How to Make 3D Origami Units

3D origami basket

 OlekGraf / Getty Images

Overview
  • Total Time: 5 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Golden venture folding, more commonly known as 3D origami, is an intriguing form of paper art. This type of origami is created using multiple triangular units that are joined together to form a continuous design. Each triangle is made from a rectangular sheet of paper, and you can mix multiple paper colors and patterns to create your design. Thus, you can personalize the designs to your taste, and you can even make custom designs to give as gifts or use as decorations. This tutorial explains how to make the individual triangular unit. It's quick and easy, even for origami beginners.

Fun Fact

Origami comes from the Japanese words "ori," which means folding, and "kami," which means paper.

Closeup of 3D origami birthday cake units
 OlekGraf / Getty Images

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Scissors

Materials

  • Origami paper

Instructions

  1. Cut the Paper and Make the Initial Folds

    To make your first 3D origami unit, cut a sheet of square origami paper in half. The exact size of the square doesn't matter, though a 6-inch square is a good size for beginners. If you use a 6-inch square of paper, you'll end up with two pieces of paper that are 6 inches long and 3 inches wide after the cut.

    Place one rectangular piece of paper horizontally in front of you. Fold the paper in half horizontally. Then, make a guide crease by folding the paper in half down the vertical middle and then unfolding.

    Simple rectangular paper folds
    The Spruce / Dana Hinders
  2. Fold the Sides

    Fold down the left and right sides to make a point at the top as shown in the photo below.

    A piece of paper folded in an arrow shape
    The Spruce / Dana Hinders
  3. Flip the Paper and Fold the Sides

    Flip the paper over. Then, fold the left and right sides up as shown in the photo below.

    A square-shaped origami fold
    The Spruce / Dana Hinders
  4. Make a Triangle

    Fold the bottom two points up, so your paper is shaped like a triangle.

    A triangle-folded origami paper
    The Spruce / Dana Hinders
  5. Complete Your 3D Origami Unit

    Fold your triangle in half along the middle crease. This completes your first 3D origami unit.

    A folded triangle 3D origami unit
    The Spruce / Dana Hinders
  6. Keep Forming Units to Create a 3D Origami Design

    To create a design, you'll continue to make 3D origami units. Each unit has two sides: the tabs and the pocket. The tabs are the two points that were created by the fold in step 3. The pockets are the result of the folds in step 2 and step 5.

    To make a 3D origami model, you slip the tabs of the second unit into the pockets of the unit immediately before it. Different shapes are created by the angle at which the units are joined together. Depending ​on what you are trying to make, you might want to use glue to keep the units together at the angles necessary to give the model its shape.

    Demonstration of assembling 3D origami units
    The Spruce / Dana Hinders

Simple 3D Origami Tree

One of the easiest examples of 3D origami is a tree. The tree in the photo below is made with five units joined together and finished with a folded rectangular trunk. A small amount of glue is used to ensure that the units remain connected at the desired angle.

This project could easily be used as a Christmas tree ornament or a gift topper. The tree also could be decorated with stick-on rhinestones, markers, or other embellishments if desired.

Example of 3D origami tree
The Spruce / Dana Hinders

More 3D Origami Projects

Many large 3D origami projects are animals, such as a 3D origami swan. One challenge in creating large models is you will need to form lots of paper rectangles. You can also make functional objects. A vase or bowl is a fun model to make because you can play with different colors and patterns of paper, rather than sticking largely to one color to create a lifelike animal.

Example of 3D origami vase
OlekGraf / Getty Images