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How to make 3d Origami Modules

Updated on September 1, 2014

Simply put: 3d origami is a paper folding craft for the rest of us-- one you can do even if you're not double jointed!

Instead of a very complicated series of folds and creases, there is one basic set of folds. Each time you repeat the steps you produce one module, and make as many modules as you need for a given pattern, stacking them like a puzzle to make your finished model.

Also, I've included a link to a free downloadable pattern complete with printable instructions!

All of the photos here are my own, and primarily of models I've created myself, and I'll be posting directions on subsequent pages. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I'll help however I can.

What You Need To Get Started

Not much, really- paper, and just about any kind will do! Get your paper and cut it into 1.5 x 3 inch rectangles. Then fold following the pictures below. See how simple?

Okay, here’s a deeper version, but if you want to skip it and go commando, feel free!

  1. Pick your paper: I prefer to work with origami paper, but you can use just about any paper you have around, including printer paper, scrapbooking paper and more.
  2. Once you’ve selected your pattern & paper, calculate how much you need-most packages of paper come in assorted colors and patterns, so if you need to be careful you have enough of a single design to complete your pattern:
    • 6×6 origami paper yields 8 modules per sheet
    • 8.5×11 paper yields 17 pieces (does not divide evenly, so you’ll have scrap)
    • 12×12 scrapbook paper yields 32 pieces
    • Most rolls of wrapping paper are 30inches wide, so you’ll get 10 modules across, making for 80 modules per foot.
  3. Now cut to size making each module twice as long as it is wide, typically 1.5 x 3 inches.

Now you’re ready to fold!

A few examples

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Peacock frontpeacock backDollfrogDragonDragon headSaints football helmetCobraHalloween Jack-o-lanternSmall and large swans
Peacock front
Peacock front
peacock back
peacock back
Dragon head
Dragon head
Saints football helmet
Saints football helmet
Halloween Jack-o-lantern
Halloween Jack-o-lantern
Small and large swans
Small and large swans

Step 1: fold lengthwise

Step 2:Fold in half

Step 3: fold up at the corners

Step 4: Fold 2nd corner

Step 5: Flip the paper around and open from the center

Step 6: Fold corners in

Step 7: Fold corners in

Step 8: fold in half and admire your handiwork!

See it in action

Assembling your modules

3d Origami Tips & Tricks

Oh what a difference your paper makes!

Look at the above picture- believe it or not, those are all the very same pattern, just in different materials! Papers on both ends of the spectrum are equally hard to work with- cardstock is harder to fold and stressful on your hands, while tissue papers can compress too much and leave you wondering what the pattern was supposed to look like.

  • Don’t worry too much if you find you were a little off when you cut your papers and they’re not 100% uniform. It’s fine. Differences have to be pretty big to be visible after the folding’s done
  • Don’t make hard creases as you fold- leave things a little loose so you’re not stretching the pockets too much.
  • Generally, it’s better to fold all of your modules before starting to assemble
  • Make stacks of modules as you go. I do stacks of ten, which makes it easy to count how many I have before I start to build the model. It also keeps the folds neat and clean, preventing them from coming apart.
  • Having stacks also makes assembling go faster and creates a smoother, more even final project

Click to go to the pattern
Click to go to the pattern | Source

Want to get that turtle pattern for free?

It’s available for free download through! The zipped pdf file has three patterns inside- the turtle, angelfish and goldfish*, plus printable copies of the folding and assembly instructions.

Click the photo to be taken to their site, and if you haven’t checked them out, do yourself a favor and look around. They have everything from tutorials and patterns for every kind of craft, plus a great community.

How I got addicted

I’d sworn to have a teeny-tiny wedding, but despite our best intentions, it just didn’t work out that way; we’d been together for 15 years, and absolutely everybody wanted to come- I think mostly just to verify we’d actually (finally!) gone through with it.

Costs were mounting and I decided that I would do as much of the decorating by hand as I could. Along the way I found a photo of 3d origami peacocks and thought they’d be perfect for the tables- big ones for the bar and food areas (like above), small ones for the individual tables.

Easy, and cheap, too — doubly perfect!

Yes, perfect until I’d folded over 20,000 papers, and thought I’d never ever want to see another module in my life.

Panic Sets In

Days before the ceremony I started to panic- was this crazy? What would all these people think when they found these things on their tables? Would they think it totally tacky? I seriously considered just tossing them and not using the peacocks at all…and then I realized there were more important things to do, like throwing big party, forgot it and focused on having a good time.

Imagine my surprise when the photo booth pics came back and had to ask friends questions after the fact- people were posing with their table decorations? Huh?

It turned out they were so popular that I’d created a problem. With one peacock per table of 6, there was a shortage, and the friends with the fastest hands who’d grabbed them wouldn’t put them down for fear of them being snatched away by somebody else!

Frankly, I felt a bit like this ...

People were calling, asking me to make them peacocks, offering to pay- even my wedding planner said people who’d toured the venue during setup were asking who they could hire to make them decorations!

It was nice, but no- kind of like needlepoint or quilting, it’s a labor of love and if you calculated the time it took, the price would be outrageous. Unlike Rice Krispie treats, these really do take time! :)

But it’s fun to do, and easy- give it a shot! You’ll have a good time while amazing your friends and family.


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    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      4 years ago from North Texas

      You have tons of great ideas and instructions here! I just love papercrafts. This article is great. Love it! Posted on FB.


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