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A Paper Microscope: How Does A Foldable Microscope Work?

A Paper Microscope: How Does A Foldable Microscope Work?

Foldscope’s mission is to make science and STEM education equitable and accessible for everyone.

That’s why we figured out how to make a functioning, foldable microscope out of paper at a cost of under $2.00. We understand that you might be scratching your head. A paper microscope? How does a foldable microscope work?


Foldscopes have a glass lens, and include a sliding focus ramp. The user can adjust the focus to look at different sections of the specimen without adjusting the lens.

The Foldscope lens provides a magnification of 140x and 2-micron resolution. This is powerful enough to examine blood cells, bacteria, and single-celled organisms. You can also closely examine insects, textiles, or minerals.

The paper parts come in punch-out form and fit together by folding and tucking tabs into pre-cut slots. The non-paper parts consist of the lens and magnetic couplers to hold it in place.

Paper Slides

Foldscopes come with a starter supply of paper slides to hold specimens. To prepare your slides, secure the specimen on the paper slide between two clear stickers.

Once a slide is in place, you can use the stage piece to pan around the sample, and use the focus ramp to adjust the focus until the image is clear. Watch this helpful video tutorial for more on using paper slides.


Once you have assembled your Foldscope and prepared a slide for viewing, the only other thing you need is light! Never look directly at the sun through your Foldscope, as this can severely damage your eyes. Instead, aim your Foldscope at a sunny spot, or if it’s dark or cloudy, use light from a lamp or lantern. Again, don’t look directly into the sun! You’ll get plenty of illumination indirectly from a light source.

You can enhance the magnification power of your Foldscope by teaming it with the camera on your phone. Attach the Foldscope to the phone’s camera and increase its magnification. That will increase the magnification of the specimen you are viewing through your Foldscope.

If you’re still unsure about how a foldable microscope works, check out our assembly video and user's guide for more details. If you can’t wait to start your scientific adventure, consider a paper microscope kit with a fully assembled Foldscope.

We’re delighted by your interest in Foldscope paper microscopes! Buy one for yourself, or a classroom kit for your students, and get to know the wonders of the microscopic world!