Using Cardboard to Create Tradeshow Displays

Craft & Design Education Paper Crafts Uncategorized
Using Cardboard to Create Tradeshow Displays

Recently I took a break from doing cardboard craft YouTube videos so I could concentrate on my biggest passion of all – comic books. I am a huge comic book fanatic! After years of procrastination, I decided to start a comic book publishing business. Zelpha Comics (named after my grandmother) was officially born on June 16, 2016. I launched my first comic book title Paper Rock Scissors N’ Stuff Wars (download it here for free).

To start promoting my new series, I knew I had to get out there and showcase the concept to the largest audiences I could. Comic book conventions are immensely popular right now and it seems like every city, no matter how big or small, now has one. I chose four comic cons to attend, including Toronto’s Fan Expo – one of the largest comic book conventions in North America.

In relation to Fan Expo, my first convention, I went in as a naive newcomer. I had my comics to sell, a banner and basic sell sheets, but little else. On day one I received a huge awakening! I was surrounded by fellow indie publishers and artists with bold and prevalent backdrops. Some were made of metal while one ingenious vendor used plumbing tubes. So many of my neighbors had vibrant stands and tabletop metal cage displays oozing with art. Looking at my table, I quickly realized I had to step up my game. Rookie or not, I couldn’t enter the big leagues looking like I’m still playing in high school.

What the Zelpha Comics table looked like on day one.
What the Zelpha Comics table looked like on day one.

My lack of sales on day one (or four) reflected my simple set-up reality. Watching patrons walk by, I noticed how their eyes looked straight forward towards the banners and backdrops of my peers. I had nothing to look at unless you looked down towards my table.

Inspired to elevate my game for day two of the con, I left the convention early to begin creating a cardboard tradeshow back display. To be more specific, a vertical cardboard skeletal wall to showcase comic art at eye level.

The difference a cardboard backdrop makes
The difference a cardboard backdrop makes


What the uncovered skeletal frame looks like when assembled
What the uncovered skeletal frame looks like when assembled


Assembled with tablecloth pinned on (side prospective)
Covered and assembled frame with tablecloth pinned on (side prospective)

In the above pictures, what you see is eight hours of work that resulted in a connecting skeletal frame. I used dollar store paint to coat the surface and a table cloth to cover it before adorning with cardboard artwork (which I will also explain later).

The 4 final pieces that make up the skeletal wall
The 4 final pieces that make up the skeletal wall

The skeletal cardboard frame splits into four pieces. Each piece contains four double-corrugated pieces glued together. The two longest pieces stand 7 feet tall (the longest size I could fit in my van comfortably). The two smaller pieces are the top ‘bridge’ and middle ‘bridge’ to keep the structure’s shape.

Both bridges were made with extended end pieces that slide into slots made at the top of the standing pieces and along the middle. To keep the middle bridge in place, small scrap pieces of cardboard were glued onto the standing pieces at the exact same height.

Like the vast majority of my cardboard crafts, only cardboard and glue were used for the majority of the structure. The only exception this time around was scrap wood glued at the bottom of the standing pieces to provide weight to avoid tipping. The base is wide in shape to ensure balance.

When I brought the skeletal wall into the con the following day, my fellow vendors were skeptical of its design. Will it stand up and hold its form?  Will it knock down easily? Well, as they soon found out, the frame was structurally sound and held its shape beautifully. As long as someone didn’t tackle the thing, it would stand tall without a worry. By the end of the convention, I received requests to sell it for others to use. My reply was, “I’d rather show people how to make it themselves.”

The whole structure cost no more than $5 to make – and I’m mostly accounting for the construction glue used. When I informed my fellow vendors of the cost, that is when their interest perked. Some of their displays ran the gambit of $50 to upwards of $250.

With the skeletal backdrop display ready to hang art, I went further and created comic book images for display. Using a layering technique I pioneered on YouTube for famous comic book covers; I blew up the images of my comic covers and made 3D renditions. These eye popping covers helped grab the attention of people walking by.

A final touch included making little table top standees of some of my comic book’s main characters. These were simple to make. They are 11″×17″ gloss photocopies glued onto triple-corrugated cardboard, cut out and backed with scrap cardboard so they can stand on their own.

Fan Expo was a success for my comic book launch even after a first day of no sales. Spending that all-nighter to make these different displays made a huge difference. Adapting my sales techniques and learning how to talk to people became a big part of my sales maturity. I have no doubt these cardboard creations achieved the looks needed to help close sales.

Although these items are for comic cons, my techniques applies to any type of convention conceivable. We can all use backdrops. If you have any mascots or characters, even a cool logo, a 3D table top standee will definitely grab people’s attention. Cardboard is always your best friend.

And as a final FYI – if you would like to know more about my comic book Paper Rock Scissors N’ Stuff Wars, I currently have a Kickstarter campaign (ends October 21st). Check it out and see what you think.

Happy creating and best of success to all my fellow conventioneers!

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As a fanatic crafting fan, inventor, author and designer, I just enjoy making new things for the fun of it! I operate an award-winning how-to You Tube channel called The Homemade Game Guru to share my love of creation with people worldwide. Utilizing cardboard in grandiose ways is my specialty.

I also run an unique online design class to help anyone create a Personal Family Tree Board Game. You can sign up for that class here.

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