Thrice Studio - A Paper/Photography Studio


What is Paper Illustration?

Imaginative illustration out of paper.

Imaginative illustration out of paper.


I get this question a lot: What is paper illustration? While we all know what paper and illustration are, we don’t often see those two words in combination. I mean, what if I said “Pizza Bike?” What would that mean? Is it a pizza shaped bike? Is it a bike made of pizza? Or is it something way less dazzling: a bike that delivers pizza? Thankfully we don’t have to figure out the pizza bike query; that’s not the point of this post. So… Alicja… what’s paper illustration?

In short, it’s illustration using paper. I know, I took a paragraph to build up to that. There are many types of this kind of visual content, and plenty of uses therein, but I won’t bog you down with those details, yet.

Paper Illustration has a few characteristics.

Flat but Depth

Custom marbled paper for Jose’s web hero.

Custom marbled paper for Jose’s web hero.

I know, that doesn’t make any sense, but stick with me. Paper, generally, is one color. There might be some elements added to the paper to add texture, or gradient, but more often than not it’s a pure color. That’s where the flat comes in. However, it also has depth.

Paper is pliable and can hold shape - hence paper sculptures! Light moves around these sculptures creating both highlights and shadows which translates in depth. This is something I’m especially smitten with sense I was a studio photographer for 10 years before diving into paper sculptures.


Just like any other illustration, paper can be both representational or conceptual. It can defy gravity, or be a stylized rendition of something we all know. Foreground, mid ground, and background all can be considered, as well as color, composition, and copy placement. It’s flexible to be fun, modern, sophisticated, or playful.


Editorial paper illustration for Intercom.

Editorial paper illustration for Intercom.

One thing we can’t get around though, is the crafted feel. Sure things can be polished in Photoshop, but there will also be the beautiful imperfections of the human hand. Whether that’s the grain of the paper, or paper seams there will be some nuance of imperfection - and that’s the beauty of it.

In the world of renders, where physics-breaking materials are becoming the norm of visual content, paper illustration embraces authenticity. Where renders convey impossible perfection, paper champions vulnerability, humanity which conveys approachability.


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

alicja colon