A history of cardmaking
In the tapestry of British arts and crafts, Cardmaking holds a special place, tracing its origins to ancient customs and evolving with the tides of culture and technology.
The roots of cardmaking can be traced back to the Ancient Chinese, who exchanged messages of goodwill to celebrate the New Year. But the practice blossomed in Britain during the Victorian Era. With the rise of the penny post in the 1840s, the practice of sending cards, particularly during the festive season, soared in popularity. Sir Henry Cole, who found himself too busy to pen individual Christmas messages, commissioned the first commercial Christmas card in 1843. This simple act set the stage for the explosion of the cardmaking craft in Britain.
By the late 19th century, the British had embraced this trend wholeheartedly. Valentines Day, Easter, and birthdays became occasions to send elaborately crafted cards. These cards often bore intricate designs, made of lace, ribbons, and adorned with pressed flowers. The Arts and Crafts Movement, championed by figures like William Morris, further enriched the aesthetic quality of cards. Their emphasis on handcrafted beauty and disdain for mass production pushed card designs to new creative heights.
The two World Wars saw a shift in the sentiment and production of cards. During these tumultuous times, cards often bore messages of hope, love, and longing. They bridged the gap between soldiers at the front and their families back home. Many were handmade, with soldiers crafting
Tools of the cardmaking trade
The following is a list of the very basic equipment needed for you to start card making. Card and Paper Assortment, Card Blanks, Embellishments, Craft knife, Cutting Mat preferably with marked grid lines, Bright Table Light, Large Scissors and small scissors for card and paper cutting, Glue Sticks, Glue Dots, Double Sided Sticky Tape, Metal Ruler, Tweezers, Card Scorer and Folder, Punches, Peel Off Greetings and Decorative Edgings + Corners, Envelopes, Poly bags (if you are thinking of reselling your cards) and Storage Containers.
As you progress you will find a paper and card trimmer, although an expensive outlay, will be invaluable.
Full list of tools
3-in-1 Corner Punch: Three unique designs, one punch. 3-D Cards: Cards in which dimension is added by mounting the cut-out image or item on the card or project with foam mounting tape.
Acrylic Rulers: Clear acrylic with 2-colour grid for precision measuring and detail cutting.
Brush Markers: Markers with a long tip for colouring directly on stamps or for colouring in images
Corrugator: Tool that ripples paper.
Crimper: A tool that produces a very narrow accordian like fold on paper for added dimension.
Debossing: The opposite of embossing the design is indented into the paper or material.
Deckle Edge: The rough, unfinished edge of handmade papers which appear to be ripped. Deckle Cutter Scissors that add a deckle look to paper. Deckle is the natural finish left by the frame on handmade paper. It shows off the paper fibres and looks nice when layered.
Double Stick Tape: Mounting tape that is foam-backed and sticky on both sides, which comes in squares or on a roll.
Dry Embossing OR Debossing: Getting a raised paper image or a recessed one by laying your paper on top of a stencil that is on a light source and using a stylus to trace the stencil.
Embossing Heat Gun: A heat gun, similar to a small hair dryer, used to melt embossing powder so it adheres to paper or other material to produce a raised stamped image.
Eyelet Setter: A metal tool used for applying eyelets.
Fiskars: - Lightweight brand of hobby scissors available in all sorts of cutting patterns.
Gel Pens: Ball point pens with smooth-flowing, acid-free and archival quality ink.
Glue Dots: Extremely sticky round dots of glue used to hold on embellishments such as buttons or heavy metal pieces. Also very useful in sticking things to papers and materials that are normally stick-resistant.
Glue Stick: A round stick of solid glue which is used to adhere embellishments to scrapbook pages, cards, tags, etc.
Heat Gun: Hobby tool that works like a hair dryer to melt embossing powder, but it gets very hot (up to 650° depending on the brand).
Non-Stick Scissors: A special blade coating allows tape and glue to wipe off easily.
Roller stamps: Stamps on a wheel that let you make borders and wrapping paper. Some kinds have interchangeable pattern wheels and are self inking.
Razor-Edged Scissors: The sharper the blade, the easier it is to cut through multiple layers of paper or fabric.
Rotary Cutters: Contoured handle at one end, circular blade at the other. So comfortable, youll look for excuses to cut through multiple layers of fabric, paper and more.
Self-Healing Cutting Mat: Gridded surface for cutting with rotary blades and craft knives. With a surface which heals itself when cut, keeping the mat looking like new.
