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I just wanted to open a discussion on the idea of selling paper toys, I'd love to know what people think about it. One of the beautiful things about what we all do is that we're offering people pieces of art/design/toys, for free, via the internet.

But! Has anyone successfully sold paper toys, has anyone used their paper toys to bring in some cash and support their online projects, does anyone agree or disagree with selling paper toys? I just got an email from a cool paper toy designer who is considering something along these lines, and thought it would be interesting to get some views from you all.

My wife and I have been running the Speakerdog Paper Toys project for almost two years now, we've given weeks or months of our time to bring it all together, we've had hundreds of thousands of downloads, we've worked with over 100 artists on different designs, we've exhibited all over the place, yet we've never taken a penny from the paper toys, and because of that it will always be no more than a 'sideline' to the commissioned illustration work and Speakerdog posters and art prints that we produce, since that's what pays the rent, that's our proper job and the main focus.

I know one awesome paper toy designer who sells his models, but the flat templates he sells are all A3, so that's a little bit more than you can offer for free via the net (since 99% of people would only have an A4 printer).

So, the discussion is open, what does anyone think?

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For a lot of us, this can be a passion that we spend a lot of time on--and yes, there is no reimbursement for it. That's a significant amount of time to plunge into an idea, and then not get a tangible payback, like a stack of cash to prove that your time was well spent.

Ben, if there was an "elite" of papertoys, your Speakerdog series would certainly be in the top few picks. You've generated a phenomenon for the community. That is certainly no easy task, and you deserve the excellent reputation you have. In most markets, I think you would deserve to be compensated it.

The attraction of papertoys, the thing that gets a lot of us in the doorway for the hobby, is the easy access to superb models, use of equipment most of us already have, low time commitment, and a very supportive, generous, open minded community. As a serious enthusiast, on rare instances, I've paid for models of high quality, but always go back to the freebies, or self design.

I'm uncertain how successful the profit model papertoy sites are, but imagine most people feel they cost too much, and there are good alternatives out there to paying. I'd imagine to be really good at a payment based papertoy site, the product would best be the template file itself--mailing delays the gratification, and is additional money, but a high quality print, already creased and (?) perforated could be a high end option. A lot of our enthusiasts are probably young enough that they shouldn't be doing online purchase. I'd imagine the cost would be rather low (a dollar or so) if you would encourage anyone to collect an entire series.

Speakerdog is a beloved project in the community, and would probably lose some interest if it required money to enjoy. You bring up a great point--I think your efforts should be well compensated, as they are an immense undertaking--and we really do appreciate it.

Maybe you could also communicate with Shin Tanaka, who also puts a lot of free papertoys out. I'm sure he's given a lot of thought to the possibilities. Maybe a huge-scale Speakerdog, or Special Limited Edition, or Aluminum Print Speakerdog, or "insert huge art figure's name here" Speakerdog.

Perhaps even putting together a cooperative "warehouse" where papertoy artists can all submit their stuff to be sold off at a minimal price? A lot of us have work we consider worth spending money on, maybe if you gathered like minded artists into a cooperative "business" you could pull it off...

Good Topic...tough to answer...
i agree with marshall and shazam. this topic is intersting i gez there is no answer for it.why don`t u try 2 make vinyl figure out of speakerdog design it might help u ;)
The reason why i created the e440 model is because i love toys and i couldn't afford to buy all those great designer vinyl toys. In about an hour you can find, print and assemble a great toy for free! I think that's the charming about papertoys.
Release some exclusive toys in A3 format? I always print my most favorite templates at the copy/print shop [about 1 euro each page; everyone can afford it!] . Matt Hawkins did create some exclusive toys for companies, i think that's an awesome way to make some cash with your work/hobby.
Personally i love paintings, maybe it's an idea to buy some canvas and paint some of your great designs and work, man i love your style!

Greatest of all would be a vinyl version, like CAF3N CANC3R said, but i think that ain't easy to realize...

