How to make papercraft butterflies in 10 simple steps

Craft tutor Aimee Graham explains how to make beautiful papercraft butterflies with a Canon printer and a few craft materials.
A woman adjusts a craft butterfly display in front of a desk containing a Canon printer.

Creating your own butterfly-themed works of art is a great way to add colour to your home, and a fun activity that can be tailored to suit all ages. You can find inspiration online or use the range of templates available on Canon's Creative Park.

"I took simple printed templates of butterflies and used them as a starting point to create beautiful butterfly artwork in both a glass dome and a box frame," says artist and paper crafter Aimee Graham. In this step-by-step guide, Aimee takes us through the process she followed when making her stunning, delicate papercraft butterflies.

Before you begin, make sure you have all your papercrafting equipment to hand. Here's what you'll need:

  • Craft wire

1 . Think of your final display

Three papercraft butterflies in a wooden box frame on a desk next to a Canon printer and bell jar.

Your papercraft design can be as simple or as complicated as you would like it, Aimee used a simple wooden frame for one of her creations and a more complex glass dome for the other.

Papercraft butterflies in a glass bell jar.

The sky's the limit with your design, and your paper crafting doesn't have to break the bank either. "You can often find old bell jars and box frames in charity shops," says Aimee.

How would you like your final paper artwork to be displayed? Once you've decided on this and have an image in mind, it's time to get started.

"First, decide how you'd like your finished work to be displayed and then create for that space. I chose a glass dome with a wooden base as I wanted a natural feel and worked backward," explains Aimee.

As well as a glass dome displaying her paper creations, Aimee made additional butterflies to display in a wooden exhibit case, which made for a beautiful piece of wall art.

Aside from a bell jar and a box frame, you could try using a jam jar or vase, or simply make a freestanding piece on an old kitchen towel holder.

2. Select your templates

A woman holds a sheet of paper featuring six butterfly outlines next to a desk containing a Canon printer.

"You can search the internet for templates or simply trace an existing shape you like," explains Aimee, "but consistency is key".

Aimee chose a simple butterfly outline after looking online so she could colour these however she liked. She arranged them for printing on an A4 sheet using the Canon PRINT app and printed six to a page, you'll need at least three pages of six to create enough butterflies to fill a bell jar similar to the one Aimee created.

Aimee also used the butterfly 3D wall stickers available on Creative Park that are available to download for free if you're a Canon printer owner.

Creative Park is a great free resource available to all Canon printer owners. "This is the first place to look for inspiration, silhouettes, and in this case outlines," explains Aimee.

Among the butterfly-themed pieces available to download on Creative Park are 3D wall stickers, which inspired some of Aimee's colour choices, but could just as easily be used as they are, in place of hand-painted designs. There are also more intricate butterfly templates, like this swallowtail butterfly.

3. Choose your paper

A collection of papercraft butterflies on a desk also containing a Canon printer and Canon printing paper.

If you don't want to paint your butterflies, you could simply print the pre-coloured 3D wall stickers on Canon Magnetic Photo Paper or Glossy Photo Paper and assemble them.

Once you've chosen your templates it's time to choose your paper.

"Think about what you're making before you print as the paper choice could make a difference," says Aimee. "For example, you wouldn't want to print on a gloss finish if you're adding colour to it."

Aimee used Matte Photo Paper for her butterfly creations. "It was a good thickness for my project," she explains. "I applied paint and overlaid colour, so it needed to be strong enough to work on and hold its strength once cut."

A thicker paper type is ideal for this kind of craft, especially if you want to add colour by layering paint and pens on top, the paper needs to be strong enough to support the colour without losing the integrity of the shape.

4. Get printing

A woman with large hoop earrings prints out an image of a blue butterfly on a Canon printer.

Aimee printed her templates from her smartphone using the Canon PRINT App, making the process quick and simple.

Once you've picked your template it's time to print – Aimee used the Canon PIXMA TS5350 series printer. Another popular printer used by designers is the Canon PIXMA TS9550 Series.

"By printing templates, creativity becomes accessible to all," she explains. "You don't need drawing skills so there's no need to be overwhelmed from the start. Just stick to a simple process and have fun creating!"

5. Choosing your designs

A Canon printer, an open box frame containing three papercraft butterflies and sheets of paper with butterfly outlines on a work surface.

"Creativity is subjective and there are no rules – just have fun with it," encourages Aimee.

Remember to consider the size of your designs, do you want all your butterflies to be the same or do you want a variety? Aimee printed a variety of sizes, showing these off in her box frame piece and bell jar creation. You can print as many as you want to include in your design, and it's always good to have some spare templates in case anything goes wrong at the colouring or cutting out stages.

Once the templates are printed it's time to add your design. Aimee chose to follow the patterns of her favourite butterflies – the Blue Morpho and the Monarch – because she knew the patterns on their bodies would make them pop against her background.

If you'd rather skip colouring in or painting, you can print, assemble and build the 3D wall stickers into your butterfly-themed art.

6. Time to colour

A woman paints a butterfly template bright orange. On the desk next to her is a Canon printer.

