Getting Back to Card-Making Basics
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Whether you just recently stepped into the wondrous world of card making or you’re a seasoned crafter whose collected more masses of paper and tools than you can shake a stick at, knowing and reviewing basic tools and terms will guarantee you years or triumphant card making success!

Wondering through the paper-craft or rubber-stamp store, for an experienced card maker, is like a trip to the candy store for a child with a serious sweet-tooth. Beautiful papers, shiny stickers, and the latest, greatest tools, are all temptations to add to our shopping basket. However, for the beginner, deciding how and where to get started or what to purchase, can seem like a daunting task. Learning the basics and laying the right foundations for enjoyment of your craft, are the hallmarks of success and the best ways to avoid frustrations along the way. Let us help you build that foundation right here, beginning with getting “Back to Basics”!


As a beginner card maker, one of the first things you’ll attempt to put together is a basic  paper-and-card-crafting toolkit. Here are some important items to include:

1) Paper Trimmer
2) Scoring Tool
3) Bone Folder
4) Metal-edge Ruler
5) Pencil
6) Scissors
7) Craft Knife and Mat
8) Piercing Tool and Foam Mat
9) Adhesive

After a while, your toolkit will begin to evolve according to your particular interests. Consider adding a few out of the ordinary tools for specialized work, like:

1) 1/8-inch hole punch
2) Tweezers or small pliers
3) Decorative-edge scissors


The are several different varieties of paper to choose from – plain, printed, mat, glossy, single-fisted, double-fisted, and textured. The weight of these papers varies greatly, from heavier, sturdy card stocks ideal for use as a card-base, to lighter-weight papers such as Japanese papers in an array of various colors, ideal for adding layers or embellishment. Vellum and parchment paper have a translucent quality to them and are available with colored, plain, printed, textured, and iridescent effects.


There are just as many types of adhesives as there are types of paper. It is vital to choose an adhesive that works just right with the type of paper you are using. For example, if you are using vellum paper, it is extremely translucent and most adhesive will show through. Read the label and only use an adhesive that works with your specific type of paper. Here are some examples of perfect paper-adhesive pairing below:

• Adhesive dots — good for hard embellishments such as metal pieces, rhinestones and buttons

• Vellum tape — transparent adhesive for use with vellum

• Foam mounting tape — use to raise or lift elements to create dimension

• Double-sided liner tape — liner sheet covering adhesive, some are heat resistant

• Tape runner – quick to use, come in a hard case, often disposable

• Repositionable tape — not permanent

• Tape sheets — sheets of double-sided tape

• Glue stick — great for large coverage

• Glue pen — good for tiny areas

Another option is to use a machine that applies adhesive to your paper, ribbon, or thin embellishment after you place them inside of it. (Xryon is a company that manufactures such machines).


When it comes to card creation, any shape or size is possible. However, some of the most common sizes are:

• 41/4 x 51/2-inch (A2)
• 6 x 6-inch square
• 5 x 7-inch (A7)
• 81/2 x 4-inch

Create a card in a top, side or gatefold orientation to best fit the design you’ve chosen. Accordion-style cards, window cards and shaped cards are further options to consider and are an easy way to add interest to your project. If stock envelopes aren’t available for a particular card size, then you can modify a large envelope, make a custom one using a template, or you can simply use a small paper bag as another alternative.

Score your card stock before folding, in order to create a clean, professional base. There are several tools and methods to do this, but for starters you can use the basic bone folder or stylus, along with a ruler, to create a smooth, straight score line. Paper trimmers like those by Fiskars or Marvy Uchida, include a score blade that can be used just like a cutting blade. Also, there are boards with measured grooves and a scoring tool, like Scor-It Board or Scor-Pal. Regardless of the method you choose, practice first, as each method will react differently, depending on the pressure used and the type of paper.


Understanding what people and instructions are saying is important. There is a defined language of crafting. Here are some common terms:

• Score — create an indentation in the paper in order to have a crisp fold

• Burnish — reference to the use of a bone folder on the score line when folding, or to rub the surface to secure when adhering

• Mountain fold — upward fold like a mountain

• Valley fold — downward fold like a valley

• Portrait — card orientation similar to a portrait of a person, longest measurement being vertical

• Landscape — card orientation similar to a picture of a landscape or the horizon, longest measurement being horizontal

• Gatefold — style of card with a right and left flap that join in the middle like a gate

• Accordion — style of card where vertical score lines create panels resembling an accordion, or scoring a strip to create accordion pleats

• Die cut — a shape cut using a die and machine

• Pressure emboss — texture or designs created with embossing folders, dies, stencils, stylus, with hand or machine pressure

• Heat or thermal emboss — created with inks, embossing powders or enamels, and a heat tool

• Direct to paper (DTP) — technique where inks are applied directly to the paper from the ink pad

• Dashed line — usually refers to fold line


A huge number of techniques exist and you’ll probably find yourself drawn to one more than many others. You can combine techniques to create further visual interest. There are NO set rules or limitations to card making, so jump in and get started and enjoy getting back to the simple basics with your card making.

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