Recreate famous paintings with mini papercraft

Create your own miniature art gallery using a Canon SELPHY Square QX10 and the SELPHY Photo Layout app with tips from diorama experts Ole Friedrich and Esther Mora Chavarria.
A mini papercraft art gallery with two paintings hung on red walls, and a mini figure standing in the foreground, looking at the art.

Have you ever created a diorama: a model representing a scene with three-dimensional figures? A diorama can take the form of either a miniature or a large-scale design, and while it may seem complicated, you don't need to spend a lot of money to create your own.

Few people know the art of creating miniature dioramas better than Ole Friedrich and Esther Mora Chavarria, who have amassed a following of approximately 114,000 on TikTok. They have captivated their audience by making historically accurate intricate dioramas, ranging from prehistoric pieces which feature dinosaurs, to safari scenes with rhinos and deer.

In the final instalment of the Canon SELPHY Craft Club series, Ole and Esther created a miniature art gallery featuring two of the most renowned paintings in history and added their own personal touches. For this project, they chose the paintings Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and The Kiss by Gustav Klimt.

See how they did it – using a Canon SELPHY Square QX10 printer – as they take you through the process and offer their tips to help you create your own.

The concept

Prints of Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and The Kiss by Gustav Klimt lay on a table in front of a Canon SELPHY Square QX10 printer and other art materials.

Ole and Esther chose paintings that were in the public domain – The Kiss by Gustav Klimt and Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer. This is an important thing to check so that you don't encounter any copyright issues if you share your work online. It can be a time-consuming process, but it can also be enjoyable as you'll pick up fun facts about art to share with others.

Based in Barcelona, Spain, Ole and Esther met while studying archeology at the University of Barcelona in 2019. They visited Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany, and they were so fascinated by the models there that they decided to try making miniature scenes themselves. "It was an interesting way of explaining the story of a church, for example, in an interactive, fun way so kids and adults alike could understand the history," says Esther.

Both have an artistic background, so they wanted to combine their drawing and painting skills with their degree. They now create dioramas to educate others, but this was their first time creating a miniature art gallery.

The process

A Canon SELPHY Square QX10 is positioned on a tabletop next to pieces of hard foam, a ruler and a pencil.

You can begin making your own miniature art gallery with basic materials that can be found around your house, including glue, scissors, Canon photo paper and trinkets that you can't use anywhere else. The key is to reuse and recycle so that no material goes to waste.

A pair of hands paint two pieces of hard foam red in order to construct the gallery walls.

Mini papercraft can be very relaxing and can serve as a distraction from your problems. Ole and Esther usually put on a podcast in the background which they listen to while they do their individual tasks. "You can easily get lost in it, and you don't realise how much time has passed," says Ole.

Miniature art galleries can be as simple or complicated as you like, depending on what you're hoping to achieve. You can create a gallery with lots of paintings and human figurines or you could go small and have several figurines gathered around just one painting. You don't need to spend a lot of money on materials either. Ole and Esther had a look around their house and reused items from their past projects and random objects they'd collected over the years.

  • Researching: "The first thing you need to know is whether the painting is in the public domain so that you can use it for any activity," says Esther. "We create realistic dioramas so we searched for famous paintings on Google Art Project, but you can also draw something by hand."
  • Gathering materials: "For this project, we used hard foam to create the walls and floor," says Ole. "The floor is especially important because you want to create a texture, so we painted it with natural ink to make it look like a gallery's wooden floor."
  • Design and layout: "Think about how you want the paintings to look – whether you want to make them traditionally rectangular or experiment with something different," says Esther. "The Canon SELPHY Photo Layout app gives you a lot of options that you can play with; the possibilities are endless. Then, think about the frame. You can edit within the app so you can choose if you want a traditional frame where you don't really see it or make it more extravagant with different designs."
  • Printing: "The great thing about using the Canon SELPHY Square QX10 is that, because it's so small, we could just carry it with us through the workspace," says Esther. "The printing speed was fast too, so we could keep experimenting." Prints from the SELPHY Square QX10 are sticky-backed, making them even easier to add to your diorama.
  • The human element: "You then need to look for or create a figurine," says Ole. "The figurine also needs to be posed like they're interacting with the space to show a bit of movement and make it more immersive."
  • Easter eggs: "In all our work, we always add random objects which viewers can stumble upon and smile," says Esther. "In this project, we put a broken column – from another project – and placed a tiny squirrel on it. That was a spontaneous thought, and we do this at the end just to have a bit of fun. You're adding a personal touch, and this idea doesn't come to you until you've finished the project and notice an empty space."
  • Glueing: "You create all the elements separately, and then it goes from being nothing to being something really beautiful," says Esther. "Putting all the elements together really brings it to life."

