GCSE Graphics Pop Up Project

The trickle of enquiries I received from students starting their GCSE Graphics project on pop-ups became a flood of enquiries! I know many of you are just starting on this project and have to find information on how to create pop-ups. You search the web for "pop-up books" or "how to make pop-ups", find my web site and send me an e-mail to ask for information. My own son did his GCSE Graphics pop-ups project in 2001 and so I know you need information (see below for Joe's GCSE and A level results and further progress!!). I'm very flattered that you ask me for information, but dealing with all your e-mail enquiries became too time-consuming, so I decided to put the information up here on the web site for you.

Please note: I don't keep a stock of information I can send out to students. All the information I have is listed below. It's based on the most frequently asked questions students send to me.

Recommended books on how to create pop-ups


"Highly recommended."

Duncan Birmingham (author)

John's personal comment:
"Highly recommended. I found this author's first book really helpful. This new edition is even better! The diagrams and photographs of working pop-ups are excellent and I will use this book if I am ever asked to do another pop-up book myself.
This book should show you everything you need for your GCSE - and at a price you can afford!"

"I wish I'd had this book when I was first commissioned to make pop-ups."

David A Carter & James Diaz

This fantastic book includes full explanations, instructions and actual 3-d working examples from the most simple to the most complicated pop-ups.

John's personal comment:
"The definitive book on how to make pop-ups. Couldn't be bettered. If you need to know how to create pop-ups, this book is what you need - though it is rather expensive."


How did I learn to make pop-up books?

Well, the first time I was asked to design a pop-up book, I bought some pop-up books and had a really good look at how they were put together. I took them apart and studied their construction in great detail. I still think that's probably the best way to learn how to make pop-ups, together with a lot of experimentation. There is a great deal to learn about pop-ups. In fact, I have only been commissioned to create fairly simple pop-ups myself and don't yet have the skills to create pop-ups with moving parts.That's the really clever stuff! I have worked on moving-parts pop-ups, but in those cases I worked with a specialist paper engineer who really knows his stuff.

Can I send you some information on how to create pop-up books?

The short answer is: Sorry, but no. I'm just a freelance illustrator; I don't keep a stock of information I can send out. I would strongly recommend that you buy one or both of the books listed above - I have found them absolutely invaluable! I have also found some useful web sites about pop-ups that might help you. Just select the links below to go to the web sites. Each one will open in a new browser window so that this page will stay open and you can return to try the next link.

OK, so what info can I provide?

If you have a look at some simple pop-up books, you will be able to see how they are constructed. It is very important to get the measurements exactly right, otherwise it won't work properly. Look at a pop-up from the side so that you can see it in cross-section and you will notice that the pop-up forms a square or rectangle. The measurement from the fold back to the page *usually* must be the same on either side of the centre of the book (this is for simple pop-ups - for more complicated pop-ups you really should order the book listed first above and you will find it explains everything).

Also, bear in mind that areas which are horizontal when popped up will be subject to foreshortening and you therefore have to elongate them in the drawing stage to get them to look right when popped up (e.g. tops of tables, beds etc.).

A pop-up need not be complicated to create a big impact. Sometimes a very simple, bold design can make a great and impressive pop-up.

I wish you the best of luck with your GCSE project and I hope you enjoy making pop-ups – they're fun!

Websites about how to make pop-ups

(in no particular order)

Note: if you find that any of the links below are dead, or you know of any other useful sites not listed here, please contact us to let us know. Thank you.

Book Production Information

  • Hawcock Books
    A publisher's website that provides some useful info about book production.
  • Mark Hiner - paper engineer
    This very useful site includes a section on how books are produced. Click on the link to Producing a Book to see it. (Many thanks to Susie Arnott for the 3 links above.)

Please note:

... I can't supply any more information about making pop-up books. I repeatall the information I have is on this page.

In particular, please don't ask for:

  • Templates to help you create your pop-ups
    All the work I produce is original. I don't use templates.
  • Catalogues or 'samples'
    The author/illustrator doesn't have these. I am not a publishing company - I am just one man, working as a freelancer on my own, at a drawing board with pencils, paint and paper, in a studio in our home. You will have to contact book publishers for catalogues or samples.
  • Information about Printing, Binding, Marketing, Distribution etc.
    Once I have completed the text and illustrations for a book, it is sent off to the publisher and they deal with everything after that. In other words, I don't know anything about the printing, binding, packaging, marketing, distribution or anything that happens after the text and artwork have left me. See the links above for information about the book production process.

Other useful Education links

Joe's GCSE and A level Results

In 2001 our son, Joe, got an A* in Art, four As (including an A in Graphics), 3 Bs and a C, for his GCSEs. Well done, Joe!! He went on to study 2 Art subjects, Physics and Maths at A level. His plan was to go to university after A levels, to study for a career in computer games design. But first he'd have to get the required grades at A level...

  • August 2003 Update: Joe got 2 grade As (for Art), a C, a D and an E for his A levels - well done again, Joe! He is now studying Computer Games Design at Teesside University - a recognised centre of excellence for computer courses. We hope that eventually he will be able to keep his aged parents in a manner to which we would like to become accustomed ;-)
  • October 2005 Update: Joe is now in the third year of his 4-year computer games design course at Teesside University. He is on work experience for a year at a computer games design company and is really enjoying life there so far.
  • October 2006 update: Joe recently started his fourth and final year at University, studying Computer Games Design.
  • July 2007 update: Joe got a first class degree at university and is now working for the computer games design company where he did his work experience.
  • June 2009 update: Joe went to work for Criterion Games in Guildford, part of EA.
  • 2014 Update: Joe moved to Studio GoBo in Brighton.