Origami is the art of paper folding, often associated with Japanese culture. In modern times, the word
"origami" is used as an inclusive term for all folding practices, regardless of culture of origin. The
objective is to transform a flat sheet square of paper into a finished figure (various animals are
common) through folding and sculpting techniques.
Basic origami folds can be combined in a variety of ways to make intricate designs. Generally, these designs begin with a square sheet of paper with sides that may be of different colors, patterns, or prints. The most distinguished origami model is the Japanese paper crane.
Generally, most modern origami practitioners discourage the use of cuts, glue, or markings on the paper. The Japanese word kirigami is a term used by origami folders to refer designs which use cuts, although cutting is more of a characteristic in Chinese papercrafts.
Traditional Japanese origami, which has been practiced since the Edo period (1603–1867), has often been less strict about the conventions of cutting paper or using nonsquare shapes to start with.
Prominent paperfolding traditions arose in Japan, China, and Japan which have been well-documented by historians. Until the 20th century, these practices were mostly separate traditions.
The principles of origami are also used in packaging, stents, and other engineering applications. The earliest specified reference to a paper mode in Japan is in a short poem by Ihara Saikaku (1680) which mentions a traditional butterfly design used during Shinto weddings. The practice of folding paper have been included in some ceremonial functions in Japanese culture, such as noshi attached to gifts. This developed into a form of entertainment. The first two instructional books on origami were published in Japan for recreational use.
Almost any flat material can be used for folding, only requiring that it should hold a crease. Origami paper can be purchased in prepackaged squares of various sizes ranging from 2.5 cm (1 in) to 25 cm (10 in) or more. They are commonly colored on one side and white on the other. However, there are dual coloured and patterned versions that exist, which can be used effectively for color-changed models.
Origami paper weighs slightly less than copy paper, making it suitable for a wider collection of figures. In Japan, Washi is the traditional origami paper used to sculpt models. Made from wood pulp, washi is generally tougher than ordinary paper and is used in many traditional arts. Washi is commonly made using fibres gampi tree bark, mitsumata shrub, or paper mulberry. It can also be made using hemp, bamboo, wheat, and rice as well.
Artisans use papers such as unryu, lokta, hanji, gampi, kozo, saa, and abaca because of their long fibers and exceptional strength. These papers are floppy to begin with, so they are often back coated or resized with methylcellulose or wheat paste before folding. Additionally, these papers are extremely thin and compressible. This makes it suitable for thin, narrowed limbs as in the case of insect models.