Introduction: Decorative Origami Gift Box: Part 1, the Box

About: I'm a recently retired Emergency Nurse with a life-long love of art. Now that I'm retired, I have time to follow my passion in art. I love a little of everything and normally work with mixed medium, but I'm …

I have an event for which I will make refrigerator magnets as a give-away and wanted a nifty box to put them in. I looked in the stores and the price for even small boxes is crazy and the cheapest ones are really plain. That's not my style.

I happened to be in one of my favorite art supply stores (mostly scrapbooking, though I don't scrapbook) that offers a "pay to play" every first and third Friday of the month. On the day before the Friday I started making these, a lovely woman named Sharon brought a lovely origami box that was just what I was looking for. So, I made them myself the next evening out of pretty simple and readily available supplies... and some hands-on teaching by Sharon. I haven't folded paper since my son was 3 and before that, in grade school.

To fold the box and the top will take you all of 30 minutes the first time, 15 minutes once you get the hang of it. I had to have 9 and all together it took me about an hour and half and that's because I was being careful with my folds.

Thanks to Sharon, who taught me to make this box!

Also, thanks to Christy Wood, owner of Runaway Arts and Crafts in Salem Oregon for providing a great learning environment ... and the use of all her thousands of dollars (quite literally) of stuff during the pay to play night!

NOTE: I checked around Instructables to make sure that I wasn't going to load a duplicate and this isn't, but it IS a variation of the Origami Easter Basket done by origamite that can be seen here Origami Easter Basket Tutorial.

This video is worth watching if you're new (like me) to origami because he has a video that you can watch. For some, that's easier to understand than pictures with written directions. There are a few differences, but not many, so be sure to read the directions as well. The flap and pocket folds are a bit different.

Step 1: This Tutorial Is for the BOX ...

This particular Instructable will be for the folding of the box only as the decorating part is enough for another ... so I made one:

Decorative Origami Gift Box: Part II, Adding Bling.

You're welcome to stop at the folding part because from there you can do whatever you like to finish it!

Please forgive the state of the ends of my fingers and nails. I was working on another project and they're stained with alcohol ink. I promise, my hands are clean.

Step 2: Supplies

The supplies are pretty simple. The finished size of the box is: top, 1.5 inches wide. The bottom, about 2.5 inches wide (both measured at their widest parts). The squares for this project were cut at 6x6 for the box and 4x4 for the top. For a larger box, you just have to cut your squares larger (discussed in the next step).

For this project (a single box of the dimensions given) you will need:

1) one piece of 12x12, MEDIUM weight, double-sided decorative paper. The weight is IMPORTANT. You can use regular computer paper if you wish, but this box required that it be a little more sturdy. If you use heavy paper, it will not only be difficult to fold in this size, but it might crack on the folds. You can experiment with what paper you like and if it works without cracking the image, then go for it. I don't know much about scrapbooking paper, but I can tell you that the brand Graphic 45 will crack on the folds and you'll have ugly white lines where the folds are.

** to determine paper weight, find the thinnest paper and the thickest and find one that's stiffer than the thinnest, but not as stiff as the heaviest. That's how I did it. Velum, or the plastic, see-through kind won't work. Too many folds, the creases are completely permanent and it will likely split on the fold. Save the Velum for simple folding.

ONE piece of 12x12 paper will give you 2 boxes. I used 9 different papers because I wanted them to be different. The leftovers can be used to decorate the box (or another one), so don't throw away the scraps!!!

2) Self-healingcutting mat or something else you can cut on to protect your surface from the craft knife! You can also use a piece of cardboard that is at least 18 inches square (so it's larger than the paper). Just be sure you don't cut all the way through (and if you do, you're pushing too hard on the craft knife). Always consider the tools you'll be using and plan to protect your surface accordingly. If you're using a paper cutter, no worries.

3) Pencil. Will be used not only to mark your cutting lines, but to pry open one of the folds along the way. I'll explain that completely later.

4) Ruler. To mark your paper for cutting (if not using a paper cutter) and as a guide for your craft knife if you're using one.

