• Pages

  • Activities and Competitions

    Organizing activities and competitions can be fun but there are times you need some fresh input. In the activity drop-down menu below, you can find heaps of ideas. What about a Photo Shoot Competition of You and Your Favorite Book? Or You and Your Poem?
  • Activities

  • TIP: Don’t overdue it!

    Too much text, images or books on display too close together will distract the eye. It all becomes a blur. Each object needs its own space. Think of a shop window that is more than full with appliances, you can’t distinguish one object from the other, while carefully placed objects will grab your attention.
  • TIP: Think inside the hat!

    Party hats, store-bought or made from pages of an old book or scrap paper are very useful for a display. You can staple the hat to the board as a container for whatever you want to showcase. Or hang them in front of the board filled with little notes, poems, toy animals or whatever takes your fancy
  • TIP: Create a 3D effect!

    Create a 3D effect by hanging objects in front of the display board, like fish in a Sea Life display or lanterns in a Spring Display. A bare branch with some faux flowers works a treat.
  • TIP: Staple at an angle

    Removing old display items will be much easier when you hold the stapler at an angle when you tack items to the board. The staples will stick out at one side - perfect to get hold of and pull them out when you change displays.
  • TIP: Use a glue gun

    Glue guns are fantastic tools for creating displays. You can attach all sorts of materials like hard plastic, metal, fabric and everything else you can think off. Be careful with your fingers (blow - blow) the glue is very hot and you easily get blisters.

Display tips

The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person.

Quote by Frank Barron

  Tips for creating displays: Plan at least (if possible) 3 months ahead to give you enough time to purchase the materials you need and to make a plan  how it is going to be. Keep in mind that the most important area is at eye level and 30 cm below and above that, for children as well as for adults. Focus on that area when making a display.   

There are 3 ways to attract attention:

1 – colour

2 – hologram card or shiny materials like gold, silver, metal, curling ribbons etc.

3 – movement

Make the display as 3-D as you can (see: Sea life displays)

Don’t staple the materials flat to the surface but let it bulge. (see: Pirate display) Hold the stapler on an angle when stapling to prevent the staples going too deep into the surface. With one part sticking out a bit it is much easier to remove them.

– Depending on the theme; bright colours for a background gives a display a clear and shiny look. A dark background makes your display more rustic but needs lighter coloured posters/text/images to stand out. The contrast black and white or dark/light can be very powerful while unusual colour schemes can give your display extra flair (see: Travel the world display)

– When you have more than one poster/image and you don’t need the second one to cover the back (glass partition or window) then you can cut significant images from the extra image and use them to emphasize the message on the ‘master’ poster. You can also make two or three of the same image and use the extra prints to create a 3D effect (see: Travel the world display) Cut specific features from the two extra prints and paste them to the master print.

– If you cut paper in particular shapes, don’t throw away the offcuts. They often have nicely curled shapes. With a little more cutting you can use them to link subjects together (see: Conservation Week display).

– If you want to give extra attention to a text, you can cut different colours of paper, each underlying part a little bigger and paste it on top of each other with the text on top to emphasize the statement. Even a simple text gets impact with a multi layered colourful background (see: Dinosaur display). 

– A simple image from Word Images or internet (note: copyright rules may apply) copied and pasted to a text can make your statement much more powerful.

– Don’t always cut text image in squares or oblongs. Curl and curve around the text to make it more interesting. Use the offcuts to emphasize the text by pasting it around the text or to fill up dull parts.

– The balance of a freestanding display is most important: Asymmetrical balance is used more, this is where the main focal point is offset from the centre and can therefore introduce a smaller group.

Symmetrical balance is where one half  of the area is an exact reflection of the other half and   is more restricted

– The shape of a pyramid is the easiest way to create a freestanding display, it has imaginary 3 sides and is a guideline which is easy to use

 – Focal point,  this is where the materials come together, maybe using a stand to display them

 – Don’t use more than two or three colours in a display and show them in tight groups

– Use the ‘pin-cotton and blu-tack’ technique to hang poster exactly vertical on a board. Take a string of cotton (requiered length) and attach it to a pin. Kneed a little ball (size dollar)  and attach it at the bottom end of the cotton. When you want to hang posters exactly in line you push the pin in the board and wait til the cotton stops moving. Push the blu-tack against the surface. Now you can follow the line to attach posters and images  under each other (see: International Baccalaureate display)

 – The best displays are the simple ones! There are always simple ways to create a display, choose the easiest option.


– Repetition creates strong messages: a simple word like adventure, book or dinosaur spread over an A3 sheet and copied as much as needed to cover a display board, immediately sets the theme. Or create lots of the same images and paste them to the board ((see: Refugees display) Paste your (custom made) poster or image over parts of it and you have an inspirational display.

