Introduction: Interactive Origami Sculpture

This project began when my brother sent me a link with the accompanied message, "your next task." Intrigued, I clicked on said link and was instantly captivated.

Challenge accepted, brother.

The design was inspired by a birthday present I made a while back for a friend. It involved moving cubes made from sonobe units, and I felt sure that the concept could be carried over. As you can clearly tell, the concept did work, although my version is not nearly as streamlined and precise; the light weight of my paper blocks prevents the blocks from falling nicely into neat rows or collapsing into neat shapes. Anyhow, I finished and am quite content with the result.

See below for a video of the transformations.

Step 1: Materials

  • origami paper
  • glue

Step 2: Folding Units

I used sonobe units, and they're fairly simple to make. Instructions:

  1. Grab a square piece of origami paper. I used 1.5" squares because I didn't have enough 3" squares so I divided each square into 4.
  2. Make a crease by folding it in half.
  3. Fold the two sides to that center crease.
  4. Unfold the top flap and fold the bottom left corner to the line of the bottom flap.
  5. Then undo the previous fold before folding the top flap back down.
  6. Rotate the paper 180 degrees and repeat step 4 (not 5 too).
  7. Then, with the bottom left corner folded up, fold the top flap down over it.
  8. Then fold down the top right corner (you should see the crease from step 4).
  9. Fold the two small triangles on the top left and the bottom right down to get a parallelogram shape.
  10. Flip the paper over.
  11. Fold the sharp corners to their respective obtuse angle corners as shown in the 14th and 15th pictures.

And that's one unit!

You'll need 240 units total. (2 layers of boxes, 4x5 boxes per layer, 6 units per box) I wanted to create an ombré effect so I used 4 shades of blue, and each shade was one row (5 boxes) in each layer of boxes. Thus, I folded 60 units of each color.

Don't be discouraged by the amount of units! It's actually a relatively small amount compared to the amount required for some other projects... (search "3D modular origami" to see what I mean -- 1080 unit swans and whatnot). It took me about 4 hours because I folded them during a track meet while waiting for my events. You get into a rhythm over time, and I was surprised about how fast it took compared to the amount of origami squares I had.

Step 3: Planning

After completing the 240 units (Congrats so far!), you'll be putting together cubes' faces and then connecting them. See the gif again for the arrangement of cubes.

Step 4: Creating Cubes With Flaps

This sequence of pictures is just to show you how to insert flaps and ignore others that will be used in connecting cubes. I actually created this depicted cube incorrectly; one flap is missing. *sheepish shrug*

See the first picture of step 9 for the corrected cube.

Step 5: Cube #2

The first image is the shape of the cube, complete with flaps, that comes next in the first row. MAKE SURE THE FLAP'S ORIENTATION IS CORRECT.

To connect cubes, see the images above.

Step 6: Cube #3

See the pictures for where the flaps are for the next cube. It's the same as the previous one.

Step 7: Cube #4

See the pictures for where the flaps are for the next cube. It requires only two flaps, but I did one of the flaps incorrectly; see the fourth image for the correct flap on the right.

Step 8: Cube #5

The last cube of the row is shown above. It requires two flaps also, but the flap orientation is different from the previous one.

Step 9: Next Color: Cube #1 and 2

For your next color (or next row if you have different coloring plans), make the two cubes with the flap orientations as shown above. Then connect them.

Step 10: Cube #3

The next box's flap orientation is shown above. It has three flaps, and one is "flat." (see picture for what I mean)

Step 11: Cube #4

The next box has three flaps as before, and there is one "flat" flap again.

Step 12: Cube #5

Next box has three flaps, none of which are "flat."

Step 13: Connecting Rows

To connect the rows, start by applying glue on all the flaps in between the rows. Then slowly insert the flaps in the corresponding pockets, remembering that the little triangular flaps from the last step of making each unit will face each other.

Step 14: Next Row: Cube #1

Next color! WHOOOO -- but lots more cubes to make.

The next box has three flaps; it's actually the same as the first box from the previous row. The second box has three flaps, and it's like the third box of the previous row, with one "flat flap."

Step 15: Cube #3

The next cube has three flaps, one being a "flat flap." It's like Cube #4 of the previous row.

Step 16: Cube #4

The next one has four flaps, and none are flat.

Step 17: Cube #5

Last cube of the row! It has three flaps, none of which are flat.

Step 18: Connecting Rows

Connect the rows using the same method as before.

After waiting for the glue to fully dry, you can try moving the cubes around now to test the connection and add glue wherever necessary.

