Habitat spatial structure has a profound influence on bacterial life, yet there currently are no low‐cost equipment‐free laboratory techniques to reproduce the intricate structure of natural bacterial habitats. Here, we demonstrate the use of paper scaffolds to create landscapes spatially structured at the scales relevant to bacterial ecology. In paper scaffolds, planktonic bacteria migrate through liquid‐filled pores, while the paper’s cellulose fibres serve as anchor points for sessile colonies (biofilms). Using this novel approach, we explore bacterial colonisation dynamics in different landscape topographies and characterise the community composition of Escherichia coli strains undergoing centimetre‐scale range expansions in habitats structured at the micrometre scale. The bacteria‐in‐paper platform enables quantitative assessment of bacterial community dynamics in complex environments using everyday materials.