Getting started

I wrote this for friends of mine embarking on the exciting and very fulfilling path of card making. It should be seen as 'class notes' because everything is better understood when shown with something as tangible and creative as paper crafts.

Links to some retailers are South African.

1.     Cardstock
For images & sentiments: To print your pictures for cards you must use the 160gsm (gram) cardstock you can buy at Pick n Pay / CNA / Waltons. This goes through a printer easily. NOTE: It will not color well with normal fibre tip pens but pencil coloring works great.
For the card base: The best cardstock to use is the heaviest, 240gsm. This gives the card a good solid structure to build your front panel on and is sturdy so it doesn't damage or bend easily.
It also works out quite cheap because you get TWO standard cards from it. I will show you how to cut it.

2.     "Clean and Simple" and other layouts
This website  shows you great layouts that can be done with minimal effort and gives great inspiration to "do your thing" :D - As you start making cards and learning more from the internet and professional card makers you will start developing your own 'style' whether it be CAS (Clean and Simple - MINE!), Shabby, Vintage, Distressed etc.
Other layout websites I look at: (could be simple or complicated) - UPDATE: The blog is not updated anymore but links to the layouts are still available. (more layers / detail / etc)
3.     Cuttlebug
IF you decide to go with the Cuttlebug, you will need this to get started:
·     Adapter plate C:  - You NEED this to be able to cut "Spellbinders" dies (the cutting shapes) with the cuttlebug. 
·     "Die templates" to start with:
o  Classic ovals from Spellbinder's Nestabilities:
o  Classic scalloped ovals from Spellbinder's Nestabilities (or one or the other to start off with):
·     Embossing mats: One source =
INSTRUCTION VIDEO: To use the Cuttlebug with the Nestabilities and to do the embossing see:

This website has taught me a LOT from day one. NOTE that this teaches a lot of 'stamping' techniques that you will use with 'rubber' or cling stamps. But even if you use digital images from the web you can still apply the stunning layout ideas. 

5.      Paper trimmer / cutter
I have since invested in a Tonic Guillotine which is also in inches and centimetres but as you'll see in the section below, I'm stuck on inches now! (I actually like it because it's easier to work with now that I'm used to it!)

6.     Scoring tool
A scoring tool is a tool that allows you to make a groove in the cardstock so that you can fold it without 'cracking' the surface. You could carry on without one initially if you are careful in how you fold the cardstock over and flattening the edge. BUT the thicker cardstock will tend to crack where it gets folded like that.

A very valuable tool is the Scor-buddy or Scor-Pal (larger size).  Read more about it here >
NOTE: The Scor-Pal is a board 12 inches x 12 inches whereas the Scor-Buddy is made specifically for card makers:

Instruction Video for the Scor-pal/buddy:

7.     All about layering 
If you start looking at card galleries ( / / etc) you will see that there is a LOT of layering when you use patterned paper and different 'panels'. Please read my blog post:

8.     Solid colored cardstock and patterned paper
Which brings us to what papers to use.
For back layers I use Tim Holtz / Ranger Distress Collection cardstock OR Bazzil (solid color).
Patterned paper can either cost you an arm and a leg or not. IF you buy traditional scrapbook paper which comes in sizes 12" x 12" (inches) make sure that you get something with a small print / pattern / picture. Remember that your card base is 4 1/8" x 5.5" big, so any patterned paper you put on top is going to be even smaller. You would like to see the pattern and not maybe just the tip of one large flower.

What you can look for is to purchase a paper pack that comes in size 6"x6". These are made especially for card makers since their patterns are usually small and you also don't have much wastage. (In actual fact you won't have any wastage if you use the left-over 'scraps' to make up new patterned panels:
Digital paper is another cost saver. You get hundreds of free digital paper samples online. You just need a good color printer to print it out. Print it out on the 160gsm for good quality layering. To find free digital paper, search for "Free Scrapbooking Paper" or "Free Digital Paper". Most of the digital scrapbooking websites give away free (or really cheap) digital paper. - Look for the papers. You will generally not print out a realistic looking embellishment like a bow or button to cut out and put on a card, for example.
Just Google "digital paper"!