Stencils: Come in brass, plastic or heavy card stock. They are used to create shapes and images. The stencil has open or cut out areas through which colour can be applied to create the image or a stylus can be used to create a raised image.
Stylus: A tool used in dry embossing with either one or two metal ball shapes on either end. This tool resembles a pen, which, confusingly enough, can also be called a stylus.
Swivel Knife: Small, curved-blade knife that turns with the motion of your wrist so you look more skilful than you need to be.
Template: A sheet, usually of soft or hard plastic, with cut-out shapes that you can use to trace or cut identical shapes from paper or other materials.
Materials used in cardmaking
Acid-Free: Free of chemicals that harm photos in cards / scrapbook projects. Generally, materials whose pH is over 7.0 are considered acid-free. ALL materials used in scrapbook pages should be acid-free unless you want them to dissolve before the next generations eyes.
Adhesive: Anything that sticks one material to another. Several common types of adhesive are photo stickers, Hermafix, glue dots or glue sticks.
Archival Ink: Long-lasting dye ink that will not fade or smear. Even when you apply water colours after stamping, it will not bleed. Also ideal for documents you dont expect to see again for many years.
Card Stock: Stiff, heavier weight paper used widely in scrap booking and paper crafts.
Chalks: Acid-free chalk that is usually applied with an eye shadow-type applicator or cotton swab to add dimension to die cuts, torn edges, cards, etc.
Corrugated: Paper that is rippled or ribbed (goes up and down).
Crystal Lacquer: A liquid that comes in coloured and clear - when it is dry it enhances images by creating a raised glossy surface
Dye Based Ink: Water based ink which is permanent on paper.
Dye Ink: Fast-drying, waterproof, fade resistant, acid-free ink. Just the thing to use with a brayer for paper crafting and card making. Quick drying ink, not generally used for embossing. Ideal for use on vellum paper if you do not wish to add embossing powder.
Embossing Ink: Thick, clear or slightly tinted ink used in (wet) embossing to adhere embossing powder.
Embossing Powder: Powder applied using embossing ink, then heated until it melts to create a raised, embossed, coloured image on paper or almost anything else. Sounds messy, looks beautiful.
Eyelets: Small hollow metal circles, similar to those once used for leather projects, applied to a small hole punched in material and then secured by splitting the backside of the eyelet open with an eyelet setter.
Foils: Coloured foils that can be applied to cards using a glue. The result is a shiny raised image.
Liquid Appliqué: - Use to draw, write or add highlights to stamped images. After applying to paper heat immediately for a rough texture or wait overnight for a smoother puff look. Can be used on fabric or paper.
Lignin-Free: Lignin is what holds wood together. But if its not removed during the papermaking process, the paper can change colour and become brittle over time. Cards and projects for archiving need to use lignin-free paper.
Mizuhiki Cords: Delicate cords make gorgeous metallic trims. They can be glued to the paper flat and side by side in various border designs or tied together for a bow.
Mulberry paper: Paper which has long fibres that create a feathered look when torn available in various textures, weights, and colours . Looks nice with a torn edge.
Pigment Ink: Slow drying ink, used widely for wet embossing. This ink is also used regularly in scrap booking because it tends to keep its deep, rich colour longer than other inks.
Rainbow pads: Ink pads with three or more colours side by side for multi colour stamping.
Sepia: A brown tint (originally squid ink) added to photos to give them an old-fashioned appearance. Very popular in heritage photos or photos of children.
Shrink Plastic: Commercial grade plastic sheet you stamp on and colour in, then pop into your oven, toaster-oven, or heat with your embossing tool to shrink your image/collage into a miniaturized version.
Vellum Paper: Translucent paper that can be used for everything from stamping to card making.
Techniques of cardmaking
Card Making tips
Use coordinated colours and try not to use any more than 3 colours on a card.Layer or mat to give your card that professional look. Layering or Matting means adding a complimentary or contrasting layer below your main focal point, cut slightly bigger than the focal point to frame it and draw the eye onto it . Additional layers/mats are made by cutting yet another contrasting piece a few mms larger again to frame the first frame you made. Mirror card looks very effective for this method, as your final frame. Make sure that you are careful when cutting layers - straight edges and exact corners are a must for a good looking card. Seek out visual triangles. Images in odd number groups (3,5,7...) are most pleasing. Don`t overdo a card. Stop layering and colouring before it looks like too much. Remember, sometimes less is more. Visit card shops and take a look at what other people do, and take ideas from what you see and like, maybe its only a small part of a design that you then can build on.
