An introduction to card making

Card-making is one of the most popular creative pursuits in the UK, and for good reason. Making your own cards is enjoyable, a great way to express your artistic streak, and it can be relaxing and meditative. Plus, in the long-run, making your own cards is usually much cheaper than buying cards from shops, so it’s a cost-effective hobby too. But the biggest joy of card-making is the fact that you’re making something unique and thoughtful for a friend or family member – putting in time and effort to make something beautiful, and then seeing the look on your loved one’s face when they open a personalised, meaningful card that actually reflects them as a person. 

So if you’re looking to get into card-making but aren’t sure where to start, here’s everything you need to know.

What are some of the most popular card making techniques?

When it comes to making your own cards, there are plenty of different techniques you can try out. Some are more complex and may require a bit of practice – as well as some specialist equipment – but others are very simple and require minimal tools.

You may find you want to begin trying out some simpler card-making techniques before moving onto the more technical styles. But, if you’re feeling confident and want to tackle some more ambitious card-making techniques first, there’s no reason why you can’t. The beauty of card-making is that there are no rules – though do bear in mind that, as with most things, the more practice you put in, the more stylish and professional your cards will look.

So what are some of the most popular styles of card-making?

1. Stamping

Stamping is one of the easiest and most accessible card-making techniques, and for that reason it’s very popular with beginners. Stamping involves using rubber stamp designs and ink pads to replicate images, letters, numbers and phrases in your card designs.

To get some ideas for how your stamping designs could look, check out these stamping card designs on Pinterest  – and to find out more about how to use stamping in your designs, you might want to have a watch of the video below.

2. Masking

Masking is the next step up from stamping. It’s the process of placing one stamped image behind another and building up layers of images, using paper cut-outs to cover up the parts you want to leave as they are. By doing this, you’re creating a montage of stamped images.

To find out more about masking techniques, you might want to read this article by Card Making Circle, or this tutorial by Split Coast Stampers. Alternatively, check out some beautiful masking card designs on Pinterest, or watch the video below to see some masking card-making in action.

3. Layering

This technique is simply about building up an image using different layers. When each layer is slightly bigger than the last, you’re adding a three-dimensional look to your cards. You can even use foam pads to create more difference between your layers, and achieve a more dramatic look.

To find out more about the best ways to use layers in your cards, you might want to read this article by Simply Simple Stamping – and to see some different ways you can layer up your cards, have a look at these images on Pinterest. To watch some examples of the different ways you can layer up your cards and achieve different looks, check out the video below.

4. Quilling

Quilling involves rolling thin strips of paper into a coil, and then using these coils to make other designs. By shaping the coil, you can create circles, hearts, flowers, suns, balloons, and many other types of designs. Once you’ve made your designs, you can stick them onto your card, creating texture and dimension.

Have a look at some of these lovely designs to see some of the different ways you can use quilling in your card designs. If you’re interested in seeing some more advanced quilling techniques, you might want to watch this video – and for simpler quilling techniques that are aimed at beginners, check out the video below.

5. Embossing

Embossing is the process of giving cards a textured appearance by creating a raised or depressed surface that forms part of the design or pattern. There are several different ways of embossing, most of which require a heat source, but if you’re just starting out, it might be best to use the simplest embossing method, which uses stencils.

There are many different ways to go about embossing your cards, from using specialist tools to repurposing everyday items, so to find out more, you might want to read this blog by The Paper Mill Store, or this embossing guide by Card Making Circle. Have a watch of the video below to see how you can use heat embossing with stencils.

What card making supplies will I need?

So before you get started making your cards, what supplies do you need to have on hand? If you decide to make more complex cards and try out techniques like embossing, you may need to invest in supplies like heat tools and embossing fluid – but if you’re just starting out and want to see if card-making is for you, it’s best to begin with the basics. Then, if you decide card-making is a hobby you’re happy to spend money on, you can purchase some of the more specialist supplies.

