Easy steps to make your own greeting cards

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Ever wanted to make your own greeting cards but have no idea what you need? Or where to find it? Or how to create them? Thought I'd share my story in case it helps anyone along their way...

In early 2007 I started making my own greeting cards. I had dabbled a little before that, but it was really only adding some stickers or sparkles, basic calligraphy or printing off images from my PC. But this time I started shopping (blindly I might add) for the bits and pieces that I needed. Then the confusion started - oh boy!

I found heaps of great stores on eBay, with a plethora of stuff. C5 cards, envelopes, papers, punchies, die-cuts, embellishments, fabric & foam shapes, stickers, ribbons, blah blah blah. Yet I had no idea how much to pay, how many to buy, exactly what to buy, etc. It seemed no-one could give me advice, or wasn't willing. Nor could I find a helpful book or magazine about it. I wanted to make cards that said something to the recipient while being an expression of my creativity.

I took my first step and bid on and won a card-making pack. It came with 10 pretty cards & envelopes, cardstock bits, a few paper pieces and strings, ribbons and fibres. When it arrived, I looked at it and wondered exactly what I was supposed to do with it. So I went searching on eBay for some handmade cards for sale. Most of them looked similar to scrapbooking, which is not an interest of mine so I felt a little deflated. Then I decided to bite the bullet and make up a few cards for my friends and family first.

I went out and bought some double-sided tape, foam mounting squares and clear-drying craft glue. I pulled out my paper slicer, scissors, gel pens and colourful textas, glitter. Found my collection of stickers and pretty stationery paper. Then I bought some little stick-on jewels, paper flowers and a few rolls of pretty ribbons. I kept to a budget, in case I was a flop at it (what confidence!).

I was now ready to go! I have to say that the first few I made were what I would now consider yuck. But my family who got them loved that they were handmade with love. So I learned fast from my boo-boos or poor judgement. And now I have it down to a fairly fine art, albeit flexible and dictated by my mood at the time.

A few bits I learned along the way...

DO NOT ATTACH ANYTHING UNTIL YOU ARE SATISFIED WITH THE TOTAL DESIGN! AND TRUST YOUR CREATIVE SPIRIT & LOVE OF YOUR RECIPIENT TO GUIDE YOU!!

1. Pick the card that you want to work with. The plainer the card, the more embellishment it can take. Textured or patterned cards really look better with less clutter. Matt-finish cards are good for multi-layered designs.

2. Think about who the card is for. Personality, favourite things, hobbies, the event it is for, their favourite colours, etc. Pick a theme based around these. eg. flowers, butterflies, gross-out insects, new baby items, glitzy glam, bling bling, anniversary item (paper, wood, gold, silver, diamond).

3. Pick out the top-layer of the card - ie. wording, 3D effects, stickers, frames etc. Make sure these blend together and co-ordinate with the base card colour and finish. Trust Coco Chanel if in doubt - put it all together then take off one thing - less is more! For example, you may want to avoid glossy or metallic cards with lots of jewels or shiney bits and bobs if your recipient isn't a bling-lover.

4. Go through your papers and cardstock to pick some options that mix well with the top-layer elements. You can use mesh, lave or fabric instead of paper! Narrow it down to two choices, try them with the top-layer - one may look better than the other. If you have blue words and frame on top, you may want to put some colourful paper with blues mixed in underneath. Work out how to cut-down the paper piece to fit - eg. to fit a frame, square, round, hexagonal. Make sure you have the right tool to do this.

5. Think about whether the paper will be better framed with a card or plain paper edging. Putting a slightly bigger cardstock piece under the paper can often give the overall card that finished feel. If so, decide what shape you think it needs - ie.identical to paper, offset shape, square under circle, oval under hexagonal, etc.

6. Find a co-ordinating trim for the card - ribbon, fibres, string, sequins, beads, etc. This may be where the paper choice becomes obvious. Once again, bear in mind that less is more. The design may not need any trim, or it may benefit from some extra glitz like sequins or beads. I find having a range on hand of basic colours in a variety of fabrics is great for this. Ribbons are readily available these days - $2 shops, eBay, newsagents - so it is an inexpensive way to add pizazz and flair. Try buying some be-jewelled purple or red, pale pink & pale blue & ivory satin, white & navy chiffon, black velvet, gold & silver string to start - could cost under $20 if you shop wise. And these colours can generally cover most ocassions!

7. Before you cut the trim... Work out how to place your trim - try around the spine like a book-binder, swirled over the front, tucked ends beneath the paper, woven around the frame, top-to-bottom of card or diagonal. I recommend tucking the ends in somehow - either over the edges of the card, under a feature on the card front. It may also be advisable to invest in some fuseable/iron-on invisible sewing tape to prevent frays - it fuses two pieces of fabric together, in this case the rolled over end of the ribbon. Remember to make allowance for any extra you may need to do these tips - then cut.

8. When you are happy with the overall look, start putting the layers together. I recommend one of two ways - base-to-top or top-to-base. First method - attach the cardstock to the card front, then the paper, then trim and final top-layer elements - so you are building up from the base of the card every time, with the final touch generally being the wording. Alternative - start by attaching the top-layer elements to the paper, then to the cardstock, then lastly the final "topper" to the card front. For the novice, I recommend the first method of base-to-top as it gives you more control as you go with positioning the layers.

9. Create your own labels to show it is your creation. Buy some small labels and get creative. Make them up on Word on your PC then print them off at home. Or you can just hand-write them. Gives that professional touch and stamps this as your creative work!

10. Pick an envelope that fits your creation well. Not too roomy or the bits and pieces may giggle about and dislodge. Nor too snug that the card may get damaged being pulled out. For C5 sized cards (that's half-A4 sheet folded in half), go with a C6 envelope. To fit a card inside a DL envelope, the base card should measure no more than 9x20cm when folded. 

A basic guide to card layers (as if looking side-on from folded card laying flat): 

  1. Card-Back (put your own label on it!)
  2. Insert 
  3. Card-Front
  4. Cardstock - Strips or Pieces
  5. Papers / Lace / Fabric
  6. Stickers
  7. Ribbons / Fibres / Rope
  8. Frames
  9. Wording
  10. 3D Effects.

And remember, you do not have to use each one of these in every design!!!! Don't overdo it, trust your instinct.

For great card-making packs, visit my store - Unique JEB Designs store front. You can also see some of my creations that are for sale!

Happy card-making...

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