Chica and Jo
...simplifying life
Chica and Jo
...simplifying life
Chica and Jo
8
MAY
2008

Create “magic” folding wooden photo cubes

by: Chica

Create “magic” folding wooden photo cubes
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Have you ever seen those little desktop photo cubes that fold and unfold to reveal more and more pictures on each side? If you’re not sure what I mean, check out the video below to see one in action. Pretty cool, right? They fascinate kids and adults alike (myself included), and make wonderful gifts for just about any occasion — birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, and more — and are especially nice for people who are hard to shop for. Besides that, they’re just plain fun!


If you can’t see the video, try viewing it directly on YouTube.

These photo cubes are not very difficult to make, as long as you know the steps to follow. The instructions I’ve found online are lacking a lot, so I’ve taken some common tips for making these and added a lot of extra hints and instructions to come up with the detailed guide below for making your own.

In case you want to work on this project away from your computer, I also created a PDF version of these Magic Folding Cube Instructions that you can download and print.

The first thing you’ll need to build this photo cube is 8 wooden cubes that measure 1.5″ on each side. You can find individual wooden blocks at your local craft store, or visit our Amazon store where we sell sets of 1.5″ wooden blocks that are perfect for this project.

make your own magic folding photo cube

Before you start, be sure to check the edges of your wood cubes and sand lightly, if needed (we like these flexible sanding sponges) to get rid of any splinters. You may also want to use markers or paint to color the edges of the blocks, because they may end up showing a bit in the finished project. If you choose to do this, use a color that is complementary to your photos or something neutral like white or black.

make your own magic folding photo cube

Now this part is important — you’re also going to need some really strong double-sided adhesive to attach your photos to the blocks. This adhesive will end up serving as hinges between blocks, too, so you need to choose it carefully. I highly recommend using sheets of what’s often called “red liner tape”. We actually sell the perfect double-sided tape sheets in our Amazon store. This stuff is made up of a thin sheet of plastic that’s coated on both sides with a super-sticky adhesive. Besides being the stickiest tape I’ve ever seen, it’s also VERY durable, and thick and flexible enough to make perfect hinges between your blocks that won’t ever tear. You’ll need two 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of this tape to handle all ten of your photos.

double-sided red liner tape sheets

You will need eight 3″x3″ pictures and two 3″x6″ pictures for this project. These photos should NOT be printed on typical photo paper, because photo paper is too thick to bend easily and won’t work for this project. Instead, you need to either have color copies made of your photos at the local copy shop, or print the pictures yourself on a thinner paper. We highly recommend you choose a 24-lb, bright white paper that has built-in smudge resistance, such as HP’s Bright White Inkjet Paper.

TIP: When you print your pictures, if they aren’t coming out as bright or as you’d like, try setting your printer options for photo/glossy paper, rather than ordinary paper. This little lie will cause your printer to push out a lot more ink and your photos will be much bolder, giving you much better results.

Once you’ve selected all your photos and printed them out on proper paper, go ahead and cut them to size, but take note — cut each picture just a bit larger (about 1/16″ to 1/8″ of an inch) than the specified measurement. This extra little bit will help later when your photos have to span the gaps between the blocks. (Trust me, it’ll make sense when you get to that point.) If the pieces end up too big, you can always trim them later with a utility knife or scissors – better safe than sorry!

make your own magic folding photo cube

Now that your photos are printed and cut to size, you will need to back them with the double-sided tape. Peel one side of the backing off and arrange your photos on the sticky part you exposed, ensuring that the back of each photo is completely covered in adhesive. Trim the photos again to size. Don’t peel off the other backing layer yet!

Now let’s take a look at the layout we’re aiming for with these photos. They are each going to need to be cut in different ways, depending on their size. This diagram shows how each of the 10 photos will need to be cut.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Arrange your printed (and tape-backed) photos as indicated in the diagram. Then use a paper trimmer or scissors to cut each photo into squares/rectangles as indicated in the picture. For example, cut picture #1 into four squares, #2 into two rectangles, etc. Take care and keep track of the photos after you’re cut them, so they don’t get mixed up!

make your own magic folding photo cube

TIP: Since your photos are actually a little larger than the finished size, cut them from the center, rather than just measuring 1.5″ from one side. This will keep the extra paper on all sides, instead of just one or two.

In the assembly steps to follow, you’re going to need a spacer to help keep the blocks lined up right so the hinges work the best. Since you have lots of scraps of paper and tape leftover from prepping the photos, this is the perfect time to make that spacer.

Start with three pieces of the double-sided tape sheets that are about 3″ long and 1/2″ wide. Peel the backing off of each piece and stick the three of them together. Then cover the remaining two sticky sides with scraps of the paper you printed the photos on.

Magic folding wooden photo cube spacer

Trim the whole thing if needed to get rid of overhanging edges. What you’re created is a spacer that’s just a bit thicker that two layers of photos will be on your cubes. Just hang on to this for now. You’ll need it when we begin assembly.

make your own magic folding photo cube

With your photos all cut into the right pieces, you’re finally ready to start assembling the cube!

