Bringing Out Your Inner Artist!

Anyone who loves paper airplanes is at some point going to want to do some decoration to the basic airplane. It doesn't matter if it is to toss around the house, pass out to the group, or even advertise an event; at some point you have to consider how you are going to do your artwork. This section is for those who would like to try some of the totally free softwares available to help accomplish this.

Any graphics or paint package that supports "layers" will work fine. The general idea is to create a template that shows the boundaries of the visible (after folding) areas of our paper. If we leave this on the base layer and do our "artwork" on layers above this, then we can delete the base layer and print only our artwork.

There are two totally different types of paint software -- vector and raster. Without going into the details of each what you need to know is vector programs allow you to insert predefined shapes and lines while raster style lets you use "pens" and "brushes" to paint. Just think of it in terms of using stencils verses free hand paint. Free vector programs include: iPhotoDraw and Inkscape. Free raster programs include:, MyPaint, the GIMP, and Krita.

Before getting started we need to know the advantages and disadvantages of both types of graphics because we must choose which to use.

Vector Graphics

Raster Graphics





  1. Easiest to learn.

  2. Individual object stay selectable.

  3. Often can use "element stacking order" without need of layers.

  1. Very limited painting (brushes) capability

  2. Limited text decorating styles.

  1. Full artistic ability.

  2. Allows complex text styles.

  1. Harder to learn.

  2. Difficult to get fast simple results.

My suggestion is for a quick birthday party favor go vector and use iPhotoDraw or Inkscape. However; if you are looking for a business advertisement and need more complex painting or logo creation use raster. The easiest raster to learn is MyPaint but if you really want to show your art skills step up to PaintDotNet, Krita, or even the GIMP.

The steps are fairly simple:

Select a piece of paper that either has the two sides with different markings or sheet that has colored pencil marking over the whole sheet on one side. Mark up on the top edge of this side. Up stands for both which side of the paper is up to start folding as well as the top of the page. Fold the plane as given in the directions.

Use a felt marker to mark all edges after folding. Also label each section on both top and bottom with a pen. Look carefully and determine if you want to print on one or both sides of your paper. Take a photo on a phone or a camera (both top and bottom) to show where each section is located on the finished plane. An optional but helpful step.

Unfold the plane. Scan one or both sides of the paper as needed. Saving as a *.jpeg is preferred. Open the art program of your choice.

Open the file you scanned in to this program. This may be a file open or a file import. If the program you are using has layers make sure this file is on its own layer. Note: For softwares such as iPhotoDraw, which does not support layers, you must OPEN the scanned image and leave it as the background.

You are now ready to design your artwork. One thing I have found is that if you down load clipart from a website such as Open Clipart it will be in a box of color (usually black or opaque white). To get rid of this "box" we must fix the transparency of the image. This is best done with a photo software such as XnView available from or Just download the file (as a *.png if avaialible), open with Xnview, set the transparency (using the image tab then the edit pallet option, click on the Enable Transparency option, click on the background color - normally the first color, and click OK. Save the modified image as a *.gif file).

Once you have added all the text and artwork you want you turn the visibility of the background layer off. Note: For softwares such as iPhotoDraw, which does not support layers, the last step (since you can't turn off or delete the background) is to draw a opaque white rectangle with a white border the same size as the scanned image. Use the order option to send this to the back. It will actually stay in front of the picture of the scanned image but show all the rest of the art work. You are now ready to print and test fold your artwork!

As complex as these instructions are in writing alone, I plan to make videos to show the "how to" in more detail. But if you have any experience with computer graphics these instruction will help you get there until the videos are ready.

Feel free to use my planes in any method you wish except for direct personal profit from the airplanes or instructions directly. You can even use them for the purpose of advertising a for profit business. All I ask is that a credit back to for the aircraft design be made -- at least as long as they are being used in a kid friendly manner where the recipient of the plane could benefit from visiting my website.