I have been searching for the best paper to make origami insects, with winged insects in particular. I'm most interested in following Robert J Lang’s tutorials and on his website he states that he made Shizuoka Cicada with Hanji paper which can be obtained from www.origami-shop.com/en/. I already had some traditional Chinese Xuan paper and decided to give the origami a go with that.
Compare to Hanji, the Xuan paper I had was slightly thinner. Even though Xuan paper usually doesn’t hold creases well, I find that the finished models can keep their desired shape.
I planned to dye the paper for the insects, so before starting that project I decided to test our the raw white paper with some Feathered Cranes, designed by Riccardo Foschi. As the paper is soft, I was very careful when I was folding the wings and the front part of the body as there's only a single layer of paper to handle. When folding, I find it's best to pat down along the lines you want folded rather than to pinch.
After the first attempt I coloured a bit of the paper with blue acrylic to make a bi-coloured crane. I found that the paper gets slightly harder after colouring.
Time to get dyeing!
I mixed together green, yellow and burnt umber paints then added some water to give the paint more of a liquid texture. Take note that raw xuan does have a high absorption rate.
I used a traditional Chinese goat haired mounting brush to paint the paper. Once painted and still wet, be careful not to stretch it out as this could cause rips. It's best to let it hang somewhere to dry. The paper might crease slightly which you can gently try and smooth out once it's semi-dried, I find the creases add a touch.
After painting, the paper is still thin and soft but not as fragile. Now time to get making!
I am really pleased with the finished result, especially with how the wings are turned out. I have folded this cicada with other paper previously, but the connecting point between wings and the head were always an issue to get right.
I also love how the legs came out, xuan paper is quite good for modelling small details..
The only down side to using xuan paper is the end result might be quite weak or fragile and won't be able to hold the shape if I begin to open it up a bit. If you're able to, I'd suggest stuffing any hollow areas with extra paper to add body and make sure it won't collapse.