Three Origami Books That Can Take You From Beginner to Advanced

People often look at complex origami models and wonder when or if they’ll ever learn the skills needed to fold origami at that level. Some people around me have been folding for many years, yet still shy away from more advanced models. Assuming that the reason why they haven’t folded more advanced models is due to perceived lack of skill rather than lack of desire, I argue that it is possible for anyone to learn and grow into it, provided that they have the right instruction, resources, and practice. In a future post, I’ll cover some tips and practices you can use while folding simpler models to prepare you for more advanced origami projects in the future.

When I first began folding origami, I learned by folding from a few books that contained models at various difficulty levels. By starting simple, then challenging myself by folding every model in the book, I quickly advanced. For this post, I’ll direct you to a few books that I’ve used, either to advance in my own origami journey when I was a beginner, or to assist beginners at origami events. In an age where origami instruction is increasingly presented through video tutorials, it is important to still learn how to draw and read origami instructions on paper using standard diagramming conventions. Most origami models are only documented by crease patterns or paper diagrams, and once you start designing models, yours probably will be as well.

1. Teach Yourself Origami by John Montroll

John Montroll’s origami books were a starting point for me and many other creators in my generation due to their selection of models ranging from simple to complex. I use this book in particular to teach beginners at origami events. This book lays out sections covering specific kinds of folds and applications to various origami models. For example, the beginner folder can learn about valley folds and mountain folds and then fold models that use only those, such as the cup or the house. Then they can move on to more complex folds like squash-folds and reverse-folds and learn a set of models that use those, such as the peacock and parakeet. Only then does the book direct the folder to models that use traditional bases, such as the crane and frog.

2. The Complete Book of Origami by Robert J. Lang

This book also progresses from simple to advanced folds and models. However, there is less guidance for those who have not folded at all before reading this book. That being said, the main strengths of this book are in presenting models that stretch the limits of what is possible in origami. Not only are there animal models, there are also three-dimensional geometric shapes, vehicles, and multi-subject action models. By multi-subject, I mean that it is one origami model that represents multiple subjects, such as a pianist playing a grand piano. In the process, the folder would learn new techniques, such as using non-traditional paper shapes, unusual subdivisions, three-dimensional folds, and composition of a smaller base within a larger model, all while getting more solid practice on traditional bases and the basic folds.

3. Creating Origami by J.C. Nolan

In addition to describing origami folding techniques and providing practice for folds from simple to complex, this book provides plenty of practice for solidifying one’s understanding. The book also describes other aspects of origami besides folding instructions, such as paper construction and paper manipulation techniques, design techniques, and the thought processes behind the creation of some of the author’s most notable works. In terms of learning how to fold from diagrams, I recommend that the folder start at the “Notation” and “Techniques” sections and fold every instruction within them. Then the folder can use those skills to fold a wide variety of origami models from simple to complex throughout the rest of the book.


Jonathan Hirschberg is an origami creator based in California, USA, and has been folding origami for over 25 years. He focuses on creating complex and super complex representational origami models of animals, vehicles, fantasy characters, and more. His works have been published in convention books for Origami USA, Tanteidan, and others. He has also taught origami at local events and conventions.

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