Learn to Make 3D Origami Units

3D origami basket

 OlekGraf / Getty Images

Golden Venture Folding, more commonly known as 3D origami, is an intriguing form of paper art. This type of origami is made using multiple triangular units that are joined together to form a continuous design. Each triangle is made from a rectangular sheet of paper, which means you can mix multiple colors and patterns to create a more life-like model.

Fun Fact

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

  • 01 of 09

    How to Make 3D Origami Units

    Closeup of 3D origami birthday cake units

     OlekGraf / Getty Images

    Learning how to make the triangular units that form the base of all 3D models is a vital skill for anyone interested in this type of paper art.

  • 02 of 09

    Initial Folds

    Simple rectangular paper folds

    Dana Hinders

    To make your first 3D origami unit, cut a sheet of square origami paper in half. The exact size of your square doesn't matter, although 6 inches is a good place for a beginner to start. If you use a 6 inch square of paper, you'll have two sheets of paper that are 6 inches long and 3 inches wide.

    Place the first rectangular paper horizontally in front of you. Fold the paper in half horizontally. Make a guide crease by folding in half down the vertical middle, then unfolding.

  • 03 of 09

    Fold the Sides

    A piece of paper folded in an arrow shape

    Dana Hinders

    Fold the left and right sides down as shown in the photo.

  • 04 of 09


    A square-shaped origami fold

    Dana Hinders

    Flip the paper over. Fold the left and right sides up as shown in the photo.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Make a Triangle

    A triangle-folded origami paper

    Dana Hinders

    Fold the bottom two points up so you have a triangle-shaped paper.

  • 06 of 09

    Complete Your 3D Unit

    A folded triangle 3D origami unit

    Dana Hinders

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

  • 07 of 09

    Tabs vs. Pockets

    Demonstration of assembling 3D origami units

    Dana Hinders

    Each 3D origami 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, glue might be used to keep the units together at the angle necessary to give the model its completed shape.

  • 08 of 09

    Simple 3D Origami Tree

    Example of 3D origami tree

    Dana Hinders

    One of the simplest examples of 3D origami is the tree at the left. It 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 could be decorated with stick-on rhinestones, markers, or other embellishments if desired.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    More 3D Origami Projects

    Example of 3D origami vase

    OlekGraf / Getty Images 

    Many larger Golden Venture Folding origami projects are animals, such as the 3D origami swan on the Origami Resource Center website. One challenge in creating large models like this is that you will need lots of paper rectangles that are the same color.

    You can also make functional objects, like this pretty 3D origami vase. A vase or bowl is a good model to make because you can play with different colors and patterns of paper instead of trying to get many sheets of the same paper. Pleasure in Creation explains how to make a 3D Origami Vase that is similar to the one shown in the photo to the left. Art Platter has an excellent tutorial for making a 3D origami bowl.