Guide to Basic Origami Symbols

Written by RussellDiagrams, Instructions


Basic Origami Symbols

To have another language is to have a second soul

Basic Origami Symbols

Below are the basic origami symbols used in diagrams throughout this site.  These symbols, or origami expressions, are based upon those developed by Akira Yoshizawa (he designed this origami butterfly and many more) and modern internationally recognised conventions.  These are the ‘language’ of origami.  In order to be able to fold from diagrams, you need to be familiar them.

In 1991 Robert Lang published an excellent series of articles on diagramming conventions for the Friends of the Origami Center of America (now OrigamiUSA) recommending a standard set of origami symbols.  This would update the symbols originally devised by Akira Yoshizawa to account for modern folding and diagramming techniques, and reduce the number of variations that had arisen. Lang’s articles have since been published on his website here

The basic origami symbols used on this site largely conform to Lang’s recommendations.  The table below shows some of the common origami symbols and their meanings.

Valley foldSymbol for a valley fold
Mountain foldMountain fold symbol
Fold in this directionSymbol for fold in this direction
Fold behindSymbol for fold behind
Fold and unfoldSymbol for fold and unfold
Crease made in a previous stepSymbol for a crease made in a previous step
Crease hidden between the layers of paperSymbol for a crease hidden between layers of paper
Push hereSymbol for push here
Pull paper out from hereSymbol for pull paper out from here
Turn the paper overSymbol for turn the model over
Rotate the paper clockwise by the indicated amountSymbol for rotate the model clockwise by the indicated amount
Rotate the paper counter-clockwise by the indicated amountSymbol for rotate the model counter-clockwise by the indicated amount
Inside reverse foldReverse fold symbol
Outside reverse foldOutside reverse fold
Fold a rabbit earSymbol for a rabbit ear
Squash foldSquash fold diagram
Sink hereSymbol for sink
PleatSymbol for pleat
CrimpSymbol for crimp
Repeat the indicated steps on the flap shownSymbol for repeat
Hold hereSymbol for hold here

Learn How to Read Origami Diagrams

You need to be able to understand the basic symbols in order to fold from a diagram.  If you want to learn more, I go into more detail in my book, Origami Made Simple.

origami made simple book by russell wood

Get Origami Made Simple in the US here.

Get Origami Made Simple in the UK here.

Get Involved

I’d love to hear your views on these origami symbols.  Are they familiar or new for you? Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below, or you find can me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Check out my Pinterest boards too!


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About the Author


Russell has been folding origami since he was 8 years old and has recently written the book, Origami Made Simple. He is on the Council for the British Origami Society and a member of OrigamiUSA. When he is not folding, he enjoys photography and traveling.

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