5) Something to cut the paper. Since I was somewhere that had a paper cutter with a ruler, that's what I used. If I was at home, I would most likely use my craft knife (even though I have a paper cutter) for accuracy. My craft knife and I are good friends. You can also use scissors if you're good at it, but I'm not and I know that about myself, so I don't generally use them for stuff like this.

NOT SHOWN: Bone folder. I know there are perfectionists out there that would be inclined to use a bone folder. I'm one of those folks. However, for this, I found that using the bone folder scrapes off the image on the paper leaving a not-so-pretty white line on the folds (which may have something to do with the brand of paper itself). If you want to use one, you can, just be careful.

6) Strong glue of whatever kind you like (best if dries clear). I used E6000 because not only is it what I had in the carrier I took to pay-to-play, but because with all of the folding, the paper can get quite stiff and I didn't want it to come apart with repeated removal of the lid from the box. If that's not a concern, then feel free to use whatever glue you like, or just tuck the ends in (also discussed in detail later).

7) Toothpick to apply the glue beneath the folds. Trying to use from the bottle/tube won't work. I know, I tried.

8) Something small to clamp the glued parts together. Since this box was so small, I used the mini clothes pins found in the scrapbooking section. They're usually used for decoration, but hey, they worked for this. (Thanks for the tip, Christy) Paper clips will also work, but I didn't have enough of them. I have clothespins because they're handy, not because they're decorative.

Step 3: Cutting Your Paper

For the box to have a lid that fits it, you will need to cut for this project:

One 6x6 square for the box.

One 4x4 square for the lid.

For a box of another size, you can cut whatever size you wish for the box part, but for the lid, cut a square 2 inches smaller. This goes for any size box. The lid must always be folded from a piece of paper 2 inches smaller than what you're using for your box.

For instance, if you're going to use a 10x10 square for your box, your lid must be 8x8. If you're going to use a whole 12x12 sheet, then the lid should be 10x10. That will, of course, require a second sheet of paper for either option. I'm not great at math, but simple addition I can do.

I would advise NOT going too much smaller than the 4x4 square in the medium weight paper. It will be WAY too hard to fold. If you need smaller, then I suggest you use "regular" weight paper, or one that's about the weight of computer paper. It's going to be difficult to find double-sided printed paper in this weight, but you can choose for the inside of your box to be white, or paint it after you've got it all folded. (don't paint before. The paint will crack and get ugly folds and depending on the paint, might actually stick together)

***To choose the right size for your project, it would be best if you used scrap paper to test the size of the box before you cut your decorative paper. Not that the decorative paper is all that expensive (but a WHOLE lot more expensive than notebook or computer paper), but you don't want to use your good stuff for the test fit.

IMPORTANT: by whatever method you choose, try to get your square as perfect as you can. This will make folding MUCH easier and the finished product be nice and even with a square opening. It will also help when you start getting to multiple folds where the cut edge is involved. Uneven edges will cause extra paper in your folds and then it won't necessarily fold properly.

NOTE: For those who like to fold and then tear the paper on the end of the desk, that only works for notebook, computer or lighter paper. If you try it with medium or heavy-weight paper, you'll end up with edges that you won't like, so just don't. Resist. I know, it's hard ... but just don't.

Step 4: The Lid: a Little Backwards

I folded the lids at pay-to-play and didn't take pictures. However, since they're already folded, I decided to glue the folds down and let the glue dry while I was folding the boxes.

The FOLDING will come next. The lids are folded exactly the same way as the box, just with a smaller square. For now, let's glue down the edges of the lid.

As you can see in picture 1, I decided to tuck the ends of the lid so that they won't show when the lid is on (remember, the lid will be upside down). I just cut off the tip of the triangle flap and tucked them into the folds beneath. (the folds will be easier to see in the box demo).

However, when I did, they kept coming up and after a couple of times of tucking, they wouldn't stay no matter how much I creased the fold. This is because the lid is SMALL and the paper is a thicker weight. So, time for glue.

In image 2, you will see that applying the glue directly from the tube will not only put down too much glue, it will put it where you don't want it. Don't use it from the tube unless you have a small dispenser tip. Time for the toothpick.

