Two days ago while browsing Facebook, I saw a photo of a pop-up cherry tree card. I fell in love with it and set out to learn how to make it. (There’s an entire story to this—scroll down a bit to read it, or just skip it to get to the tutorial.) I am a little amazed to say I have figured it out and have made a gorgeous pop-up apple tree card. I picked the apple tree because I can see one from my desk all day, and the apple blossom is the official flower of my state, Michigan. The apple tree folds flat, but when you open the card it springs to life. It is SO cool! And I’m going to show you how you can make one, too!
Here’s a video of my apple tree pop-up card in action:
My Sliceform Pop Up Design Story
Have you ever amazed yourself by doing something you didn’t know you could do? That’s what happened when I made this. I was fascinated by the idea of the pop-up tree, and thought, “Hey, I want to make something like this, too!” But I’ve never made a pop up before. So I looked around for a tutorial or a video… or something. I found some simple pop-up tutorials, but nothing like this. So I stared at the photo, imagined the pieces in my head, moving them around until they fell into place… and suddenly, I KNEW.
I opened up Adobe Illustrator and began to draw. First the trunk and leaves, then the extra leaves, and finally the base. I uploaded the files to Cricut an hour later and tried to put it together. Here’s the amazing thing … everything fit without any errors. It all just slid right into place. I’m still not sure how I managed that, except to say I’ve been designing a lot of different things lately. You can see the first tree I made below in all green.
Once I had a basic sliceform design down, I made it pretty by adding in blossoms, the fence, and the base. I designed everything on my own, from top to bottom. The blossom shapes were modeled after real apple blossoms from the tree in my yard. So while it may have a resemblance to various commercially-designed pop-up cards, it is 100% my own design. And I am happy to share it with you!
If you’re curious about sliceform, it is a technique developed by Olaus Henrici, a London mathematician at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is a fascinating way of creating 3D paper sculptures, and I plan to explore it further.
Pop-Up Apple Tree Card Materials
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- Good quality cardstock*—four sheets of white 65 lb. 8.5″ x 11″ cardstock, 1 sheet of brown 65 lb. 12″ x 12″ cardstock, 1 sheet of green 65 lb. 12″ x 12″ cardstock, and 2 sheets of 12″ x 12″ cardstock in any color (for the card cover)
- Glue (I used Aleene’s “Tacky” Glue Pen)
- Cut files (available free in my resource library—get the password to the library by filling out the form at the bottom of this post)
- A cutting machine (I used a Cricut Explore Air 2)
* Note on Cardstock Quality: These are intricate cuts, so a better cardstock will produce better results. I had the best results using Core’dinations Solid Core Dyed Cardstock rather than my cheaper card stock bought at the office supply store or even the DCWV Textured Cardstock (which is what I used for the card base and tree trunk). All the card stock I used was 65 lb.
How to Make a Pop-Up Apple Tree Card: Step by Step
I made a video of the entire pop-up tree card assembly process—I recommend you watch it to see how it all comes together.
First, cut out all your cardstock using my free cut files. To do this on a Cricut, download the SVG cut files from my resource library, go to Cricut Design Space, and upload each file.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to click Select All and Attach on each file before you cut it to keep it all in the proper places.
And make sure your cutting mat is clean and sticky enough—a mat that isn’t sticky enough will cause the flowers to cut out poorly. Please note that it will take a couple of hours to cut out these intricate files on a Cricut.
Be aware that Cricut Design Space will not show some of the details on the canvas, but they will still cut. The reason for this is that the outlines of the shapes are on the higher layer than the details to force the outline to cut out last. I do this on purpose, because if the outlines were to cut first, your paper may slip on the mat when cutting the details. If this is what you see in Cricut Design Space, this is RIGHT:
Having problems loading or cutting the files? You may just not have enough system memory—there are a lot of intricate cuts in my files. To help with this, I’ve uploaded two new sets of files — one has all the elements individually, and the other simplifies the elements (removes the blossoms). You’ll find both of these alternate sets of files in my resource library. The simplified files are also appropriate for those of you who are cutting it out by hand.
Note: Even with a sticky mat, sharp blade, and good cardstock, you can expect to spend some time weeding the blossom petals out.
Now it’s time to assemble your tree. Start with the tree trunk piece that has a slot at the top and glue the foliage that is separated into two halves onto the branches. When gluing, be careful to avoid gluing over the slot and note that no branches should be peeking out from the foliage. Tip: Put glue on the branches and attach the foliage to it rather than the other way around. Set aside to dry.
Next, glue the foliage onto the other tree trunk piece. There is no slot at the top of this tree piece, so you don’t have to worry about matching anything up—just be sure to use the largest foliage piece. The outline of this trunk/foliage set should match the outline of the trunk/foliage set you did in the previous step. Set aside to dry.
Assemble the fence. This is a little tricky because it’s easy to slot the fence pieces in the wrong way. Here is a diagram showing which way the pieces go together.
Once the fence is assembled, fold the tabs up so they are even with the bottom of the fences and pointing away from the fence assembly. The fold lines are indicated by red dashed lines in the diagram above.
Now slide each set of fence tabs into the outer slots on the card base, then tape down from the underside.
If you’d like to cover the white fence ends, glue the grass pieces to the inner and outer sides of the white rectangles on either end of the fence. The corner pieces go inside, while the pieces with one straight edge go on the outside.
Now let’s assemble our tree. Start by slotting one tree trunk onto the other (the trunk with the upper slot slides over the trunk with the lower slot). Stand it up to make sure it is stable.
To keep the trunk pieces stable, we’ll attach the small H-shaped bridge piece. First, carefully fold it in half, then glue the tabs (not the thin connection piece), and place over the bottom end of the tree trunk with the lower slot. Notches are cut into both trunks that will allow this bridge to fit snugly over and in the trunk pieces. When done, stand it up to make sure it is still stable.
Now assemble the trunk support pieces, which go together similar to the fence pieces. Here is a diagram of how the trunk support pieces get slotted together.
Once the trunk support is assembled, fold the tabs up so the bottom of the tab is even with the bottom of the support. The fold lines are indicated by red dashed lines in the diagram above.
Put the trunk support on the bottom of the tree trunk by inserting the folded tree into the support from the top, then slotting the tree into the support from the bottom.
Slide the trunk support bases into the inner slots on the card base and tape down from the underside.
Stand the assembled tree up (put heavy objects on the base if necessary to keep it stable). Now slide in the foliage slices as shown in the diagram below.
Now test the opening and closing of your base to make sure your pop-up is working as intended. Make any adjustments necessary now before you move on to the next step.
Glue the two pieces of white 8.5″ x 11″ cardstock to the underside of either half of your base to form the card.
Finally, add the two pieces of 9.5″ x 12″ cardstock to the outer sides of the card for a more decorative look. I used a Cricut Acess image to cut “MOM” into the cover of my card stock before applying it.
And that’s how you make a sliceform apple tree pop-up card! The cutting is really the most time-consuming part of this project—assembly is about 30 minutes tops. If all that seems like too much time to you, it may be better to buy a laser-cut and pre-assembled version from one of the commercially available pop-up card stores, such as LovePop.com. It won’t look the same, but they have their own fun designs.
Fill out this form to get the password with the free SVG files:
Get my free SVG cut files for the pop-up apple tree card
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If you make one of these, please do email me and tell me — I love to see your creations! And, as always, let me know if you have any questions.
To inspire you to try this, here is a photo of a gorgeous pop-up cherry tree made from these files by a reader, Mary Ann Penn:
Here is a photo from another reader, Elizabeth Nessmith, who had a little fun with her apple blossoms during assembly!
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