– If you create a poster with text and image(s) you can suggest a sense of adventure and ‘out of the box thinking’ if you paste the text or image not neatly within the borders of the paper but over it. (see: Travel the world display) You can do this not only when you use the poster on a display board but also when you use the poster above shelves or on a window. On a window you have to be aware on how it looks from the opposite site (ugly blu-tack at the corners and even worse, huge white spaces, are terrible) but you can easily print text in reverse or use a coloured sheet (with message or images) to make it look nice from the back side.

– Use different fonts and sizes for a text message on a poster. (see: Dinosaur display) Using only black Times New Roman 12, or any other font you usually use, doesn’t rouse the imagination. Use colours and shades. Red or blue text in ‘Librarian’ looks totally different than black TNR size 20.

– You can do a lot with paper. Different textures, glossy or not, hand made or manufactured makes a huge difference for the effect you want to create. Use daily papers (see: Hey I’m alive display) old magazines or telephone book pages as background. For an even more adventurous look crumble it around the topic you want to emphasize and staple it to the background.

– Use the copy machine to your benefit. Enlarge words, expressions and images, or reduce them as needed. Use coloured paper to copy daily paper, telephone pages or pages from withdrawn books for that unusual but eye-catching effect.

– Burn the edges of sheets for that ancient archaeological look, (see: Pirates display)  It is best to do outside otherwise the fire alarm will drive you crazy. You can also highlight the edges with a marker to create islands of text.

– Vary the use of the display space. Always pasting an image at the top with text underneath it may be straight forward and clear but it is also predictable and not very adventurous. Use coloured ribbons or paper/fabric to divide the display in oblongs, quarters, triangles or diagonals, depending on your topic and the objects you’re going to add to the display. You can add materials on top (see: Bike Wise Week display) or make a plywood construction that can show objects  above the horizon (see: Sea life display)

– Fabric is even more flexible than paper and with a glue pistol you can create fantastic wall or display covers. A dull wall behind your desk or above the shelves, an ugly door or the back of a cabinet can be transformed into an inspirational message board,  fairy fantasy or racy car track within an hour. You even can create a partition wall.

– To create a fabric covering or wall hanging you need:

  • Rod (optional) o Fabric for the background and for the images you want to glue on to the background
  • Glue pistol and glue sticks
  • Flat surface o Electricity connection within reach
  • Sharp scissors o Marker pen or pencil
  • Paper shapes or images to use as blue print.
  • Nylon wire to hang it from the ceiling (optional) or blu tack or double-sided tape to connect it to a vertical surface.

Use the master images to cut out the different shapes of fabric similar to the blue print images. Use pins to attach the image to the fabric or use a marker pen or pencil to draw around the image and cut the fabric. Cut within the marker lines and copy lines  onto the fabric to make it look like the blue print image.    

Spread the background fabric on a flat surface and create (glue) a hem of a couple of centimetres at the top of the fabric for the rod to push through, subsequently pin or glue directly (be careful) all the fabric images to the background fabric. Simple and very, very rewarding. I’ve made several small wall hangings but also made lots of bigger hangings for exhibitions in a public library and even a few theatre backgrounds measuring 4 x 4 m hanging from the ceiling with story book images using nothing more than mentioned above. But a simple cover for a display board is created very quickly with a tiger fabric or colourful flower print.  

 – Create hidden images for the viewer to find by cutting an image open on specific places. For instance a   face; you can cut the hairline, the ears or eyes or hat and paste other images or text on the place where you made the cut and removed or folded open the pieces of paper see: Travel the world display

An image of an umbrella (or a part of it) is great to cut open at the ribs and paste text or images under it.  You can make ears flap, eyes look in different directions and have a look in somebody else’s brain by folding open the cut parts and paste your interpretation under it. Or you can lift up a hat, copy it from A4 to A3 and paste it bulging (with space to look under it at another image) back on the image. You can also use different images to create one unusual one.

– The one- or two dollar shop is great for rummaging around for cheap articles such as: exotic hats – Spanish or Chinese fans – Hawaiian skirts – globes – toys – artificial flowers – feathers – wrap paper – serviettes with lovely images – wool (hair, animal fur)

– I love the emporium stores as well for cheap and colourful fabric (see: Dinosaur display) or faux fur fabric and other cheap objects: flags – ribbons – beads – masks – costumes – hats – wigs   – The op-shops are also a source of interesting objects. Remove or cover the painting/image from the frame, paint it and you have a great display board.  Sometimes you even can borrow objects and return them after the display. Otherwise you buy them cheap and donate them when no longer needed as I did with a couple of suitcases (see: Refugees) Serves two good purposes!

– Family and friends often have ‘waste’ material that might be useful for displays. Old sports gear, clothing, fur animals, suitcases and baskets, wallpaper, shells,  accessories or colourful scarves.

– Some calendars contain fantastic images especially art or nature calendars (see:Animal display) Ask your friends and family to donate them to you when dated.

