Elephant Hide Review

Ilan Garibi and Gadi Vishne
Look and Feel
Weight (gsm)
110gsm, 190gsm
A4; 70cm by 100cm
Color palette
7 colors
many years
Model Suitability (out of 10):
Attributes (out of 10):
Wear and Tear
Tensile Strength
Bending Resistance
Final score

Made in Germany, by Zanders (http://www.zanders.com/), it may be crowned as King of Paper. I tried to get some information on the process and ingredients of this paper, but this is privileged information and won't be shared by the manufacturer. Its Data Sheet says "Elephant hide is a rugged bookbinding paper with a parchment grain which can be used as a book covering paper or for making certificates. It is impregnated and therefore scratch and abrasion resistant, dirt repellent, can be wiped clean (wet-strength paper), has limited expansion and shrinkage and is not sensitive to acid. In addition, it is tear resistant and wrinkle and fold resistant as well as color-fast and lightfast." Can we ask for more? It got the FSC certificate, so you are helping to save forests by buying it. More than that, each sheet is unique, no two sheets are alike.

Discovered by origamists, it became very popular among them. Here are the reasons:

  1. Thickness: Today EH comes in 2 options, 110gsm and 190gsm. This review will focus on the 110gsm only. Although it is a heavy paper (we regard 100gsm as the border line), it is easy to fold and handle.
  2. Sizes: Once again, only two options here: 700mm x 1000mm, and A4. There is no square option, since it is not Origami-related paper. Of course, one can cut any size and shape from 700mm x 1000mm, but it is a tedious job to prepare 60 identical units for a modular model.
  3. Colors: The palette is very limited - only 7 colors are listed on the site of the manufacture today (15 Nov 2010): White, high White, Ivory, light Brown, light Grey, Charcoal, and Black. On Modulor there are 10 colors, but out of those ten, the two most colorful ones (Dark Blue and Dark Green) are available only at A4 size. In the past there was a bigger variety and I have in my personal stock 14 shades, among them the red and blue which are out of print. The future is no better - after checking with the manufacture, there is no plan to widen the options, and there is no knowledge if there is any stock of the obsolete colors in the official distributors. If one would like to have a special order, it can be done in any color, size and weight wanted, with a minimal order of 5 tons (equal to 64,935 sheets of 700mm x 1000mm or 727,273 of A4).
  4. Paper coloring or colorability: Perfect! Elephant Hide can be colored beautifully with Ecoline Water Color made by Talens. The coloring does not seep through to the back of the paper. When dried there are no waves and the paper is still flat. See the Bull by Stephan Weber, folded and colored by Herman Mariano.
  5. Texture: Smooth, since the paper is laminated; the color is not homogeneous, and has a beautiful marble-like texture. There is a slight, hard to see, difference between the two sides, one of them is a bit more reflective. Every sheet is different. Beside the Black, all colors are transparent to light in some degree. Best for that are the Whites and the light Brown, both have a great effect while back-lighted. Grey and Black are hardly transparent, if at all.
  6. Photogenic: The camera loves this paper! You can use backlighting to make the texture of the paper especially visible, or use strong, frontal lighting to make it disappear almost completely. The paper almost does not reflect at all. I also use it for the background to get an interesting, but not distracting surface.
  7. Aging: Without acid, and with the special treatment this paper goes through, time flows slowly near this paper. I have few models that are 2 years old - and they look just as new. The manufacture is proud at this product durability. Do remember it is used for book binding, which meant to last.
  8. Memory: Perfect score here. You make a crease, and it stays, seems forever. The creases are sharp, and unfolded creases will create a long bump in the paper, easy to feel by touch. 10 out of 10!
  9. Forgiveness: Reversing a fold is easy as tearing up a tissue paper, if you go with the fibers. It is a bit harder at a perpendicular angle. To err is human, and to forgive - divine. If a crease is done a mere millimeter from place, one can easily create a new one in the right place, and even uncrease the first one with a determined fingernail. Score here is 7 out of 10.
  10. Tensile strength: Tensile strength is the maximum stress the paper can undergo while being stretched or pulled. This paper is made to last. Bend it, force it, stretch it, reverse it, and again, and there is no visible sign of fatigue. To check the strength I used a Reverse Fold test - reverse a mountain fold to a valley, and repeat again and again, using fingernails for a sharp crease. At 90 times it got ripples. At 300 times I said enough. For comparison, a Kami was rippled after 9 times and tear apart at 27 times. 10 out of 10!
  11. Wear and Tear: If you do have a tiny tear in the paper, there is no need to be alarmed. It won't spread easily, the paper is enhanced in some way and it seems to be tearing resistant. If it does happen, the fibers can hardly be seen at the torn edge.
  12. Bending resistance: Bending resistance relates to the amount of force required to bend the paper. This may be a sub category of strength, and it is valued just the same. Curved crease are held beautifully, as seen in the PowerPuff unit.
  13. Where to buy

Test results

Traditional use

The Crane from a 15X15 cm square. It was fun to fold. The weight of the paper requires accurate fold, otherwise the beak is not sharp as it should.

