Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Card-Making Process

Many of you know I've wanted to be a writer for years and years (since 6th grade!), but what you may not know is that I've spent just as many years on my hobby of card-making. For over 17 years, I've been honing these two crafts, and I think I've gotten pretty good at both.

My cards
Normally these cards take so much time and effort, I only give them out to friends and family for special occasions. But for a limited time, in order to raise funds for the publication of my novel THE CHANGELINGS, I'll be giving them away with a $10 pledge on Pubslush, starting this Wednesday, October 1st. This also includes a bookmark and signed thank you. For more information on my campaign, please go here.

So how do I make cards? Well, let me tell you a little bit about my process.

Step 1: Choose a Stamp

I use wooden stamps, a dry black ink, and white card paper for my stamps. These supplies can be bought at any craft store or online.
This hummingbird stamp is one of my favorites
When choosing a stamp, I consider the amount of white space in the stamp, because I like to color and you can't do it if the whole thing turns out black. I despise having to solely color with black, browns, and grays, so I look for designs that allow me to play with color, like this hummingbird.

Step 2: Color and Cut

Now comes the most time consuming part of the process: coloring and cutting the designs, which can take upwards of an hour, depending on how big and involving the stamp is.

For the most part, I use plain old Crayola colored pencils, the kind that come in a box of 50, supplemented with some metallic pencils (also Crayola, but harder to find) and a couple really expensive dollar-per-pencil colored pencils I got for Christmas one year.
Tools of the trade
The secret to vibrant colors? First, I trace over every major line with a darker, complimentary color. (For skin, I usually use mahogany and peach.) You might not notice it at a glance, but trust me, it makes all the difference. The second trick is simple: color really hard! 

My goal is to annihilate any white space (unless the white is intentional, like with snow) I see. After coloring inside the lines, I might even color around the outside of the stamp (typically with yellow), so that when I cut it out, you can't see the white paper I used. It also makes the stamp stand glow.

Step 3: Choose Paper and Accompaniments

If you get the nice stuff, this can get expensive fast, so I usually shop during sales and keep every scrap of paper. I was lucky that my aunt has a craft room stuffed with pretty papers, stickers, ribbons, cutters, and embossers, which she lets me use for free.
Pretty paper and glitter
 I buy cards in big stacks of 80 for $20, or about a quarter a pop. The problem is you may end up with colors you don't want (pinks and yellows, in my case), so you have to play around with other scraps of papers and hope you come across a combination that strikes you. This part is full of improv and discovery.

Aside from the paper, I also break out other accessories, such a ribbons, cutouts, and glitter. I look for things that give texture and a pop of sparkle. I also typically stamp and emboss words, "Life is Beautiful" being my favorite.

In general, my supplies run out quick, which is part of the reason my cards never quite look the same. Whether I want to or not, I have to start all over again with the next set of cards I make.

Step 4: Arrange and Glue

Typically, I just use glue sticks for the paper, although I do have stronger stuff for pieces of fabric, ribbons, and delicate pieces of paper. Most of my stamped stuff gets foam mounting dots to raise it slightly and give it that extra pop. Then I apply glitter and wait for it to dry.
Final Product
 And there you have it: a beautiful card. On average, it takes me two hours of concentrated effort to complete the card, which doesn't include shopping for the supplies or cleaning up the incredible mess. 

Word of warning: Do not go into the craft room! It's a war zone!

Is Card Making Right for You?

The good news is that card-making can be fairly cheap to start. All you need is one or two really special wooden stamps, a black stamp pad, some white card stock, blank cards, a couple of choice papers, and leftover school supplies. A canny shopper could probably scrounge up these supplies for $20 or less.

For me card-making is a good way to relax. I usually pop in an old movie and listen to it as I color. Card-making favors hoarders with a creative streak, who may spend years coming up with a nice collection of stamps, scraps, and decorative items. Sure, you can buy pre-made sets, but that adds up and (in my opinion) it's not nearly as fun.

As you get better, you may want to invest in some nice stamping equipment. The number one special effect I use is my embosser, which means a special embossing ink pad, embossing powder (gold and silver are the best), and a heat gun. People who can't stand crooked edges may also want to invest in a good paper cutter. There are all sorts of cool card-making accessories available, but it adds up, so buy wisely.

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