How to Make an Origami Paper Crane: Instructions for the Beginner

It is no secret that I adore Japanese culture and traditions, and that’s why learning how to make an origami crane winded up on my bucket list. It is truly fascinating how little tiny pieces of paper can be crafted into beautiful pieces of artwork!

Though this goal may appear simple at first glance, it can actually be pretty dang challenging without some detailed instructions. Luckily, the crane is one of the most popular of the animal shapes and fairly easy to learn, especially with this step-by-step guide. 

How to Make an Origami Paper Crane: Folding Instructions for the Beginner

The Tradition of Origami

It is said that the traditional art of folding paper originated way back during the Heian Period (794-1185) when paper was invented and brought to Japan from China. In the earlier years, due to the high costs of paper, origami was used only for religious purposes. However, it soon began a widespread tradition, yet still reserved for the skilled nobles. Today, origami is a beautiful art form created by people all around the world. 

Legend has it that whoever folds a thousand paper cranes will be granted one wish, so we all need to get started…

Instructions for How to Make an Origami Crane

Step 1: Square Piece of Paper

Start with a square piece of paper, with the printed side face up. In this demonstration, I am using a 6″ square sheet which is one of the standard sizes for origami (3″ and 10″ are also common). 

It’s perfectly okay to use a simple piece of white paper, but you can also buy colorful Japanese origami Washi Style Paper online.

Origami Paper

Step 2: Make Diagonal Folds

  • Fold the paper in half diagonally, corner to corner, so that it forms a triangle.
  • Unfold the piece of paper and there will be a crease down the middle.
  • Repeat the Diagonal Fold in the other direction.
  • Unfold the paper and you should now have creases that look like an “X”

Step 3: Make Rectangle Folds

  • Flip the piece of paper over
  • Fold in half horizontally so it looks like a rectangle
  • Unfold and fold again in half in the other direction, vertically
  • Unfold the paper and you should now have creases that forms a “+” and an “x” 
Origami Rectangle Fold Instructions

Step 4: Accordion Fold

With the colored side down and one corner pointed at you, bring the top point down to meet the bottom one, because of your previous folds the side points will fold nicely into the center. When flattened, it will be your square base.

Step by Step Origami Crane

Step 5: Squash Fold

  • With the open end of your square base at the bottom, fold the left side to meet the center crease. 
  • Repeat this with the right side.
  • Fold the top part down over your last two folds, and crease well.
How to make an origami crane
  • Unfold the last three folds and lift up the top flap of paper and flatten it into a squash fold. 

Step 6: Repeat Squash Fold

  • Flip your paper over and we are going to repeat the same folds above.
guide to making a paper crane
  • Fold the left side and the right side to meet the center crease.
  • Fold the top part down and crease well.
  • Unfold the previous three folds.
  • Lift up the top flap of paper and flatten it into a squash fold.

Step 7: Make Kite Fold

  • Fold the left top flap to the center crease
  • Fold the right top flap to the center crease
  • Turn your origami crane over.
  • Fold the right flap to the central crease
  • Fold the left flap to the central crease, you will now have something that resembles a skinny kite. 

Step 8: Neck, Tail and Head

  • To make the neck of the paper crane, fold the bottom right flap underneath and angled to the right.
  • Repeat the above process with the left flap to make the tail of the origami crane.
  • Unfold the neck and do a reverse fold, pull it out slightly and tuck in-between the wings.
  • Repeat with the tail
  • Pull the head and tail out a little, and do an inside reverse fold to make the head. 
Paper folding art

Step 9: Complete

To complete your crane gently pull out the wings.

Helpful Origami Paper Crane Videos

If your still having trouble with making your crane, these videos will help:

YouTube video

YouTube video

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25 thoughts on “How to Make an Origami Paper Crane: Instructions for the Beginner”

  1. lol, you always make me laugh; thanks! I have a Japanese coworker who does great Origami; including colorful strands of paper cranes.  

  2. What a fantastic thing to have on your bucket list! That makes me smile and ponder what sort of "little" delights I could add to mine. :-) Way to go!!

  3. Haha, I use to make origami cranes and stars. The reason for doing so? I heard a rumor that if you make 1000 of those, your wish will come true….. haha.
    Practice makes perfect ^_^

    • Did your wish come true? I’m going to have to stick to wishing on a falling star & blowing out all the candles on my birthday cakes ;)

  4. Hmm, it does sound like it would be easy… that's disappointing that you can't just run through it in a few minutes.

  5. I have learn origami as one of my 32 Things Before 32. But now I'm a bit concerned, cause I have no hand eye coordination or skill. Guess I better start practicing!

  6. I've attempted to make a crane before as well and it turns out that I freaking suck at origami!  I'll leave that skill to the more patient people.

    • I’m not patient either, that’s probably why this goal was so darn frustrating. I really like instant gratification!

  7. I've seen this on a lot of people's lists and I've considered adding to my list but in the end…I really don't want to! Congrats on completing one and good luck on the next 99!

    • Ha Ha…Thanks! I will not be making anymore cranes, unless someone wants to send me to Japan to learn from an origami master ;)

  8. Not to brag but I just learned how to do origami a few days ago and now i can make cranes in only a few minutes :)  Haha.  No, I'm not japanese either.  once you learn how to do a crane everything else is easier just to let you know.  keep at it and good luck!

  9. I'm currently making 1000 cranes for cancer :) You should read the story of Sadako and the thousand cranes, its a sad story though :(

    • Kudos to you, that is a wonderful thing to do :)
      I’m sure you have perfected the art of making a crane by now. Maybe you could teach me a thing or two ;)

  10. You call a crane freakin' hard? Then the origami I made is legendary!
    I dunno how to upload my lotus, my boat, and my origami people so I'll do it sometime after.

    • Yep. It was certainly hard for me. Would love to see the origami people, sounds amazing.

  11. It just takes a little patience and some practice. You have to concentrate and fold accurately. Don’t give up, I know you can do it.


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Hey Bucket Listers!
I'm Annette.

I’m a goal obsessed mid-lifer, traveler, experience collector, fear crusher, digital marketer and author with big bucket list dreams. Let's Connect!

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