Action model

Barking Dog, by Gadi Vishne. 15cm

This paper gave me the best result I (Gadi) ever got with this model. I refold it several times, gave it to my 4 years kid, and it still moves very easily. The only complaint against this paper is the colors. With this "both sides same color" paper, I had to paint the paper to get different color for the nose.

View a video of the model in action here

Traditional Flapping Bird

I also tried the traditional flapping bird. It is the best paper for this model! It's easy to fold the bird and it will flap perfectly. Both wings move evenly, and there's no chance of tearing the lower part of the wings, especially in the first couple of strokes. The paper will not tear even if I pull it intensely.

Traditional Jumping Frog

I got the best results with the frog. I used a 15cm square and folded it in half. Then I folded a waterbomb base for the head. The Flex is amazing! I measured a few jumps, most are around 60 to 80cm and once I crossed the 1m mark!

Modular/Unit Origami

PowerPuff modular, by Ilan Garibi, made from 30 14x14 cm units

Having to cut it by yourself is a major drawback. I (Ilan) cut it to 14x14 to fit 5 units in the 70 cm length of the sheet. Folding 30 units with such a heavy paper asked for strong finger pressure, but the final result is superb. Friction is enough and the bending resistance is excellent, especially with the puffing part of the PowerPuff unit. The final model is very stable and strong. Note that this models lock is not based on friction but on pressure.

Icarus Cube by Dave Mitchell, 6 units, 5x5cm.

This paper is very smooth. The cube breaks into pieces too easily. A modular folded from this paper, must have good lock between the units or a very tight pocket.

3D models and Wet Folding

Fox Terrier by Francisco Javier Caboblanco, 20cm square

For wet folding, I wet a 20cm square and got a small effect on the proportions. Nevertheless the Fox Terrier didn’t suffer from it too much. At the end the model was nice and stable. The paper holds the exact amount of water I needed. I didn't have to re-wet it in the middle of the folding, and didn’t need to wait for it to get dry at the end.

Rat by Joisel, 25cm square

The Rat mixed straight lines with curved model. In this section the focus is on the 3D and curves. To shape the tail I (Gadi) tied it in a wet rag and let it dry curved. The result was nice curved tail. The ears shaped easily by pinching them in the center. Here the strength of the paper was an advantage. It helped to make it rounded.


Pineapple tessellation, by Ilan Garibi, from a 70x70 cm paper

This paper is made for tessellators. Folding the grid makes a very accurate one, although the paper is a bit hard to fold in perpendicular to the fibers. Reversing a fold [I (Ilan) make my grid by matching every two adjacent creases to create the fold between them, which needs a lot of reversing the folds] is quite easy, and the paper tends to "break" on the right place with a bit of pressure. Pre folding is very clean, where short fold lines do not affect the surrounding surface, so the final result is uncontaminated. Strength is another strong point, no tearing or weakening points, no fibers are showing in the corners.

Mystery tessellation, by Ilan Garibi, from a 70x70 cm paper

For the Mystery model, with the light brown, the back light made a great effect. (See a picture in the Texture section above.)


Pegasus, by Satoshi Kamiya, from 2 sizes of paper

35X35 cm

The pre-crease was excellent. The final steps hardly folded. The final model was so wide that it couldn’t stand on three legs as it should. I put the poor Pegasus into a clamp for a night and closed it very tight. This paper is not willing to torn! After the night it could stand on three legs. Although the folds hold very good and the final model look nice, I strongly recommend using thinner paper for complex models.

Before: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garibiilan/5200984593
In clamp: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garibiilan/5200985031
In tight clamp: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garibiilan/5201577218
After: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garibiilan/5201577994
(no real Pegasus where hurt in this fold)

45X45 cm

Being the inexperienced one with complex models, I (Ilan) happily choose the biggest size. Even so, it was a fight! The paper is too thick for this model, even at an almost double size than recommended. I couldn't fold the last stages, finalizing the small details, or even to bend the front leg, as shown in stage 92. The body is fat, maybe too fat, and some glue is needed to hold it together. Nevertheless, the final result is beautiful. The Pegasus stand still, wings held up high, in a majestic pose.

