make a paper boat : a free tutorial

*This post contains an affiliate link

paper boat template image

Some projects are most satisfying to work on in batches. These paper boats are like that. They are quick and easy and you can make a bunch at once without much extra effort. Plus the finished group is very satisfying.  You probably already have most of the materials you need and you could easily be hanging a respectable fleet by the end of the day, who doesn’t want that?

download the boat template


you will also need:

  • heavy paper (I’m using water color paper) or light cardboard (like poster board)
  • a bamboo skewer
  • paper for the sail
  • elmer’s glue
  • gluestick
  • embroidery thread or light string (like baker’s twine)
  • buttons
  • paints, brushes  and/or collage materials
  • exacto knife
  • clothespins or paperclips for clamping

*Please read through all the steps before beginning.

*Also note I included some simple directions on the sail template for your convenience  but the directions below include more details and options.

1.  Cut out the boat and mast support templates and trace them onto light cardboard or a heavy weight paper. I’m Using water color paper (140 pound hot press is my favorite). Optional – paint both sides. I almost always paint a wash of water color on both sides of the boat and mast support.

2. Place the template back on the boat and poke your pencil through where the score lines intersect. Mark with a dot. Remove the template and draw on the score lines. Draw the score lines on the mast support too and mark an X on the center of the top section.

3. Use the back of an x-acto knife to score the lines on the boat and  mast support.

4. Gently fold the boat and mast support at the score lines.

5. Add glue to the last section of the mast support, fold it into a triangle and glue the top section over it.

6. Clamp with paper clip or clothespins while it dries.

make a paper boat

7. While your mast support dries paint or collage or draw on your boat. I did all three. I used a wash of watercolor, some pencil lines and a little collage. If you’re doing lots of collage I recommend using nori paste instead of blue stick . It is awesome. You can find it here. * FYI – this is an affiliate link – meaning I get a small commission if you purchase through the link.

8. Apply glue to the bow as indicated on the template.

9. Fold the boat together at the front and clamp with clothespins or paper clips while the glue dries.  Alternatively – you can skip the glue, bring the front sides together and stitch on the sewing machine close to the edge.

how to make a paper ship

10. Fold the center back ( A on the template) and apply glue to the top.

11. Bend up tab B – covering the top of tab A and matching the top edges. Apply glue and bend up tab C covering the top of tab B and matching the top edges. Clamp and let dry. Alternatively – skip the glue and attach the three layers with a stitch and a button (step 16 below).

easy paper boat project

12. Use and xacto knife to poke an X at through the center of the mast support.

13. Snip iff the tip of your skewer and insert it into the hole – push it all the way to the bottom of the mast support. Make sure it is straight and add glue (lots) to the insertion point. Let it dry, mast support end up.

paper boat sail

14. Cut out a sail and flag from paper. Poke a hole at the center of the top and bottom and insert the mast through the holes.

paper boat sail

15. Cut a 36 inch length of embroidery thread or fine string (like baker’s twine) and tie a loop in the center.  Apply glue to the top 1/2 inch of the mast and wind the tails on to attach. This leaves most of the strings hanging down below.

16. Add a button at the back. Use a large needle to poke a hole through all the layers and ties on a button. Poke a hole through the tip of the bow as well and tie on one or two buttons.

17. Fold the flag in half, unfold it and apply glue stick. Fold it over the mast. Press the sides together and if you like trim and curl the ends.

how to make a paper boat

18. Place the mast support into the boat. You can glue it in place or use the strings to attach hold it in place (see below).

19. Hold (or glue) the mast support in the boat and wind the strings around the buttons.  To add flags fold a 1 inch strip of paper in half the long way and cut into flags, open the flag, apply glue stick and fold over the strings.

I hope you make lots of paper boats! And for variety you can mess around with the sail configurations, scale and the edges of the boat template. If you make boats I’d love to see – please use #annwoodpattern on instagram or email a photo to me at info at ann wood handmade dot com.

paper boat diy

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  1. I can’t wait to make these! I made a big fleet of the paper boat ornaments last Christmas as gifts. I’ve been wanting to make boats to keep. This is it! Thank you so much!

  2. Gail Grimaldi

    This is a wonderful project! Thank you so much for sharing. Love your blog, I always take time to read through, “and smell the roses”.

  3. Gail Grimaldi

    Love them! What is the little connector you have used to connect them to the string that is holding them up to the ceiling? Thank you as always……

    • Thanks Gail! I put a little button on the end of each string so I could move the boats around easily when I was arranging them. Just slip the loop at the top of the boat over the button to hang.

  4. You let our imaginations set sail upon a sea of dreams. A perfect ship for my little spool and button dolls to sail away. Thank you!



  5. I am quite sure that I will be making some little boats in the near future!

    What a lovely place to create, that library and cabin and the scenery look so peaceful and inspiring.

    For some reason I have never commented before, not sure what that is as I have enjoyed your blog a lot, and I think I have made about twenty of your little tiny rag dolls now! The first three made just after you first published the pattern, the rest I’ve made this year. Just made the jacket last night and my newest one ‘Clipper’ loves it.

    Thank you for your generosity in sharing these marvellous patterns.

  6. I so ♥ this, and the fact that you are still blogging & making fun tutorials Ann! So many bloggers have stopped and I miss them all!

    I recently printed the pattern for the needle case and will make myself one soon, with fabric inherited from my grandmother.

  7. This post got me started on a most enjoyable series of paper mache boats using your “Dear Little Boats” pattern – thank you for being so generous with your creativity.


  8. Dear Ann, How generous of you to share such detailed instructions for free! I haven’t had the courage yet to make a ship, but I am much inspired. Thank you for the lovely world, mood, spirit, and community you have created with this faithful, long-running blog. It is balm and a well of inspiration for creative, like-minded souls. Blessings, Hollyann

  9. Denise Miller

    I am finishing up my little wire bed for mouse. I am having so much fun! You’d think I was a little girl or teenager, and not a 73 year young women. Great to be able to do whatever you want to do.

  10. Virginia

    I have made these mini boats and people love them. The instructions are clear and easy to follow and the result is precious.

Comments are closed.