Inserts: Many people choose to leave the card blank inside - but I think the finishing touch is adding a personalised insert. Your own handwritten inserts can look nice if you are a neat writer or can do calligraphy. If not ... There are purpose made inserts with greetings already printed on them available, but it is very easy to set yourself up templates, for the different size of cards you make, on your computer using programs such as Microsoft Word. Then just change the wording to suit the occasion for the card. Have a practice doing some, you may find its trial an error until you get your text box set up correctly.
Alternatively, you can insert a blank sheet and rubber stamp / emboss your greeting or use one of the easy to use Rub On
Greeting transfers recently launched onto the craft market. Any type of paper including vellum can be used as an insert. Make your insert look more attractive by using decorative punch outs on the borders and corners. A nice touch is to choose the colour of your insert to compliment your card. Secure inserts into your card by using glue tape dispensers ( which leave a fine line of double sided tape) , cord, ribbon, glue sticks, or thin double sided tape.
Printing your own inserts: First open the Microsoft word program, then from the File drop down menu create a new blank document. Next click on File and from the drop down menu select Page Setup. From the pop up box choose your Paper size. For a A6 card select A5 paper size. Then, tick the Landscape option. Youre now ready to print to a 6 x 4 card blank. For an A5 card blank choose paper size A4. If you need other sizes then simply measure your card and input sizes in the width and height boxes. Click on Insert, from the drop down menu select Text Box, now look at your mouse pointer, it should have changed to a cross. Press the left mouse button and hold it down, and drag your mouse to the right and down, this will form a box for you to write your verse in. To change font colour and text type and size etc. position your mouse pointer on the edge of the box, then press the right mouse button. You will see a drop down menu, move your mouse pointer down the selections to Format Text Box, select the option and a pop up box will appear. From this pop up box youll be able to change everything to do with your text box. To move a Box to where you want it positioned on your insert, move your mouse pointer over the border, press the left mouse button, you can now drag the box to anywhere on the page using your mouse.
Embossing: Creating a raised three-dimensional design or image on paper or other materials. Embossing (Dry): Creating a raised design on card stock, paper or other material using either a brass stencil with a light source and stylus, or with stacked stencils (Fiskars ShapeBoss) and a stylus.
Embossing (Wet): A technique which uses a rubber stamp with inks and embossing powder which results in a raised stamped image on paper or other material.
Mat: Mounting a layer onto a larger piece of paper or several concentric layers to produce a pleasing effect.
Masking:- Stamped images that seem to be behind one another, achieved by using a paper cut-out of the stamp.
Paper Piecing: The process of taking a design, making a pattern, cutting it down into smaller sections and then re-assembling it.
Sponging: Adding texture to a surface with sponges of different porosity dipped in paints, inks, etc.
Stippling: Technique of gentle hammering strokes with a brush on your medium Excellent for creating backgrounds or applying colour in large areas quickly.
Tips and tricks of cardmaking
Common Card Sizes
A4 card measures 210mm x 297 (8.1/4 x 11.3/4) fits C4 envelope / poly bag A4 cut/ folded in half becomes A5 148mm x 210mm (5 7/8 x 8 ¼) fits C5 envelope / poly bag A5 cut/ folded in half become A6 105mm x 148mm (4 1/8 x 5 7/8) fits C6 envelope / poly bag DL 110mm x 220 mm fits DL envelope / poly bag
Common Envelope Sizes
Available off the shelf C5 162mm x 229mm C6 114 mm x 162 mm = 6 x 4 Card blank 133 mm x 184 mm = 7 x 5 Card blank 125 mm x 175 mm 130 mm x 130 mm = 5 x 5 Card blank 155 mm 155 mm = 6 x 6 Card blank DL 110 mm x 220 mm
Choosing your card blank
You can fold your own card but care needs to be taken to score and fold your card accurately. Always choose your envelope before folding your own card. Nothing more annoying than to spend time making a wonderful card to then find you have not got an envelope to fit it. Textured cards often feel and look more professional . Smooth cards allow for embossing. Think about your card design before deciding on what size shape card you need. Place your design on your card without actually sticking it down to see how it looks and if anything needs adding or removing. Aperture Cards are two fold - three panelled cards with a cut out on the front panel. Most pre packed cards will come pre scored and folded with envelopes to fit. When choosing a card blank or mount ask the GSM weight, (which is the thickness of the board) , Anything less than 235 gsm (Grams per Square mater) will be flimsy and paper like. Ideally you need card between 250 and 305 gsm. It is better to pay more for your card and get quality than it is to skimp on cost and end up with a cheap looking card.