In general, the basic card-making supplies include:

1. Blank cards and envelopes. To make your own cards, you obviously need your own stash of cards and envelopes. Blank cards are the empty canvas for your creations, and it’s important to find the right size, colour, texture, weight and thickness for each project you’re working on. You can buy a selection of blank cards and envelopes from Hobbycraft or Amazon.

2. Craft knife and/or scissors. When you’re making your own cards you’ll need to cut out shapes and intricate designs, so a decent pair of scissors is a must. Depending on the types of cards you plan on making, you might want to also purchase a craft knife, as it’s sometimes easier to cut out stencils and designs this way.

3. Glue. Whatever style of cards you’re planning on making, you’ll definitely need plenty of glue and tape. The specific type of glue you’ll need will depend on its purpose: if you’re using glue to add embellishments, you’ll need one that dries clear; if you’re using glue to add layers to a card, you need one that isn’t bulky. Cosmic Shimmer Glue is highly recommended by most crafters, as it’s thin and dries clear, but you can check out different glues at Hobbycraft and Amazon.

4. Tape. Low tack crafting tape is essential for holding cards and stencils in place while you’re working – and using normal sellotape runs the risk of ripping your designs when you try to peel it off. It’s a good idea to buy some double sided tape too, and if you’re interested in using layering in your designs, and creating volume and dimension, you might want to buy some foam tape too, which can help make your designs pop out.

5. Embellishments. Arguably the most enjoyable part of card-making is decorating them with embellishments. You can decorate cards to reflect someone’s personality or suit a certain occasion – or you can just play around til you find the look you want. Some of the most popular embellishments include ribbons, bows, glitter, stickers, buttons, washi tape and gemstones. Card toppers are also fun to add. Have a look at the embellishment section of the Hobbycraft website for more inspiration – or head over to Amazon.

6. Pens and pencils. Most art forms require a decent set of pens and pencils, and card-making is no different. Once again, the types of cards you’ll be making will dictate the types of pens and pencils you’ll need: if you’re planning on drawing your own designs onto cards, you might want to consider buying some sketching pencils, charcoal pencils, or watercolour pencils. Metallic pens are fun to play around with too.

7. Stamps, inks, and stencils. If you’re planning on using stamps in your card designs (and it’s a great way for beginners to start out) then you’ll need a supply of stamps and inks. Hobbycraft has a good range of rubber stamps – from roses to hearts to butterflies – as do Amazon. You’ll also want to choose a selection of ink pads in different colours, though you can always get rainbow ink pad sets. Stencils allow you to quickly replicate intricate card designs, and some of the stencil are really beautiful: Amazon has a great selection.

Card-making tips & tricks

So now you’ve bought your supplies and researched the card-making techniques you want to try, it’s time for the real fun to start! Before you get your cards and scissors out, however, it might be helpful to familiarise yourself with some expert card-making advice. This way, you can pick up some tips and tricks from the pros before you start – and you might even get some ideas for your first designs, too.

1. Incorporate calligraphy. Whether you’re a bit of a calligraphy pro or just love the way it looks, using calligraphy in your cards is a simple way to inject some style and sophistication into your designs. A simple phrase written in calligraphy can make a great minimalist card design. To find out more about learning calligraphy, check out our guide, An introduction to Calligraphy.

2. Think outside the box. When it comes to making your own cards, there are no rules, so try to keep an open mind when planning how to decorate your designs. If you have some scraps of pretty wrapping paper left over, why not think about using them in your designs? Cutting out shapes and images from old Christmas cards and using them to make new cards is always a great idea, too.

3. Keep your stamps clean. After using your stamps, it’s important to clean them properly. You should take care never to scrub them, as this can damage the surface of the stamp; instead, simply spray some cold water onto your stamp and gently wipe it clean with a paper towel or clean cloth. You can also use baby wipes, as long as they’re alcohol-free.

4. Quality matters. While making your own cards can be a cheap hobby – and you certainly don’t need to fork out for super expensive tools – when it comes to simple paper and ink techniques, quality does matter. Low-quality, thin card often curls or bleeds when it gets damp, so if you’re planning on using wet inks in your design, bear this in mind. Smooth, heavy card is best for stamping onto and colouring, as you’ll achieve clear, crisp shapes.

