Tips & Tricks

How To Build A California Mission Project

San Diego Mission Kit

If you are in 4th grade and live in California, then you will have to build a Mission Project.  If you were searching for how to make a mission model out of cardboard, or 4th grade mission project template, or California Mission Model patterns, or materials to build a Mission project, or just how to build a Mission, you've come to the right place.

Basic Tips and Tricks for building Paper Models

Almost all paper models consist of primary shapes like cones, tubes and boxes arranged in any number of ways. Once you get the hang of making these shapes, you'll be able to do even the most complex models. Below are a few tips to help you get started building paper models. You may find that some of the techniques below work well for you and some don't. If you come up with a better way of doing something or a new "tool" idea, let us know and we'll include it on this page. Print this page as a handy reference.

Basic Tools Needed:

    • White glue, double stick-tape, or a glue gun. A small glue gun works best.
    • Scissors, any size.
    • Ruler, any straight edge will do.  A metal one works best.
    • A "dead" pen, no more ink. Don't have one? Open an existing pen and pull the ink cartridge off the tip. Be careful not to get ink on you.  Then scribble until the ink runs out.
    • Optional colored pens or pencils for coloring the folded edge so the white doesn't show.
    • Hobby knife works great, but be careful! It's sharp!
    • Cutting Matte isn't necessary, but can be very handy.

              Tips for Folding

              There are two folding tips that will help when assembling your models. Score the fold lines, and fold all parts before gluing. This will make your projects go together a lot easier and much faster. Use a ruler and "dead" pen to score the fold lines.

              Here are a few other tips to help put your models together...

                • Study the "exploded view" on page on before cutting out any of the parts.
                • Cut out each part as you need it.
                • After you cut out each part, use a ruler and a "dead" pen (no ink) or the back of a butter knife to "draw" a score line along each fold. This will make the fold more accurate.
                • Fold all parts and test fit them before applying any glue. This way, you will not be fighting to get that last tab folded down in some awkward position.

                    Making Tubes

                    Tubes are pretty simple to make. To make them even easier, try curling them using the edge of a desk or table before gluing together. Cut out the part that is to become a tube. Start with one end on the corner of your table and slowly pull it across the corner. This should make gluing the tube a lot easier than trying to glue and form it at the same time.

                    Making Cones

                    Cones are very similar to tubes, just tapered down on one end. Cut the part out and start to curl it using the edge of a table or desk. The only difference between curling a cone and curling a tube, is when curling a cone, you want to keep the pointed tip in one place on the edge of your desk while rotating the curved part over the edge of the desk.

                    Finishing Details

                    A couple things you can do to make your models look really good when finished. Finish the edges of your model. That's right, the edges. A printer can't print on the edge of the paper, so this edge will show white on a model that may be dark green or blue. Use some colored pencils or pens to color the exposed edges before gluing the parts together.

                    Use good quality paper in your printer if you have to print the model. If you have a color inkjet printer, use the special paper so the colors and details of your model look good.

                    If you accidentally get too much glue on a part, take a moment to wipe the excess off before it dries.

                    Take your time and make sure all the parts line up properly before gluing.

                    Just like anything else, it's going to take some practice to get each model exactly how you want it, but you'll find the more models you do the easier they become.

                    No Kits!

                    No Kit Design Ideas

                    If your teacher says "No kits!", just purchase the "Cut & Trace" kit or the mission you were assigned. Cut it our and assemble it. Then get creative!

                    You can paint over the design with acrylic paint, drink mix, or water color paints or dabble some realistic looking stucco made from a flour and water paste. You can use wheat flour for a more antique look!

                    Here's the recipe:

                      • 4 cups flour
                      • 1 cup salt
                      • 1-1/2 cups hot water (from tap)
                      • Mix to an "icing" like consistency.

                          If sticky, add flour. Add food coloring for different effects.

                          Here's an example of how to make a waterfall with only some wood, paint, flour, water, hot glue, and some twigs from the yard:


                          Can you purchase some foam board?  It’s white and has paper on both sides with foam in the middle.  You can make a base out of it that makes it more sturdy.

                          Don't stop there...

                          • You can cut a piece of corrugated cardboard the shape of your roof, peel off one layer of the cardboard exposing the corrugated flutes. Paint is a brick red and you have a "Spanish Tile" roof! 
                          • Or, glue some elbow macaroni on the roof, paint it red for a similar effect. Find some sand, dirt, small stones, and twigs to create realistic trees right from your own yard. Remember to keep them small so the scale looks correct.
                          • You can use hot glue to create waterfalls and streams! Just melt the glue in long strands on a solid surface, wait until cool, peel them off and either place them vertically for form a water fall, or horizontally to create a flowing stream.
                          • You can also print images found on the web and create a back drop! Add some foamcore or cardboard the length of the back of your mission project base, print some photos or images found on the web and glue them to the backdrop.
                          • Bells and other miniatures can be purchased at your craft store to add realism and detail. Trees, bushes, dirt, gravel, and grass can also be purchased. Remember to watch you budget!
                          • Cut pieces of green sponge makes great bushes!
                          • Color fine saw dust that with green food coloring or green paint (and dried) makes great fake (artificial) grass!

                          Let your imagination and creativity take over!

                          Read more: Step-By-Step Instructions