Whether you think of it as a hobby, an art form, a pastime or something else, millions of people around the globe for a good number of years have considered origami as entertainment. Origami — the practice of crafting pieces of paper or parchment into recognizable forms — has a long, rich history to it, and the method was far different from it is today. If you are a fascinated newcomer and want to learn how to make origami pieces, then this guide will provide you with all the basics you need to know on how to get started and how to create your first figure.

Origami, as we've said, has a rich history, meaning that if you are to become an origami enthusiast, it's best to familiarize yourself with early forms of the art form and how those methods have evolved over time. Once you understand the meaning of origami, you will then know how to make origami correctly!  

What Is Origami?

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Before we guide you through the step-by-step process on how to make origami pieces on your own, you first need to know what the word "origami" actually means. Initially, what we know as origami today was first known as "orikata," the Japanese word for folded shapes. By the year 1880, the craft became known as origami.

Broken down, origami is a word that stems from the Japanese words "oru" (to fold) and "kami" (paper.) This is just the basic definition of the word, and where the word came from. Next up, we'll briefly talk about origami's history and how it changed through time.

A Brief History

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If you take just a moment to gaze at an origami piece dangling before you, then its presence naturally might lead to the following questions: Where did origami come from? How was it originally used? How did it change over the years? Fandom (no matter what the fans choose to love) has always led to people wanting to know of their beloved subject's origins. With super heroes, we have "origin story" movies to help us understand where characters came from and how they became to be their modern-day versions. With origami, if you become even semi-serious about the craft, then you'll want to know more about how it began.

Paper was invented in China around 105 A.D., and monks brought it to Japan in the sixth century. Paper was a luxury back then, so people used it only for ceremonial purposes, often religious in nature. By the time of the Edo period, from around 1603 to 1868, paper folding in Japan had become recreational and ceremonial. As a result, society regarded paper folding as a new form of art, enabled by the fact that paper that was mass-produced and more affordable to regular citizens. Later, origami also became an educational tool, since the methods of folding translated mathematical concepts.

As for how to make origami, those who first practiced it stood by the rules of no cutting and no gluing. Those standards have loosened over the years. Nowadays, some origami figures allow both cutting and gluing to provide increased stability in the final design.

Interestingly enough, today's origami also does not relegate the artists to using origami paper exclusively. Origami enthusiasts use many other forms and versions of paper, including, but not limited to: wrapping paper, typing paper, scrapbook paper and some forms of handmade paper. Other fans of origami use recycled paper like old newspapers and junk mail to make their figures. It is even possible for some to use paper currency as they learn how to make origami that can act as unique gifts (although the dimensions of the paper bills have to be specific to achieve this!)

How to Make Origami

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Now that you know what origami means and how the practice of origami has changed up to today, you can finally learn how to make origami. This guide will give you the option of making the classic origami crane and the origami boat. If you wish, you can choose either or both. After that, you will only be limited by your desire and research to learn how to make origami figures of different types.

Origami Crane

white, yellow, and teal paper bird decorations

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At some time in your life, you've probably seen the origami crane — and for good reason! That specific shape of the art form is popular, traditional and, often, appropriate for "easy- to intermediate-level" origami artists.

To make the crane, you will need a square piece of origami paper. Beginners can find it helpful to use a large square of paper for this. Note: You should probably have extra pieces of paper just in case you make a mistake and have to start all over again.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Begin with your paper color upside down and make a square base. To make a square base, first, you have to fold the paper diagonally and unfold, then fold the paper in half diagonally in the other direction.
  • Flip the paper over to the other side, then fold the paper in half, unfold it and then fold it in half in the other direction. 
  • Bring the top point down to the bottom while folding the left and right corners down into the center.
  • Once you have made the square base, start with the square base and make sure the open end is at the bottom. 
  • Fold the left and right lower edges to the central crease, then unfold. 
  • Next, fold the top section down from the previous two creases and then unfold. 
  • Afterward, pull one layer up from the bottom, along the areas you just made, and then push the left and right edges inward. (This makes a squash fold.)
  • Flip the model over to the other side from left to right and repeat the same steps on that side.
  • Fold the lower left and right edges to the central crease.
  • Finally, flip the model over to the other side, from left to right. Repeat the same process on this side.
  • Fold the lower-right flap up and out to the right. Then unfold.
  • Next, you want to open out that flap and inside reverse fold it up to the right. Then repeat the process for the tail, too.
  • Finally, fold both wings down and create a head by flattening the flap and inside reverse folding a little section down at the top.

Once you finish, you have yourself an origami crane! You can then put it anywhere you like or hang it from a clear plastic string. Another unique idea is to find an elaborate branch and hang your origami from there, along with other origami pieces you will make later.

Origami Boat

yellow paper boat

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Perhaps the easier of the two, the origami boat is also a good starting shape if you are just learning how to make origami. Being also well-known, teachers use the origami boat to teach children, and it is very similar to the origami hat people often fashion from newspapers.

For this particular origami, you want a rectangular sheet of paper, or regular, white, printer paper, as long as it's rectangular.

  • Start by flipping your paper vertically, with the long edges going up and down.
  • Next, fold the bottom half up to the top.
  • Then, fold the bottom right corner over to the left corner and make a small pinch just enough to crease the paper. Then open it back up.
  • Using the crease as a guide, fold the left and right bottom corners up and to the middle. Afterward, flatten down the folded pieces.
  • Next, rotate the paper and fold one layer from the bottom up along the bottom of the front flaps.
  • After you do that, flip the paper over to the other side and fold the bottom edge up in the same way. The unfold it.
  • Fold the bottom right corner in along the crease you made, and repeat the process on the bottom left flap as well.
  • The next step is to re-fold the bottom edge back up, and open the bottom of the model.
  • Look at the corners. Flatten and then insert the overlapping flap on the left underneath the right section.
  • What you want to do next is to fold one layer up to the top and repeat the process on the back. After that, open the bottom of the model.
  • As you near towards the end, pull apart the left and right flaps and flatten it out in the shape of a boat.
  • Finally, open it slightly. If done correctly, the triangle in the middle should resemble a sail. 

Once finished, it's a good idea to shape the underbelly of the boat so it can stand on its own. You now know how to make origami boat!


margarita glass with yellow liquid

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The art of origami takes patience and some practice. Do not get discouraged if your first origami figure or shape (whatever it may be) turns out looking bad, or you make a mistake during your folding. You are not alone! Many people also want to learn how to make origami, and will also make small mistakes during their first attempts.

This guide is meant to introduce you to origami and help you learn how to make origami. Once you master all the steps, making the origami crane or the origami boat will be easy, and you'll want to move on to more complex origamis. Have fun and good luck!

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