Squeeze a small bit of glue from the tube, grab it on the end of the toothpick and then insert the glue into the fold where you want it. Be sure to spread it along as much of the fold as you can get to without making a mess beyond the fold (or you'll see it).

Then, use paper clips or these handy mini clothes pins to clamp the fold down. Otherwise, you'll spend a LOT of time holding the darn thing down until the glue dries ... and you'll only be able to do one at a time. I did 9, so I can't imagine how much time I'd have wasted by holding it down till the glue was dry.

When you have all of the lids glued and clamped, then you can start on the box. This is what I'll demonstrate the folding on as it's a larger piece of paper and easier to see.

Alternate to glue: you have a mini stapler with tiny staples, you can use that if you like. However, just remember that it is below the line where the lid goes into the box and it will be hard to cover. If you don't mind the staples being visible when the lid is removed, then go for it.

I wouldn't purchase one though, having used a very expensive one by a very famous scrapbook artist that has an entire line of scrapbook stuff. I used these 4 staples and then Sharon had to replace them. They're TINY and if you don't get them in right, you'll fight with the thing for 30 minutes to get it to staple without jamming. Not worth my time or money. I'll stick with glue.

Step 5: First Folds

I highly recommend a mock up out of plain old paper to determine the correct size for your project (if other than the dimensions given) and as practice before you start working on your good paper. Also, you will then have something to experiment on when deciding to decorate with anything that will require you to punch a hole and attach something, like brads or eyelets. Especially eyelets. Working on the inside of the box is harder than you might think.

The first step is to determine which side of the paper you want on the outside. Image 1 is one side and image 2 is the other. I wanted image 2 (the map) to be on the outside, so you will start the folding with the OTHER side up, or the inside.

1) fold edge to edge and crease. Open and fold the opposite edges together and crease. When you open it up (with the inside, or red side, facing you), you should see that it's been folded into quarters.

2) Now, fold point to point, or on the diagonal line. Do this in both directions. When you open it (again with the inside, or red side facing you) you should see 4 quarters all with a diagonal crease in it.

3) turn the paper over and refold the diagonal creases the other way so that you can make the first permanent fold more easily.

Step 6: First Permanent Fold

1) Image 1 shows what it looks like after you refold the diagonal crease the other way and flip it over so that the inside is facing you. As you can see, it's tented downward. Place your finger right over the center where all of the creases meet.

2) now, gently push down. You will see the corners pop up. This will make the fold easier.

3) Image 3 shows what the first fold looks like. Fold the diagonal of one of the quarters to the diagonal fold of the adjacent corner. Then fold the next adjacent in to the others and the final one to the middle.

4) What you end up with is all of the diagonal folds together to form an "open end". This will be important in a minute.

5) Image 5 shows what the closed end looks like.

6) Now, (looking at image 5) bring the left two folds together and the right two together. When you flatten it, you should end up with a square (with two layers).

Step 7: First Flap and Pocket Fold

1) Image 1 shows the side that should be furthest from you when folding. If you're comfortable with orienting yourself for origami folds, then it doesn't matter. However, if this is your first time, it's helpful to keep yourself oriented.

2) Now, with the open side furthest from you (you will now be looking at a diamond instead of a square), take the right hand corner and fold it in towards the center fold line. Make sure it's as straight as possible as this is important for the rest of the folds. When you have something that looks like image 2, the pointy end will be the open side.

Take your time folding the tiny pointed ends properly as you will see these on the finished product. If you mess up a little or don't like them, you have options when you go to decorate.

NOTE: This is why I don't recommend anything smaller than 4x4 in medium weight paper. These pointy pieces would be nearly impossible to fold properly if smaller. Using regular weight paper, you can probably go a bit smaller, but not much.

3) Image 3 shows what the flap folds look like when one side (or both flaps are folded) is done. Try to line the ends of the fold (notation on the image) as closely as possible to even as it will matter later. Now, flip it over and do the same to the other side and try to keep the folds as close to even as you can. Image 4 shows what the sides should look like when all of the flaps are folded.

