How To Make Origami

Dragon origami photo

Origami is a sculptural art form that is achieved through paper folding. Thought to have originated with the Japanese soon after paper was invented, traditional origami begins with a single square piece of paper, which is folded using basic techniques to resemble an animal, person or object. There is some debate among traditionalists over what exactly constitutes true origami--different shapes of paper, making cuts in the paper and adding elements to the project with glue are all points of controversy.

Origami only uses a limited number of specific folds, but these can be combined to create an infinite number of striking sculptures. Patterns to create your own origami masterpieces can be found in books, at craft stores or online (see link below).

Because the craft of origami is so structured, there is even a list called "The Ten Commandments of Origami" that is widely published. To get started with paper folding, consider this loose outline of those commandments.

  1. Choose suitable paper. This is one of the most important considerations to origami enthusiasts. If the paper tears easily or won't give a clean crease, your design doesn't stand a chance. The paper must be carefully cut to the required size. Look for origami paper in craft supply or specialty paper stores.
  2. Fold paper cleanly. Another golden rule for paper folding; you must make sure that the folds are crisp and exact, especially in the creases and corners where there will be further folds.
  3. Work on a hard surface. This is really common sense. If you're working on a hard surface, your chances of getting crisp, clean folds is much better. It's nearly impossible to get a good fold on a soft surface.
  4. Use your thumbnail for exactness. Once you've made your clean crease, run your thumbnail along the fold to achieve a perfectly flat and smooth surface. This will make subsequent folds much easier.
  5. The better the fold, the better the end product. Again, this is the key to a successful venture into the world of origami.
  6. Follow the steps precisely. Read the directions on the origami pattern thoroughly before you begin, and then follow them to the letter. You can't rearrange the steps--they must be done in the order given.
  7. Do not eliminate steps. Skipping steps will result in a disaster!
  8. Pay attention to instructions. This sounds repetitive, but there are other instructions besides just where to fold the paper that require attention. For example, once you've completed a fold, you'll need to know which way to hold the origami project for your next fold.
  9. Practice makes perfect. If you're a novice origami crafter, practice the art by first perfecting the basic folds. Then start out with small projects before tackling larger ones or designing your own.
  10. Following the rules leads to fun! To get the maximum enjoyment and prettiest results from your origami projects, make clean folds on the proper paper, and follow all of the instructions exactly. Work carefully and methodically, and you will be rewarded with a beautiful piece of art.


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