Origami, or the art of paper folding, originated in China around 100 BC and migrated to Japan several hundred years later. The word “origami” is in fact a Japanese word that literally translates to “folding paper.” Origami is sometimes confused with another Japanese paper art, kirigami, which means “cutting paper.” Contemporary origami crafts often incorporate traditional origami and kirigami methods.

Whether strictly traditional or a fusion of several paper-crafting methods, origami is the perfect craft for anyone. From cute animals to home décor, the possibilities with origami are endless. All you need is some paper, your hands, and your imagination.

Helpful Origami Tips for Beginners

If you’re just beginning with origami, keep these tips in mind to make beautiful crafts in no time.

1. Choose papers with interesting prints

Origami paper, known as “kami” in Japanese, comes in a wide variety of beautiful, unique prints in perfectly square shapes. Traditional origami paper sets often include several sizes of paper in a mix of bright and subdued colors, floral and geometrical motifs, and metallic-accented prints. Choosing a stunning print can mask small errors in folding and will make you look like a pro. Be sure to practice with regular paper first to save your budget.

Tip: If you don’t want to buy special paper, make your own unique patterns by drawing on a solid color paper before folding. Or, print origami patterns at home. Origami Way offers free downloadable origami prints, inspired by traditional kami.

2. Follow origami instructions carefully

Most origami instructions come in diagram or video form. Be sure to carefully read or watch these instructions, as skipping even the smallest step can affect your origami result.

Tip: Use the three-step instruction method. Read the instructions one time, focusing on the steps without trying to fold anything yet. Then read them again, using your hands to fold an imaginary piece of paper. For the third reading, follow along with the instructions by folding a real piece of paper. You’ll be surprised how easy it is!

3. Use a tool to help you fold

Origami projects look much better when the creases are sharp. Sharp folds make it easier to bend the paper into the correct shape, allow the paper to hold its shape longer, and provide an overall cleaner look. You can always use your thumbnail to press firmly and create sharp folds, but having a tool handy will keep your thumb from getting sore.

Tip: A plastic ruler, credit card, or letter opener work well as folding tools. Test these tools out on a small part of the paper first to make sure it doesn’t scratch the pattern surface or tear the paper.

4. Practice, practice, practice. Don’t be afraid to mess up

Like any other art form, origami takes patience and practice to master. Don’t be discouraged if your third, fourth, or even tenth attempt isn’t quite perfect. You’ll get there! Origami-Fun offers a beautiful and apt metaphor for the origami learning process: “The mind needs time to be folded as if it were the paper.”

Tip: Practicing origami is a great exercise in mindfulness and meditation. Take the time to fold your mind, and the paper will follow.

5. Watch tutorials

The more you read, watch, and practice, the better your origami crafts will become. Videos are especially helpful tools for learning the art of origami.

5 Easy Origami Ideas for Beginners

Here are five of the best origami projects for beginners. Watch the tutorials below, and get started on your paper masterpieces!

Origami Rabbits


These origami rabbits are extremely simple, taking only six folds to make. Draw on your rabbit’s face with a permanent marker, or add pom-poms, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes for a more crafty feel.

View step-by-step origami rabbit instructions from Tinkerlab.

Origami Jumping Frogs


These origami jumping frogs are slightly more difficult than the rabbits, as they have a more advanced center fold. With a little practice, though, anyone can master these frogs. The best part is that they “jump” when you press down on them!

View step-by-step origami jumping frog instructions from Easy Peasy and Fun.

Origami Envelope


This easy origami envelope is a perfect homemade touch to any gift. Just fold a series of triangles, and secure the last fold with glue if you plan to include heavy items.

View step-by-step origami envelope instructions from Instructables

Origami Crane


The crane is the most traditional and recognizable origami shape. Japanese legend holds that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, your wish will come. The paper crane has become a worldwide symbol of hope and peace, thanks in part to the moving children’s story Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

View step-by-step origami crane instructions from Origami-Fun.

Origami Rings

These origami rings are surprisingly easy to make and are a cute way to show off your new origami skills. For a fancier feel, try making the metallic origami rings from Zakka Life.

View step-by-step origami ring instructions from Origami Resource Center.

Love crafts? Check out these awesome holiday-themed DIY crafts for Valentine’s Day and crafts for Thanksgiving.

Featured photo credit: Sheila Sund via flickr.com

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