The holidays are upon us. It’s a special time of the year to enjoy the company of family and friends, bake up treats and create crafting memories. Whether the entire family takes part or it’s a passion project for one, this DIY village is sure to ramp up the holiday spirit. 

A cardboard with a village drawn on it in pencil

Step 1 – Design the village

There are two ways to go about creating your freestanding village. The first is to simply sketch the design out onto cardboard, creating the outline for the skyline of your building roofs. The second option is to use a software to design your village.

Related: This long-standing natural soap company started by accident 

Paper and pencil design

For a traditional handmade design, use a ruler to make straight lines. Focus on creating different heights for the roofs and fill in the details of the building after that. Your finished village will fold between each building, further distinguishing one from another, but the roofline is where the contrast is really defined. 

Computer-aided design

If your ideal village is a bit more modern by design, head to your favorite software program. This might come with your Cricut or other cutting machine, or it might be through other CAD software. Use the software to lay out the village.

A cardboard cutout of a silhouette of a village

Step 2 – Make your cuts

If cutting by hand, use a sharp box knife or X-Acto knife and a straight edge. Remember: you’re only cutting the roof portion, rather than cutting out each building completely. After you have the roofs cut, remove windows for each building. You can also cut three sides of a doorway so it can swing open and closed, or remove an arched walkway opening.

If you’re using a cutting machine, lay out your cardstock on the cutting mat. Then allow the machine to make the cut and peel the design away from the mat. 

If desired, you can attach Vellum paper to the back of your cutouts. This provides an opaque layer to the back of the village that allows light through. It also gives the project a more finished look. Just cut the Vellum to match the shape of each building, including any cutouts for windows and glue them on to the matching building segments. Clean up the edges with an X-Acto knife if needed. 

A cardboard cutout of a village with a ruler placed in the middle of it

Step 3 – Make your folds

With a traditional design, you now have a flat piece of cut cardboard with a one-dimensional row of buildings. To make the village stand on its own, simply use a straight edge to press into the lines between each building. Then fold along the creases. Bend one crease forward and the next one backwards so you’re left with an accordion design and each building standing in its own section between folds. 

If you used a cutting device, you’ll need to attach the buildings together. To do this, glue them along the edges, overlapping slightly. Wait for the glue to dry thoroughly. Then create the same bends in the same way, using a straight edge.

A standing cardboard cutout of a village skyline

Step 4 – Set up your village

The village buildings are now complete. Both types of construction will allow the village to stand up, balanced by the folds. Stretch the village out as straight as you can without detracting from the stability. This is just so you can see the fronts of the buildings. 

Two cardboard pine tree cutouts

Step 5 – Make trees

Once your buildings are in place, you can enhance the scene with some holiday trees. To make the design, fold a piece of paper in half. On the creased side, sketch out the basic outline of a tree from top to bottom. When you unfold the paper, the tree will be uniform on both sides. Then use your tree template to outline trees on thick cardstock or cardboard. You will need two tree cutouts for each tree. 

Once everything is cut out, create slits that will be used to connect the trees together. Slit one tree halfway from the top and another tree halfway up from the bottom. Then slide the bottom slit over the top slit until the bottoms align. This will allow the trees to stand freely.

Alternately, you can cut out one tree and make a stand for it. Then place it behind your village. When lights shine on it, it will look like a tree inside the building. 

A cardboard village cutout with cardboard trees all standing up

Step 6 – Finishing touches

Feel free to embellish your village any way that brings you joy. You can paint the entire thing, outlining rooflines with colorful strands of lights, or you can simply frost the top of the rooflines for a snow effect. 

To really highlight your village, place some LED lights behind the paper so the light illuminates the openings in the windows and doorways.  

Wrap up

The holidays are a great time to make time for crafty additions. While you’re at it, rely on ideas like this to recycle materials around the house without excess waste.

Images via Emily Peckenham