How do I Choose the Best Paper for Origami?

Jessica Kolifrath

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.

Copy paper may be used to create origami.
Copy paper may be used to create origami.

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.

Traditional Japanese origami paper is thin enough for crisp folds.
Traditional Japanese origami paper is thin enough for crisp folds.

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.

Newsprint is an acceptable origami paper for beginners.
Newsprint is an acceptable origami paper for beginners.

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.

Wrapping paper may be used to make origami.
Wrapping paper may be used to make origami.

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Discussion Comments


@umbra21 - You don't need to go to a craft store to get origami paper, there is a fantastic range online if you have a look. There are a couple of stores in particular that are quite cheap and have a very wide range of lovely papers. They make me want to do more origami just so that I can have an excuse to buy all the pretty patterns they offer!

The only thing is that you should make sure the shipping isn't going to be too expensive, as that tends to be the thing that bumps up the price for me, since I live away from city centers.

But, even Amazon or a general craft supplies website should be able to provide more than most bricks and mortar craft stores, so I would check online before trying there.


@Mor - While it's certainly possible to make cranes and other kinds of origami with paper of the sort that they use to wrap sweets, you will get better results with professional origami paper, which isn't all that expensive until you get up to the premium brands.

I wouldn't recommend using soft paper like that for practicing on, at least, since it is quite difficult to get it to hold folds. A crane isn't too bad, as it will hold itself up, but other designs might not fare so well with that kind of paper.

I have a local $2 shop which sells origami paper sets and I get all of mine from there. It only comes in one size, unfortunately, but they have a fair range of colors and some of them even have embossed shapes on the paper which is a nice touch.

At some point I'm hoping to visit a craft store and build up a better supply of different sizes, but for now if I need a bigger size I carefully cut down a bit of construction paper, which seems to work quite well.


If you are just going to be practicing or maybe making something on the fly for a random child, you can use almost any kind of paper.

I once made a whole bunch of origami cranes from candy wrappers. They were lovely gold and silver paper and all I had to do was cut them so that they were a square, since after they were unwrapped they were rectangular.

All you have to do to make a rectangle into a square is fold one corner down until it is touching the other side of the paper in a smooth line and then cut off the excess.

It's actually a really nice way to keep yourself occupied while sitting in front of the TV, and I was able to give the little birds away in handfuls to my friends.

I also filled a jar with them for my mother, which looked quite nice. It's a gift that doesn't cost too much, but obviously had some effort put into it.

And, of course there is the spiritual side of the cranes, where some people think if you manage to fold 1000 of them you will be granted a wish, and often they will fold them for a sick loved one. Unfortunately I haven't been keeping count so far, but maybe I'll start from now on.

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