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How to Color Paper for Origami and Other Paper Crafts

How to Color Paper for Origami and Other Paper Crafts post image

When people become interested in origami they often ask what kind of paper is best to use. The short answer is that we can use any kind of paper including inexpensive recycled papers, and more expensive and unique handmade artistic papers.

The longer answer is that choosing a paper for origami depends on the kind of model being folded and the effect we want to create with a particular model. To do this properly we must be willing to experiment and try different paper types for a given model.

Office or copy paper can be a good choice for starters. With this type of paper we can fold a variety of models that are simple to intermediate in level. Complex models with many layers of folded paper require paper that is both thin and strong.

In this video I will teach one of my techniques for coloring paper which will expand your range of possible paper choices. The process is shown through the coloring   paper for four specific models. My demonstrations will be done with common office paper, but these techniques can be applied to fine papers as well.


  • Office paper
  • Oil pastels (artist-quality brand)
  • Turpentine or Mineral Spirits (odorless, if possible)
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs

The following are models featured in the paper-coloring video. Under each picture below you’ll find a link directing you to a video tutorial on how to fold  each model.


Origami Butterfly Designer: Evi Binzinger – Video tutorial: Leyla Torres

Click here to see Butterfly Video Instructions

. . . . . . . . . . .


Origami Carambola Designer: Carmen Sprung – Video tutorial: Sara Adams

Click here to see Carambola video instructions

. . . . . . . . . . .


Kusudama of Carambolas  Video tutorial: Leyla Torres

Click here to see kusudama video instructions

. . . . . . . . . . .


Origami Rose Designer: Evi Binzinger – Video tutorial: Tadashi Mori

Click here to see rose video instructions

. . . . . . . . . . .


Straw Star Popular Design – Video tutorial: Jo Nakashima

Click here to see star video instructions

. . . . . . . . . . .

{ 39 comments… add one }
  • Skye Loyd May 13, 2017, 1:07 am

    Baby oil softens oil pastels.

  • Hevn December 23, 2016, 10:44 pm

    Is there any possible replacements for turpentine or mineral spirits?

    • Leyla Torres December 27, 2016, 11:32 am

      I don’t know of a replacement. If I come across with some idea I’l post it!

    • Sofia December 30, 2016, 7:09 pm

      Hi there!
      I didn’t have turpentine so I used acetone/polish remover, just a tiny bit. I think it did a pretty good job but of course it doesn’t “mix” the colors as good as turpentine :) (Although I never used turpentine so I just compared my results to the video)
      Also a plus is that it dries very quickly!

      • Leyla Torres January 5, 2017, 12:13 pm

        Thank you for sharing, Sofia. I would rather not use acetone ;-)

  • Tracy October 21, 2016, 5:45 am

    Thank you so very much for this! I gave into my inner artist when I became disabled. I LOVE playing with colors and different mediums!!! And this is definitely a fun one! Thank you again for sharing your talent with us. I’m looking forward to all the things I get to make!

    • Leyla Torres November 1, 2016, 3:02 pm

      You are very welcome, Tracy. Thank you for writing!

  • DaDerpgDucklingk May 1, 2016, 3:52 pm

    Does crayons and water work?

    • Leyla Torres May 2, 2016, 10:33 am

      Water does not dissolve waxy or oily crayons. Water will work with watercolor pastels :-)

  • Amy January 5, 2015, 11:40 am

    Where can I get the pad or roll of office paper you show in the video?
    I went to Michael’s (I’m in Canada) and I can’t find turpentine or mineral spirits, where can I buy them? Or is there any alternative?

    • Leyla Torres January 5, 2015, 11:52 am

      Hi Amy,
      The paper used in the video is plane letter size paper, not a roll.
      Turpentine or mineral spirits can be found in a store that supplies to fine artists. You might want to try asking for it in a hardware store.

  • Edna Siu December 16, 2014, 7:06 pm

    Leyla, thanks for the great tips of the paper and the coloring, that really helps the origami-beginners or less wealthy people who couldn’t otherwise afford to buy origami paper to experiment the goodness of paperfolding. Thanks again, Leyla.

  • Steve November 21, 2014, 4:08 pm

    This is a cool technique but I am having trouble with the darker colors. I seem to have to go over them several times to get them to stay dark. Often times the seem to disappear. Maybe it’s the quality of the pastels that I bought. Or maybe turpentine (which you use) works differently then the mineral spirits I got. And the cotton balls and the q-tip just want to fall apart. Practice, practice.

