Origami is the Japanese folk art of paper folding. Colorful, high-quality paper is folded into a variety of whimsical shapes, including cranes, complex geometric models and even gift boxes. While it is acceptable to use several types of paper for origami practice, choosing the best origami paper will make the paper-folding process easier and the finished piece better looking. Thickness, color and texture all affect how paper will fold.
Before shopping for Japanese paper for origami, one should take some time to understand the basic paper terms. Washi simply refers to a special paper made from three Japanese fibers; it is also used for brush writing, print making and light shades. Chiyogami and yuzen are terms used somewhat interchangeably for screen-printed craft paper featuring a repeating pattern. Shibori papers are textured and printed with bright colors.
These Japanese papers are all designed for craft use and are thin enough for the crisp folds required by origami. Japanese origami papers come in packs of the square-cut sheets usually required by origami techniques, reducing the need to cut a new sheet before each folding session. These packs of paper are usually limited in size to a maximum of 12 inches (30.5 cm) square. Larger origami designs may require a special order of uncut sheets of washi or chiyogami.
If Japanese papers aren't available, other types of paper can easily be substituted. Colorful wrapping paper, copy paper and even money can be used successfully. Paper used should be thinner than 24 pounds (10.9 kg) per ream or the paper will not hold a crease or be able to be folded more than twice. Newspaper and magazine pages make perfect, inexpensive paper for origami practice. For a fancy touch, look for craft or wrapping papers that feature metallic accents.
Most scrapbooking sheets are relatively thin and are an appropriate paper for origami. Originally designed to be used as backgrounds or accents for scrapbooking pages, these specialty papers are available in most craft stores. The designs range from basic, colored sheets to full photographic prints. Matching the origami design and the paper pattern can lead to beautiful works of art.
While there is specialty paper for origami, any paper that holds a sharp crease and can be folded multiple times will work. The best origami paper depends highly on personal preference. Origami beginners who find washi or yuzen paper difficult to fold should know that there is nothing wrong with preferring newsprint instead.