I really like making origami and have been doing it for a while now, and to be honest I'm kind of bored of only using paper (I must say I haven't really experimented with different kinds of paper yet: I was meaning to go shopping for paper in the summer, but owing to the current situation :( I have postponed that). Also, I'm really curious as to what all materials I can use to make origami.

I'd really like to know what materials you all use (including different kinds of paper) to make origami. Of course, the materials must be hard enough to sustain folds and thin enough so that they can be folded multiple times.

I know that this is a very unspecific question, but I want it to be open-ended to invite all kinds of answers.

Thank you :)

  • In the old books you sometimes find information on how to cut proper square pieces of paper, maybe you can also find those instructions online. Otherwise, the old tools you used in mathematics at school and a good metal ruler and sharp knife will help.
    – Willeke
    Apr 18, 2020 at 14:20

2 Answers 2

  • Tinfoil / aluminium foil
    Usually has a 'dirty' look, as all folds will be visible, but is very characteristic and quite easy to work with.

    Origami western pond turtle, designed by Robert J Lang. Photo by Sieb K.

  • Baking paper
    Has a beautiful translucent look and warm, light brown colour, which makes your projects look more organic. Good for creating 'origamized' lamps. Or baking stuff inside your origami:


  • Clear or coloured PVC sheets
    This is quite a large group of plastics, but I'm referring to any type that is foldable.
    Usually, you will be able to crease the folds into place, making it a good option for very clean origami objects. And it's transparent, so it will emphasize the nature of the object even more. And you can use heat to change the material, or get more rigid folds, etc.

    Two birds made out of plastic origami

  • Polypropylene
    More a sub-type of the last category, this is a sturdier type of plastic:

    A polypropylene model of a variation of the Miura-ori fold pattern

For the heavy-duty origamist:

  • Sheet metal
    Not so easy to work with - you need proper tools - but you can make durable, large scale, practical, and sturdy objects out of it. They're easy to spray paint, as well.

    enter image description here

  • 1
    +1 In short, anything you can cut into squares (and other shapes) or come in useful sizes and can be folded. (I have also tried some fabrics but it helps if you will be able to stiffen the fabric.)
    – Willeke
    Apr 17, 2020 at 10:50
  • Any tips on how to get accidental creases out of tinfoil? Everytime I try straighten it using a scale, I always manage to tear it :(
    – Hiya
    Apr 23, 2020 at 13:06
  • 1
    I usually use my finger nails, and, while holding it with the other hand, gently rub the foil from the centre in the direction of the edges.
    – Joachim
    Apr 23, 2020 at 13:27

Some thoughts to supplement Joachim's answer. Almost any foldable material can be used, but different characteristics are better for different purposes. You will want different material for an intricately-folded animal, say, than a simple, sturdy box. And if you want to dabble in curved folds, you generally need a stiffer material that will take and remember the creases. The size of the model also affects the required paper -- tiny models usually require thin, crisp paper while large models need heavier paper to hold the shape.

Heavier, stiffer media may require pre-scoring to get clean folds. In a material like the heavy plastic sheet in Joachim's polypropylene example, the fold lines are often embossed into the material to create a thin area that acts like a hinge.

Here are a few additional household materials that can be useful for origami:

  • Kraft paper is available in wide rolls for larger projects. You can also cut large pieces from paper grocery bags. Grocery bag stock is typically cruder than kraft paper, so it's more suited to models that don't involve intricate folds.

  • Newsprint/newspaper is available in large sheets, but it's crude paper that isn't particularly strong. Still it can be used for some models if you're careful.

  • Wrapping paper is another that's available on wide rolls. It tends to be thin but reasonably strong. It's also colorful.

  • Tyvek can be interesting for some models. You can cut it from shipping envelopes. At least one side is typically white with a little texture, which can look cool in a model. It starts reasonably stiff, but gets soft if it flexes too much, which can make it messy to create creases only and precisely where you want them. It does better if you pre-crease it.

  • Label wrapping on plastic soda and juice bottles is typically a plastic film that is brilliant white so the printing pops. It's opaque and the backside is still white. You may have to work a little to get it to take and keep a sharp crease, but you can get some interesting results. This was folded from the label on a cranberry juice bottle:

enter image description here

  • Manila folders are made from cardstock, and even after the tabs get tattered, the folder faces are often still in good shape. Trimming off the tabs and fold scores of waste folders still leaves a large sheet of cardstock that can be good for things like sturdy boxes and curved-folds. Here's an example from an old manila folder:

    enter image description here

  • Aluminum beverage cans provide a good source for some kinds of projects. Joachaim's answer mentions sheet metal. Typical sheet metal is tough to work with, but aluminum sheets cut from beverage cans is something anyone can work with after minimal practice. Using the exterior surface provides a fun, recognizable pattern. Using the interior surface provides a brushed metal look.

    Note, though, that this material is brittle; it can be bent and re-bent only a few times before breaking, and requires pre-scoring for clean creases where you want them (although there are a few experts who manage to do it without pre-scoring, directly on the empty can).

    Beverage can sheets also take embossing well, and some people combine these to make things like embossed origami boxes:

    enter image description here
    Source: Making Boxes From Soda Cans

    Beverage can sheets also handle curved folds. For example, I've seen the Hans-Werner Guth "Jump" design made from these sheets and it looked like a metal sculpture. I can't lay my hands on a picture of that result, but for reference, this is the design I'm referring to:

    enter image description here
    Source: https://www.littlebitofheart.com/news/2016/05/11/jump-unit-inspired-by-hans-werner-guth

  • Just for completeness, some people focus on folding origami figures from currency (money origami or dollar-bill origami), because it's novel and the high quality paper is a good medium. Needless to say, the media makes that an expensive hobby.

    enter image description here
    Source: DIY Money Origami

  • What is manila folder design called? I'd love to look it up and learn how to make it :)
    – Hiya
    Apr 23, 2020 at 13:11
  • 1
    @Hiya, that's the David Huffman "Hexagonal Column with Cusps"(tutorial). The template is shown near the beginning and you can use a screen grab. I understand subscribers to that author's channel may have access to downloadable templates.
    – fixer1234
    Apr 23, 2020 at 18:09
  • 1
    Money origami is the best for giving gifts, you make something special for someone that has everything and they can use it in (almost) every shop. (Just iron paper money to get out the creases, before folding and before use as money again.)
    – Willeke
    Apr 24, 2020 at 13:39

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