Discover the world of fine art papercraft with Canon Creative Park

See how one talented artist uses his Canon PIXMA printer to take a Canon Creative Park kingfisher template to the next level.
A bright papercraft kingfisher sits on a person's hand with plants and paintings visible in the background.

There are thousands of papercraft ideas and templates to choose from on Canon Creative Park, ranging from architecture to seasonal decor. Simply choose your template and follow the instructions. But what if you want to take it to the next level? That's where artist and illustrator Zack Mclaughlin, of Paper & Wood, comes in to lend a crafty hand.

Zack has a longstanding love for the natural world and a particular interest in birds, both watching and photographing them with his Canon EOS 90D. He has created installations for famous department stores, museums and even Sir David Attenborough. Zack's attention to detail is what sets him apart and his admiration of nature comes through in all his creations.

It seems appropriate then that Zack, a bird enthusiast, should take on this 3D papercraft challenge and choose a kingfisher as his focus.

Getting started

A Canon PIXMA printer sits on a worktop next to an open laptop, printing out a Canon Creative Park template that is shown on the laptop screen.

3D papercrafts for adults can be challenging and rewarding in equal measure, and Canon Creative Park is full of papercraft ideas to get stuck into.

A man leans over a desk, carefully using a scalpel to cut out templates from sheets of paper on a cutting mat.

Papercrafting can be a great way to lose yourself in a creative process, from printing your templates to cutting and assembling them. "I'm pretty good at getting into the zone and hours later realise I'm really hungry or thirsty – you get lost in it," says Zack. "I always have the radio on, or I listen to a fantasy audiobook. I'm a geek through and through."

The first step of any creative process should be observation and preparation. Zack had spotted and photographed some kingfishers in the local marshes. "I love going out and photographing nature, especially on quiet, early mornings, just having that peaceful moment," says Zack. "I want to bring that feeling indoors."

Along with his own images, Zack will often study books and online drawings to prepare for a build. After choosing his kingfisher template on Canon Creative Park – which is available as a smartphone app and website – he printed it and other images for inspiration with the Canon PIXMA TS5350a Series printer.

To ensure he got a perfect print, with accurate colours and outlines, Zack followed a quick and easy printer maintenance process in Settings, working through all the required nozzle checks. He also switched the mode to Best Quality, rather than Draft or Standard Mode. Once that was out of the way, it was time for him to get creative.

"I love the challenge of using material like paper to recreate something so beautiful that exists in nature," says Zack. "There's so much you can do with paper, such as embossing, and the Canon Matte Photo Paper is the perfect material for it. All paper is slightly squishy, so by applying pressure, you leave an indentation. It's cool to take paper away from what people think of as something quite flat; it's got so much potential!"

The planning and the process

The many different components of a papercraft kingfisher template, some assembled and some still in progress, lie next to a pair of scissors on a table.

Zack studied illustration and spent years illustrating children's books before realising he was drawn to 3D creations. "It's funny as I don't do a lot of illustration now; it's all 3D stuff," he says. "It's something I never dreamed of doing when I was younger. I didn't even think it was a possibility."

A pair of hands uses a pair of scissors to cut a paper feather.

"I make a big pile of feathers but it's always a bit of a guessing game," says Zack. "I get to the very end and then realise I need a few extras. I start off quite prepared but sometimes, it can turn a bit chaotic."

Unsurprisingly, making the standard kingfisher template on Canon Creative Park was quite simple for Zack, but he added a few personal touches which underpinned his ultimate motivation – to bring his paper birds to life.

"I always strive to make my models realistic," he explains. "The magic is in the detail, it's only when you look really closely you can start to understand how they're made."

After Zack had printed all the flat elements and cut them out with a scalpel, he added the paper feathers before attaching the pieces together. Using 160gsm textured coloured paper, Zack cut a basic leaf shape and held it between his finger and thumb. Resting his scissors on another finger, he then snipped around the edge, fringing each piece. For all his projects, he does this with great dexterity. "I've never cut myself," he says. "I have a safety finger at the back so I can feel where the blade is at all times."

Zack estimates that he used around 400 paper feathers for this kingfisher, and advises to always start at the tail and then layer up. By adding all the extra plumage with the additional feathers, Zack knew he needed the beak and feet to be about 10% bigger, or else it would look out of proportion.

Attention to detail

A person's hand holds a papercraft kingfisher while the other hand uses a thin brush to paint the kingfisher's head.

"I use acrylic paints and water them down and then use thicker blobs of paint for stronger pops of colour," says Zack. "I like using iridescent paints which lend themselves well to the texture of birds."

Once the bird was feathered, glued and dried, Zack used acrylic paints to add the detail. "Luckily, the Creative Park templates are really detailed, so they helped me with the colouring of the bird," he says.

He varnished the beak after painting to give it a shiny realistic appearance, and adapted the kingfisher's eyes to make it more lifelike, using acrylic balls and painting them. He then created a secondary eyelid from another template so the eyes looked slightly inset.

For Zack, the art of crafting and creating is meditative. "You just forget about everything else in the world, even when the making doesn't go as planned," he says. "You just can't think about any other problems in your life. There are no distracting screens because you're using your hands. It's really tactile and it takes you away from everything else."

The finished product

A finished papercraft kingfisher perches on a branch in a bell jar which sits next to a potted plant on a table.

A project that spanned four days, this kingfisher became a labour of love for Zack, as do all of his projects. "All I have in my head is the end result, and I always want to get it right," he says.

Once it was near completion, a few more tweaks were made, such as angling the head to point slightly downwards so that it looked as though the bird was ready to swoop in on an unsuspecting fish. Finally, Zack decided to display it perched on a branch in a bell jar. "I attached a metal wire to the base and shaped it using modelling putty and a toothpick to create texture before painting it," he explains.

For many who see Zack's pieces, it might be their only way to get close and examine some of these birds. "I want to help make people more aware and appreciative of nature; I also aim to bring nature inside but leave it undisturbed in the natural world. What I do has been likened to vegan taxidermy before," he jokes.

If you've been inspired by Zack's striking papercraft creations, why not try your hand at any of the templates available on Canon Creative Park? Don't forget to share your paper art on social media using the #MadeWithPIXMA hashtag.

Written by Natalya Paul

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