Choose the best quality whether you enjoy origami, gift-wrapping, or card-making.

By Alexandra Churchill
July 06, 2020
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Raymond Hom

It's not as difficult a leap as you might think from a child's folded-­and-­cut ­paper snowflakes to intricate artwork for gift toppers. The tools required are simple and inexpensive—paper and pencil, scissors, and knife—and for this reason, paper crafts have a long history as a folk art. Any project starts with the right choice of paper. It comes in all colors, coated or uncoated, and in a range of thickness and weight. As for our favorite uses? For cutout greeting cards and envelopes that hold their shape well, you can't beat card stock; tissue paper is delicate enough for paper-flower making; meanwhile, crepe paper can be used to wrap gifts in any shape or size, but it's also great for making unique party décor.

That said, be creative with your paper choices—consider parchment, newspaper, brightly colored origami paper, pages from magazines, gift wrap, or handsomely printed text photocopied from old books. Lightweight papers work best for folded cutwork (although tissue is too delicate); heavier papers are best for cutting out a single image in a continuous line. You can mix and match to create something one of a kind, following our guide here.

Card Stock

Sturdier than plain paper, card stock is best for making cards or place cards. It comes in patterns or solid colors—or with a solid color on one side and a pattern on the other. In projects, it's important to remember that weight makes a difference. Thinner sheets can show glue and may pucker. Heavier sheets can crack during folding if they're not scored properly—for this, use a bone folder—or even tear during cutting and hole punching if dull tools are used. For a starter set, opt for Recollections Dreamy Card Stock Paper ($6 for 50 sheets, michaels.com).

Tissue Paper

Whether you're wrapping presents or adding filler to a gift bag, reach for the tissue paper. It's also good for making paper flowers, pom-poms, and toppers. (To punch confetti from tissue paper, stack three sheets with a sheet of plain paper, which acts as a stiffener, and punch through all four layers.) It can be found in a wider range of colors than crepe paper, and is readily available at any store that stocks gift wrap or online—simply check out Darice's Tissue Paper ($10 for 100 sheets, amazon.com). It is more delicate than crepe paper, and will not recover as well if crushed.

For festive party decorations, construct pom-­poms in various colors. Trim some smaller for different ­size puffs, and make petals in various shapes.

Origami Paper

Although the Japanese often get credit for creating folded-­paper artwork—the word origami was derived from the Japanese words oru, meaning "to fold," and kami, meaning "paper"—the craft originated in China in the first or second century. You'll find thousands of styles—available in countless patterns, colors, and subtle textures. Some are pat­terned like the Yuzen Assorted Bright Origami Paper ($14 for 12 sheets, papersource.com), others are solid, but each sheet is a perfect square of thin, easy-to-fold paper. The crane is a widely recognized symbol of peace.

As you work, be sure to make your creases sharp and match corners and edges carefully. However, if you execute each step exactly, you're practically guaranteed a perfect finished piece every time.

Paper Bags

Endlessly useful for scrapbooking and other projects—and holding supplies. Paper bags are made in a variety of materials, including cellophane, glassine, paper, and vellum. When embellished, they make great favor bags. And when upcycled, they make great party décor like hanging flowers. They come in a rainbow of colors, like Party City's Kraft Bags ($8 for 10, partycity.com).

Glassine Paper

Glassine paper is very translucent—it's is often sold as envelopes and bags, then glued into scrapbooks to hold small mementos. It's also used in card making or for unique favor packaging. Glassine is a go-to paper for museum conservationists and fine artists looking to protect photographs, drawings, and important documents and it is typically sold by the roll, such as Canson Glassine Paper Roll ($36.74, joann.com).

Vellum Paper

Similar to glassine, but heavier and more matte—vellum is commonly used for invitation overlays. It's only meant to crease, score, and fold once as over-folding can crack the paper. Printable vellum is available like Black Ink U.S. Vellum Text Paper ($2.89, dickblick.com).

Crepe Paper

A classic craft material, crepe paper is fun to work with. Its crinkles capture the beauty of nature with minimal fussing. You can glue it, tie it, even iron it (with a dry iron—the colors bleed when wet). But keep in mind that crepe paper—although stretchy—rips easily. When working with crepe paper, keep in mind that its creases, or "grain," should run up and down (not across) the item you're sculpting; this will keep the crepe paper rigid. Great for making flowers, paper costumes, and party accessories. Whatever its wonders, it is still paper, and a thin one at that.

Most people are familiar with crepe paper streamers, which are sold in rolls and often draped across doorways during celebrations. Crepe paper is also sold in solid-­color sheets (called "folds") such as Carte Fini Italian Crepe Paper ($7 per roll, cartefini.com). Double-­sided (different colors on either side) is also available, but less common.

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