Origami creations are both intricate and delicate. And after spending time on the meditative art of paper folding, the last thing you want is damage due to water spills or weather. However, several waterproofing techniques can turn fragile origami masterpieces into durable artwork for outdoor display or for use in handmade jewelry. But waterproofing techniques don't offer a one-size-fits-all solution, as each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages. Select the procedure that best suits your piece for a timeless presentation.
Clear Nail Polish
Coating origami with clear nail polish is, by far, the most economical waterproofing method for small pieces. You can often find clear nail polish for 1 or 2 dollars in drugstores or discount stores. This technique is used to seal and protect rolled paper beads before stringing them onto necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. For added sparkle, use clear nail polish with glitter mixed into the formula.
The Mod Podge crafting medium is typically used for adhering several small bits of paper to a larger surface, like in decoupage projects. But it also works nicely as a protective coating for origami models. Mod Podge comes in many different preparations with both gloss or matte finishes. Specialty Mod Podge (used to add pizzazz to your piece) includes glow-in-the-dark Mod Podge, antique Mod Podge, and glitter Mod Podge. Use Mod Podge finishes for home decor pieces that need protection from dust and dirt. It works well on origami jewelry projects, also.
A coat of melted beeswax or soy wax offers an organic way to waterproof origami. Use this technique for making origami boats. Just fold your boat as desired, then use an old paintbrush to apply a coat of melted wax to all the exposed areas. Be careful to avoid dripping the wax on your skin (it may burn) or your work surface, as it's hard to remove.
Acrylic Sealer Spray
Acrylic sealer spray provides a convenient way to create waterproof origami. You can spray the paper before folding it, or apply it to the finished product. Use acrylic sealer spray on origami wreaths to hang on your door or on outdoor wedding decorations. For best results, hold the can 10 to 12 inches from the paper’s surface and apply the sealer with a slow side-to-side motion, using two or three coats, and letting the sealer dry completely between applications. Make sure to work in a well-ventilated area, too, or use a respirator to protect yourself from harsh chemical fumes.
If you want a tough-as-nails clear finish, apply several layers of polycrylic to your folded design. Polycrylic is a water-based brush on polyurethane used to give wood surfaces (like floors) a protective topcoat. Simply paint it onto a small or large origami creation for a durable finish. Use it to make decorative refrigerator magnets or tabletop animal displays.
Plan for waterproofing origami ahead of time by selecting water-resistant materials. Several brands craft waterproof and tear-proof paper that is ideal for origami use. A synthetic material called Tyvek provides the ideal medium for outdoor origami, as it's made of flash-spun polyethylene fibers. You can also use wax paper cut to the appropriate size (found at any grocery store). Fold wax paper into origami party cups that guests will actually be drinking from.
Plasti Dip is typically used to create on-the-fly sturdy rubber tool handles. Dip your origami into a container of this solution (like a carpenter would dip a wooden hammer handle) and you'll end up with a rubber sculpture that can be displayed however and wherever you wish. Do note, though, that Plasti Dip creates a thick coating on the paper, making this a poor choice for projects with fine details. But for abstract outdoor sculptures like a hanging origami crane, Plasti Dip serves its purpose.