Plywood is cheap and can represent lots of subjects from animals to trees to doll houses or human figures. You can create an additional subject for your display if you are handy with a jigsaw or if you have a maintenance team to cut it out for you. see: Peace Tree display) You can paint the plywood with a spray but it is easier to paste paper, fabric or both onto it.

– You can create most of what I described with a pair of good sharp scissors, (double sided) tape, glue stick, blu tack, stapler, marker pen or pencil, coloured paper or fabric, a guillotine and your imagination. A glue pistol is very, very handy if you use lots of fabric but you can do without. A guillotine is essential though – there is nothing worse than pieces of text with crooked edges or odd angles. With only scissors you can never cut an exact straight line, never!!!

Some suppliers & websites for materials:


Mei & Picchi, www.meipicchi.com 86 Newton Rd, Newton Auckland for mannequins and shop fittings


Catlor Display and Party supplies, www.catlor.co.nz 373 New North Rd Kingsland, Auckland phone: 093778738, display materials, specialise in Christmas, Display pins, coloured display paper, cutouts.


Mulford Engineering Plastics, http://www.ludoplas.com for Corflute, Corboard (as used in real estate signs) to make into tables/plinths and large rectangle stands, Auckland phone: 095730145


Plastic Box, www.plasticbox.co.nz for Corflute for making a display stand and tables for books and display materials.


The Beistle Company, www.beistle.com has a great catalogue for all kind of display materials


– Think outside the box…. Try to look at your topic from a different angle. What would appeal to your public? Are they greenies or conservatives? Young or old? Health groupies or living the ‘good’ life? Extravagant or introvert? Children or adults? Can they identify with what you’re saying? (see: personality types) Some people are attracted to colours and some more to a plain background. Some people like lots of objects and others are more attracted  to a straight display with not too much fuss. In a public library you have a totally different kind of public from a school library. It is important to use all kinds of techniques to access all kinds of different personalities.

–  If you need to show a lot of pages of information then try to brake the surface up with images, repeat parts of the text or emphasize specific headings or sub-headings. Nobody, really reads three or five pages full of text, especially not if it is size 10 or 12. (see: International Baccalaureate display) Make it easy for your customer to digest all the information by dividing it in sections, adding colours or images or highlighting the most important sentences.

– Keep an open mind for unusual, funny or cartoon-like images in magazines, books and daily papers. Cut them out or copy them and store them for when you need inspiration. One unusual image like this wall paper zipper can be the base for an imaginative display.

– Think large once in a while. Instead of lots of little images use a (few) large one(s).

– Different hues of one colour can make a very distinctive display but be careful it can also be very overpowering.

– Create a 3D effect by attaching rods or metal strips to your display and hang little objects on them, like fur animals – toy cars/planes/boats – artificial flowers – little books. Staple cones or little boxes with contents to the board or even rubbish like I did for Clean-Up Week (see: Conservation Week display)

– Highlight a display with Christmas lights even when it isn’t Christmas. You can create: city lights –traffic on a nightly highway– boats on a river – glow worms – the sparkling of a river or sea stars (see: Astronomy display) on a sunny day. Even a glass vase with a string of Christmas lights next or in front of a display can attract just that extra bit of attention.

– Use a ruler to measure distances.

Use a hanging system if possible

Either a grid of cup hooks from the ceiling, or a bathroom towel rail fixed to the ceiling to tie nylon or hang hooks on.


Tools required:

Rapid 23 staple gun, 13/8 staples (most stationery shops have them)

Nylon 20 lb and 40 lb, small pliers, scissors, staple remover

1” and 2” steel pins

Medium metal papers clips

Small line spirit level


And after all reading the tips above: don’t overdo it.  

Too much text, images or books on display too close together distract the eye. Each object needs its own space. Think of a shop window that is more than full with appliances, you can’t distinguish one object from the other, while carefully placed objects attract the attention.

Staple or paste your ‘plan’ first on trial on the board; step back and look from a distance. Walk to the right or left. Look at something else and back at your display. Squeeze your eyes and look through the slits of your eye lids.  Or make a square of your hands around your eyes to block out anything that may distract from your view.

Imagine you are your customer; (see: personality types) what do they see? Does your display show what you want them to see? Is the display balanced, not too much information on the left and too little on the right? Is the top too heavy for the bottom? Shift or cut or add till you’re satisfied. Ask a colleague when you’re not sure or walk away and have a break. Try to free your mind from what you’re doing so that you can look with fresh eyes after returning to the display. Make sure the colours of the display are interacting well with the book covers in front of them.

Give attention to details, be critical because your customer is!! The eye registers far more than we’re aware of. Torn images, staples in odd places, wrinkled, curled or discoloured paper, wrong angles, bulging or loose sheets/posters/images, etc. is your message to the customer that your display is not  worth looking at otherwise you would have made it much more attractive.

The first impression says it all.



Comments are closed.