Dragon-Boat Folding Origami Instructions

Origami is the art of folding paper to make interesting shapes. To make a dragon boat in origami, you must use a form of origami known as modular or three-dimensional (3-D) origami. In this art form, you must make large quantities of the same small piece and assemble them into a larger paper sculpture.

Pattern and Paper

The first thing you must do to make an origami dragon boat is obtain a good pattern. Patterns can be traditional or contemporary. Excellent patterns come with a photo of the finished sculpture, some sort of instructions or even video demonstrations. Whatever pattern you choose, make sure you understand it completely before you start.

There are many books on the market that feature excellent patterns; find the best ones by searching origami websites, querying online origami forums, or joining a local origami club for tips and advice on which books are best. Try the forums at or for starters.

You can also download free patterns and videos online (you can also purchase patterns online). Again, do some research to find out which ones are the best. A good place to start is

Folded Triangle Components

After you've decided on your pattern, you must craft the small components of the boat. This will entail making several hundred small folded paper-triangle pieces. A dragon boat that's about a foot long can require 600 triangles or more. Your pattern will tell you how many of each colour you must make.

Learn the proper technique for folding the triangles. There are several comprehensive videos (e.g., and illustrated instructional websites (e.g., you can consult if you don't know how to fold them.

If you obtained your pattern from a book, the book will have instructions as well. The good thing about learning this technique is that the same method for folding small triangles can be used when making other 3-D origami shapes, such as those used when creating swans or owls.

Although you may want to practice folding a few triangles with scrap paper, buy quality origami paper for the actual dragon boat. This ensures you'll have the right paper thickness and sturdiness; it also ensures that the paper is the same colour on both sides.

Cut the sheets of paper with a sharp craft knife and straightedge to make sure they're of a uniform size. Cutting several sheets of paper in a stack with scissors can sometimes cause the papers to slide, resulting in edges that aren't straight and pieces that are inconsistent sizes.

It's best to complete all of the triangle pieces before you start to assemble the dragon boat.

Assembling the Paper Sculpture

Assemble the folded triangle components according to your pattern. The folds are designed to allow you to slide one triangle onto another, thus building up layers that are sturdy enough to create standing walls that make up the sides and front of the boat. Following the pattern assures that any designs appearing in the boat are executed properly.

At times, your pattern's instructions may be incomplete or slightly wrong. In that case, simply look at a photograph or video of the completed dragon boat and figure out which colour or how many triangle pieces are required for a certain area (this is why it's important to have a photo with the pattern).

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About the Author

Karren Doll Tolliver holds a Bachelor of English from Mississippi University for Women and a CELTA teaching certificate from Akcent Language School in Prague. Also a photographer, she records adventures by camera, combining photos with journals in her blogs. Her latest book, "A Travel for Taste: Germany," was published in 2015.