A How-To Guide: 7 Simple Steps to Learning Origami

Elephants, bears, and lions swarm your living room. Gift boxes of every shape and size are stacked in leaning piles. Hundreds of pieces of paper adorn your floor like confetti. Is this some kind of fever dream?

Even better, this is the addictive joy of origami.

Origami artists are like wizards. They can breathe life in a simple piece of paper, creating awe-inspiring sculptures.

Now, you can join their ranks.


Below, we’ll show you the basic steps for learning origami. Soon, you’ll be paper folding with the masters.

Step 1: The History of Origami

Before you start learning origami, you need to understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Origami is the time-honored art of paper folding. Origami artists fold paper into elaborate shapes often without using any additional tools like glue or tape.

Many nations across Asia and Europe have a history of paper folding. The Japanese word Origami, which means “paper folding,” is used for all paper folding practices, regardless of their origin.

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

To get started on your origami journey, all you need is a piece of paper.

Ordinary copy paper is fine to start with, although you may need to cut it to size as most origami patterns require a square piece of paper.

Traditional Origami paper can easily be found online or at most craft stores.

Origami paper often has a different color or pattern on each side of the sheet. This helps to highlight the folds and create a more striking finished product.

Many artists believe origami should be made without the help of any tools, but some tools can be beneficial to beginners.

If you have clumsy fingers, tweezers help to create small folds on delicate, layered artworks. Paperclips can be used to hold folds in place. Rulers and embossers are great for creating clean, sharp creases.

You can make beautiful rolled flowers using scissors and a glue gun. Visit this resource to learn more.

Step 3: Learn Valley and Mountain Folds

Every fold in origami has its own name. There are hundreds of folds, and memorizing all of them will, understandably, take time.

To get started, try to memorize the most common types of folds, the valley and mountain folds.

A valley fold makes the paper sink down to form a valley. To create a valley fold, bring the sides of the paper up towards you to form the crease.

A basic valley fold will form a “V” shape, with the widest angle facing up towards you.

A mountain fold is the opposite of a valley fold. Fold the edges of the paper away from you, so that the bottom of the “V” is closest to you. This will make the paper rise like a mountain.

Step 4: Learn the Inside Reverse Fold

The inside reverse fold is often used to create the shape of an animal’s head.

Start with a square piece of paper that has been folded into a triangle. This will give you a shape you can practice the inside reverse fold on.

Fold one of the top corners down so that the point is about halfway down the side of the triangle. Unfold it and flip the paper over. Fold the same point down on this side of the paper then unfold the flap again.

Using the crease lines you have just created, separate the 2 layers of the triangle and push the flap down between these layers. This shape should look like the spout of a jug.

Step 5: Learn the Square Base

The square or preliminary base is probably the most common base. It is a starting point for many interesting designs such as the frog and ninja star.

  1. Start with a square piece of paper. Fold it diagonally in half, so that it forms a triangle.
  2. Fold it in half again to form a smaller triangle.
  3. Lift the top flap of the triangle. Separate the 2 layers of paper on the flap, and press down on the top crease. This should create a square shape.
  4. Flip the paper over. Lift the triangular piece, open the layers and flatten them down into a square shape, as in step 3. This should leave you with a perfect square.

Step 6: Create a Flapping Bird

Once you’ve grasped the basic folds and bases, it’s time to create your first origami shape.

Using the methods you’ve learned above, we’ll show you how to create an origami flapping bird.

  1. Start with the square base you created above.
  2. Position the base in a diamond shape, with the “open” ends of the layers facing you.
  3. Your triangle will be 4 layers thick. Using only the top 2 layers, fold the bottom left and right corners into the middle. This will create a kite shape.
  4. Fold the top triangle down.
  5. Unfold the top triangle as well as the kite shape that you made previously. This will create creases that you’ll use in the next step.
  6. Grab the bottom corner of the top layer and fold it up and over to form a diamond shape.
  7. Flip the paper over and do the same to the reverse side, repeating steps 3-6
  8. Take the top layer on the right-hand side and fold it over to the left.
  9. Turn the figure over and repeat this process. The top of your diamond shape should now have 2 prongs.
  10. Fold the bottom of the top layer up to meet the prongs.
  11. Turn the figure over and repeat this process. You will now have a triangle-shaped figure
  12. Pull the center wedges out to each side at a 45-degree angle.
  13. Create a head shape on the left wedge by sticking your thumb between the layers and then pressing down with your index finger. This is called an inside reverse fold.
  14. Loosely unfold the wings out to the side.
  15. Hold the chest of the bird and pull on its tail. This should make the wings flap.

Step 7: Practice Makes Perfect

Congratulations, you’ve made your first origami animal!

If your initial shapes looked messy, don’t worry! The quickest way to learn origami is to practice. With some time and determination, you’ll be able to create perfect origami shapes in your sleep.

The basic techniques you’ve learned here are great stepping stones to furthering your origami skills. There are many more folds and bases to discover as well as over 80 different origami styles. Which style will you specialize in?

The Wonderful World of Origami Awaits!

As you’ve now discovered, getting lost in paper folds and creases can be very therapeutic.

Whether you are making decorations for your house, gifts for friends and family, or simply passing the time, origami is a great hobby for all ages.

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