Origami Tips

by Donna Tinus
Colored paper comes in handy when making a rabbit.

Colored paper comes in handy when making a rabbit.

Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

The word "origami" originated from the Japanese words "oru," which means "to fold," and "kami," which means "paper." Origami, the art of folding paper into shapes, unleashes creativity and relieves stress. The artist creates a whimsical creature out of a piece of paper, making it appear almost by magic.


Origami paper is the perfect size and weight for any origami project. It has a colored side and a white side. Origami instructions with pictures usually show a colored side and a white side, as well. This helps make the directions easier to understand if your paper has one colored side. If you don't use origami paper, use a paper that's neither thick nor thin, such as copy or computer paper. Copy paper may be a little too thick for some complex projects. Scrapbooking paper is another choice for origami because the colors and patterns are typically on one side, but it is generally in rectangular form, so you will have to cut it into a square. Wrapping paper makes large projects easy, because it's the correct weight and has color on one side.


The size of the paper is dependent on the size you prefer for your finished project and how complex the project is. You can use a notepad-sized paper for a simple flower. A complex dragon requires more folding, which requires a larger piece of paper. Traditional origami paper comes in 6 inch and 10 inch squares, with other sizes occasionally available. The origami paper must be a perfect square at the start. To make a square from computer paper, fold one piece of paper in a triangle. Cut off the part of the paper that's extending from one edge. Now you have a perfect square and can use this paper as a template for all the others.


When folding paper, follow the directions slowly and precisely. One mistake can throw the whole project off. Many experts say folding in the air makes a better origami project, but novices may find it easier to fold on a table. Crease each fold well. Run a fingernail down the crease, or use some sort of tool, such as the edge of a ruler, against a table. Fold the paper neatly, paying attention to details. Corners and edges must be lined up perfectly.


Origami directions often seem to be written in their own language. You may see unfamiliar terms such as "axial crease," or 'blintzing." If you're following the directions in a book, it should have a glossary of terms. If the instructions are on the Internet, look up a list of origami terms, so you know what the instructions are telling you to do. Pay close attention to "valley fold" and "mountain fold." The instructions often use these two terms. They are what they sound like -- a valley fold forms a "V" shape, while a mountain fold is the opposite.

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