Origami Basics PDF Print E-mail

The most commonly used symbols in origami diagrams

There are hundreds of origami books printed in many different languages, but the symbols used to create the diagrams are almost universally the same. If you understand the basic symbols you can fold models from any instruction book in any language. Know the most commonly used origami symbols and you are on your way to adventures in paper folding!


Origami Basics

Basic Lines
Remember what these 3 lines and 3 arrows mean and you should be able to follow most basic origami diagrams.


_ _ _ _ _ _ An EVEN DOTTED LINE means to VALLEY FOLD

The paper edges go up and the fold goes down, like a valley between to mountain slopes.

Memory Trick
Remember this line as flat and even like a valley.

_ __ _ __ _ __A DOT-DASH LINE means to MOUNTAIN FOLD The paper edges go down and the fold faces up like a mountain.

Memory Trick
Remember this line as uneven like mountain peaks.

___________A SOLID LINE in a diagram is showing a fold that has already been made and is often used as a landmark to fold to.

Basic Arrows

The SINGLE LINE ARROW means to fold in the direction of the arrow and move on to the next step.


The DOUBLE LINE ARROW means to fold in the direction of the line and arrow and then unfold before going to the next step.


The LOOPED ARROW means to turn the model over and work on the back side.

*There are many more origami symbols that are shown in a key at the beginning of books or instruction sheets. If you get stuck, look these symbols up in the key to see what the diagram is asking you to do. These symbols are international and can help you figure out almost any origami diagram, even if it written in a language other than your own.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 August 2010 13:15

What's New!

NEW! Peaceful Wave Brush

News image

Yasutomo is proud to present a new Sumi-e artist brush made by the best brush makers in Japan. The Peaceful Wave brush bears the Kumano Fude quality label and serial ...

Karen Elaine | Oct 21, 2016


More in: What's New!


Get Inspired!