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The folding of an origami model often begins with a base. A base is a simple abstract shape, folded from a square piece of paper, from which many models can be developed. There are several traditional bases in the art of origami. Each one contains a number of flaps that can be folded to represent the features of an animal such as a head, wings, legs, etc. The flaps are what give each base the potential to be manipulated into a limitless number of models.
The most important of the origami bases are the preliminary base, the fish base, the bird base, and the frog base. The preliminary base contains four flaps around a central axis. Each flap is triangular in shape and contains a right angle. The preliminary base is used to construct other bases, including the bird base and the frog base, as well as many models. The fish, bird, and frog bases get their names from the most popular of the models to be folded from them. The fish base has two flaps, the bird base four flaps, and the frog base five flaps. Most of the established, well known models such as the crane, the frog, and the carp are folded from these three bases.
Other important bases include the kite base, the waterbomb base, the diamond base, the windmill base, and the blintz base. Most origami books contain instructions and diagrams for folding all the various bases.

Once you have folded one of the traditional origami bases you can then manipulate the base and shape it into a model using a variety of folding techniques. In origami diagrams the various folding techniques are indicated by symbols or groups of symbols, illustrated here with their meanings. Click on the text links to view a more detailed description of the technique, including pairs of illustrations showing some of the important folding techniques and the combinations of symbols that are used to represent them. The first illustration in each pair shows a piece of paper, either flat or partially folded, with the symbols indicating the folding technique to be performed. The second illustration shows what the paper looks like after the technique has been performed.
Valley FoldMountain Fold
Crease Lineorigami diagramX-ray/Guide Lineorigami diagram
Fold in this Directionorigami diagramFold Behindorigami diagram
Fold and Unfoldorigami diagramTurn the model overorigami diagram
Sink FoldSpace between Paperorigami diagram

Your chances of folding a model successfully are better if you follow these guidelines:
  • Make your creases neat and accurate.
  • It is best to fold against a hard flat surface like a tabletop. This makes it easier to make sharp neat creases.
  • When folding from a diagram, make sure to read the text that accompanies each step. The text often contains information that is crucial for the successful completion of that step.
  • A paperfolder working from a diagram should always look ahead to the next step to see what the results of the current step should look like.

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