Asian crafts are a wonderful way to discover the art and culture of other countries. These simple tutorials are inspired by the traditional crafts of Japan, China, Indonesia, and more.
We also picked projects that use materials that are easy to find, and steps that even kids or beginner crafters can follow. Our goal isn’t to give you a crash on how to make replicas of Asian artwork—which takes years to master—but to introduce you to new techniques and styles.
Source: By Live Japan Perfect Guide, “Origami: The Art of Paper Folding” (https://livejapan.com/en/in-hokkaido/in-pref-hokkaido/in-sapporo_chitose/article-a0001052/)
Difficulty level: Easy
Japanese origami, or the art of paper folding, is one of the most popular Asian crafts. You probably have already tried it already, and made a paper plane, sailboat or envelope!
But there are thousands of more origami patterns that you can learn to do. For example, from animals to flowers, or more practical objects like candy holders or boxes that you can use for gift-wrapping.
Origami is best learned by watching video tutorials, especially if you’re using special origami paper that has patterns. Here are some channels you can follow:
- Origami Channel. The origami tutorials are perfect for beginners or even young kids! You can find many patterns for cute animals to seasonal decorations for Halloween and Christmas.
- Origami with Jo Nakashima. Ready for a challenge? This popular origami channel has very unique patterns, from origami dragons to chess pieces!
- JeremyShaferOrigami. Jeremy’s origami creations are fun and often draw from pop culture, such as movies and video games. Make the Legend of Zelda sword, a paper Pokeball, or the Endgame Infinity gauntlet, and more!
Source: By Discover Nikkei, “Simple Kokeshi Doll Tutorial” (http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/nikkeialbum/albums/388/?view=list)
Difficulty level: Easy
Kokeshi dolls are traditional Japanese wooden dolls. They don’t usually have arms or legs, but careful attention is placed on decorating their kimonos. Master craftsmen would often sign their work at the bottom of the doll, and these masterpieces can often fetch thousands of dollars!
But you can make this Asian craft at home, using very affordable materials. In this simplified Asian craft tutorial, we will use a cork or wooden ball, and materials you can find at home.
- Cork or wood ball or walnut for the head
- Wooden chopsticks
- Craft glue
- Paint the head of the doll white and leave it to dry.
- Paint the hair, eyes, and other desired details on the head.
- Cut chopsticks to the desired length and glue them to the back of the head.
- Paint the bottle the desired color of the dress.
- Decorate the “kimono” with hand-painted details, or use any materials you have at home—stickers, washi tape, fabric scraps, origami paper.
- Glue the head of the doll to the decorated bottle.
Chinese Paper Lanterns
Source: By First Palette, “Paper Lanterns” (https://www.firstpalette.com/craft/paper-lantern.html)
Difficulty level: Easy
You’ve probably seen Chinese paper lanterns hung in your favorite Chinese restaurant, or hung on the streets of Chinatown during the Lunar New Year. Here is a simple version that anyone can make, and will make a lovely party decoration.
- Cardstock (traditionally red, but you can use any color you like), A4 size
- Crepe paper in the same color (or contrasting color) of the cardstock
- Heavy-duty tape or stapler
- Decorations such as washi tape, ribbons, stickers, gift wrapping paper, sequins, etc.
- Optional: markers, glitter glue, puff paint, ModPodge
- With your ruler, measure 1 inch from the short side of the paper. Cut and set aside—you will later use this to make the handle.
- Fold the remaining paper into one half, lengthwise.
- Measure one inch and draw a line. This will serve as your cutting guide and will mark the top and bottom borders of your lantern.
- Cut slits into the paper, about 1 inch apart, stopping at the edge of the line you just drew.
- Unfold the paper. Decorate the uncut edges or borders with washi tape, stickers, or whatever decorative materials you have. You can also draw additional details with puff glue or glitter glue, or add a coating of ModPodge or other shiny finish.
- Staple or glue the two edges of the lantern together.
- Decorate the handle, made from the 1-inch strip of paper you cut in Step 1.
- Attach the handle to the lantern.
- Cut out streamers – or strips of crepe paper — and glue to the bottom of the lantern.
Peking Opera Masks
Difficulty level: Medium
Did you know that Chinese opera is one of the earliest forms of theater? The first opera school was established in the Tang Dynasty, and from then, several “schools” or styles emerged in different provinces.
The Peking Opera style is particularly known for its elaborate masks. These bright masks made use of symbolic colors or expressions that helped the audience understand the type of character the actor was playing. For example, the red mask was always used by the brave hero, the green mask was for rebellious or impulsive characters, and the yellow mask was worn by cruel, sly, or malicious villains.
For this Asian crafts tutorial, you can follow the traditional symbolisms or design one according to your preference!
- White cardstock
- Poster paint
- Thick markers
- Hole punch
- Rubber bands or elastic string
- Optional: colored cardstock and scrapbook foam adhesive
- Cut the cardstock into a circle that is slightly bigger than your face. You can use a dinner plate as a guide to get a perfect circle or make it more “realistic” with ears and an elongated chin. Then, mark the space for the eyes and cut them out with a cutter. To make this step even simpler, you can find the Peking Opera Mask template and print it directly to the cardstock.