Card buckles or bends. Normally caused by loading too much into the design Check the weight (gsm) of your card blank, anything under 250 gsm will not be suitable. Glue soaks though card blank. Card blank weight low, or using too much glue, Use a higher gsm card blank (250+) or use sticky foam pads as an alternative means of fixing Objects will not stay stuck to card blank. Incorrect card blank used, some card has a very smooth or coated finish ideal for printing and stamping but not for mounting objects.
Finish: The way a paper is surfaced. Paper ranges from a rough to a smooth finish.
Some common finishes are: wove, vellum, linen, laid, etc.
Ideas and inspiration for cardmaking
Selling your cards
Choosing your card blank: Always start with choosing your envelope before choosing your card blank, unless the card has come complete with an envelope. Its very frustrating to spend time on making your card to then find you do not have an envelope to fit. Choose an envelope that matches your card blank Choose a colour that shows off your design, cream and white are always a good choice, deckle edges looks good and can add value to the card, choose a card of at least 260 GSM, a textured finish i.e. linen or hammered also adds to the quality On dark coloured card you will need an insert which will add to your overall cost. Spending a little bit more for good quality card blanks is a good investment and adds more profit to the end product.
Positioning your design: As most cards are displayed in display racks its important that your card is not too small. A 6x4 card is the minimum size you should be making. If possible position your design more towards the upper part of the card, when greetings cards are placed in racks this is the part of the card a customer will see. If you have a greeting or occasion position this near the top also, if your design allows. Obviously this does not apply if your cards will be displayed in a card spinner display rack.
Poly bags /Cello Bag: Always, always present your cards in a clear good quality presentation bag. Always add a label and contact details on the rear of your card, not the bag.
Pricing your cards: Set your prices so you are getting a reasonable price for your work. Work out how long you spend working on a card, then decide how much you want to earn per hour. When working out your price take into account the following The time it takes to make, the cost of the materials, Overheads (such as stall rental, petrol etc.) If you can produce a card that has a competitive price and you are making a reasonable profit then youre onto a winner, if not then you need to rethink your design, examine the materials costs and time taken. Remember these are handmade products you are making, exclusive only from yourself and should be priced accordingly. You can increase profits by personalising your cards for individual customers. Try to keep the time of making your cards down, it is futile to spends hours making one card that you may only get a few pounds for. Generally less is best, keep things simple and dont use too many techniques on one card Ideally you should not be spending any more that 10 - 15 minutes per card.
Copyright, how to protect your work Your work can only be original if it is the result of independent creative effort. It is not original if it has been copied from something that already exists. Copyright protection is automatic as soon as there is a record in any form of what has been created, you do not have to register your work. A copy of the work can be sent yourself a copy by recorded delivery post, this gives a clear date stamp on the envelope, make sure to leave the envelope unopened and in a safe place Note, this does not prove that the work is original or created by you, but it is useful to show that the particular work was in your possession at a particular date. Also make sure to use the international copyright symbol © followed by your name and year of production.
Suggested outlets for retailing your cards card and gift shops, off licences, post offices, florists, cafes, hairdressers, barbers, petrol stations, shelters housing for the elderly, local shops, haberdashers, local markets, art galleries, coffee shops, party plan, car boot sales and craft fairs.
Build a Web site Showcasing your Designs: Make sure you have high quality photographs showing the quality of your designs. Categorize your card pages for different occasions, so you can maximize on people seeking cards through search engines. Link to as many web sites as you can.
Developing a portfolio / album - If you wish to make cards for an income make sure you have a wide range of designs, so there is plenty of choice. Save a copy or picture of every card you make as a record and reference for future projects. Stick to major occasions such as Birthdays (esp. 30th, 40th 50th and 21st)Weddings, Births and Christenings, Anniversaries, Mothers Day, Get Well, Friendship, Easter and Sympathy. Christmas ones will sell better if you personalise them for family and relatives. A major market for many card makers is for Weddings to include cards for the following: Wedding invitations, Reception invitations, Place cards, Thank you cards, Menus, Orders of service, Reply cards.
You will get sales like any other way you do business ! Cold-calling, advertising, press releases, direct mail, phone solicitation, word of mouth.