What’s not to love about unicorns? They’re majestic, mystical, and a symbol of freedom and magic. 

Traditional origami has patterns for making all kinds of amazing animals, so if you want to add to your paper menagerie, why not learn how to make origami unicorns? 

The Meaning Behind Origami Unicorns

origami unicorn
Source: Instagram
Make a paper unicorn to decorate your desk. 

These days, unicorns are a beloved icon in pop culture—look around, and it’s not hard to find unicorn birthday cakes, tattoos, children’s toys, wall decals, clothing, and much more. 

Beyond their present-day appeal, though, unicorns have a long and interesting history. The ancient Greeks (along with many children throughout the centuries) thought unicorns were real. The Old Testament of the Bible includes mention of creatures that could be interpreted as unicorns, and Christians have sometimes interpreted unicorns as symbols of the Virgin Mary. 

Unicorns were also a common subject of medieval and Renaissance-era European art; just think of the amazing unicorn tapestries hanging at The Cloisters branch of The Met in New York.

unicorn in captivity
Source: Wikimedia
The Unicorn in Captivity (from the Unicorn Tapestries), 1495–1505, held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Unicorns have long been associated with purity, freedom, gentleness, virginity, innocence, divinity, and magic. The fact that they used to be commonly depicted as captured or tamed also speaks to society’s desire to possess and control the purer elements of life.

Perhaps it’s only natural, then, that people love to make origami unicorns. While origami unicorns don’t have the same level of Japanese cultural symbolism as origami cranes, unicorn-type creatures do exist in Japanese mythology. There are two different kinds, called sin-you and kirin. (If you’ve been to Japan, you may well have sipped Kirin brand beer!) 

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Origami Unicorn Blade Runner Connection

painting of origami
Source: instagram
The final words of Replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner. 

If you’re a sci-fi fan (or happen to have taken an introductory 20th-century English lit course), you may have come across unicorns in a different context: Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and its 1982 movie adaptation, Blade Runner. 

Without giving away any plot secrets just yet, the novel and the movie are about “replicants,” or androids who imitate humans, and the people tasked with hunting them down and killing them (Harrison Ford’s character in Ridley Scott’s film). 

What does this have to do with origami unicorns? In both the novel and the movie, there’s a lack of clarity around who is really a human and who is a replicant. Some characters don’t know that they’re replicants and that they’re being hunted by humans. This brings up questions of the fragility of life and about the point of having dreams and aspirations given the fleeting and futile nature of life. (Hey, nobody said this was a feel-good sci-fi masterpiece!)  

But again, what does this have to do with origami unicorns? (Spoiler alert ahead.) In Blade Runner, origami is used as a recurring motif throughout the film. Deckard (Ford’s character) has a recurring dream about a white unicorn. At the end of the film, one of Deckard’s replicant-hunting colleagues, Agent Gaff, leaves an origami unicorn in Deckard’s apartment. 

One interpretation is that Gaff knows about Deckard’s recurring dream because Deckard has been programmed to dream that way. That is, Deckard is really a replicant, although he doesn’t know it. Given unicorns’ association with purity and freedom and the other themes of the film, the appearance of the origami unicorn in Blade Runner could be suggesting that life is fleeting and fragile. 

Sounds deep and complex? We did mention that this sci-fi classic is a favorite of English lit professors.

How to Make an Origami Unicorn

paper unicorn
Source: instagram
You can make origami paper unicorns with one or two colors. 

Intrigued enough to make your own origami paper unicorn? Follow the steps and tutorial below to learn how to make origami unicorns.

Step 1: Choose Your Paper

Origami paper is typically an 8’x8’ square. Choose a piece that’s a different color on each side. If you’d like a white unicorn with a colored mane and tail, like in the photo above, choose a piece of origami paper that is white on one side. 

If you’d like the unicorn to be predominantly white, start with the white side facing down. 

Step 2: Start Folding

How do you make an origami unicorn? Step by step.

Making an origami unicorn requires precise and accurate folding along certain lines. Like many intricate crafts, it’s often easier to follow origami instructions when accompanied by a visual tutorial. 

Check out this step-by-step folding tutorial by Easy Origami and Crafts on YouTube, which goes at a slow pace and covers easy step clearly.

Step 3: Add to Your Origami Collection

lots of origami
A completed origami paper unicorn to add to your collection.

After following the steps in the tutorial, your unicorn is ready to run (or fly!) You might need to repeat the process a couple of times before everything looks neat and tidy, but that’s a good excuse to practice. Try experimenting with different colored papers. After all, unicorns aren’t real—it doesn’t matter if you choose a pattern or a highly unrealistic color.

Do You Dream of Origami Unicorns?

If you feel inspired to make your own origami unicorn but don’t have much (or any) experience with origami, consider working on a few simpler animals first. Start with some basic birds, fish, or cats until you’ve got the hang of folding, creasing, and unfolding, and then you’ll feel confident progressing to more complicated patterns, like origami unicorns. 

Bonus: If you get really good, there may even be openings for origami artists on the set of sci-fi films!

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Written by:

Elen Turner