What is Origami Paper?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into representative, i.e., not abstract, shapes. In Japanese, origami is a compound word, made up of the words for “to fold” and “paper.” Typical shapes include birds - particularly cranes, other animals, boats, and boxes. The art involves elaborate patterns of folding and has ceremonial and recreational styles. More recently, cutting has been combined with folding in the creation of origami figures. Kirigami is the Japanese word for paper cutting.

Origami paper is used to create many different forms of origami.
Origami paper is used to create many different forms of origami.

Origami is created with many kinds of origami paper. Some is a solid color, and this includes washi, tissue paper, and double-sided papers. One-sided foil papers – in solid colors and embossed – are also used. Bokashi paper, with graduated color, is made in many styles and patters, some having multiple shading iterations and moving from corner to corner, center to edge, or in other designs.

Origami paper can be used to create complex shapes.
Origami paper can be used to create complex shapes.

Another origami paper is Chiyogami or Yuzen, silk-screened washi that is also used for other decorative arts such as making kimonos for paper dolls. It derives from woodblock prints and was introduced toward the end of the 18th century. The patterns are usually printed on kozo paper, and the weight is about 70 grams per square meter (gsm). Chiyogami is a compound word meaning “thousand generation” and “paper.”

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

Chiyogami is traditionally patterned with symbols of happiness, long life, and good fortune, but new patterns are continually invented as well. There are thousands of Chiyogami patterns. Some manufacturers make replications of Chiyogami using offset printing rather than silk-screening. These papers may be cheaper, but are not authentic.

Katzome-shi, stencil-dyed paper based on kimono printing techniques, can also be used as origami paper. This paper, also about 70 gsm, was developed several hundred years after Chiyogami, coming into use in Kyoto in the 20th century.

Many traditional origami designs are based on beginning with a square sheet of paper, but new designs include origami constructed of circular paper, rectangular paper, and even multiple pieces of paper joined together, sometimes called modular origami when each sheet of origami paper is folded into an identical form, and multi-piece origami when multiple sheets are used simply to extend the creation without replication. Fabrigami is a relatively new art using origami techniques and fabric as the medium. Cotton broadcloth with fabric stiffener is one recommended “origami paper” for this specialized practice of the art, but other fabrics can work as well. Making folded creations of fabric bonded to origami paper is another style of fabrigami.

Origami is a form of paper-folding art that originated in Japan.
Origami is a form of paper-folding art that originated in Japan.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I love origami, but getting my pre-teen daughter to fold with me was difficult at first. She took a liking to the simple but functional models most of all, like crowns, hats and boxes. I would start there with teaching.


I'm starting a job as an art teacher in a middle school, and I was thinking about teaching origami as part of a Japanese art module. Do you think it's a good idea to get some origami star paper to try and teach the kids to make origami stars, or am I just asking for trouble?

Any ideas?


I have been a big fan of origami ever since I was a kid, and got the bug to learn how to make origami paper flowers.

I stuck with it, and now really enjoy doing it both as a relaxing hobby and to make gifts for my friends. I'm lucky enough to have an origami paper store not too far away from me, so I can indulge my desire to buy origami paper whenever the urge hits me.

The most extravagant thing I ever did with origami was to buy some gold washi origami paper. It was just too pretty; I couldn't pass it up!

Of course, I still haven't used it -- I can't think of something good enough to use it for. Isn't that always the way?


This is a really cool article -- I never knew there was so much of an art to origami and paper craft.

It kind of makes you think about all those stores that sell origami paper in bulk -- I mean, its great for kids learning to make origami paper animals and roses and what not, but does it really stay true to the origins of the craft? I don't know.


I love origami, I'm not very good at it, but I love it!

The only place I've been able to order more is online, unless I want to buy a whole kit with instruction books included.

There are tons of designs, colors..totally unlimited and some of the designs are so beautiful that they look like they should be framed instead of folded.

Post your comments
Forgot password?