the final product.

It's up to you to choose the images that you’ll use. Check the sidebar "Visual Suggestions" for some ideas.


Supplies and Tools

Exacto Knife, with sharp blades

White glue, or glue stick


Images for the art panels

Paper: You can use any color paper, but black works best for the box and its components. You’ll need white paper to create your drawings on. If you are using photographs, or other images, you can use black paper instead. In that case, when the instructions below call for white paper, substitute the black paper. If you are using magazine pages or other printed material for you images, black paper works best so that the image printed on the other side doesn’t show through.

You’ll want a good paper, like a Strathmore, available from any art store. Don’t use construction paper; it’s too weak and fibrous to support the box, and the slots and tabs you’ll be creating.

Black Art Paper

White Art Paper

Let’s start by making the panels, then the box.


Art panels

Using white paper, cut out the four shapes below. These shapes will become your art panels. Create your artwork on the four art panels. Keep in mind that you can only cut away areas within the gray border, as you need to leave a frame to support the panels. You will cut away more material on the first panel and less on the second and third, until you reach the last panel which creates the background.



In this example I’ve used simple colored blocks to indicate each panel’s artwork. Cut off the edges of the three rectangles, indicated by the black lines, to make a total of 4 squares. Save those cutoff rectangles, they’ll become the side panels later.



Support panels

Out of black paper, cut out the three shapes below. These become the support panels that will be placed inside the accordion box. Make cuts on the black lines with an Exacto knife to make the tabs.



Glue the art panels on to the support panels. Having the double layer of paper gives the panels additional strength.



In order to see what’s behind a panel you need to remove areas in the assembled support panels so that you can see the next panel behind, the panel behind that and finally the background panel.

Cut out areas within the gray border using an Exacto knife. Usually you’ll cut out areas to make silhouettes of your images. For example, your first panel might be a picture of a person standing in a forest. You would cut out the forest so that the only thing left is the person. The open areas now allow the view to see what images are on the next panel. The next panel may be a photograph of a castle against a blue sky. You would cut away the sky, so you would just be left with the castle. At this point, when the viewer looks into the box they would see a person standing in front of a castle. You need to plan carefully so that open areas don’t conflict with each other, and each panel is visible and adds visual interest. Nothing will be cut out of the background, so leave that alone.



This illustration shows how the panels will be assembled into the accordion box, by matching up the lettered slots and tabs. The background (shown in blue) is glued to the back of the inside of the box. The illustration to the right shows how the images will appear when looking through the box’s window.



Accordion Box

Now it’s time to make the accordion box, which will hold the panels. Using the template, cut the box out of black paper. As indicated on the illustration, make cuts in the paper to create the slots, in which the tabs of the panels will be inserted. Also, cut out the window, this is where the viewer will look into you box.

Lightly score the paper with the Exacto knife in the location and side that is indicated on the template. The scoring will allow you to get a perfect fold when you assemble the box, but make sure not to cut all the way through! Now bend the strip on the score lines to create the accordion. The score will always be on the outside of the bend.




The box, scored and folded.


Insert tab A into slot A to complete the box.

Now insert the panels following the slot and tab references indicate on the templates. Refer to the next figure for reference.

You will glue the background art panel to the back of the box.


Side panels

Now take the panels that were created when you trimmed the orange, purple and light blue rectangles into squares, and glue them onto the inside of the accordion box, as shown in the illustration. Make sure to keep your lefts and rights straight.

The reason that we didn’t create side panels for the green artwork panel, was that when you close the box, the area where the green side panels would go would be seen in the box’s window. Leaving them black helps keep some mystery.

The colored line in the illustration below indicates where the images appear.



You're finished! Look through the box’s window to view your creation. Expand or contract the accordion to get the best view. A small triangle cut out of white paper help orient the user to which side is up.

Close up the box, by squeezing the accordion together, then tie with a ribbon or string, or create a simple sleeved box out of black paper, like the one shown at the beginning of this article. If you attempt this project, please drop us an email, so we can see what you’ve created!












































































































































Visual Suggestions

I drew images to create a secret garden theme in my pop up box, but you don’t have to be an artist to create artwork for the panels. Here are some ideas to get you started.

> Use some photographs from you last vacation.

> Know someone who likes Brad Pitt? Cut out a bunch of hot and hunky star photos from entertainment magazines, and give your friend something to look at in the office. Sarah Michelle Gellar works too.

> Put together some photos of yourself to remind you partner your thinking of them.

> Wacky images, or colored shapes can easily create a kaleidoscope effect inside you pop up box.

> Be literary, use words cut out of magazines and advertisements to create a artful poetry box.
































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