How to Make an Iris Folding Pattern with a Template

Hemera Technologies/ Images

Things You'll Need

  • Iris folding template
  • Pencil
  • Craft knife
  • Several colors or patterns of paper
  • Scissors or paper cutter
  • Masking tape
  • Button, bead or other small embellishment
  • Glue

If the term "iris folding" makes you think of the iris flower, you're not alone. However, the term actually has its origins in photography. Camera lenses have a mechanism made up of a series of small pieces that overlap in a circular pattern and regulate the amount of light coming into the camera. Iris folding creates a similar pattern of overlapped paper, and this is where the term "iris folding" comes from. Although it looks complicated, iris folding is as simple as following a template.

Cut a piece of cardstock into the size needed for your project. Choose your desired iris folding template and use a pencil to trace around it on the cardstock. Using a craft knife, carefully cut out the shape.Tape the template to your work surface.

Determine how many different papers you are going to need by looking at the template. Most patterns require three to five different papers. Chose the papers you want to use. Cut several one-inch wide strips from each paper. Fold each strip in half the long way and crease with your finger.

Place the cardstock frame face-down on the template so the cut-out is perfectly aligned with it. Tape the corners to your work surface with masking tape.

Look for the numbers on the template. Starting with "1," place a strip of paper along the first line so that the folded edge faces the center of the opening. Tape the ends to the cardstock. Find "2" and place a strip of the second paper along the line and tape down the ends. Repeat with the third paper and the third line. Continue to place the strips of paper in this way until you reach the center of the template. Trim the ends of any paper strips that extend beyond the edges of the cardstock. Place a small piece of decorative paper face-down over the center opening that remains and tape it down.

Peel the masking tape gently off the corners of the cardstock and turn it over to see the iris folding pattern. Affix a button, sequin or other small embellishment to the center of the design with a tiny bit of glue. Let the glue dry and use the completed piece on a greeting card, in a scrapbook or frame it as a work of art.


  • To save paper or make the finished product thinner, cut the paper in half-inch strips and do not fold them.

    Use ribbon instead of paper for a different look.

    Use Christmas wrapping paper to make iris folding patterns for your Christmas cards.

    There are many free iris folding templates available online.