Step 19: Last Row: Cube #1

The first and second cubes of the last row both have two flaps, and one of the pairs is a "flat flap."

Step 20: Cube #3

The next cube has three flaps, none of which is flat.

Step 21: Cube #4

Next cube has three flaps, and it's the same as the previous one.

Step 22: Cube #5

LAST CUBE OF THIS LAYER: it has three flaps, and one is flat.

Step 23: Connecting Rows

Connect the last row with the method used previously.


Step 24: Touching Up

Some joints of the origami may not be very secure. You can fix the looseness by using a brush to apply glue between the folds. You want the paper to be as secure as possible to handle the movements.

Step 25: Next Layer: Cube #1 and 2

For your next layer, make the two cubes with the flap orientations as shown above. Then connect them.

Step 26: Cube #3

The next cube has three flaps, none of which is flat. Create and connect as usual.

Step 27: Cube #4

The next cube has two flaps, and one of them is flat.

Step 28: Cube #5

Next cube has two flaps, and one is flat. First row of the second layer done!

Step 29: Next Row: Cube #1

Cube #1 has three flaps, and the second cube has four.

Step 30: Cube #3

The next cube has three flaps, and one is flat.

Step 31: Cube #4

The next cube has three flaps, one of which is flat.

Step 32: Cube #5

Last cube of the row! It has three flaps, none of which is flat.

Step 33: Connecting Rows

Connect the rows as from before.

Step 34: Next Row: Cube #1 and 2

NEW ROW -- LEVEL UP. The next cubes have three flaps, but the second one has one flat flap.

Step 35: Cube #3

The third cube has three flaps, one of which is flat, too.

Step 36: Cube #4

The fourth cube has four flaps, none of which are flat.

Step 37: Cube #5

The last cube in this row has three flaps, none of which is flat.


Step 38: Connecting Rows

Connect the rows as shown before.

Step 39: LAST ROW: Cube #1 and 2

Both of the next two cubes have two flaps, one of which is flat.

Step 40: Cube #3

The third cube has (fittingly...) three flaps, none of which are flat.

Step 41: Cube #4

The fourth cube is basically a repeat of cube #3.

Step 42: LAST CUBE: Cube #5

The last and final cube has three flaps, one of which is flat.

Step 43: Connecting Rows

Connect the rows as done before.

Step 44: Connecting Layers

To connect the layers, line up the four extra flaps as shown above and connect them like you would connect regular boxes.

Step 45: Tranforming

YOU ARE FINALLY FINISHED! Pat yourself in the back and grab a cookie reward -- you've earned it!

Enjoy the lovely pictures above depicting the sequence of transformation. :3


Origamiwolfe (author)2015-05-06

Omg 240 units I am going to die

watchmeflyy (author)Origamiwolfe2015-06-04

This is indeed a hard project, but perservere! It gets easier as you get the hang of it; 240 units pass by fairly quickly when you're watching your favorite TV show or something.

Origamiwolfe (author)watchmeflyy2015-10-18

I'm finally starting on it
Do NOT make the squares into .75 inch squares
You will be frustrated and your mom will tell you to have a timeout from it


try working with squares made from A7 paper at the minimum. That is the smallest I work with. Been using A7 for 3-4 years now, and it works wonders. Each sonobe cube should stand about an inch tall when you're done.


Also I'm 11

LiveCrafts (author)Origamiwolfe2015-11-29

Me too. I'm working on it.


Years old

watchmeflyy (author)Origamiwolfe2015-11-29

Haha yes, starting with small units will be very annoying and difficult. Props to you for trying it!

xfish (author)Origamiwolfe2015-11-09

its actually not that bad. just do it watching tv or something

EmilyW25 (author)2015-11-16

Okay, im super excited about this project, and i have already made most of the pieces, but im having trouble figuring out which tabs should stick out of the cubes to connect with the others, if that makes sense.

watchmeflyy (author)EmilyW252015-11-29

Hello; I addressed that problem in lazileven's comment below. Check that out, and hope it helps!

JessicaM29 made it! (author)2015-07-18

It took a lot of time, a lot of paper and a lot of folding but I did it!

watchmeflyy (author)JessicaM292015-11-29

Wha-- great job! Lovely color combinations; looks great!

lazilevin (author)2015-06-28

I cannot understand how to connect the units please help

watchmeflyy (author)lazilevin2015-07-12

Hello! Perhaps this video will help?

