A friend of mine gifted me a paper crane out of regular printer paper, and I'd like to spruce it up if I can do so, without having to just scribble at it with a marker for hours on end.

In short, I'd like something that can give it a (mostly) even coat of color without taking more than a half hour, and while maintaining the integrity of the crane. Is spray paint usable for this purpose, or is there a better tool?

  • 1
    As a folder, I have to ask, wouldn't it be easier to use a piece of colored/printed paper and just fold another crane? :) It is a very basic traditional model.
    – inkista
    Jul 16, 2016 at 20:39
  • @inkista That would defeat the purpose of preserving the one my friend gifted me.
    – jackwise
    Jul 18, 2016 at 13:09
  • Technically speaking, doesn't spraying it with color also change, therefore not preserve, the work of art you were gifted?
    – rebusB
    May 21, 2020 at 16:01
  • You may find this blog post useful (Firefox currently warns about expired certificate): blog.kusudama.me/2017/10/28/spray-painting-origami-paper May 27, 2020 at 9:07

3 Answers 3


Is spray paint usable for this purpose, or is there a better tool?

When I started reading this spray paint is what came to mind. It seems the best way to get even coverage with minimal effort. Now that can be considered a broad suggestion given the many varieties of paints out there but most should be more than sufficient for this.

Spray paint allows you to reach all the surfaces, contours and crevasses of the model without having to handle it too much. Just sit it on some paper and spray the model from enough distance that you are not saturating it. This should help prevent beading and dripping of the paint. With something like a crane the points should keep it elevated enough to not need help keeping of the ground.

There is still a possibly that this could warp the model. Since you are applying a liquid to one side of the paper it could cause the model to curl as it dries. This can happen with almost anything you would apply. Making multiple light coats can mitigate this.

Always be sure to wear protective gear, like face masks and goggles, and work in an open and well circulated area.

  • I've heard that spray paint can warp paper. Do you know if this is true? Though I suppose I can always sacrifice a couple of sheets to find out...
    – jackwise
    Jul 15, 2016 at 19:06
  • 1
    That is part of the "distance" comment in the answer. You want to spray from a distance as to not get it too wet too quickly. I have to update the answer though with a point that you bring up.
    – Matt
    Jul 15, 2016 at 19:08
  • If you attempt multiple light, even coatings, it should significantly reduce the chance of too much paint dampening/warping the paper.
    – Erica
    Jul 15, 2016 at 19:12
  • @Erica I just updated with that very same thought a moment ago!
    – Matt
    Jul 15, 2016 at 19:12
  • great minds think alike :) (or crafty ones, at least)
    – Erica
    Jul 15, 2016 at 19:13

An airbrush seems perfectly suited to this type of work. You'd be able to adjust the flow and target the crevices, to get even coverage without soaking the piece.

Unfortunately, the start-up costs of getting an airbrush are considerably more expensive than grabbing a can of spray paint or using some sort of dry brush technique.

There are tutorials on how to make an airbrush available online. I won't cover them here, because that's a bit beyond my scope. It is an option if you're on a budget.

Renting an airbrush might not be an option, but there may be studios in your area that let you use their equipment if you pay a cover charge and for supplies. I know many studios, especially on college campuses, allow you to use studios for about $10 and it gives you access to all their equipment, generally pottery wheels and kilns and tools. If this is something you'd want to pursue, I'd call around and see if they have an airbrush available if you pay for some studio time. Then, make sure you bring enough to do or have some other ideas to explore, and make good use of that time!


My first thought would be an airbrush. The problem with spray paint is that it can splatter, warp the paper, and is hard to control on small surfaces. An airbrush is nice and small, easy to control, and perfect for something like this.

You probably don't want to buy an airbrush to use only once, so maybe try a cheaper alternative. There are things called BloPens (not really sure how good they are) that spray a thin layer of ink. If you have Copic markers already, there's the Copic airbrush kit, and as a last resort, some cheap brush markers.

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