Start by lining 4 wooden blocks up into a square on the table. Then take the four squares of photo #1 and stick each one to one of the cubes, as seen in the diagram below.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Then take the other four wooden blocks and line them up into a square, to get ready to apply photo #2. You’re going to want to put one rectangle across the top two blocks and then another across the bottom, but wait! We need our spacer! Let’s think about this for a minute… later on, when our blocks are all covered in photos, they’re going to be a little thicker than they are now, right? If we stick a photo across two blocks without accounting for that space first, then later there won’t be room for the photos when we add them. So slide your spacer strip between the blocks, so that it sticks out where the arrows are in the diagram below.

make your own magic folding phot ocube

Then stick the two rectangles of photo #2 to the blocks as shown.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

As you try to make your photo reach across the two blocks AND the space, you’ll realize why I suggested cutting the photos a tiny bit larger than 3 inches. That extra size will really come in handy for spans like this!

Now turn the set of four blocks with photo #1 on them over, like this:

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Take the four blocks with photo #2 on them and place them on top of the four you just flipped, like this:

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Ok, time for our first tricky fold. Put your hands on the left and right side of your cube, grabbing 4 blocks with each. Lift the sides up so that the top (photo #2) folds in on itself, as seen below, with the pivot being the red line in the diagram. The result will be all eight blocks laying in a rectangle.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Apply the pieces of photo #3 to the tops of the eight blocks, taking care to use the spacer whenever covering a span of two blocks, as indicated with arrows below:

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Now fold the top four blocks down and the bottom four blocks up, with the pivot on the red line in the diagram. Your new photo #3 that you just attached will fold in on itself and become hidden inside. You’ll end up with eight blocks showing in a rectangle.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Apply the pieces of photo #4 to the tops of the eight blocks, taking care to use the spacer whenever covering a span of two blocks, as indicated with arrows below:

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Now fold the two leftmost blocks and two rightmost blocks up towards the center, pivoting on the red lines in the diagram. Your new photo #4 that you just attached will become hidden inside. You’ll end up with a cube shape.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Apply the pieces of photo #5 to the tops of the four blocks. You do NOT need the spacer anymore because the blocks underneath already have photos attached to them.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Rotate the entire cube to the left, so that photo #5 moves from the top side to the left side. You will expose a new surface with no photo on it.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Apply the pieces of photo #6 to the tops of the four blocks. Again, you no longer need the spacer strip.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Rotate the entire cube to the left, so that photo #6 moves from the top side to the left side (and #5 is now face-down on the table). You will expose a new surface with no photo on it.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Apply the pieces of photo #7 to the tops of the four blocks. Again, you no longer need the spacer strip.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Rotate the entire cube to the left, so that photo #7 moves from the top side to the left side (and #6 is now face-down on the table and #5 is now on the right). You will expose a new surface with no photo on it.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Apply the pieces of photo #8 to the tops of the four blocks. Again, you no longer need the spacer strip.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Rotate the entire cube to the left, so that photo #8 moves from the top side to the left side. You will now have photo #5 showing on top.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Now rotate again, this time towards you, so that #5 becomes the side closest to you and the top has no photos on it.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Apply the pieces of photo #9 to the tops of the four blocks. Again, you no longer need the spacer strip.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Rotate the entire cube towards you, so that photo #9 moves from the top side to the side closest to you. You will now have photo #7 showing on top. Now rotate again, towards you, so that #7 becomes the side closest to you and the top has no photos on it.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

Apply the pieces of photo #10 to the tops of the four blocks. Again, you no longer need the spacer strip.

Magic folding wooden photo cubes

That’s it! You’re done! To view all the photos, just fold and unfold the cube, revealing a new side with every twist. You can display the cube with any photo showing that you want.

make your own magic folding photo cube

Now you have a custom photo cube that makes a great toy, gift, or even unique commemorative “album”. I made my mother a photo cube last year on Mother’s Day, with pictures of all of her kids and grandkids. Jo made one for her sister-in-law featuring pictures of the family dog. Because they will have 12 sides, you can also make a desk calendar out of them. Now that I think about it, they would even make a lovely, unique bridesmaid gift if made with pictures of the bride and bridesmaid together!

make your own magic folding photo cube

If you want to give your photos a glossy finish, and protect it from fingerprints and handling, you may want to check out our tutorial for “adding a glossy finish to your folding photo cube for more details.

Create “magic” folding wooden photo cubes
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104 comments so far:

  • 1
    Jaime 11/18/2015 at 12:41 pm

    Do u need spacers everytime it says use spacer here or do u just reuse one of them that u made like how it showed putting the three together and having scraps on the other side cause I don’t get it like is it not supposed to stick it the blocks do I need to buy three packs to keep putting a new spacer everytime it says use spacer here

  • 2
    Chica 11/19/2015 at 11:46 am

    Jaime, you can reuse the same spacer over and over. You just need to put it there while completing each step that requires it, then take the spacer out.

  • 3
    Emlee 01/15/2016 at 2:57 pm

    Has anyone tried this using clear Contact paper on the tops of the photos to protect them from wear and moisture? It seems this would be a simpler solution than applying mod podge. And if you adhered them with ordinary glue on the back, wouldn’t the contact paper on the front also serve as the hinges?

  • 4
    Jo 01/21/2016 at 4:08 pm

    Emlee, we haven’t tried this, not sure it if would hold up over time but if you do try it, please let us know how it works out!

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We are two best friends sharing our creative journey. You never know what we will be into each time you visit. We could be throwing a unique party, refinishing a flea market find, or whipping up a new cupcake recipe. We invite you to join us for the ride as we tackle life one project at a time!

Please visit Chica and Jo at http://www.chicaandjo.com for more DIY projects and clever ideas!