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How to create paper model - Software

There are several stages of creating models. Creation of 3D model, unfolding of 3D model, arranging of unfolded parts to fit to a paper sheet, creating instructions, export to pdf or to vector format, editing the parts, coloring in vector editor, coloring and weathering in bitmap editor and finally export to pdf. For every stage there are several programs which could handle the tasks, some of the stages are good to be made in the same program, for some stages it is good to use a different one. Because we are talking about software, we also need OS into consideration. Some of the software works only on Windows, others are multi-platformers and works great independently on OS.

3D Editors

For creating a 3D models you definitely going to need a 3D editing software. There are plenty of commercial and also free, open-source software. There are big differences in every single of them – not only in the amount of functions or visual appearance. There are big differences in the way how the software interprets 3D models (NURBS vs MESH), what is the main purpose of the software or in the way you are using it. You do not need to understand difference between NURBS and MESH but if you desperatly need to know more, check the wikipedia - NURBS (EN) and MESH (EN).

Rhinoceros 3D by McNeel

Rhinoceros 3D logoThis is the software I am using and in which we are going to create paper model in this series. During the time I am writing this article, the most up-to-date version is version 5. Rhino works with NURBS system of 3D models and is very close to other CAD systems. That’s why people are using it for creating not only paper models but also real ships, real architecture or even a jewelry. It’s very precise software and it has built-in function for unfolding 3D planes. However, it is a commercial software and it isn’t cheap. But you can always download a trial version or if you are a student, you can purchase full commercial version for discounted price. Rhinoceros 3D is one of the reason why I am still using Windows. It could be run on Windows and Mac. I was unable to make it run under Linux (with Wine). You can get more information and download trial version directly on Rhino3D.com.

Trimble Sketchup

Trimble Sketchup logo3D editing software formerly owned by Google (but created by @Last Software). It is very easy to use and has nice user interface. I know a lot of people using this software for creating paper models. However, to unfold 3D model is not an easy task, but I found out, that there are some commercial plug-ins which make this task easier. There is also a huge gallery of 3D models you can download for free. And the best part – the basic version of Sketchup is also for free. It runs under Windows and MacOS and you can download it from sketchup.com.


Blender logoBlender is an open-source 3D editing software created as a free alternative to commercial and expensive programs like 3D Studio Max. I tried to get familiar with it, but somehow there was no chemistry between me and this software. Its GUI somehow scares me. It can be used also as a program for creating paper models, but do not know how good it is at unfolding of 3D parts. However it is very powerful software and there is a huge Blender community. Blender could also be used as a software for creating PC games or for creating video effects (one of the best free video edititng software!!). It works under Linux, Windows and MacOS. You can download it from blender.org.

Pepakura Designer

Pepakura Designer logoJapanese software with high popularity among members of paper modelers community. It has built-in function for unfolding models or even creating glue tabs. Changes made on textures are already shown on 3D models, so you can see how it will look like on real paper model. Also you can get rid of creating instructions, because Papekura files could be viewed in Papekura viewer, where you can see exactly how and where needs to be part added. Papekura Deisgner (3D editor) is commercial software, Papekura viewer is for free. It works only under Windows. More info on tamasoft.co.jp/pepakura-en/

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