Pop-up Book technique: Theatre book

Imagine you’re eagerly sitting in the audience of a glamorous theatre. When the curtains are pulled back, who do you want to see on the stage? With this activity you can make your very own 3D pop up theatre and set the scene! You could write your own story for the stage or use your favourite tale. If you’re looking for inspiration, maybe you’d like to recreate Angelina Ballerina’s performance at the grand theatre, as shown in this dummy book? Or create a story for the movable figures and backdrops of Paignion?

Are you ready to start creating? Then let’s get this show on the road!

Some rights reserved.  ©  British Library Board / British Library

What you will need:

  • pencil
  • rubber
  • ruler
  • glue stick
  • scissors
  • 3 x A4 card, in different colours
  • extra paper or card
  • blu tack (optional)

Tips: Draw lightly in pencil, so that you can rub it out if you make a mistake. Crease along folds with a ruler to get nice neat edges.

Step 1) Choose three pieces of card, these will be the background (the back), foreground (the middle) and curtains (the front). Fold them all in half so that they open out like little books.

Step 2) Foreground: take the piece of card that will be your foreground. Open up the page. Measure 2 cm in from the side edge of the card, drawing a line all the way down the side. Repeat this on the other side. These will be your tabs. Draw a box in the centre of the page. You can do this by measuring 6 cm from the top and bottom edges of the page and from the tab lines that you’ve just drawn.

Step 3) Fold the card in half again, so that your lines are on the outside. Cut out the box. Fold back again.

Step 4) Curtains: take the pieces of card that will be your curtains Open up the page. Measure 4 cm in from the side edge of the card, drawing a line all the way down the side. Repeat this on the other side. These will be your tabs. Next you need to draw your curtains (you only need to draw one side because it will be folded and cut, like the box). It’s up to you how fancy you make these, but the bottom edge of the curtains should be approximately 4 cm from the bottom of the page.

Step 5) Fold the card in half again, so that your lines are on the outside. Cut out the inside of the curtains. Fold back again.

Step 6) Draw your characters on the spare paper or card. Who, or what, will be on your stage? Will it be a ballerina, or a circus animal? Cut the figures out carefully. Take the final piece of card, which will be your background. Where is your play going to be set? Do you want to draw a city skyline, or a mountain range? Draw whatever you imagine. Take your foreground page and test out where your figures will go (using the optional blu tack to help, if you have it). Will they be peeping out from the side of the stage, or upfront? When you’re happy with their position, glue them on.

Step 7) Assemble your theatre book. The background is on the bottom, the foreground next and the curtains on the top. Make sure that your tabs are folded outwards, not inwards into the book. Flip them over so that the background is on the top. Take the background away for a moment. Bend the tabs of the foreground back, and apply glue. Flatten them down again and stick them onto the tabs of the curtains. Then bend the tabs of the curtains back and apply glue. Stick these onto the background, making sure that the edges of the folds line up to the side edges of the background pages. Fold over and design the cover of your theatre book. Finally, grab some popcorn and enjoy the show!

Explore further

Related videos

Still from video showing illustration of a treasure chest and colouring pencils

Pop-up Book technique: Lift the Flap

What's inside your treasure chest? Who's knocking at your door? What will you see when you open your book cover? Easy to make and easy to operate, a flap is a wonderful way of concealing something. Lift the flap and something else is revealed! - video

A selection of craft materials spread out on a desk.

Make a mini book

Find out how to make a tiny book. Will you make an adventure tale, a recipe book, a computer game guide or a history of Ancient Egypt? - video

Photo of a completed V fold pop-up book page. The page has pop-up green mountains in front of which are a pink dragon and an orange wizard

Pop-up Book technique: V fold

Surprise yourself as you open the page with this classic pop-up book method. - video

Related articles

Cut-out figures of different people, from an 19th-century book The Paignion

Themed book list: Pop-up and movable books

Browse children's books from different times and places.

Related themes

A 3D paper T-Rex from a pop-up book

Pop-up and moveable books

From the earliest noisy books to brilliant modern pop-ups, find out how pages spring to life at the pull of a flap or tab.

Overhead view of a desk.  The person is drawing a bug, which they hold in one hand. The desk is full of shells, pencils string, photographs and other trinkets.

All activities

Get creative with activities for children of all ages. Invent your own superhero, make a pop-up book and much more.