Origami for Beginners Guide

What is Origami?

Put simply, origami is the art of paper folding and is often associated with Japanese culture. The goal is to create a three-dimensional object out of a simple, flat piece of paper.

As with many items, the simple definition is but a glimpse at what the subject truly is.

To me, origami is a relaxing (yet, at times frustrating) hobby that provides fulfillment when a project is completed. Besides that, it leaves non-origami friends mystified at your magic.

What kind of Paper Should I Use?

This is one of the most common questions from beginners. And, honestly, the correct answer is whatever paper you can find. For example, printer paper will work just fine in the early stages of learning origami. Or even the later stages. Kraft paper is another possible inexpensive avenue.

But, if you continue to pursue the hobby you will want to diversify your paper selection and perhaps even buy designated origami paper. However, the last thing you want to worry about when you are new is wasting fancy paper. I suggest sticking to the basics at first.

And, as you hone your craft, you will begin to recognize that different designs work better with certain types of paper. For example, you will want thinner paper for more complicated designs that require many folds. You will find ultimately find that there are many types of papers (list not exhaustive): elephant hide, wet folder, washi, foil, Origamido. Just to name a few.

Useful Tools

I have already mentioned that a bone folder can be helpful. Some additional tools that can make origami a bit easier:

  • Cutting instruments (e.g., paper cutter, scissors, etc.)
  • Mobile hard suface, so you don’t have to confine yourself to a table all the time

7 Basic Origami Tips

  1. Despite Allen Iverson’s thoughts on the matter, practice is important.
  2. In both learning origami and completing designs, take your time! It is not a race.
  3. Going hand-in-hand with taking your time, be accurate with your folds. Early mistakes can make later steps more difficult or create flaws in your finished product.
  4. Be sure you have sufficient light in your work area. Not only will it reduce eye strain, it will be easier to make precise folds.
  5. Never press your creases with your fingers. Always use your nail or surface to smooth them. You may also want to consider investing in a bone folder.
  6. Don’t be afraid to try challenging designs. Just know that it is to be expected that you will struggle. Attempting a range of projects can be helpful for improving and understand your skill level.
  7. And it’s ok if you cannot create your own designs. My primary creative love is in Lego and I, to this day, have difficulty proceeding past a simple car or building. But, the enjoyment is in the creating!

Origami Books to Read:

I am going to list several books below but honestly this may be the best origami book overall to own:

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Please do note that this book is not intended for beginners, but keep it in mind once you master the basics. One reviewer of the book suggests that you should be able to understand the Kawasaki rose folding process before moving to the book.

Origami Design Secrets is one of the most recommended origami books. Robert J. Lang, its author, is widely considered one of the leading origami artists in the world.

Picture of Chrysina Bettle Origami Design created by Lang
Chrysina Bettle created by Lang

Dr. Lang approaches his book as I can only envision he would approach teaching physics. He breaks down each chapter into a set of general explanations and follows it with suggested exercises that reinforce the topic(s) introduced in the chapter. He then leaves it to readers to apply those learnings and think independently about further applications.

Quite simply, the book is so much more than simple how-to guide.

If you plan to take origami serious and as more than just a passing hobby, then I cannot encourage you enough to pick up this book. Either purchase through Amazon or pick it up from your local library (1,377 libraries currently hold the book).

And now for some books more geared towards those starting out.

Easy Origami

John Montroll’s book is currently the #1 best selling origami book on Amazon. And with good reason! And it’s not just because it regularly selling for less than 5 bucks.

In a just 48 pages, it presents 32 projects designed for the sole purpose of guiding novices. Once you have mastered these projects, you will be prepared to move onto the other books listed below. Or, you can challenge yourself with Dr. Lang’s text above.

Book Cover for Easy Origami
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Origami Omnibus: Paper Folding for Everybody

Kunihiko Kasahara is a Japanese origami aficionado. In Origami Omnibus, he as created a tome that provides ample projects for a wide range of origami enthusiasts and paper folding methods.

A number of people have found the book helpful, but some consider the book beyond the means of beginners. My take is that the easy projects are manageable for a beginner but the same person my find the intermediate, and definitely the challenging, projects difficult to complete.

No matter where the struggle point occurs, this book will be one that can be returned to over time as skills progress.

Book Cover for Origami Omnibus
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The Practical Illustrated Encyclopedia of Origami: The Complete Guide to the Art of Papermaking

Rick Beech’s encyclopedia (though not so much encyclopedia as step-by-step guide) details how to construct 80 origami projects. Many of the book’s projects can be found floating around the Web, but some may prefer to have them collected in a single volume. One forewarning: some of the steps appear rather small.

Book Cover to The Practical Illustrated Encyclopedia of Origami: The Complete Guide to the Art of Papermaking
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Origami Videos for Beginners

You may also find that watching origami videos on Youtube is more useful than books. I would suggest you start with Jo Nakashima:


Or, YouTube user happypuppytruffles:

Origami Designs

Here are but a few places you can find origami designs:

Or, you can delve into Pinterest which has an entire area devoted to origami for beginners.

Wesley Lyles

Wesley is a jack of all trades hobbyist. Though much of his spare time is spent playing board games (especially solo card games like Legendary), Hearthstone, Rocket League, and MLB The Show.e He also enjoys most sports, but pays way too much attention to baseball and football.

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