Textured 2D Planets

Sometimes the space available does not allow you to make a 3D planet model.  You can still get a “wow” factor with these extra large, textured 2D planets.  The technique we used to create these planets help provide a big impact without taking up a lot of space.  The colors and textures elevate this project from simple paper mache to something special.  You can adjust the size of the planet to suit your space and needs.  This post details the process using Venus as the example.  However, there is a link at the bottom of the post that gives more detailed instructions for the Sun, Earth, and the Pink Planet.  

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Materials Needed for the Project

The materials listed here are for completing our model of Venus; however, links to other planets and the sun are given in the links at the end of the post.  

Create the Planet Base

The idea for the planet base is to create a lightly stuffed pita pocket.  The light stuffing helps to give the planet dimension and some internal structure.  We started by creating two circles.  Each circle is made up of 4 panels of orange Kraft paper.  I wanted a planet that was about 7.5′ in diameter.  So if you want a smaller planet, you might get away with fewer panels.  

For the first circle we measured out four 9-foot panels of paper.  We laid out two panels side by side in the horizontal orientation so that they overlapped about 4 inches.  Using spray adhesive, we sprayed in between the overlapping paper to glue them together.  

Next, we created another layer by gluing two more panels in the vertical position.  The easiest way we found to do this was to position one rolled up panel at the top of the base layer and unroll the paper as we sprayed the adhesive between the layers.  

We repeated the process with the last panel of paper so that it slightly overlapped the panel we just glued in place.  

Now we have a rough square with two layers of opposite facing panels.  Now we will cut it into a circle.  Find the center by measuring from the top to bottom and from side to side.  From the center determine the maximum radius that will work for your base layer.  Ideally, the entire circle will have at least 2 layers of glued paper.  Use a string or tape measure anchored at the center to draw a circle.  Cut out the circle but don’t discard the trimmings.  That will become the stuffing in the pita pocket.  

Repeat the same process for the second circle.  However, instead of measuring a circle, lay the first circle on the second square panel and draw a circle.  Be sure to make the base circle slightly larger than the first circle so that there is some give when you fill the pocket.  The circle does not have to be perfect as it will get trimmed away later.  Again, keep the excess trimmings.  

Now, we had two circles, and it was time to make the stuffed pita pocket. We tore the trimmings into smaller sections and crumpled them up.  Do not worry about having a consistent size or shape.  The variability will add to the dimension of the planet.  Working in halves and using spray adhesive, we glued the crumpled trimmings onto the lower base circle (this will be the larger of the two circles.  We stayed about 6-8 inches from the edge of the circle.   

We sprayed the layer of crumpled paper with spray adhesive before laying the top circle in place.  This is all to keep the filling from falling to the bottom of the pita when the planet is hung up.  

Once everything was in place, we stapled the two circles together working in a distributed pattern.  Start with 12:00, then 6:00, then 9:00, then 3:00, etc.  This helps to keep the circles from shifting as you work.  Continue to staple around the circle until you have staples about 2″ apart all the way around the circle.  

We finished off the stuffed pita pocket by trimming the excess paper off the larger circle.  

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Making it a Planet

To make the planet have dimension, texture and color variation, we used a modified paper mache technique.  In traditional paper mache, the goal is to saturate the paper and lay each layer flat.  However, for our planet, we want to encourage texture, not eliminate it.  By working with tissue paper and streamers, we can ensure that the top layers are securely adhered to the surface without always saturating the paper. By doing so, we get the fabulous texture and color variation we’re looking for as the tissue paper dries.  

We started with an image to follow like this one from NASA.  We won’t be able to copy it exactly, it gives us some good guidelines to follow.  We used the image to sketch out a rough placement for each color.  Notice that there are areas of darker orange, lighter/med orange, bright yellow, white, and maroon.  We decided to exclude the maroon so that our planet did not end up looking like a pepperoni pizza.  

When our colors were planned out, we set up a supply of tissue paper to use.  We ripped the paper into roughly 6″x6″ pieces of varying shapes.  We also created our glue mixture by making a 50/50 mixture of white glue and water. 

To attach each piece of tissue, we crumpled the tissue, painted a section of the base paper, and tapped the tissue into place with the paintbrush.  The goal is to avoid obvious shapes or edges and to keep as much texture in the tissue as possible.  The images below are from making a different planet, but the process is the same.  

Continue to work with placing all the colors.  You might find that you want to blend colors, and that can be done by layering a lighter tissue on top of a previously placed darker layer.  You will also find that with the lighter colors, the base paper will show through.  Sometimes this is desirable because it adds dimension and shading, but if you are hoping for more of a pure color, you will need to add multiple layers.  

Hanging the Planets

Hanging the planets on the wall was pretty straight forward.  It simply involved LOTS of masking tape.  We covered the back side of each planet with loops of 2″ masking tape.  We errored in the side of too much tape rather than too little.  There was about an inch of space between the loops of tape.  Then, we simply pressed it onto the wall.  It has hung securely for the last two weeks!

Mercury and Venus were completed in the method described above.  However, Earth, the Sun, and the Pink Planet had some slight adjustments to the process that make them unique.  Click on the button below the pictures to read that post.  

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