Origami, the ancient art of Japanese paper folding, is an inexpensive and completely portable hobby. Through a series of precise folds, a square of paper is transformed into an airplane, a hat, a box, or just about any other object you can imagine. No bulky or expensive equipment is required and most models can be completed within a few minutes. The only item that is absolutely necessary in origami is paper. The size, type, and color of paper used will affect the look of your finished model, so close attention should be paid to the selection of this most important item.
In general, you want a piece of paper that can hold a crease well and that will be able to retain the shape into which it has been folded. Facial tissue, for example, will not work well for origami because it lacks the necessary stability. On the other hand, a cardstock weight paper is too bulky to be folded upon itself more than once or twice. Of course, it is imperative that any paper you choose be cut into a perfect square before you begin folding. Origami is a very geometrically precise craft, with the success of each folding sequence, dependent upon the accuracy of the previous folding sequence. There are a few models that begin with rectangular pieces of paper instead, but those are not very common.
Butcher paper, newsprint, and copy paper are good choices for beginning origami enthusiasts and for folding practice models. They are all relatively inexpensive papers, are easy to find, and have the weight and structure needed for origami. Copy paper is probably the most common choice because of its ready availability and variety of color. The only real problem with using the standard sheet of copy paper (or any of the other papers mentioned) for origami is that it is not square shaped.
This problem is easily overcome, however, by using one of three popular methods of turning those rectangular sheets into squares of any size. You can have your paper cut in bulk at the place of purchase, cut the paper in bulk yourself with equipment provided by your local copy shop, or cut each sheet individually as you work.
Most copy and paper stores have electrically powered paper guillotines on their premises. For a small fee – and sometimes for free – you can have a large quantity of paper cut to the desired shape in just a few seconds. If this service is unavailable, look to the local, self-service copy store. They usually make manually operated guillotines available, free of charge, to their customers. If you only have a very small quantity of paper that needs trimming, then cutting each sheet by hand might be your most convenient option. You can use a pencil and ruler to mark out the desired square size and cut it out with scissors or a craft knife.
Even if you don’t have access to a ruler and pencil, you can still turn a standard sheet of paper (or any rectangular sheet of paper) into a square. Bring one short end of the sheet up and over to lie completely along one long edge. Flatten the paper out and leave it folded. Use scissors or a craft knife to cut the resulting triangle away from the remainder of the paper and open it up to reveal a perfect square. If you do not have any cutting device on hand, make several backward and forward creases along the line where the triangular flap meets the remainder of the paper. Very carefully tear the paper along the crease line.
Once you have a bit of paper folding experience under your belt, start to explore other paper options. The right color or pattern can add to the realism or depth of your model. For example, an origami pig folded from pink paper will look more realistic than one folded from white paper. Two-sided paper made especially for origami is available in packages of coordinating colors and patterns. This paper is white on one side and solid in color or patterned on the other.
It also has the correct stability and weight for any origami project. Origami paper is relatively expensive, however, so take some time to look for alternatives. Gift wrapping paper is an outstanding replacement for traditional origami paper. You can achieve the two-sided look for a fraction of the cost. If you don’t mind small markings on the white side, buy wrapping paper that comes with a pre-printed cutting grid on the backside. This will make cutting perfect squares a cinch! Bright, inexpensive wall posters are also a viable alternative to origami paper.
One other inexpensive, pre-cut paper option comes in the form of the telephone message cube. The standard cube, either mono or multi-color is composed of approximately 500 3 1/2″ square sheets of colored paper. Each of these cubes gives you the perfect desktop supply of origami paper. The only drawback is its size. If you are trying to work out a model or don’t have much paper folding experience, you’ll find that larger squares (at least 6″) are easier to manage.
The only way to really determine which papers work best for you is to expose yourself to many different types. Begin collecting papers with interesting colors and textures, buy samples here and there, and do some experimenting. You may find the paper of a particular weight and/or texture more enjoyable to work with than others. Once you find a paper that suits your needs and folding style, keep enough of it on hand so that when you discover that new model, you’ll be able to begin your folding right away.The only way