Thrice Studio - A Paper/Photography Studio


3 Main Types of Paper Illustration

A personal exploration into Paper Relief.

A personal exploration into Paper Relief.


Once I discovered this wild world of paper I quickly became aware of the different styles of paper art. And honestly, I was surprised. If the world of paper illustration is new to you, welcome! I’m excited to pull back the curtains and invite you inside to see the broad spectrum of paper art. For our purposes, I’ll dive into the three main types: 2d (or paper relief), Quilling, and Sculptural.


2d or Paper Relief

This style can hint at 3d form and depth, but largely it’s flat. The pieces of paper are embossed and glued in layers.

Textures and layers play a critical role as they imply depth when the light pours over the paper illustration. This is nice, because full 3d takes double, if not triple, the amount of time.

I admire this style. In my explorations I discovered that the limitation of this style is that I can't enter into the world. Meaning, it’s created to be enjoyed mainly from one perspective - outside of that, it breaks down. Also, because it’s laid paper, I don’t have space to illuminate certain elements, or create atmospherics like sunsets with fog, etc.

Regardless, it’s easy to get lost in the details. So much thought and care are put in each one.



Quilling is a lovely style in that it puts the paper on it’s edge, literally. I’m so smitten with what can be created in this style. I tried my hand at it once and realized quickly the precision these artists is unreal. And the patience! I decided quickly to just admire and leave this style to the experts.



Paper Sculptures is more inline with what I do. It’s exactly what it sounds like: sculptures made of paper. Generally every side and facet is thought out and built. This allows for multiple angles but also, since it has depth, allows for maximum light play as possible.

The sculpture I can light from within, behind, to the side, from underneath. The shape and color of the light can change which will impact the mood and experience of the illustration.

Sculptures also have real depth. There can be more of a focal point, as shallow depth of field can come into play.

The very real con, however, is that it takes a long time to build. Many times I have to go through 3-4 iterations of a template before the final construction takes place. Therefore it’s not surprising that I can spend up to 20 production hours in one set. But once that element is created, I can use it in subsequent illustrations for that company.


If you have any questions about paper crafting, illustration, or sculpture, I’d love to answer them!

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