Art
Fact-checked

At MusicalExpert, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Is Origami Art?

Origami art is the ancient Japanese practice of folding paper into intricate designs, transforming a simple square sheet into complex figures with precise creases. It's a blend of creativity, geometry, and patience, resulting in everything from delicate flowers to elaborate animals. Discover how this timeless craft can unfold layers of history and innovation in our full exploration. Ready to unfold the story?
Meg Higa
Meg Higa

Origami art is the traditional Japanese craft of folding a sheet of paper into objects and figures. Ori translates as “folded,” and kami means “paper.” Though there is some debate about origami’s origins, the first documented reference to a figurine made of folded paper is a Japanese poem from the late 17th century. From the early 1900s, steps were taken to establish origami as an art form. A visual diagramming system was developed, innovative techniques were invented, and artists in Japan and elsewhere created fantastic new sculptures from simply folded paper.

Any paper, of any size, can be used for making origami. They are typically prepackaged and sold in 6- or 7-inch (15.5- or 17.8-cm) squares. As a rule, each sheet is colored or decoratively patterned on one side and solid white on the other. Sometimes, this contrast is critical to a folded figure’s design. Other popular materials for paper folding include paper money, newspaper and thin paper backed with colored tin foil.

Origami art involves folding paper into objects and figures.
Origami art involves folding paper into objects and figures.

Of the thousands of recorded sculptural art forms made by folding paper, as much as 95% of them start as a perfect square. In part, this is because it is the easiest shape to geometrically prepare. The square’s even diagonal and bisecting folds are fundamental to origami art, which often depicts the bilateral and radial symmetries of nature. Among the popular creations are flora and flowers, masks and people figures, and animals such as fish and insects. Some are constructed from odd starting shapes such as a diamond or right triangle.

Colored construction paper is sometimes used in origami crafts.
Colored construction paper is sometimes used in origami crafts.

There are only a few basic folds. The valley fold is concave; the peak fold is convex; the stairstep fold alternates the two. The most important of the basic folds are the pocket and hood folds, which are tucked under or over themselves respectively, with the latter hood fold flipped to show the paper’s white side. Although the practice is shunned by purists of origami art, the paper is sometimes cut to form difficult shapes such as an animal’s ears. In different combination and sequence, a few basic folds can create thousands of unique designs.

Compound origami using multiple sheets can produce complex, repeated designs.
Compound origami using multiple sheets can produce complex, repeated designs.

The iconic figure of origami paper art is the bird, and the undisputed masterpiece is the flying crane. Learning its construction is a rite of passage for most Japanese children. The crane, and many other birds, share an intermediate stage from the same basic series of folds called the Bird Base. There are several other standard shapes from which a wide variety of figures are made, including the Frog Base. These base forms can, in part, be classified according to the number of pointed parts they possess.

Origami paper can be used to make boats that really float.
Origami paper can be used to make boats that really float.

While not difficult to learn, origami art does require a bit of technical skill; some of the basic folds can be initially awkward and difficult to master. The larger the paper, the easier it is to fold. It helps to have some comprehension of basic geometry. It also helps to have good spatial perception — the ability to virtually manipulate and visualize a three-dimensional object. Practical items, such as boxes, boats, hats and inflatable balls can also be crafted.

Origami originated in Japan.
Origami originated in Japan.

The advent of computer processing has had an influence on origami art. Study of the mathematical and geometric properties of folded forms has led to increasingly complex paper sculptures. Compound origami — the interlocking of two or more folded shapes, such as the front half of a running deer with a back half — has yielded very intricate and large scale constructions. Technical, or Blueprint, origami engages a computer to reverse-engineer a three dimensional vector drawing into a hypothetical map of folds and creases needed to transform a flat sheet of paper into the object.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is origami and where did it originate?

Origami art might be used to make holiday decorations.
Origami art might be used to make holiday decorations.

Origami is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, which transforms a flat sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques—without the use of cuts or glue. The practice originated in Japan in the 17th century and became popular outside of Japan in the mid-1900s. It is now enjoyed by people all over the world as both a recreational activity and a form of artistic expression.

What are the basic principles of origami?

The basic principles of origami are rooted in its simplicity and accessibility. The art form relies on creating structures from a single sheet of paper by folding it in various ways. There are several traditional bases and folds, such as the "bird base" or "waterbomb base," which serve as starting points for many models. The most important rule in traditional origami is to avoid cutting or gluing the paper, ensuring the creation is the result of folding alone.

Can origami have educational benefits?

Yes, origami can have significant educational benefits. It has been shown to improve spatial visualization skills, which can enhance mathematical understanding. Origami also promotes patience, attention to detail, and fine motor skills. Furthermore, it can be used as a teaching tool to illustrate geometric concepts, problem-solving, and even cultural studies. Engaging in origami has also been linked to reduced stress levels, providing a therapeutic effect.

What types of paper are used for origami?

While origami can be performed with a variety of paper types, the most common is "kami," a lightweight paper that is slightly thicker than typical writing paper and often colored on one side. For more complex models, artists may use foil-backed paper, washi (traditional Japanese paper), or specialty papers like tant and lokta. The choice of paper can depend on the desired texture, strength, and foldability for the intended design.

How has origami influenced modern design and technology?

Origami has had a profound influence on modern design and technology. Its principles have been applied in the engineering of foldable structures and materials, such as deployable space structures, medical stents, and compact packaging designs. According to research published in the journal 'Science', origami-inspired techniques have been used to create a foldable lithium-ion battery, showcasing the potential for origami in innovative engineering solutions. Additionally, origami has inspired architectural designs and fashion, where the concept of folding can lead to unique and functional forms.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

Mor

@Fa5t3r - There are some incredible examples of complex origami online as well, if you want to be more challenged. I would use real origami paper for those, though, since it is designed to work as well as possible for the art form.

Although, there are people who seem to take using unusual paper as a challenge. It's relatively popular for people to give origami cash arrangements as presents for example.

Fa5t3r

@Iluviaporos - You can get very cheap, gorgeous origami paper from Japanese novelty shops. I get it in order to use it for notes and things, since it is usually very pretty and comes in a wide range of patterns and colors.

But you don't need to use special paper. When I was a broke college student I used to make cranes from silver and gold candy wrappers and they looked very cute. It was a little bit fiddly using something so small, but not impossible. I would give them to people as gifts and once filled a big jar of them for a birthday present. I know some people also make strings of origami stars or birds and hang them up around the house, which seems like a cute idea as well.

lluviaporos

I remember getting a book on origami when I was a kid and I was so thrilled with all the little hats and creatures I made with it. I guess it was fairly basic stuff compared to what I see sometimes online, but it really was fun and I'd love to get into it again.

It would be nice to be able to make some decorations for the house or something like that. Although I don't know how expensive origami supplies tend to be.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Origami art involves folding paper into objects and figures.
      By: amphotolt
      Origami art involves folding paper into objects and figures.
    • Colored construction paper is sometimes used in origami crafts.
      By: smuay
      Colored construction paper is sometimes used in origami crafts.
    • Compound origami using multiple sheets can produce complex, repeated designs.
      By: oksix
      Compound origami using multiple sheets can produce complex, repeated designs.
    • Origami paper can be used to make boats that really float.
      By: Chepko Danil
      Origami paper can be used to make boats that really float.
    • Origami originated in Japan.
      By: bogdanserban
      Origami originated in Japan.
    • Origami art might be used to make holiday decorations.
      By: lily
      Origami art might be used to make holiday decorations.