4) Now, lift one of the folds and separate it with your finger into a pocket.

5) Once you have it open, it's helpful to use your pencil to open it all the way to the bottom corner so that it will smash correctly. Take the time to do this.

6) This is what it looks like when this has been done to both sides (image 7). When it's flat, all of the lines are straight. The line down the middle is straight all the way from tip to tip. The diagonal lines (where the front and the back both show) are also straight. Now, flip it over and do the same to the other side.

7) when both sides are done, fold one flap/pocket side to the other by folding along the center crease. You'll have to do this to the back side as well. This will open up the non-folded parts to view. See image 8.

8) Image 9 shows what it looks like when both flap/pocket sides are together. NOTE the diagonal crease on either side. This is what you'll be folding next.

Step 8: Second Flap Fold, Resulting in a Sail

1) Now, along that visible crease, fold the outer edge back on itself, making another flap facing you (but more narrow). Repeat on the other side. Then, flip and repeat the two folds.

2) Image 2 is what you have when all 4 folds have been made. You should now have a pentagon shape in the color that's "outside" part of your paper and a "sail" in the color that's the inside.

Step 9: Fold Your Sails.

THIS is where all that attention to even folds will come in.

1) Lift the "sail" on the side that's up. As you will see in image 1, the top borders of the outside flaps are even, so folding the sail is easy. Just fold it down flat over the flaps like in image 2. If you've done a pretty good job of cutting your paper square and folding your creases even, you should see that all of the creases, after you fold your sail, are all lined up nicely.

2) Flip and do the same to the other side.

3) Now as in image 3, fold the sail-down sides together to expose the other two sails.

4) Fold down as you did the others.

5) When you are done, all of the sails will be folded down and they should all be lined up as in image 5. This is the top, or the opening, of your box.

Time to open it up and watch the magic!

Step 10: Open Your Box!

NOTE: When opening your box, use both hands. I was holding the camera, so that's why you only see one hand. Please excuse the dye colored fingers. I promise, they're clean.

1) Stick your fingers in the opening and gently start to pull it apart while keeping the folds in place. This isn't too hard at all. Just pay attention and take your time.

2) Gently begin to flatten out the folds and smooth the bottom with your fingers (of both hands). Be sure you smooth all of the corners too. Do this from the INSIDE of the box.

3) Image three is what it looks like when it's fully open. Image 4 is the bottom view. Now you can see how aesthetically it's much better if you take care and line up all of the folds as evenly as possible. The creases WILL show.

4) Find the matching lid (if you've done more than one like I have) and take the clothes pins off. Straighten out any crimping by the clothes pins and then you should be able to invert the lid and insert it into the top of the box.

5) Now you see why attention to the folds is important to the finished box (if you worry about such things). Not only do you see that the creases should line up corner to corner on the box (and the lid), the center crease on the flaps will be noticeable if it's not straight.

For those who are of the opinion that "what's on the bottom doesn't matter" ... consider that the bottom of the lid will actually be the top, so yeah, all of those creases you made in the beginning will show too.

Depending on how you folded it, you might have to futz with it a bit to get it square, or you might have to pull out the folds of the lid a tiny bit to get it to stay fixed as a lid (without falling in the box), but if you've folded both close to correct, they should fit.

Now you have a custom box that you can decorate any way you wish!

The triangle flaps you see on the box can be folded over and tucked in (with or without the point showing) as in the Origami Easter Basket tutorial (link in the introduction) or in how I did the lid. In the basket tutorial, only two sides were tucked with the other sides making the handle. You can alternately curve the triangles and secure with glue (though you can't use the clothes pins to hold it because of where the end is) or secure them with eyelets, like I did. You can use brads or rivets or anything that will hold the darn flap down. Or, if you like the look of the triangles sticking out, then leave it. It's up to you.

Step 11: The Finished Box

Voila! Now you have a box with a lid and it all looks very fancy after it's decorated.

If you're interested in how I decorated my boxes, check out the Decorative Origami Gift Box: Part II, Adding Bling
If not, then decorate it however you like from here. Enjoy!