"The most difficult step is also the easiest and the most fun – the colouring in," says Aimee. "If you give someone a blank canvas, they often get overwhelmed and don't know where to go with it. Don't overthink it."

A woman with bright blue nails using a black marker pen to add detail to the wings of a papercraft butterfly that's been painted orange.

Aimee's favourite step is the colouring in. "It's when you bring it to life. When I film for Instagram I find myself watching the time-lapses to see the colour coming together – it's so satisfying."

"With the templates ready, I got to fully connect with my inner child – I love colouring in," enthuses Aimee. "This is the part in which you get to add your personality. Colour is fun and energetic, so you can be as expressive as you like."

Aimee used a mix of pens, pencils and paints to decorate her creations – but you can stick to just one type of media, or use whatever is available to you. "I made multiple butterflies, so I painted all the outlines to start with and began layering up the colours in batches," explains Aimee.

Grab a black pen and go around the outline once you've added your colour to create a bold finish, you could even do this in gold or silver pen for a sparkling finish. "It's really satisfying adding in the black details and seeing it all come together! I spent time layering in colour details and then allowed these to dry," Aimee says.

7. Cutting the templates

A woman cuts out an image of a blue butterfly with a swivel craft knife. On the desk next to her are several already-cut butterflies.

Butterfly templates might prove a bit tricky to cut out, so take your time, and don't worry if you don't do a perfect job.

Blue paper butterflies arranged on a wooden desk.

Once you've cut out your paper butterflies your creation will start to come to life.                       

Once you have your vibrant page of butterflies, it's time to cut them out. Pick up your scissors or alternatively try a craft knife and cutting board, and carefully go around the outline of your template, making sure not to cut off any parts you have just coloured in.

"I started by cutting loosely around the shapes and then, using my swivel craft knife, I carefully cut out the butterflies in detail," says Aimee. "You could use any craft knife or scissors as long as you're careful."

8. Assembling your butterflies

A woman uses wire to fix a papercraft butterfly to the inside of a wooden box frame.

Aimee used wire to position her butterflies more precisely. "I have wire for jewellery making but you could use wire from old or broken jewellery, paperclips or you can pick it up quite cheap at most craft shops," she says.

An orange-and-black papercraft butterfly on a wooden block next to a bell frame.

"I used the wire from the butterflies' legs to wrap around pieces of foliage in the bell jar piece, to make it look more realistic," says Aimee, "not losing any of their delicate qualities."

Depending on how animated you'd like to make your butterflies, you could either use a wire to shape them into different positions or simply glue them onto a centre support.

"As the glass dome is a 3D piece, I needed the butterflies to also be 3D. I decided to keep it simple and laminate two of the butterfly cut-outs back to back so they have colour on both sides," says Aimee. "This also added strength to their shapes. I wanted them to stand in a realistic way, so I also added in legs with wire. Using a pin I poked holes in the edges of the thorax to thread the wire through in three strips shaped like a U. I added in one more to point up for the antenna before sandwiching the two butterflies together, and left these to dry.

"Once dry, I scored around the thorax and bent the body and the wires into shape," she continues. "You may also need to tidy up the edges – I used a black pen to go around the outline of the butterflies as a finishing touch."

9. Adding decoration

A woman adjusts a craft butterfly display positioned on a wooden block.

"If you wanted to create something similar [to the bell jar and box frame], you can use flower and leaf templates from Creative Park and colour these in as we did with the butterflies," suggests Aimee.

Time to make your butterfly habitat, cut out some paper leaves or flowers and place these around your butterflies.

"I added crepe paper flowers and foliage, as I wanted to create a centrepiece for the butterflies to live on, using these materials," explains Aimee.

"I found a thick piece of branch to stand in the middle which I used to wrap foliage around. I made a selection of leafy greens and cosmos – one of my favourite wild flowers – and assembled them using the stick as the anchor. This way you can create a whole ecosystem for your butterflies to be placed into."

You could follow Aimee's direction or create your own decoration with layers of card, printed templates of leaves decorated in the same way as the butterflies or shapes cut out of material. As long as you have a central anchor you can layer up your foliage in any way you like, and place the butterflies on top to be the focal point.

For Aimee's wooden display box she kept the decoration simple, by writing the name and species name next to each butterfly, to really give the feel of an exhibition display box.

10. Finishing touches

A woman places a glass dome over a craft butterfly display, which is positioned next to a Canon printer and a pack of Canon printing paper.

"I really enjoyed assembling the foliage, flowers, and butterflies, and seeing it all come together," says Aimee, "seeing something that you created from nothing is so great."

A woman putting a wooden display box with paper butterflies in it onto a brick wall.

Once finalised, you can display your creation in your home – or it could make a unique gift for friends and family.

"Once the ecosystem is in place with enough space for the dome to sit over the top," says Aimee, "all you needed to do was add the butterflies in. Once I was happy with their positions I cleaned the dome glass, removing all fingerprint marks and sealed everything inside."

Aimee's papercraft butterfly dome is currently displayed in her dining room, but you could place yours in any room for a touch of colour.

Now you have all the knowledge to get crafting, why not experiment with different templates and designs and make something truly unique for your home?

Written by Tamzin Wilks

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