The printer

A hand holds a smartphone with the Canon SELPHY Photo Layout app on the screen, displaying The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, with a printout of the painting and Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, as well as a Canon SELPHY Square QX10, on the table below.

The Canon SELPHY Photo Layout app is your one-stop shop for your editing and printing needs. You can choose the layout you want and you can even add text, borders and stamps. This is useful if you want to, for example, add a little information about the painter to your miniature painting.

Materials for the projects are laid out on a desktop, including painted hard foam, a Canon SELPHY Square QX10 printer, two mini prints of paintings, a pencil, ruler, penknife and excess foam.

"The Canon SELPHY Square QX10 was very handy because we don't always want to paint and create a painting from scratch," says Esther. "Using this printer has really inspired us and we think we will use it for future projects as well."

Throughout their time working together, Ole and Esther have never used a printer. They have always drawn and painted each component of all their projects by hand. "That can be very time consuming," notes Ole. Working with the Canon SELPHY Square QX10 has, in a way, revolutionised their workflow. "The SELPHY Square QX10 is totally different from the typical traditional printer we might have," says Esther. "Until this moment, we haven't used a printer for our crafts because we didn't see the potential for it, but this printer has changed that."

One of the best things about the printer, Esther says, was the quality of the prints. "It's very important to build a miniature that is realistic, and the prints were high quality and the colours looked so vibrant," she adds. The prints also last up to 100 years1 so this compact printer is the ideal partner for a project such as this.

The couple also enjoyed using the Canon SELPHY Photo Layout app. "Our primary tool when we work is our phone because we use it to record videos for social media," says Esther. "Having this app was amazing because we could print whenever we wanted to without having to open our computer and search for an app." The app, compatible with iOS and Android, enabled Ole and Esther to quickly edit their photos and pick the layout, and it took the SELPHY Square QX10 approximately 43 seconds to print, making their jobs easier. "It was also easy to connect the app to the printer; all we had to do was scan the QR code," says Ole. "It couldn't be simpler!"

The history aficionados have three tips for making your miniature art gallery a success:

  • Search for inspiration. This could be from a TV show or a Pinterest post – you need to have visual references.
  • Experiment with materials, don't just grab the first thing you see. Sometimes, there are lots of things you can find in your house or outside in nature, so experiment and see how it works.
  • Reuse everything. Most of the materials Ole and Esther use are recycled, such as old egg boxes. This way, you can have fun without having a detrimental effect on the environment.

The results

A mini art gallery diorama is positioned on a tabletop next to a Canon SELPHY Square QX10 printer.

"The Canon SELPHY Square QX10 is a great asset for us in our workshop and we want to introduce it to those who participate in our workshops," says Esther. "It opens new doors not just for us but for participants as well. You can't spend two hours painting a picture so this printer can save them a lot of time and perhaps draw more people into creating mini scenes."

A close-up of a mini figure facing mini prints of Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and The Kiss by Gustav Klimt hung in a mini gallery diorama.

"Our normal printer is good for many things but not for producing high-resolution prints on a small scale," says Ole. "Until now, we haven't been able to do a lot of things because, for example, painting a small street sign by hand is really difficult. The Canon SELPHY Square QX10 produces great prints, even on a small scale, so it's going to change the way we do things."

"We are more accustomed to creating archeological dioramas so the miniature art gallery was out of our comfort zone," reflects Ole. "But it was a lot of fun. Working with materials we're familiar with but turning them into something we weren't familiar with felt like a big accomplishment."

Ole and Esther spend a lot of time together so they say it's important to divide your tasks so that you don't get in each other's way. "When we started the project, we were going with the flow, but we soon noticed that one of us knew more about colours and the other knew more about the structure, for example," says Ole. "See who is more comfortable with which task. It's good to have your own speciality, and dividing tasks makes it feel like you're working together but separately. Trust each other and have faith that the outcome is going to be fantastic."

Now that you're armed with the tools and a guide on creating your own mini art gallery, why don't you give it a go? Not only is it enjoyable, it's also educational – who knows what fun facts you might learn about the expansive, beautiful world of art. Or if you prefer, you can go for a more personal touch – how about a gallery displaying your children's best artworks, to show how much they mean to you? Or why not create a personalised gift with a display of holiday photos? The possibilities are endless!

Written by Nikita Achanta

  1. When stored in an album. Based on accelerated testing, assuming a temperature of 23°C/73.4°F and humidity of 50%.

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