DIYdiy projects

diy project: dimensional geometric wall art

by Kate Pruitt

Math was never my strongest subject, but lately I’ve felt a strong desire to play around with geometry. Inspired by the awesome tape artwork of artist Alex Menocal, I wanted to focus my geometric experiments on my walls but actually make a piece that is three-dimensional. 3D structures can be tricky to mount on walls, however; they can easily become precarious or heavy, especially larger pieces.

The magic material that makes this wall art possible is plain old balsa wood, which is most commonly used for hobbies and crafts (e.g., model trains, architectural mockups, etc.). It’s an amazing form of wood: super light, soft and easy to cut, and it bonds really well with hot glue. Also, it comes in precut strips, making geometric shapes extremely easy to build. This project can be finished in an afternoon, and it can also be scaled way up or down. Since balsa is so lightweight, you can easily hang these pieces even if you make them large. I hope someone feels inspired to attempt a really big one. Please share if you do! Happy crafting :) — Kate

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • strips of balsa wood (I used four 1″ x 1/8″ x 36″ strips)
  • hot glue gun
  • ruler
  • X-Acto knife
  • pencil
  • paint and paintbrush
  • hammer and nails (for hanging)


1. Measure and cut your balsa strips. For this three-dimensional rectangle shape, I used four 18″ strips and eight 9″ strips. Use your ruler and X-Acto knife to ensure a straight cut.

2. Lay out your design to visualize and approximate the angles, and to situate the strips. To make a cleaner shape, you want the order of the strips to follow a pattern. I have all short vertical strips on the bottom, then my angled strips are sitting on top of those, and lastly the long horizontal strips are placed on top so that their ends cover the ends of the other two types of strips. This will ensure your corners look clean. It should look like this:

3. Now take your pencil and make a line on the bottom right angled strip where the horizontal strip overlaps it. You will use this for reference for the rest. Use your ruler to cut the overlap off of the strip so it will sit flush with the vertical strip once glued.

4. Adhere the three strips together using hot glue, keeping the vertical one on the bottom, the angled one in the middle, and the horizontal one on top.

5. Continue gluing the corners together, making sure to snip off the excess from the angled strip beforehand and ensuring the strips are parallel to their partner strips (angled ones are parallel, horizontal ones are parallel, etc.). This can be fairly easy to eyeball, but you can also use a ruler, straight edge or level to double check.

6. Once your pieces are all glued together, use your knife to cut away any loose strands of glue or clean up the corners if needed. Place your shape on a covered surface and paint the entire shape. Remember: it will stick out from the wall, so be sure to cover all edges, corners, sides and the back. Allow to dry completely.

7. To hang the shape, hammer two nails into the wall 16″ apart. Make sure they are level, and hammer them in only 1″, leaving 1.5″ of the nails sticking out. Rest the top ledge of your shape on the nails.


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  • Oh love it! That is so cool. It would be fun to make one that didn’t quite make sense, sort of like Escher’s drawings …

    • hey ben – whoa, this is another great collection of geometric art! i was not familiar with aakash’s work, but i love it, especially the animated pieces.

      it’s true that there are many similar styles to this type of thing out there; the three dimensional cube is hardly a new territory, although i’m always surprised with the awesome ways people can make a simple shape seem new. thank you for turning me onto a new artist who is doing cool things with this idea!

    • I hope you do, Leslie! It’s super easy, and while you can’t really pull apart pieces if you mess up (balsa and hot glue form an incredibly secure bond), balsa is pretty cheap and super easy to cut, so you can really experiment with shapes and not worry too much about mistakes. Good luck!

  • That’s amazing! Love the result and I most probably am going to give it a try! Maybe I’ll do some different sizes as well and pair them all together on my wall! Thanks for the inspiration =)

  • Wait a second… did you paint faux shadows on the wall, too? Because, they make the piece look 3D! So cool…

  • serena – those are actual shadows on the wall! the piece is three dimensional, though very flat, and since you are hanging it on nails that are extending out of the wall by a couple inches, you will get shadows!

  • Geometry wasn’t my strong suit at all in high school. Aced algebra, fell apart in geometry…nearly flunked! But this dimensional geo wall art? Balsa wood and an x-acto knife? I think I can manage this, because after all I am a visual person. This would be a great gift for the aspiring architect in the family. Or maybe a Mother’s Day present?

    • I’m sorry, S, but I cannot agree with you. There are many artists working in similar veins, and I wouldn’t say that Aakash Nihalini is “ripping off” the work of Donald Judd or other minimalist artists that explore geometric cubes designs. I believe that different artists can explore similar themes without it being deemed that one is ripping off the other, and I am reluctant to ever grant someone sole ownership of an idea, color, material, or method.

  • After reading through the comments i spent half hour interacting with the Aakash Nihalani web site, very cool indeed. I love Design Sponge for this very reason, its such a great gate way web site. Thankyou!

  • Hi.
    I’m trying to make the 3 dimensional box but I can’t find balsa wood with the measurements that you listed. If you could let me know where I could possibly find the balsa wood I would greatly appreciate it. I want to make this box desperately. I was hoping I could make it and hang it this weekend. Thanks and I love the box!