Ten Cardboard Techniques for Making and Prototyping

It’s no secret that cardboard is one of my favorite materials to use. It’s cheap, sturdy, easy to cut, and versatile enough to prototype with. Although its a humble material, it can be elevated quite easily by using a few techniques that take advantage of its special properties. Here are some of my favorite techniques for making with cardboard.

Straight Cut

Might sound silly, but cutting cardboard takes practice and a perfectly executed straight cut is the best cut to start off with. Make sure to use a cutting mat and always use a sharp blade. Using a metal ruler with a cork bottom (or taped) cut length wise using even pressure. Use several passes until you feel the two halves separate from each other. There are no prizes for quickness, a sure and steady pace will always deliver a clean, precise cut.


Scoring gives you many options when making. It’s a great way to make a hinge. By cutting part way through the corrugation and still leaving one side of the surface paper, you can position the cardboard in any angle you choose. This technique is useful for creating SCORE BENDS. By making several parallel scores, you can make the cardboard bend in a circular shape.

Score Bend

A score bend will shape a piece of cardboard by scoring one side of it. It's great for making a tube where a smooth exterior is desired by scoring the interior side. It's different from a Smooth Bend in that it does not crush the cardboard in order to get the shape you want.

Smooth Bend

Unlike SCORE BENDS, smooth bends do not need any cutting. In essence, you are merely coaxing the material into a circular shape. Try easing it into shape on the edge of a table or back of a chair. Gently bruise the outer layer of the cardboard and shape it into the shape you desire.

Cutting Curves

Although it’s tempting to use your Xacto knife or box cutter for this, your cardboard snips are better suited for this. Using a blade to cut curves is tricky even for the most experienced. However even using snips require that you use methods that will get you that smooth cut. First off, cutting curves are more successful if you know where you’re cutting. Before cutting the cardboard willy nilly, use a pencil and draw out your path. Then cut relief cuts up to the curve. These relief cuts allow the cardboard to fall away as you cut your curve. This will make it easier to cut the curve because the relief cuts will get rid of the excess material while you’re cutting your curve.


A notch is a great way to join two pieces of cardboard together and an excellent way to intricately construct with cardboard. Notches can be made in any size depending on your build. Always draw your notch on the cardboard before you cut. Then using your metal ruler and trusty blade make the cuts that will form your notch. Remember to always cut slightly past your stopping point in your cuts so your notch will be precise.

Exposed Corrugation

This technique is great for giving your cardboard build some artistry. The technique basically exposes some of the corrugated material sandwiched in a piece of cardboard. You can use this technique to give texture to a piece. Simply score the top layer of the cardboard and remove it exposing the corrugation beneath.



Smooth Joint

Making a smooth joint with cardboard is a great way to elegantly join two pieces of cardboard together. The process involves removing the corrugation for one side of the cardboard leaving only the bottom layer. Using glue, this bottom layer or flap can be joined to another cardboard leaving a smooth seam between them.

Skewer Joint

Using skewers to join two pieces of cardboard is another way to create a smooth seam between them. Simply insert the ends of a few skewers through the corrugation of one side of the cardboard, then insert the other ends to the second piece of cardboard. While this technique delivers a nice looking joint, it’s not terribly reliable so use some glue and skillfully reinforce the seam.


When glueing two pieces of cardboard together, its wise to use some clamps until the bond is establish. Clamps are very useful in applying pressure and holding pieces in place until the glue has set. Binder clamps are cheap, and plentiful in the main office of where you work, so go borrow some *cough *cough

Try mastering these techniques or practice with your students. Considering how useful cardboard is in prototyping, It’s a great skill set to have!

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Rick Funes

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