It's mainly slipping the triangular flaps into the little triangular pockets along the sides of the cube. Hope this helps!

lazilevin (author)watchmeflyy2015-07-13

I understand how to make a basic cube with sonobe units but now how to leave flaps open and what t o connect instead etc

watchmeflyy (author)lazilevin2015-11-29

Hmm.. my best advice is to place two cubes side by side (fully made, no glue) and pull flaps out to try connecting them. If it doesn't work, just push the flap back in its pocket and try another tab; try different combinations until you've got it. Hope this helps!

LiveCrafts (author)2015-05-10

Folding the cube.

I need clearer pictures....maybe with a color other than white....

watchmeflyy (author)LiveCrafts2015-11-29

So sorry, but I don't have the time to remake this tutorial with other colors. :( I do see your point though, and will keep that in mind in the future. You could try looking up tutorials for just the sonobe cube if that might help?

Pcohie (author)2015-07-07

And here I am having ABSOLUTELY no idea how to fold the cubes correctly because of the way the tutorial looks... And i have all of the cubes, WRONGLY FOLDED... -.-

watchmeflyy (author)Pcohie2015-07-12

What step are you referring to in "here"? Ahh.. I'm sorry that this is difficult. :( Practice really helps though; my first few cubes were incorrect as well. If you want an easier yet similar project to help practice, try this:

Hope this helps!

PinkBandar (author)2015-05-15

Looks Hard!

watchmeflyy (author)PinkBandar2015-06-04

It can be difficult, but I promise it's worth a shot! I'd say it's easier than it looks...

LiveCrafts (author)2015-05-10

Woah, is this second cube the same cube at a different angle.....or what??

watchmeflyy (author)LiveCrafts2015-06-04

Hello! Not sure which cube you're referring to, but yes, some cubes are the same but in a different angle because of the different cubes they need to connect to.

LiveCrafts (author)2015-04-27


watchmeflyy (author)LiveCrafts2015-05-31

Thanks! :3

mobiansstech (author)2014-05-19

many many Congratulatiosn friends :)

watchmeflyy (author)mobiansstech2014-07-18

Thank you for your comment! ^^

Origamiwolfe (author)watchmeflyy2015-05-09

this is hard!

Origamiwolfe (author)watchmeflyy2015-05-06

I am an origami master but I think that this is a hard task

stella.lago.98 made it! (author)2015-04-24

Figured it out lol took me a minute but I did it!


OH GOD GOOD JOB! It looks absolutely gorgeous! I'm so glad you got around to solving your problem yourself; I was going to type up a longwinded response but didn't have time :/ . Again, looks great!

P.S. Check your inbox; I left you a little gift. ;)

sue0622 (author)2015-04-14

oh my gosh... 240.. ill try it..

watchmeflyy (author)sue06222015-04-24

240 units passes by much quicker than you'd think. ;)

stella.lago.98 (author)2015-04-22

The part where I am having an issue is making the cube with three flaps in the right orientation....with the missing flap and the mess up in the picture steps I am down right confused and it isnt working at all ...can you upload a video on how to instruct just one cube on youtube and link it to here please please, I made all the units but can not get the cubes right!

CookieI (author)2015-02-02


watchmeflyy (author)CookieI2015-02-03

AHHH what doesn't work? Perhaps your orientation is incorrect (see my caps lock message above); the pictures should provide a pretty good idea of what your connection should look like. If what you have isn't connecting, try rotating and attempting to connect until it works. If this isn't your problem, could you provide pictures and a more clear description of what's troubling you?

CookieI (author)2015-02-01

well now i do not know how to connect this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i am trying this now

CookieI (author)2015-01-30


watchmeflyy (author)CookieI2015-01-30

Ah, indeed this can be tricky. Anything in particular that I may be able help you with?

Mr AbAk (author)2015-01-13

Nice Documentation and idea

watchmeflyy (author)Mr AbAk2015-01-13

Thank you! Indeed; taking all these pictures and providing accompanying instructions for each (they all look alike after a while...) took quite some time.

Florama (author)2014-10-23

Thank you so much for your instructions! I made it with bigger square pieces (I don't think I can manage such small pieces the way you did!) and will be giving it to a good friend as a birthday present. Thanks again!

watchmeflyy (author)Florama2014-10-24

Yay no problem! Glad to hear this. :3

lmagpili (author)2014-10-17

I made it, but out of LEGO,

this was super fun!

watchmeflyy (author)lmagpili2014-10-17

WOW! It looks awesome; great job!

shazni (author)2014-04-08

I was right! congratulations on winning the Grand Prize! ( I told you so :-))

watchmeflyy (author)shazni2014-04-08

Thank you, Shazni! Congratulations on your win for the Pi Day Contest!

emilyvanleemput (author)2014-04-02

Congrats on winning grand prize!