Holiday Gift: Paper Cameras

Dec 19, 2012
Wonderful Machine News

by Maria Luci

Last Christmas, I “commissioned” my husband, designer Brendon Luci, to make paper camera ornaments for the Wonderful Machine team. The little gray and orange rangefinders were a hit, so when it came time this year to think up a holiday gift for clients, Brendon’s paper cameras immediately came to mind. After securing my promise of help, Brendon agreed to create 200 cameras for Wonderful Machine.

brendon luci paper craft

Brendon’s background is in interior architecture, illustration and design. In college he made plenty of architectural models, and recently has been working a lot with paper models. He’s currently a full-time technical/graphic designer for a children’s non-profit, and has created a wide array of paper scenes for their marketing materials, website icons and ads. But nothing can quite compare to making 200 identical paper cameras by hand in one month’s time.

Brendon tells the tale of the paper rangefinders better than I, so I asked him a few questions about the process to give you an idea of the “making of”:

On what was the camera design based?

I could have done any sort of camera, but I knew I wanted an iconic shape. So I went with a Leica M9. Some details were changed, but it looks similar.

What was the process like for creating the cameras? 

It’s probably easier for me to break it down into bullets. So here’s what was involved:


  • I Based the ornaments on the Leica M9
  • I sketched out the shapes as simplified as possible, and thought about how it would look flat and how I wanted it to fold together, and where I wanted to place the glue tabs.


  • Once I had an idea of how I wanted to build the camera, I drew its shapes in Adobe Illustrator. I made custom dashed lines that would serve as perforations for folding. I used different dash sizes depending on how small the fold was. A larger scale dash line would give me a more rigid fold and was less prone to tearing. A smaller scale dashed line allowed me to fold very small details. Also, the order in which I drew each line was important because the paper cutting machine would follow that exact order, so I had to think about how far the blade would have to travel from segment to segment to speed up the process.


  • I created four or five prototypes before finalizing my design. The prototypes were really important because I didn’t consider the thickness of the paper when I was drawing out my shapes, and they allowed me to make last minute adjustments to the drawings. Each color card stock had slightly different thickness, and because of that, the glue tabs didn’t line up properly. Some details were too small to work by hand or didn’t fold the way I intended. I rounded some corners so if they didn’t line right up when glued your finger wouldn’t snag them. So I skewed the Illustrator drawings to compensate for these problems.


  • I made some rigid shapes to speed up the gluing of the body frames and lenses. This also prevented the shapes from warping.


  • Once the design was vetted, I began to cut the pieces for all 200 cameras using an automated paper cutting machine. (Nearly all the pieces required some clean up with an X-Acto knife)


  • Once everything was ready, Maria and I got to work gluing, stamping and assembling.

All the pieces to make one camera.

What were some of the challenges?

The hardest part of making 200 cameras by hand was not getting discouraged or overwhelmed. I kept a timeline that accounted for each task, ensuring I was able to give the same amount of attention to each one. What helped was only focusing on one specific step at a time. Nearly all of the time was spent preparing for the final assembly process.

Any final thoughts on the project?

Throughout all this, I learned that you should plan for how much work you have to do, then just put it out of your mind and do it. Also, I really got to know Law and Order SVU during my time with the cameras… But in the end, I’m just really happy to see them all at once, and it shows that being OCD pays off.


While Brendon was working on the cameras, Wonderful Machine designer Mark Harris was busy designing the packaging sticker, which we printed in-house, and wrapped around every box before sending out to the creatives on our “Nice” list.

Want a Wonderful Machine paper camera of your own? Follow our Twitter page where we’ll be giving away a couple in the New Year.

If you’re interested in creating your own unique promo, check out our design consulting page

Tags: holiday gift paper cameras