Keep up your great work!
Interesting topic.
I've had a little bit of experience selling papertoys.
I don't think I would ever charge for a download (there are so many great free papertoys why would some one want to buy one) and having them free on my site is a very big part of my mission as an artist. But I have sold a few different things so i could finance more experiments in printing, paper types and stuff.
With my Mechanical Man letterpress print I just wanted to do some letterpress prints (I love me some letterpress) on metallic paper. A way to offer a papertoy much more "deluxe" than some one could print on there home printer. Letterpress is fairly expensive but I managed to break even, but have about 150 of the 250 I printed still. If anyone still wants one I'll cut you a deal;)
Comic Monkey was a digital print but i wanted to do a package design so it was more than you could get in a download.
I took them to a comic book conventions and sold enough to pay for my table and it was really fun to talk to people about my work and see how they reacted to it. Our toys get downloaded thousands of times, but how many people do you actually hear back from? Not many. It was such a blast to see peoples reaction to my work and talk to them about my pasion for paper.
So with both of these projects I achieved something that can't be done by a download. I haven't got rich but have made enough to put it back into the next project.
I plan on doing some more stuff like this in the future including die-cut toys also including different materials and components. I also have done some one of a kind hand drawn papertoys I've sold.
With both of my projects though they have sold better in person than online. The few galleries and stores that sell my Mechanical Man have sold more than I have on-line. There's just something about seeing the toys put together in real life that makes them sell better and it gets the work outside of just the papertoy community.
I'd love to see some Speakerdog Deluxe kits. I really think folks would love to buy a papertoy that was pre-assembled. We all enjoy assembling papertoys but average toy collectors outside of papertoy fans would rather buy one pre-assembled and ready to collect dust on a shelf.
I also do a lot of freelance papertoy design, cuz I'm a total whore!
That's not totally true I just like doing this stuff and if I can eek out a living doing what I love bonus!
Very nice and interesting. I might try something similar this year. Thanks for the inspiration.
hey all

Thanks for getting so discussive on this one. Since I started it I thought I'd actually throw my own opinion in. Basically, I agree with Marshall, and others, the great thing about paper toys is that they are so often free to all, there is no elitism, there is no boundaries or anything, beginners and seasoned pros all seem to be working together for the enjoyment of it all. From what I know, the paper toy community is a much nicer, mellower, equal, sharing, and exciting place than, let's say, the vinyl toy community.

I certainly don't want to effect this vibe, not at all, if we started selling any kind of paper toys, however! My wife and I are considering some kind of 'Speakerdog deluxe paper toy set', which we'd sell, but we'd have to make it worthwhile, with good quality A3 size printed templates, and other good stuff like stickers and postcards. We'd make sure the toy template was well-printed on good paper (like how Matt has done, and Kenn Munk does too). I think in order to retain the good vibes in the community, we'd probably put the same designs up on the site for free, sized A4 templates, as with all the others. That way the sellable packs would bring in a bit of cash, which allows us to spend more time on keeping up on the normal Speakerdog paper toy stuff.

Personally, I'm not a great paper craftsman, not like so many of you guys, I'm an illustrator, who's made a big deal out of one character, one template (mostly to try and bring attention to my own artwork, since that's the business really for me). So I couldn't go out there and make models for clients, however all those who do and can... more power to ya, you have to enjoy what you do in life.

Thats y'all for kind words about the Speakerdog toys by the way, especially Dr.Shazam, it's really appreciated to know what's actually thought of them. To be honest, quite often Fi and I are blind to how much they're enjoyed, we know we get a lot of web traffic and a big hosting bill, but it's hard to tell how popular all the designs are, as far as I know, we're yet to be mentioned in any magazines, although they're normally obsessed with plastic, doesn't matter to us though, eh?

Saying that, there is talks about a short run of Speakerdog vinyl toys, but instead of the major USA/Japan-lead route, they'll be produced by a fantastic British toy maker at his home, stay tuned!

I have to go, I have to mention that Dr.Shazam might have an idea in some kind of co-op warehouse where paper toy artists could sell toys, but at a minimal price, and I guess special exclusive designs.

So, from what I read, people won't think I'm selling my soul if I produce some kind of sellable Speakerdog deluxe kit, right? Stay tuned for that. We made a massive Speakerdog paper toy for an exhibition just recently, well I say massive it's about 18 inches high, but I like to think that people might want one of them for themselves.

Right, now I have to go. Have cool weekends y'all.
Well the table top gaming world already has a good market for papercraft downloads(they tend to call it cardstock modeling). they work with a standard pay to download type business model. The subject matter is fairly limited to what is appropriate for table top gaming. however this does provide prof that given the right environment people will pay to download papercraft.

i also know some Japanese creators charge for download

as for earning money off of more generic papercraft or paper toys i see a few possibilities.


In this case your product is the consumer and you earn money from the sponsor. Your work is the succulent fruit bearing the advertisers seed. the problem with this is landing a sponsor, or becoming a fantastic add sales person.

With advertising the content models that bring a whole lot of traffic to websites are very difficult for papercraft to match (like the daily updates of web comics or the hourly updates of news blogs) quite simply you would need to find the perfect update schedule.

work for hire

fairly standard working artist stuff here, only difference is your selling paper craft models to clients instead of illustrations or other works. for this to become a viable option content providers (magazines, websites ect) would need to start demanding more paper craft kits. this involves finding people who manage content and getting them interested in papercraft

hard copy

there is always the route of selling preprinted copies of paperkits directly to the stores or consumers. these can be made special by using unique papers. i personally have always wanted to design a few complected kits that make use of all sorts of fancy papers. i read a few of you are already doing this, how has that been going for you?

one thing you do not want to do is try to sell hard copies of stuff thats free online, i tired it and was not too successful

art object

standard style art sales, most likely one of a kind paper sculptures. i'm very tempted to make a few of these and try to find a gallery to sell them at.

thats all i have to say for now.
This is a really good post indeed.