    • Leyla Torres November 21, 2014, 9:26 pm

      Hi Steve,

      try different types of paper too. Mineral Spirits work in the same way as turpentine. I would look into trying different pastels as well. But yes, practice and experimentation will yield satisfaction. Persevere!

  • evi binzinger October 5, 2014, 7:49 am

    dear leyla,
    thank you very much for your lovely video tutorials!

    • Leyla Torres October 6, 2014, 10:05 am

      Hi Evi, no better model than one of your butterflies to show this technique.
      Thank you Evi!

  • Layla September 22, 2014, 5:31 pm

    Leyla gracias por compartir esta técnica, los acabados son bellos

  • angelicaresende September 21, 2014, 8:40 am

    Bom Dia,cada vez me surpreende com ideias maravihosas.Tenho a sorte de vivenciar tudo isso.obrigada…

  • Elsa Lucia Cabrera September 20, 2014, 11:06 pm

    Leyla, WOW!, this is a super hit video!!! I have never used turpentine, I have done just the cotton part. I will experiment wit it.THANKS.

    Elsa Lucia

  • emilia September 20, 2014, 7:37 pm

    leyla es maravillosa la técnica de colorear el papel. gracias, siempre dándonos a tus seguidores todos los secretos de este arte. hago origami cuando me siento nerviosa, me aplaca.y luego me engancho y veo tus videos y se me van los problemas.
    hasta pronto emy

    • Leyla Torres October 6, 2014, 10:04 am

      Hola Emilia,
      Para mi también el origami es una manera de sentirme en calma y traer paz.

  • Toni September 20, 2014, 7:27 pm

    I love your videos. I can but repeat this sentence. This one is so wonderful that I would like to begin to colour paper right awas. But it is 1 o’ clock in the morning! Thank you Leyla! Thank you very much!

    • Leyla Torres September 20, 2014, 7:39 pm

      You are welcome Toni. I hope you are having a good night to sleep and dreaming of all the creative things we can make. The morning will bring you a new beginning and the potential of the white canvas.

  • Donna Walcavage September 20, 2014, 7:08 pm

    Wow, Leyla. What a great tutorial–everything I wanted to know and I am thrilled to have it dedicated to me! Now I can’t wait to go out and get my oil pastels….thank you so much.

    • Leyla Torres September 20, 2014, 7:30 pm

      Hi Donna, I’m happy you find it useful. I had been wanting to make this for a long time, but our conversation at the OUSA convention gave me the motivation to really make it. I look forward to seeing what you make with it. Thank you for your support!

  • Barbara Berret September 20, 2014, 4:01 pm

    Thank you for sharing your artistic talent with color and technique. I am thrilled to see how to personalize paper for origami models…to give them life! Your generosity inspires me and expands my ability to enjoy this craft that I am just beginning to learn.

    • Leyla Torres September 20, 2014, 7:37 pm

      Experimenting is the key, Barbara. Give yourself time and freedom to do it!

  • Macar Centenaro September 20, 2014, 3:22 pm

    Bello Todo!!! tan didáctico y claro!!! nuevamente gracias!!!!

  • michal September 20, 2014, 1:39 pm

    leyla, amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Macar Centenaro September 20, 2014, 3:05 pm

      Leyla, como siempre, nos tenés acostumbrados a tu generosidad, propia de alguien que sabe lo que quiere, es persona feliz y comprende que el único conocimiento que crece es el que se comparte. Gracias!!! Macar

      • Leyla Torres September 20, 2014, 7:36 pm

        Gracias Macar, por tus cálidas palabras. Me alegra que te haya gustado.

  • Rosemary Browne September 20, 2014, 12:18 pm

    Superb tutorial, Leyla. Gold star. You have answered many of the questions I have so often asked myself regarding the coloring of papers, and which media to use. Thank you for bringing this informative and splendidly done, as always, tutorial to all of us.

    Best to you always,

    • Leyla Torres September 20, 2014, 7:34 pm

      Thank you Rosemary. This has been in my thoughts for a couple of years, and it took quite a bit of work, but I very much enjoyed putting it together. I LOVE color and was looking forward to sharing it. Than you for your support!

  • Becky September 20, 2014, 11:13 am

    Have you ever tried doing this with Neocolor II Aquarelle crayons? They are an artist quality watercolor crayon. After water has been applied, they can be set permanently by ironing them. I have done this on fabric also and it sets so well you can machine wash it.

    • Leyla Torres September 20, 2014, 7:24 pm

      Hi Becky, the pastels I use in the video are Neocolor 1 Wax oil. I do have Neocolor Aquarelle II, but haven’t tried ironing after applying them.
      I’ll have to experiment. Than you for the idea!

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