You love retro games. Maybe you play big old games on your computer, maybe you still have old game consoles (and other devices that make nostalgic sounds); you may even have built a classic slot machine by turning an old computer — or even a Raspberry Pi — into a retro slot machine.

If so — and you know how to use a printer, glue, and a craft knife — then you can use this guide to turn your favorite games into pieces of near-unique 3D pop art.

Even if you’re not a fan of old games, these DIY pictures can make great gifts for people who love 8- and 16-bit video games from the 80s and 90s.

What you need

To make one of these pieces, you will need:

  • Color printer
  • Thick A4 paper, but not too thick as your printer may not wind the sheet.
  • 2-5mm foam
  • 1 mm plexiglass
  • Glue (make sure it will glue the plexiglass)
  • Craft knife or scalpel

You may also need a good art package like Paint.NET , GIMP (which is just as useful as Photoshop in many cases). ) or photoshop.


The idea is simple: you find an image you like, print it several times, then cut and overlay various elements on the board, thereby mounting the image and creating a 3D effect.

Execution can be complex, and certainly time consuming. You will have to set aside a day for this, of course, for your first attempt.

This other essential component

As above, you will also need a game. The one you really like, with these blocky graphics that will stand out and instantly tag the finished piece as a retro game title.

What makes a good item?

Ideally, it should be something with great pixel art, both for the main character, any other characters you want to use, and for the background.

Please also note that we are going to increase your score, lives remaining, etc. so they should be the right size and readable. In the image above and in all the steps below, I used a free clone of the 8-bit and 16-bit classic Turrican entitled T2002X but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go back and make a piece based on Space Invaders. or even go ahead a bit and contribute something like The Sims or half-life in 3D pop art relief.

Can’t find a game or don’t have emulation software? Don’t worry — you’ll be able to find images online, or better yet, YouTube in-game footage on YouTube. .

Step 1: Capturing the desired image

You will need to use the print screen feature to capture the image you want to turn into your retro gaming 3D sample. If you’re running a retro game on a Windows PC, you should be able to do so using the standard WINKEY + PRINT SCREEN button ; however, some games run in what is basically a layer above the desktop, meaning that capturing an image using the built-in method will result in only the desktop image being captured.

You will need a third party image capture tool for these games for example:


It may be necessary to use the game’s pause function to capture an image; it might look ugly. If you don’t plan on including the word «PAUSED» in the finished play, or if you find the screenshot boring because your character isn’t moving at the time, you have a few options.

  • Have someone else press the screen capture button.
  • Use resources from the game’s installation folder.
  • Take a few shots and edit them in the art package of your choice.

When you’re done, you should be able to output at least two images to the printer:

  1. Background or environment level
  2. Main characters and score/energy information (this can also have a background; don’t worry, you’ll miss something soon).

Even though you are using screenshots, don’t feel like you have to be locked into the captured image. Play with it whenever possible to create a truly unique scene.

For printing, we recommend that you first print a test print on standard A4 paper. Worried about using ink? This is normal — first switch the printer settings to black and white or fast draft.

Ready? Let’s start.

Step 2: Print Your Images

aya-craft-3dpopart print

Before printing, make sure that the correct heavy paper is loaded in the printer. For this example, I used Ice White A4 paper from Canford, which is about 1.5 times thicker than standard printer paper; A4 is similar to letter size; You can go a little thicker. Basically, your printer should be able to move paper through and around the rollers without running into problems.

Regardless of paper thickness, give the ink enough time to try before moving on to the next step.

Once your background is printed and dried, it’s time to cut the foam board to the right size and glue the background to that. The use of foam board increases the stability of the project; using a map instead will result in a scene that starts to sag and twist over time.

When gluing the background, try to apply the glue evenly.

Again, if you’re worried about using ink, especially black ink, you can change things up a bit. If the scene has a black background (as many retro arcades do), it’s worth choosing a sheet of black foam board. All you have to do is use an image editing tool to remove the black background before printing.

Step 3: cut out the pixels

aya-do-it-3dpopart cutting

You will need a lot of time for this step. Set up with a decent knife and cutting board and cut out your characters, scores, and any foreground or background elements you want to bring into the 3D look.

You are probably tired of this step; we recommend doing it lightly, cutting out each character or element and then taking a break.

Step 4: Arranging and editing your scene


Before you start editing your scene, spend a few minutes setting up the pixel art; focus on the main characters at this point, not the score/strength information.

Remember, you don’t need to feel like a hamstring from the original image. If you feel you can add drama to your images by moving them closer or farther apart, do so. When you’re happy, cut off some small blocks of foam board to set up the pixel art; if you are using a 2mm board, you need to fold two blocks.

Make sure the blocks are relatively out of view before gluing.

Step 5: Using Plexiglas for Small Items

For smaller items such as score, power indicator, timer, laser blast, etc., please use plexiglass. All you need to do here is cut it into small pieces, making sure each one is the right size to create a 3D effect for the elements in question.


Different elements will require pieces of plexiglass of different sizes; as a general rule, the score and other HUD data should be higher from the background than your characters.

Game over!


Wait for everything to dry and look at the finished piece. If you’re happy with it, take the opportunity to really show off, perhaps by mounting it on a shelf or wall.

Have you built a retro gaming 3D scene? Feel free to share yours below — we’d love to see it!

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