I guess the thing is that only people who dont know anything really about the toys are willing to pay for it. I mean, the people who are in the scene, know where to download, or to build/rebuild them by themself (+ they have fun with that!).
So i guess it would work to sell hard copy papertoys on an exhibition as a "gimmick". More like postcards and buttons.
You could build one or two of the toys, and than have a few unfolded papers (nice printed, on strong paper, maybe limited edition).
People just realize there that they actually like stuff like that, but they will never check your website to download stuff or print it... they just acting in the moment.
Most likely they also cant afford big art pieces, but they are willing to buy something small ..well thats germany maybe.

I Think its really hard to sell papertoys over the net, cause, like you guys said before, there are thousands and thousands of free downloads.

At the moment i just do it cause its fun, and i really like it that there is such a huge offer to download and customize them.

sorry for my english,
and cheers for now:)
Hey all, throwing in my two pence here as well. As some of you know i have reccently qualified as an illustrator and exhibited in new designers in london because of this. I took a stack of blank mushkins printed out on fair decent cardstock and a selection of my current paper toys (and the tree stand for them, also made out of paper).
Before going i was unsure of the niche i had carved out for myself - sure i'm an illustrator but making things is where i'm happiest. Looking around the business design centre as everyone set up i was a bit worried to see that there was nothing really similar (with the exception of 2 vinyl toys out in product design land) and i was unsure that i would get any interest at all.

Then the great unwashed masses of the public came in and wandered around and i realised that there is in fact a market for these things. I had everyone from children's book publishers to promotion and animation companies, even hasbro, take an interest in my paper toys. A lot of schools teachers also took the nets saying that it would be a cool way to teach kids so theres even that possibility there.

However the one thing i learned is that paper toys just on their own aren't completely sellable. I agree with ben and mashall in the fact that i got into paper toys as a cheaper and more creative version of vinyl toys. So if you were to market your models you'd be aiming for the niche of a niche market... which isnt many people in real life but thanks to the internet we can all communicate and share ideas. Which is why they're free - its more enticing to other people and its more of a labour of love and projects in the community. If you were to be selling them in real life then you'd have to go directly to your target group - a comic con or a shop specializing in art toys (like magma or even possibly forbidden planet) but there'd probably be need for a gimmick for people to genuinely get hooked in and buy your models instead of being inspired and making their own (not that i'm saying this is a bad thing). Or even being lazy and downloading off the web.

The feedback i did get from talking to people from the creative industry is that paper models are cool but there are so many ways you can explore and work it.

Talking to children's book publishers they were really interested in the idea of having a kit at the back of a book that you then make... but it would have to be tied into the book too. This means making a story and characters that the kids could then build (this sparks all kinds of pros and cons about the book being popup scenerey but also the craft ability of the kids you're aiming for). This is the side that is ignored by the more adult vinyl toys - how many collectors do you know that actually play with the toys they've bought. I mean really played with storytelling and the works. Kids work like that.

Talking with PR and advertising fellas the spin was more towards the toy being a container for something, or a promotional movie cutout. The idea of having packaging for something that could them become an item itself was bandied around a lot. (Look at the CMYK and boxhead toys - they are their own packaging)

From talking to some animation fellas the idea of things moving was at the forefront - joints and hinges (Kamirobo(?) and paperobot1999 are good examples) mean that the model could be then animated using stop frame (like wallace and gromit) and the models are also cool examples of character creation. Again however the emphasis was more on storycraft and grounding your characters in an environment thats fun if not believable.

The two responses i got from the general public and other students who were exhibiting were 'I'd thought you'd be chinese/japanese' and 'Your giving these models away?/How much are you charging?' I guess that the world atm is centred about making as much money as possible from whoever and whenever so its refreshing to do something for other people and not expect to get anything back. (apart from possible fame/infamy)

Tang Mu

PS just thought i'd share my experiences with you... its kinda late and this became a biiiig rant O_o
PPS with a name like Tang Mu, mistaken nationality isn't surprising really is it :p
Good post! I got to get my arse to some trade shows!
I'm so glad i went, if not just for the networking side of things. Hoping to do bristol comic con and maybe some more in the uk when i get a bit more money...
Nice Post! Plenty of ideas here to try out.


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