When you are new to the art of paper folding, all of the different origami terms you encounter can seem very confusing. However, there are just three basic folds you need to learn to begin folding simple origami models.
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The most basic of all origami folds is the valley fold. The valley fold gets its name because it makes the paper sink down like a river valley.
In a traditional origami diagram, a valley fold is indicated with dashed lines.
To make a valley fold, simply fold part of the paper towards you and crease along the dashed line.
Sometimes, you are asked to fold and unfold the paper after you make a valley fold. This is called precreasing. When you make a precrease, you are setting the stage for later steps in the diagram. Precreases are made at the beginning of the process because it would be too difficult to put them into place accurately at a later time.
In the photo to the left, you can see several valley folds made to begin an origami box.
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The mountain fold is essentially a valley fold in reverse. A mountain fold gets its name because it makes the paper rise up like a mountain.
In traditional origami diagrams, a mountain fold is indicated by a line made of dashes and dots. Sometimes, there will also be an arrow that indicates the folding direction.
To make a mountain fold, fold part of the paper away from you and then crease along the line. You can do this by holding the paper in the air and folding it. However, it is easier to turn the paper over, fold a valley fold, and then turn the paper back to the original position.
As with a valley fold, you are sometimes asked to fold and unfold the paper to create a precrease that will be used later on in the process of completing a particular model.
In the photo to the left, notice how the creases that form a cross appear to rise up from the paper. These creases are the mountain folds.
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After mastering the valley fold and the mountain fold, the beginning origami enthusiast needs to understand how to make a squash fold.
The squash fold is essentially a neat way of "squashing" your paper into position. It is a compound fold that is a combination of creases that are more or less performed simultaneously. After precreasing the model, you collapse it into the shape that is shown in the next photo or diagram in the instructions you are following. Two layers of paper are opened up from a central point.
It is very important to look at your specific design instructions to get a feel for the correct placement of the paper during a squash fold. Some, but not all, squash folds are symmetrical. Making a squash fold that is symmetrical when it is supposed to be off towards the left side of the model will through off all of the other steps in your project.
Once you know how to make a squash fold, you can create a variety of origami models, ranging from flowers to animals. The origami organ base shown in the photo to the left is also made with a squash fold. Bases are important to know because they are the foundation for making more complex origami models.