The Origami Lion King?


Seth Friedman's Lion "The Origami Lion King?"

Ah yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it
Rafiki, The Lion King

About the Origami Lion

Sometimes I try to feature origami relevant to what’s going on in the world at a particular time, such as my model of the Olympic Rings. Other times I’ll write about a design that’s relevant to a date in the calendar, like I did for Halloween or Bonfire Night. That’s not the case this time. There is no special reason for this week’s model. So why have I chosen it? Because I absolutely love it! Just look at the detail! This is Seth Friedman’s absolutely gorgeous origami Lion model.

One of the trends in modern origami design is for animal models to have what’s known as a ‘closed back’. In other words, for all the folds that create the flaps for legs, tails, horns etc to be hidden underneath and the body to appear as a single unbroken piece. This adds to the realism but it is quite difficult to achieve.

Seth Friedman’s Lion does not have a closed back and you can see the raw edges and the fold lines along the body and tail of the model. I don’t think this detracts from the model though, Seth has clearly focused on the Lion’s head and mane and this attention has really paid off.  It’s a stunning design.

Folding the Origami Lion

This isn’t going to come as any great surprise:  it’s an advanced model. This level of detail doesn’t come by accident.  It takes careful, painstaking design and skill to create something like this in the first place, and folding accuracy and experience to recreate it.

It also takes time. Allow upwards of an hour and a half to fold this model, and more than one attempt before you create a model you are happy with.  The one in the picture is the fourth time I have folded this origami Lion.

Seth’s tutorial shows how to fold the Lion with a closed mouth. I decided to leave the mouth open and tip the head back a bit to make it look like he’s roaring, although the head angle doesn’t show in the picture.

If you decide to give this model a go, give some serious thought to paper choice. Seth Friedman recommends a sheet of Arches watercolour paper, at least 50cm x 50cm (20in x 20in). All I can say is that he’s a better folder than I am! I tried this paper a couple of times. While I can see the attraction, this paper didn’t work for me with this model.

My personal preference (and the paper used in the picture above) is Elephant Hide paper. It is forgiving enough to fold well, strong enough to hold the creases the model needs, and not so thick that ‘paper creep’ becomes a problem when folding. It’s also good for wet-folding the finishing and shaping folds.

I agree with his paper size recommendations. You need a reasonably large sheet of paper for this model otherwise the head will be very difficult to shape correctly. Too large and the final model will collapse under its own weight.  The paper I used was 60cm x 60cm (24in x 24in). This produces a final model that is 27cm (10.5in) long from nose to tail, and 13cm (5in) tall.

Origami Lion Instructions

Seth Friedman has produced a video tutorial showing how to fold this model. The quality of the video is very good, but you do have to follow very carefully to make sure you keep the paper oriented the right way round during the precreasing stage.

Good luck folding this design. As they say in the Lion King – hakuna matata!

Get Involved

I’d love to hear your views on this origami lion. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below, or you find can me on Instagram 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.

  • Thanks for reviewing this model. By the way I didn’t recommend using 20-inch watercolor paper :). If you want to use watercolor paper it needs to be full size, about 40″ (100cm)

    However for paper that has 100gsm about 24″ should be good.

    • Hi Seth,

      Thanks for commenting. That will be why I couldn’t fold it out of that paper! I appreciate the paper recommendations.

      I’m planning on reviewing some more of your designs in the coming weeks.

    • Hi Myfolds,

      Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you like it!

      Probably not 30 years no! It’s not easy though. Looking at your site, you
      ‘re doing the right thing in learning the traditional stuff first. As you’re folding, keep focusing on accuracy – this will stand you in good stead as you move on to harder designs. You’ll get there though, and there are some really interesting simple and intermediate models to fold along the way! Have a look at Paula Versnick’s Two-fold Santa, and Eric Joisel’s Rat as examples.

      Good luck with it.

  • Wow! That’s impressive! I’m looking forward to seeing more of your work at Creatively Crafty #ccbg Thanks for sharing with us and have a great week 🙂

    • Hi Lydia,

      Thanks for the comment – I’m glad you like it. Yes, there will be more from me over at Creatively Crafty. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the things you and other people do as well – there’s some interesting posts there!

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