5. Use some specialty items. Unless you’re going for a simple, minimalistic look, most cards benefit from a bit of extra oomph to up the ante. When you’re planning your card’s design, it can be helpful to think about the small ways you can take your design to the next level: you could use sequins, or nuvo drops, which add lovely little raised dots to your design. The snow marker pen is great for Christmas cards, as it’s an easy way to add 3-D snow to your images. Or you could use the Lawn Fawn Liquid Stardust to add sparkle to your colours. The options are endless!

6. Familiarise yourself with different folding techniques. If you think there’s only one or two ways to fold your cards, think again! There are so many different folding techniques, so before you start making your own cards, you might want to familiarise yourself with some of them to keep your options open. To find out about different card folding techniques, check out this article by The Spruce Crafts

To find out how to avoid some common card-making mistakes, you may want to watch the video below.

Card making ideas and inspiration

So now you’re ready to get creative – but that doesn’t mean you necessarily know where to start. There are so many different card themes and designs that picking one can be tricky, especially when you’re just starting out. Pinterest is great for finding inspiration: if you have a card theme in mind, simply search for a specific term and you’ll be flooded with beautiful ideas – for example, if you’re making a birthday card for someone who loves sailing, you could search for “nautical birthday cards”; or if you want to make a seasonal-inspired Easter card, search for “spring inspired Easter cards”.

If you’re looking for some more specific ideas that are suitable for beginners, you might want to try some of these ideas:

1. Simple stamping. If you’re a card-making rookie, you can’t go wrong with stamping. It allows you to quickly create stylish cards with minimal fuss, and the only supplies you need are card, stamps and ink. Have a look at this simple stamped card, which uses triangles to make a pretty geometric layout. All you then have to do is add your own personalised message on the front of the card. Quick, easy, and very stylish!

2. Washi waves. Washi tape is a great addition to your card-making toolkit. It’s a low tack, decorative masking tape that adds pattern and colour to your cards, and you can use it to make simple yet beautiful cards just by cutting out wavy shapes and sticking them to your card. Check out this washi tape card, which uses stamped messages in between each layer of washi tape. You could use your own stamped messages, or if you prefer, write out your message by hand (calligraphy would look great here!).

3. Candle cards. If you’re making a birthday card, why not stick a candle to the front of your card to make it extra festive? Not only is this a fun way to decorate a card, but it’s also incredibly easy to make: all you need is a candle, some patterned card, and some washi tape. Just have a look at this great candle card to see how it’s done.

4. Pom pom balloons. Another fun idea for a birthday card – or any celebration card – is to use mini pom poms and create balloons. All you need is some coloured card, mini pom poms, tacky glue and a pen: simply stick the pom poms down, draw balloon strings with your pen, and add your own personalised message. Have a look at this pom pom balloon card to see how easy and effective this idea is.

5. Fake flowers. Floral cards almost always go down well, so why not use fake flowers to create your own three-dimensional designs? Simply attach your fake flower head to the card with a paper fastener, then embellish your card with washi tape and your own message. Have a look at this simple flower design to see how it’s done.

For more inspiration, you might want to check out the card-making section of the Fiskars website, or browse these card-making ideas from Baker Ross.

Final thoughts…

Card-making is a hobby that’s just as rewarding as it is relaxing, and you may find that once you get stuck into making a card, the time just flies by. It might take a little while to get the hang of certain techniques, but learning is all part of the fun – and mistakes are part of the learning process.

If you decide you want to get into card-making, you may have to spend a bit to get all your initial supplies, but in the long-run making your own cards is more cost-effective than buying them. Making your own cards isn’t really about the cost anyway – it’s about the time, effort and creativity you put into it, and about making your loved ones feel special by giving them a personalised, homemade card. And you can’t put a price on that.

Do you make your own cards – or are you thinking about giving it a go? We’d love to hear your stories and see photos of your creations! Leave us a comment below or join the conversation over on the community.

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