Methyl Cellulose (MC)

For very complex origami designs

Commonly referred to as sizing, MC is a water-based glue similar to the glue used to bind fibres in the paper making process. It’s a pH neutral, archival quality glue that adds stiffness to paper, allowing soft and thin papers to retain creases far better. It can also be reactivated with water to allow sculpting of a finished product to create life-like curves and thinner points.

Suitable Paper: Any soft paper that does not hold folds well. It is often used with very thin or fibrous papers, such as Mulberry papers (Unryu/Hanji), banana leaf papers, rice paper (WenZhou), and even tissue paper.

Radiance - Designed and Folded by Xander Perrott

Equipment Required

  • Methyl cellulose – Purchasable in powder form from book binding websites and similar craft stores.
  • Paper of your choosing.
  • A large flat surface such as a pane of glass or mirror. It doesn’t have to be glass, but it must be completely flat and must not be porous. Any dimpling on the surface will impede the process. If you’re not sure, test it with a small piece of paper first.
  • A soft-bristled paint brush or paint roller – we recommend that you not use spongy brushes/rollers since they have a habit of tearing paper by creating too much surface tension.
  • A plastic/cardboard roll wider than your chosen paper – the wider the diameter the better. Postal rolls about 10 cm in diameter are great.


  1. Clean your flat surface thoroughly. Small pieces of dust and dirt are not a big problem, but hairs and fluff will certainly affect the final product.
  2. Prepare your methyl cellulose paste. A whole article could be written on this alone, but trial and error is your friend. Follow the instructions on the package, but the general rule is that your paste should be the consistency of egg white. Make it on the thicker side, since it is easier to water down than to add more glue.
  3. Wrap your piece of paper around your plastic/cardboard roll. Try to do this as evenly as possible and not too loose so you can unroll it straight later.
  4. Apply a thin layer of methyl cellulose paste over the flat surface, larger than the surface area of your paper. The bottom layer of paste is mostly there to help the paper adhere to the flat surface. If you put too much paste down, it will form pockets under your paper that will add unnecessary work as you try to guide them out.
  1. Place your paper on the flat surface, on top of the MC. Place the free edge of the paper on the MC and stand behind the roll. Push away from your body, applying firm even pressure down into the flat surface and slightly away from your body as you unroll the paper. This will ensure you have as few bubbles as possible. You want to do this step reasonably quickly as your paper will be getting wet the instant it touches the glue. It is a fine balance between speed and ensuring the paper is placed evenly on the flat surface. You will improve with time.
    This is where you will find out if your glue is the right consistency. If there is too much glue there will be parts of the paper that do not appear wet regardless of contact with glue. This means you need more water in the glue to aid seepage into the paper.
  1. From now the water-based MC paste will seep into the paper and it is a somewhat forgiving race against time depending on your paper selection. Place some more MC down on top of the paper and spread it out over the entirety of the paper with your brush/roller. Try placing 1-2 central puddles of paste and brushing from the inside out. This will make sure you cover the whole sheet and has the added benefit of removing some bubbles.
  2. If everything went perfectly, you are finished. Allow your paper to dry naturally throughout the day. Cut the paper into a square while it is still attached to the flat surface, using a scalpel or rotary cutter and set square. When dry, carefully lift the paper and enjoy!

Unfortunately, things never seem to go perfectly. You can get wrinkles, bubbles, or even tears.

There are 2 types of bubbles that you may encounter: air or MC. Both are dealt with in the same way, but MC bubbles demand more attention and care to prevent tearing your paper. Wrinkles often begin as long and thin MC bubbles that collapse onto themselves, causing the front and back edges of the bubble to adhere to each other. By correctly dealing with bubbles, most wrinkles can be avoided.

    What Works

    • Light brushing with the brush you used to apply the glue. After the initial application of paper and glue, as the paper is settling onto the surface, many bubbles can be rapidly brushed to their nearest edge and freed
    • Covering your finger in glue and doing it manually. Wet paper is very weak and the slightest traction of skin to paper is likely to cause a tear. However, this is remedied by having a lot of glue on your paper. As you will find, MC is very slippery. This means that while there is glue between the paper and your finger, you can apply use this to guide bubbles out manually
    • Pins. This is ONLY for air bubbles and as a last resort. You can deflate an air bubble by poking it with a small pin on the side and parallel to your flat surface. Applying light pressure to a bubble should help deflate it. Poking the side of the bubble helps to mask any potential holes you make with the pin

    What Doesn’t

    • Using plaster/paint scraping tools. As mentioned before, any traction with the paper can cause tears.
    • The cardboard roll used to roll the paper on. In my experience, without ludicrous amounts of glue coating the paper, the roll will without fail partially adhere to the paper and lift it from the surface rather than pushing air out. This will cause more wrinkles
    • Spending hours correcting blemishes. When paper becomes wet, the fibres will naturally separate and will increase in size, especially if you are playing with it. The longer you push out bubbles and wrinkles, the more the paper shape will distort. It is better for your sanity to scrap a poorly laid piece of paper than to spend hours correcting it.

    When to Stop…

    Bubbles are inevitable and impossible to remove entirely. Aim to remove all the large bubbles and remove smaller ones at your own discretion based on ease. For reference, a bubble less than 2–3 mm in diameter would be small. The more you work on making your paper bubble free, the longer you are in contact with very weak wet paper. As is also true with wrinkles, if you can visualise within this paper the square that you are likely to use in your final model, this can allow you to focus your attention to save time and sanity.