- Design the mask. Peking Opera masks are characterized by a distinct nose pattern and a lot of details around the eyes.
- Paint the mask.
- Once the paint is dry, you can outline the edges of your design with a black or gold marker for a smoother and more defined finish.
- If you want to give a more three-dimensional look to your mask, cut out colored cardstock into desired shapes and adhere to the mask with scrapbook foam, so you can create interesting layers.
- Punch holes on the side of the mask and tie a rubber band or elastic.
Source: By Lydia May, “How to Paint Dot Mandalas VERY BEGINNERS STONE Handmade stone Step by Step” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pejqo_iQhCk)
Difficulty level: Medium
Mandalas are a spiritual Asian art and are often used in Buddhism and Hinduism as part of meditation and prayer. It is practiced in Japan, India, Tibet, and many other Asian countries.
The mandalas have a symmetrical geometric design. They use simple shapes—circles, lines, squares, triangles, swirls and petals—which emanate from the center. The act of repeating the pattern, as it grows outward and perhaps increases in complexity, reflects the process of finding your core and then being one with a greater whole.
Many people find mandala making very relaxing, and since it only uses simple shapes you can create stunning artwork even if you don’t have master drawing skills.
- Paint (such as water-based acrylic or poster paints)
- Brushes with a sharp tip (different sizes) or dotting tools
- Stones with a flat surface
- Protective coating
- Look for the center of your stone, either by eyeballing it or measuring with a ruler.
- Paint a large dot in the center. Either eyeball it or measure. Start with a larger dot in the center. You may have to make a small circle with your dotting tool.
- Draw smaller dots around the large dot. Use a smaller paintbrush or dotting tool, or makeshift dotting tools such as chopsticks or an unused pencil.
- Start alternating dots of different colors or sizes. There are no “rules” here—part of the mandala meditation is to listen to yourself and your instincts. Just keep the symmetry and step back every few minutes to see the whole—you will have an idea of where the pattern is “taking you.”
- Experiment with other shapes. “Drag” a dot to create a swirl. Or, make a circle within a circle, or add diamonds or lines.
- Once you have finished the mandala, leave the paint to completely dry before applying a protective coating with a transparent finish.
If you’re a beginner, or you’re working with a small stone or very detailed patterns, let the paint completely dry before adding the next “layer” to the design. That can help prevent smudging.
You can also draw faint lines in an asterisk pattern from the center to help guide your placement and achieve perfect symmetry. This isn’t critical—some people prefer a more free-flowing approach—but it can help if you’re new to mandala painting.
Glue Batik Making
Source: By First Palette, “Glue Batik” (https://www.firstpalette.com/craft/glue-batik.html)
Difficulty level: Easy
Batik is a traditional Indonesian art of dyeing fabric using wax-resist techniques. They draw beautiful patterns or freehand designs, using melted wax applied with a spouted tool (which they call canting) or copper stamps.
This simplified version borrows from the Batik method, and is easy and safe enough for even kids to do! Just remember, always work in a well-ventilated room whenever you work with fabric paints, and protect your clothes by wearing an old shirt or an apron.
- Fabric (either cotton or canvas)
- Fabric paint
- White glue in a squeezable bottle
- Paintbrushes of different sizes
- Plastic wrap or placemat
- Cut canvas or cotton fabric into the size you like. Think of how you want to use the fabric later on: a small square can be framed or sewn onto a T-shirt, while larger sheets can later be made into pillowcases, table runners, bags, or other crafts.
- Sketch the design with a pencil. It’s easier to have a design that has large elements or “blocks” where you can place colors. This simplified method of Batik making will not work with very small, detailed designs.
- Place plastic wrap or placemat on your work surface, then put your fabric underneath. This protects the table from any glue or paint that may seep through.
- Squeeze the glue and trace it over the outline of your design. Leave it to dry completely (usually around 5 to 6 hours). You know the glue is ready if it is transparent, and if it is hard when you touch it.
- Prepare the paint to the desired consistency. Dilute it more to get a faint, watercolor finish. Add only a little water if you want colors to be very bold (just bear in mind that the thicker the paint, the longer it will take to dry). Do not use pure paint, because it will chip away when it is dry.
- Paint your design, as desired. You can randomly paint in different colors to create a tie-dye effect, or follow your design and use the outlines as “borders”.
- Let the paint dry. You can check if the glue has successfully resisted the paint by checking the backside of your fabric – you should see white spaces where you have applied the glue.
- Peel off the glue. If you can’t get out everything, soak the fabric in warm water for about 15 to 30 minutes.
- Once you have removed the glue, iron it to “set” the paint. Hem the edges of the cloth to prevent it from fraying. Now, you can use it any way you want!
Tip: always do a spot-test of fabric paint to see how well it stays, or how “true to color” it is to the label. It will help avoid the mess and disappointment of finding out later on that your paint looks faded or tends to bleed.
Take a Deeper Dive into Asian Crafts
The more you read about Asian crafts, the more you’ll be impressed by their artistry, and enthralled by the history and culture behind them.
We hope these projects will inspire you to try more Asian crafts, and even consider learning advanced techniques. There are many video tutorials that can help you learn the “authentic” process, and thanks to the Internet, you can order the materials or even get kits to get you started.