The Japanese art of paper folding known as origami is one of few hobbies that doesn’t require a lot of special tools or supplies. Your own two hands are the only tools required.
Most people are familiar with the ancient craft and have seen intricate origami creations and long strings of colorful paper cranes, but many have little knowledge about the paper used to create these delicate, lovely designs.
Do I need special paper for origami? Special origami paper is not absolutely required to make origami, though it is recommended. Origami paper is designed to be thin enough to fold easily and hold the crease without being bulky, yet strong enough to resist tears. A good alternative is gift wrap.
You may be surprised by the vast amount of options available today for origami paper. In fact, all the variety may seem overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with the terminology. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
Once you know a bit about the most common types of origami paper and are wowed by the beautiful colors and designs, you may find yourself wanting one of each!
Of course, you’re free to use whatever you like for origami, and many people enjoy using nonstandard papers, but using origami paper will give you the best results.
Before taking a look at your options, you should know that origami paper comes in different thicknesses, which are listed as weights on product descriptions.
The weight of paper is typically measured in grams per square meter, or gsm for short. To give you an idea of the weights of commonly used paper:
- Newspaper tends to be between 35 – 55 gsm.
- Notebook paper is usually 75 – 90 gsm.
- Copier paper is usually 90 – 100 gsm.
- Magazine covers and brochures are typically 210 – 300 gsm.
- Card stock standard is 350 – 450 gsm.
Most types of origami paper are slightly thicker than newspaper but thinner than copier paper, and as you can see from the chart below, origami paper is typically quite thin and therefore easy to work with.
Solid or Pattern
Good for Beginners
|Kami||Usually 6 inches||Both||Yes||60 – 63|
|Tant||Wide variety||Solid||Yes||70 – 80|
|Mulberry||Wide variety||Both||No||Varies, but 25 – 45 is common|
|Washi||Usually 3 or 6 inches||Pattern||No||70|
|Kraft||Wide variety||Usually only brown||Yes||30|
|Chiyogami and Yutzen||Usually 6 inches||Pattern||No||70|
|Lokta||Usually 6 or 9 inches||Pattern||No||45 – 60|
Let’s take a more detailed look at each of the commonly used types of origami paper.
Keep in mind that in addition to the types featured in the table, there are also “economy” packs like Home Pro Shop’s Origami Paper.
This inexpensive pack contains 1,100 colorful, double-sided sheets, is very similar to kami paper, and is perfect for beginners to practice with while perfecting their folding skills.
Kami paper is excellent for beginners and is incredibly common. It is easy to fold yet strong enough to resist tears, inexpensive, and holds creases well.
The most common size is a 6-inch square, but 3, 9, and 10 inches are easy to find too.
Though it’s not the highest quality paper, kami is fairly forgiving of slight mistakes and comes in a vast array of colors, sizes, and patterns.
Kami is available colored on one side or on both the front and back.
For beginners, I recommend going with a quality, one-sided kami paper. This makes it super easy to follow along with the folding instructions.
As your skills progress and you become familiar with the basic folds, you can graduate to a double-sided paper.
Tant paper is known for its versatility, slight stiffness, and lightly textured surface. It’s perfect for both beginner projects and more advanced work.
Tant is slightly thicker than kami, hence its slight stiffness, but unlike kami, tant only comes in solid, double-sided colors.
I’ve found Toyo’s tant paper to be of excellent quality. Use with care though, as it does tend to tear when not treated gently.
For those who enjoy a bit of glamour, foil paper is the way to go. Foil paper lends a reflective, metallic appearance to your creations and is available in many sizes and rich colors, including gold and silver.
Although this paper is easy to work with and holds both folds and curves very well, it may not be a good choice for those new to the craft as any mistakes are rather permanent and the creases can’t be smoothed out like with other papers.
If you would like to give foil paper a try, this pack has classy, bright colors perfect for any creation.
Mulberry paper is quite similar to washi paper, and, in fact, some washi papers are made out of mulberry plant fibers.
The fibers used to make mulberry origami paper are visible in the finished product, creating a unique, beautiful effect. However, these fibers can make some folds challenging.
Also, be aware that most mulberry paper is rectangular, not square, and must be cut for most origami designs.
If you think you’re up to the challenge, I recommend this pack of 50.
Washi paper is made from long plant fibers and is one of the thickest origami papers. It’s known for its beautiful patterns and strength.
There are many varieties of washi paper to select from based on the plant or tree used to make it. Gampi, Mitzumata, mulberry, rice, and Kozo are common plants used for making washi.
Other popular varieties of washi include:
- Mujizome – a soft, cloth-like paper.
- Momi – a soft, thicker, textured paper featuring crinkles.
- Chiyogami/Yutzen – see below.
Because washi is relatively thick, forming sharp creases can be problematic, and considering that washi is usually on the expensive side, it may not be ideal for beginners to use for practice.
If you’re looking for authentic Japanese detail, try this washi paper from Japan.
Kraft paper is thin, yet quite strong. Because of its affordability, kraft paper is wonderful to use for practicing.
It is nice and flexible, has a slightly rough texture that provides grip, and holds creases well.
Note that some kraft sheets are rectangular and will need to be cut into squares for most origami projects.
Alternatively, you can purchase a large role of kraft paper quite cheaply and cut many, many origami papers customized for your needs.
Though these terms once referred to two separate styles, today the words are used interchangeably.
Chiyogami is made from a washi base and silkscreening techniques to produce richly colored, intense, repetitive patterns.
Shinwazome and kagayaki (has glittering highlights of gold or silver) are two patterns of chiyogami paper you may run across.
Because chiyogami paper is painstakingly made by hand, it’s usually rather expensive for beginners to use for practice.
If you’re confident in your folding, however, this is a beautiful paper for origami.
Lokta paper is handmade from the Nepal paper plant, also called the Lokta bush. Lokta paper is both strong and supple with a soft texture.
This is another handmade paper, so the price is a little steep. It’s fairly easy to work with, but may be better suited for folders at the intermediate or advanced level.
You can find Nepalese Lokta paper here at the Mulberry Tree.
What Can I Use Instead of Origami Paper?
Although origami paper is recommended for the art, other types of paper can be a great substitute for the real thing, especially if you just want to practice a new design or certain folding patterns and techniques like wet folding.
Gift wrap is probably the most used alternative as it’s relatively thin, affordable, and is available in a huge variety of colors and patterns. Many folders stock up when they find it on sale.
Other creative ideas include:
- Notebook paper.
- Copier paper.
- Pages from a magazine.
- Old maps.
- Parchment paper.
- Tissue paper.
Really, as long as it’s thin and flexible enough to fold easily and maintain a crease, any paper can be used for origami. Let your imagination run wild!