How To Make An Origami Penguin: Easy Step By Step Guide

Three completed origami penguins, two are black and white and one is grey and white, standing against a blue background.

Image © joel-t, under a Creative Commons license.

Origami is an ancient paper folding craft thought to originate in Asia, first in China when paper was first invented, and then later transported to Japan by Buddhist monks.  

Completed origami items were originally used for ceremonial occasions or gifts, but paper folding is now a craft activity enjoyed all over the world for fun. There's something for all ages and abilities to try, and learning how to make origami animals is a firm family favourite.

Here we celebrate this majestic flightless bird, the penguin, and while they are feasting on fish, squid, and krill in their southern hemisphere homes, you can be making your own easy origami penguin family with this step by step guide.

Penguin Origami Materials

This step by step guide is to make one traditional paper penguin that will stand up on a flat surface. This is one of the easiest freestanding models you can make, so you may end up with a whole penguin family. We've also recommended the best materials for the job and where to buy them.

To make one penguin you will need:

1 square piece of origami paper with one side coloured and one side plain, like this black one. Wrapping paper or kids craft paper will also fold well. You may need to help your children cut the paper to size.

A ruler or bone folder may help keep the creases neat.

Pens to add some detail to the face. We've found some white pens so the ink will stand out against the black paper.

A little girl (and a boy in the background) are sat at a table folding an origami penguin.
Image ©, under a Creative Commons license.

Origami Penguin Instructions

1. Lay your piece of paper coloured side up on a flat surface so it's a diamond shape.

2. Fold the paper in half from left to right.

3. Next, fold the top layer over, creasing at the top first to get a neat point, and then all the way down the fold. This will look like a tall narrow triangle of plain paper. The crease is about 3cm down the bottom right length of the shape.

4. Turn the paper over and repeat the same steps so that the flaps line up with each other.

5. Open out the paper with the coloured side facing up, and fold the bottom point up to form a triangle.

6. Turn the paper over and fold the top point down,  but do this lightly, no firm crease is needed yet.

7. Fold the penguin in half so the left half is sitting behind the right half.

8. Hold the model midway down the top flap, then move the head flap out into position, pinching the paper to keep it in place.

9. Your penguin is now complete, so if you want to you can add some eyes or colour in the beak.

A close up image of someone folding a white piece of paper to make an origami penguin.
Image © andreycherkasov, under a Creative Commons license.

Top Tips

These origami penguin instructions can be applied to any size square paper, so you could make a whole penguin family of different sizes.

Why not put your children's crafty skills to the test, and challenge them to make a habitat for your origami penguin family to live in? Cotton wool, white felt, glitter glue, and cardboard could all be used to create a magical antarctic world.  

Overhead shot of a child and adult sitting on the floor folding paper to make an origami penguin.
Image ©, under a Creative Commons license.

Quick Origami Penguin Design

There are around 17 species of these expert swimmers and divers, so we thought it'd be fun to add another 'how to make a penguin' project to the mix. The origami difficulty level on this is also easy, so all the family can join in, using their paper squares to make cool greetings cards.

1. Fold the paper in half to make a triangle, then open out the paper, rotate it, and fold in half again. The creases will make a cross on the paper.  

2. Lay the paper down so it looks like a diamond, then fold the bottom tip up towards the top, leaving approximately 1 1/2 cm of the bottom layer visible as a border all the way around. Use the centre crease as a guide to line your fold up.

3. Fold down the tip of this top layer to make a beak around 3cm long.

4. Turn the paper over and fold in each side towards the centre; they will overlap a little at this point.

5. Fold each side back on itself, almost halfway across. The straight edges should line up, with a little triangle laying over the edge.

6. Fold the top down a little and your penguin is complete.



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