The First-Timer's Guide to Origami

by Elizabeth (Lisa)Thompson
Even young children enjoy creating origami designs.

Even young children enjoy creating origami designs.

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Children and first-time adult students alike can enjoy the art of origami, which comes from the words for paper folding in Japanese. Origami designs result in a folded paper shape that looks like an animal, geometric form, holiday-themed object or other easily identifiable things. To achieve the result, you need to carefully follow the directions. Most examples offer pictures along with the instructions (see Resources).


Originally, origami was used for social events. One design acted as a certificate of authenticity that came with valuable gifts. Later, this developed into any type of folded paper given with a gift for luck. Other paper folding served as gift wrappers. Butterfly designs accompanied alcohol bottles at weddings. Standardized origami symbols, developed in the 1950s, allow paper folders around the globe to easily follow diagrams.


A first-time origami maker needs to carefully crease each fold and flatten them well. Run your thumbnail on top of the fold or use some type of tool to reinforce the crease, such as a plastic ruler. Three common folds include a pocket fold, which tucks in the paper like an envelope, a hood fold, which forms a hood over the paper, and a step fold, which looks like a stair.


Standard origami papers come in a 6-by-6-inch size. However, the types of paper you can use include patterned, striped, floral, tie-dye and geometric. The type of paper affects the final look of your project, so experiment with the different papers until you achieve the look you want.


Beginning origami designs take about 10 steps to complete. Several designs that fit into this category include airplane, bat, bear, boat, Christmas tree, dog, frog, heart, house, swan, snake and whale. As you gain more experience, you can choose more complicated and detailed designs.

Photo Credits

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