9.      Sentiments & Images
To start out, it's a good idea to go with digital images. This will keep your costs down (you get lots of free goodies on the web!) and will get you going quicker (no shipping, just a quick download!)

Some digital stamp designers offer freebies to get you interested in their stamps. You might then want to buy some online. These can vary between $2.50 to $5.00 for example per image.

A tip: Look for coloring pages online. Make sure the image is clear and that the lines are detailed. These can be saved to your computer and re-sized as needed. (I use Microsoft Powerpoint since I can move my images around very easily.) VERY VERY IMPORTANT: When you use coloring pictures to put on cards to sell, make sure that there are no copyright issue in this regard. There is usually not, but make sure. ESPECIALLY when it comes to things with a brand, e.g. Disney. Generally I would stay clear of these.

Some websites for free images and sentiments:
· / - This website links to other websites

10.   Adhesives / Glues
I have found that the best adhesive / glue that works for me is Tombow Multi-liquid glue. I use the narrow point. It sticks VERY well but gives you 2 - 3 seconds to position your paper or image before sticking for good. A lot of card makers (and you'll see that on uses the glue rollers. I have found that I go through it too quickly and even if you use refills it becomes pricey.

A MUST-have is double-sided tape. I buy it either at  or at . I use this to place my ribbons on my cards, to stick the ribbons ends to the backs etc.

Glue Dots: These dots are great for sticking down small embellishments like roses or butterflies. I use the Medium size.

3D foam: These gives your panels or embellishments "lift". It is great for creating a 3D effect or if you want an embellishment to cast a shadow. You get them in different thicknesses and shapes (square / circle / cut-your-own).

11.    Here are instructions on making a standard layered card:
Here are some very basic cards, using the layout number 111 from

This is just to give an idea of what can be done with a very simple layout. You can always add and remove design elements.

a.       For the card base:
NOTE: This is for South Africans using A4 cardstock. In the States I know that you will cut yours down at 4 1/4" since you use the "Legal" or "Letter" size. So the only difference is that our cards are 4 1/8" wide whereas the standard size in the States is 4 1/4" wide.

Take an A4 240gsm cardstock (equal to about 180lb cardstock). Cut it down the length at 10.5CM (this is 4 1/8 inch). You now have to long narrow sheets.

Take one sheet and cut the edge off so that it is 11 inches long (approximately 27.9cm). Repeat with the other. You have two card bases.

If you have Scor-buddy, place it correctly and score at 5.5 inches. This is halfway. Fold close as seen in the Scor-buddy instruction video. OR place the two short edges on one another and using a ruler, firmly push the closed edge down and flatten. (See the section on the Scor-buddy / Pal for potential issue with this)

b.      Back layer:
This is often made with a darker, solid cardstock.
Cut it 1/8" narrower than your card base, so: 4" x 5 3/8"

c.       Patterned paper layer:
Once again, 1/8" narrower than your previous, solid color, layer = 3 7/8" x 5 1/4"

Glue the patterned layer on the solid layer.

d.      Preparing the image panel
Select an image and size it correctly before printing. This might take some practise but you'll quickly have a template to work from. If you're going to color your image, do it before any further cutting.
Cut out your image in the way you like. If you don't have cutting tools like a Cuttlebug and dies, just cut it with your paper trimmer. Measure your image and cut a solid layer that is slightly bigger than that to frame / layer that as well. It really just stands out so much better. Glue the picture to its back layer. If you're going to add glitter etc, do that now. Make sure it's properly dry before working further with this.

If you are going to put ribbons around your front panel, now is the time to do it.  Adhere it to the patterned paper with a little strip of double sided tape to keep it in position. Afix the ends to the back of the card with double sided tape.

Adhere your image panel to the patterned panel.

Once all embellishments are attached, glue the whole panel to the card base.


  1. Red, you did a wonderfull job with this post. You gave it a lot of thought and I think you covered all the bases. The rest is, as you say, practice, practice, practice. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. I wish I'd found you when I started making cards a few months ago. However, better late than never! Thank you for this post and for the one on money saving tips. I'm so happy to have found you and I love your style!


Snowboard Santa

I was looking for a cool image for a teenager and found this gem at Mo's Digital Pencil: