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Submitted on
July 26, 2013
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Artist's Toolbox: Origami Paper

Fri Jul 26, 2013, 12:00 PM by 3wyl:icon3wyl:

Origami Paper

The Japanese for 'Paper' is Kami . For Japanese speakers, the word Kami may refer to any kind of paper, but for English speakers, Kami is often used informally to refer to pre-cut packaged squares of paper.

There are a lot of different kinds of paper that you can use for origami. Usually square in shape, there are some that are of different shapes in different materials and different gradients. Based on this, a popular question that is asked is What kind of paper should be used for origami?

There is no single, correct answer. You are free to use whatever paper you like, but it does depend on what you are folding. Here are some types of paper that you could consider using for origami:

Washi Paper

Washi paper is the traditional origami paper used in Japan. It is usually considered the finest and most expensive paper and, while it is handmade, it is often machine made too. Washi paper is tougher than ordinary paper made from wood pulp, as it is made of fibres from the bark of the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub or the paper mulberry. It can also be made from bamboo, hemp, rice and wheat. The patterns are very complex, often accented with gold and can create beautiful folds.

Origami Paper

~ One colour on one side, White on the other side
Origami paper is the most common type of paper to use for origami. It is cheap and easily available; they can be found in arts and crafts stores, and many places elsewhere. Origami paper weighs slightly less than copy paper, thus making it suitable for a wide range of models. You can usually find this paper packaged together as a batch, with all sorts of colours, already cut into a square shape for you to fold in.

Dual-Sided Paper

~ One colour on one side, Another colour on the other side
Dual-Sided paper is similar to origami paper, but the former is coloured separately and differently on both sides. Usually, colours contrast or compliment each other. Dual-Sided paper is great for colour-changing models, models where both sides of the paper are visible. Using it where only one side of the paper is visible would be a waste.

Patterned Paper

Patterned paper usually involves a type of design that is not traditional Japanese imagery. The patterned print on patterned paper may limit the models you can fold. For example, animal prints are popular patterns used in patterned paper, and may not be right for certain types of origami.

Those that have traditional Japanese imagery imprinted are Yuzen paper (textile patterns), Chiyogami paper (washi with repeated wood block patterns), and Sinwazome paper (thick textured embossed and raised patterns).

Foil Paper

~ Foil on one side, White on the other side
Foil paper is made by gluing a thin sheet of foil to thin paper on one side, usually in gold and silver, though there are other colours too. It can be cheap, easily available, and great for practising. Foil paper holds creases very well, but this can be difficult to use sometimes as, once folded, there will be a crease mark. This means that any mistakes made will be obvious. Nevertheless, the foil on one side can make a stunning result. Foil paper can relate to tissue foil, in which tissue paper is glued to kitchen aluminium foil. This is harder to find than ordinary foil paper, but both can be used for complex models.

Everyday Use Paper

~ Newspapers, Magazines, Manifold, Airmail, Napkins, Maps, Wallpaper, Receipts, Money, etc.
Everyday use paper is all around us in different degrees of thickness. Newspapers and magazines are thin, while manifold and airmail paper are thicker. The former is generally quite weak because it is thin, and doesn't hold creases well. Therefore, newspapers and magazines are easier to tear and harder to hold shape.

On the other hand, manifold and airmail paper may be the right kind of paper for you to use, though some types of paper may be too thick for the more complex designs of origami. If you would like to make simple folds, though, this kind of paper works really well. You can find this kind of paper in office supply stores, and wherever you go in life.

Wet-Folding Papers

You can usually use heavier weight paper as wet-folding paper. Wet-Folding paper is generally used for sculptural origami in which wet-folding allows a more rounded sculpting of a model, which would then become rigid and sturdy when dry. Creations become organic and lifelike, but it does require special paper and technique.

Specialty Artisan Paper

~ Unryu, Lokta, Saa, Abaca, etc.
Special, handmade paper made of strong fibres are best suited for origami with many folds. Specialty artisan paper is thin, but often reinforced with a coating of liquid wheat paste and allowed to dry. You can use this kind of paper as a wet-folding paper for intricate folds.

Things to consider when choosing paper:

  • :bulletblue: Ease of Fold
  • :bulletblue: Thickness
  • :bulletblue: Availability
  • :bulletblue: Coating
  • :bulletblue: Price

All in all, you do not necessarily need to use special origami paper to enjoy origami! Be creative, and use anything and everything you can!

International Origami Societies and Other Origami Resources | More Information on What Kind of Origami Paper to Use

Add a Comment:
Fiiress Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
You can also use leftover wrapping paper from birthdays/Christmas/etc., and they make cute holiday decorations. 
MetalPorSiempre Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
The reading "kami" can correspond to various different kanjis with different meanings. "Kami" meaning "god/spirit" is written as 神 , while "kami" meaning "paper" is written as 紙
3wyl Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Indeed so! :)
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Such an epic article!
3wyl Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you! :la:
MangaErudite Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the tip, though I thought 'kami' meant 'spirit'.
MetalPorSiempre Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
The reading "kami" can correspond to various different kanjis with different meanings. "Kami" meaning "god/spirit" is written as 神 , while "kami" meaning "paper" is written as 紙
MangaErudite Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I see: similarly, the English word 'tissue' can mean 'a thin piece of paper, like toilet tissue' just as it can mean 'a group of body cells with a specific function, like muscle tissue'. Thanks for the clarification! :D
MetalPorSiempre Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Yes, but the both meanings you are telling me for "tissue" are with the word written the same way, here "kami", the reading is the same but the writing changes and the meaning with it.
MangaErudite Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
 I see what you mean... Thanks!
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