Final verdict

What is it good for? For traditional use, it seems a bit of a blasphemy. For tessellations it is no less than perfect, as for 3D models, wet folded or not. With complex model you should not consider EH as your first choice, and if you do, prepare for a struggle, with an amazing possible result. If you have the time and patience for cutting your paper for Modular Origami, EH is great, with a very strong and stable result but not for models that are connected based on friction! This paper is the best for action models – strong, hold the creases nicely, and it is not going to torn even in small kid hands (tested on Gadi's 4 years old boy).

Beginner shouldn't use this paper – It is too heavy.

Going through Flickr search engine after EH images, the vast majority (90%) is tessellations. The other 10% are masks and 3D animals, mostly high to intermediate level (and the common one is, no surprise here, elephant!). In 749 images there are less than 10 images of complex models.

Bottom line: Must buy and experience. Full satisfaction guarantee!

Special thanks to Herman Mariano for his colorability section.


Ive been making a lot of modular origami lately and when i look through all the books i have an on the internet at the best models out there, Ive found it hard to find multiple pieces of paper of the same color when i buy paper. For instance in Tomoko Fuse's book origami unit essence many of her large models require 90+ pieces of paper. my question is where do you buy your paper and where could i find many pieces of paper of the same colour in a pack? thanks

There are a couple of options:

* Many modulars look beautiful if you use different colors. Choosing colors that complement each other can be really fun, too.
* You can buy packs of origami paper that have all the same color. For example, I've recently been working with this paper: http://origamikaikan... 200 sheets, all the same color. Having said that, I did cut many of the sheets in half, and some in quarters. But it's better than cutting down from very large sheets. :)
* You can cut your squares yourself. Admittedly, if you need many sheets, having a cutting machine helps a lot, but I've done my share of cutting many sheets for modular origami. For example, I cut the paper for this model: http://www.happyfold... - it has 90 modules, too.

Hope this helps a bit,

-- Sara

Thank you very much Sara. il definitely take what you said into consideration when i buy paper.

how did you manage to buy from that Japanese website? i cant read Japanese.

I didn't say I bought paper from that site, just that I've been working with that kind of paper. :) I bought it at the CDO convention this year, and they had a selection of Japanese paper, too.

-- Sara

ahh okay thank you very much. I have no idea where il find the paper but I will keep looking

You Convinced me to order some elephant hide. Thanks! I really like these reviews on paper

Hello, Sara! Sorry for interrupting this post with this comment, but I just wanted to put it where you could see it. Anyways, I checked out the source code of this site and saw you made it with Drupal. I was instantly inspired. At first, I had a lot of trouble installing Drupal, but I eventually figured it out. Really, I was at my wit's end trying to get it installed, ad just as I was going to come and ask you, L and behold, there was the installation screen at localhost:8888. So, what are some cool things you found with Drupal?
P.S. You are doing a phenomenal job with the site and the videos, I just love them.Keep up the incredible work!

Do u know if Modulor delivers in the us? I'm only asking b/c i see that it has a bigger range of colors which i admire.If not,is there any other site that has a big range of colors?Please reply

There is little point to reviewing Elephant Hide as applied to Miniature Unit Origami, or Foil to a wet fold. One should try to determine what a paper is good for, to be tessellated, or to fold insect models, for example.

Actually, I think it's good that Ilan and Gadi are reviewing the paper for all kinds of applications. It does show what a paper is good for, but also show why it's not so good for other things. Sometimes we assume a paper won't work, but we never try - and when we do, we might realize that we had assumed incorrectly. Having a proof of concept is much more convincing to me.
Plus, Ilan and Gadi do highlight in the summary what they think the paper is best used for. So if you prefer not reading why a paper type is not good for x or y, simply read the conclusion first, and then only read the sections related to the recommendation. :)

-- Sara

I just got my first 2 sheets of elephant hide!! I bought a yellow one and charcoal one from Kim's Crane. Just by feeling the paper I know it's going to be awesome for tessellations. I can't wait! Just thought I'd share :)

Is there any word on the reported end of production of elephant hide by Zanders?

"firm which produce Elephant Hide paper stopped production. I'm buying all the few rest of stock available for world for you."

In most cases, 190gsm, Elephant Hide will be too heavy for origami.

-- Sara

really? i heard its really good for wet folding.. tempted to place a bid. cant find any of this paper in the UK!

what would you use 190gsm for ?