latest update: 10th of January 2009



Perhaps they used Papyrus in ancient Egypt also for building models. Perhaps they used paper for modelling purposes soon after paper was invented in China two thousand years ago. We don´t know very much about it.
  The oldest paper models I have seen saved in our museums are from the 18th century. Please give me references if you know of older ones.

 Paper is a wonderful material for model building. It does not require a lot of sophisticated tools but it is a living material giving you immediate response to your artistic ideas. Paper could be very different. Hard, soft, thin, thick, porous, glossy, ugly, beautiful. Paper could take and give back colouring in the most different ways. There are so many qualities inspiring you. 
  Soon after the Revolutions (French, Industrial, American) there were attempts to use paper for industrialized production of toys. Like with the tin toys, paper toys took a big step forward when the production was combined with new printing methods. Opposite to the printed tin sheets, the paper sheets could be sold as they were to let the children and their parents put the toys (models) together themselves. This gave a new quality to family life.  

During the 19th century, several printing companies developed nicely coloured and printed paper model kits aiming at children. After the first world war, the interest grew to design scale model kits for boys interested in miltary technology, ships and airplanes. In the late 19th century, paper modelling turned out to be a very sophisticated hobby for people with the highest demands for beauty and accuracy.  Modern glues and paper qualities allowed it.

The pictures on this page just give some examples from the history of paper models. I have also written special pages about
paper ship models,
paper lighthouse models
a comparison between a paper model and a plastic model
paper modelling in school
paper model publisher JSC
paper modelling with my grandchild

There are also some paper models around on my pages with thoughts on model building:  

                                                                                                                                                                        Gunnar Sillén



The oldest paper model I so far know  in Sweden is a model of the 70 canon ship "Nordstjernan" wich was launched at Karlskrona in 1703. The ship was constructed by Charles Sheldon and the model was built by the constructor himself or by someone else at at the shipyard, eventually to show the form of the hull before the approval. The model is built to scale 1:60. It is now in the Maritime museum (Sjöhistoriska museet) in Stockholm.
The oldest handbook concerning the art of making paper models was as far as I know printed in Germany in 1802. The author was Heinrich Rockstroh and one of his wishes was to help craftsmen to find new outcomes through the playtoy "industry". The book gives instructions for the geometrical design of different surfaces and also has a lot of nicely etched plates with examples. I have copied some of the etchings to card and built the models as shown on this picture.
  The complete name of the book is:
Rockstroh, Heinrich: Anweisung zu Modellieren aus Papier, Weimar 1802.
a reprint with comments by Dieter Nivergelt was published in 2008
Most successful in making paper models popular in Scandinavia was the weekly magazine Familj-Journalen (Allers) that started in Denmark but was so popular that it also published Swedish and Norwegian editions. From 1914, the Danish drawer H.C.Madsen provided the magazine with as well cut-out models as jigsaw-models. Till his death in 1939, he designed one, two or even more models for the magazine every week. Fancy models, doll houses, famous architecture. The models he designed are still very pleasant to build. The constructions are engenious. The fit is excellent. The artwork is living.
 This kitchen is from 1917.    

H.C.Madsen draw this Norwegian stave church in 1928.
In the 1930-ies, Allers and the Familje-Journalen laid more stress on giving their readers a nicely presented geographical and technological education. The cut-outs often reproduced famous pieces of architecture or folk art. They had a special series of cut-outs called "Street of the Nations", probably inspired by the collection of houses from all over the world at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. This model of the Mostar bridge might be the last model that H.C.Madsen designed. It was published in 1940. 
     During the 1940-ies, the Swedish edition of the Allers magazine got a more independent position in relation to its Danish owners. The popular publishing of cut-outs went on, but now with Swedish designers, most of them unfortunately anonymous. New after the war was an interest in scale modelling. Houses were often drawn in scale 1:87 to meet the growing HO model railroad hobby. The picture shows an 1:87 gipsy camp that was published as late as 1956. Few years later the magazine stopped publishing paper models. Young people by then demanded plastic models instead.  
  But for all older people in Sweden, the name of the Allers magazine is forever associated with paper cut-out models.
This is an old Italian model of an armoured car or "Auto Blinda" as it says on the cut-out sheet. The model is designed with self locking tabs that make building without glue possible. Especially the 3-D wheels are cleverly constructed (hardly visible on the completed model but here shown in detail to the left) even if the fit is not the most perfect I have seen. Publisher was the Editrice "CARROCCIO" in Milano. I don´t know when the model was printed and if it has any resemblance with an armoured car that has really existed.   Please tell me if you know.


Legendary are the unbelievable small Micromodels, designed and published by Geoffrey Heighway in England from 1947 to 1956. Over 100 different models were printed on 9x13cm cards and enveloped. Architecture, ships, railroad stock and whatever you like. This picture shows the tiny little model of St. Peters and Vatican in Rome. It was printed on 12 cards.
In Eastern Europe, paper modelling stayed popular much longer than in western. Due to politics, printing was extremely cheap in those countries untill 1989. Paper model kits could be issued in huge quantities to be used in different youth projects like model building groups. I found this fantastic model of the Rila monastery in a shop for school- and childrens books and utensilia in Bulgaria 1986. The price was like the price for a slice of bread. 
  The model is about 50 cm long, very detailed and was actually quite difficult to build. They had apparently high thoughts about childrens abilities at that time. Unfortunately, market economy and rising printing prices stopped paper modelling in Bulgaria after 1989. I would like to know more about Bulgarian models 
In the Czech Republic a very own paper model tradition has followed the excellent designer Richard Vyskovsky. The kit sheets may look chaotic with lots of parts spread all over. But in fact Czech models are often easy to build even if you can´t read the written instruction. The numbering of the parts, the figures and the intelligent constructions makes it into a great pleasure to deal with Czech models. The youth magazine "ABC" is still publishing lots of paper models every month and several new high quality paper model publishers have arisen in the last years in the Czech Republic..      
The pictures show the Albatros kit for the Supermarine Spitfire in scale 1:32. Design Richard Vyskovsky 
Poland is like the Czech Republic a country where paper modelling has a strong position. Yearly competitions in different districts keep design and building skills at an high level. These pictures are from a competition show in Gdansk 2000. The models are standard cut-out kits from Polish publishers like JSC, Maly Modelarz, GPM, Halinsky, just to take a few examples
Paper modelling has in recent years developed very much towards scale true exactness. Lots of designers have forgotten the very special qualities that could be won from the paper material itself. It is therefore great fun to see what real paper artists can do just from cutting and folding a single piece of paper. Much of this creativity could be used to make also scale model kits fun to build.
  This bird model was used as an invitation card for a childrens book exhibition in Offenbach, Germany. Design: Gert Zeising 
The Internet has opened a new way of spreading paper models. Not only that you can study what other model builders from the whole world have built. The Internet works in itself as a distributor of paper models that could be downloaded and printed by any computer connected to the web. 
  Besides a growing number of commercial distributors of paper models there are more and more companies, organisations and private people offering free paper models from their sites. One of the pioneers issueing high quality paper models for free download was the Yamaha in Japan. The picture shows a model of a "Mikoshi" (a moveable shrine) downloaded from Yamaha´s "Seasons" models. Yamaha also has great series of endangered animals and a series of motorbikes.


Among great things with the Internet is that you meet people you probably would never have met otherwise. Here is Todde (Tord Hökenström) who lives in Southern Sweden and is known to many paper model friends thanks to the lots of small paper model cars in scale H0 he has presented as digital files.
  He has designed some thousand of them. May be that he has got just your favourite car if you ask him.