Every occasion is made special by a giving a card. Cardmaking makes the event more memorable because you made the effort to create the perfect card for that person.
There are several elements required in every card: Background, Theme, Focal Point, Title and Embellishments.
Every card starts with a base. You can buy card and envelope sets at most stationary and craft stores. Alternatively, you can make your own card from cardstock. I prefer to use 8.5x11 inch cardstock folded in half to make a 5.5x8.5 card - a little bigger than your standard card of 4x6 inches. It uses 1 sheet of paper (no waste) and I like my stuff to stand apart from store bought!
Tip: cardstock packages are often priced less at office supply stores than at craft stores.
The theme of your card represents the occasion being celebrated and the feelings you have about it. For example, you can make a bold, happy, Woo-hoo kind of Graduation card, or a serious I'm so proud of you/you worked so hard Graduation card. Both can be perfect for the event - a graduation - but the use emotion you mostly feel about the event to help you choose what you want to say. The card I'd make for my son is not the one I'd make for the neighbourhood kid.
Determining a focal point can be the most critical part of card design. Do you have a great photo? Saw a new paper folding technique? Have some die cuts in a box? In the card above, I used the technique of iris folding shown in this tutorial. I like how the window is centered (mostly) horizontally, and is set closer to the top than the bottom of the card. This leaves me lots of space to add a title and/or another background element. Right now, there's too much white on the card, but I think maybe some patterned paper cut into triangles mounted in each corner will greatly help that. I could find a stamp or sticker and mount that beneath the window as well. I used exactly this layout with only a stamped "Thank-you" label mounted beneath the window for my wedding thank-you cards.
The choice of fonts for a title can be intimidating - do you hand draw them? Use a stamp? Print something from the computer? I like the uniformity of stamps or printouts for my cards. It gives me a chance to add a narrow border around the title and maybe some foam tape to make a 3D effect too. Sound hard? Just take the stamped or printed title and cut it out. Now tape/glue it onto coloured paper and cut it out 1/8 to 1/4 inch from the inner paper - framing it. Put some foam tape on the back and apply to the card. I only have 2 Happy Birthday stamps, and I've used them for years - for all ages and don't I feel limited by only having 2 options.
Embellishments are the extra zing to your card. Ribbons, buttons, stickers, Scrabble tiles, Bling! Anything that you can sew or glue onto the card is an embellishment. They tie all the elements of the card together and give it a finished look. Does every card need further embellishment? No. But sometimes it's that little dab of glitter glue that just makes a card.
More than any other design element, the choice of colour creates mood. Loud colours like crimson red, royal blue and fuschia tell a happy story! They are bright and seem to yell "Let's celebrate!" More muted colours like beige, gold and ivory are more suited to formal occasions like weddings. Pastels are often thought of as new baby colours. Natural colours - think florals and landscapes - are relaxing are calming.
Contrast is created by using saturated pure colours. High contrast like between black and neon are a more modern twist on the loud celebration theme. Black with white or silver is a classic "white tie" feeling. I'm currently intrigued by black and red - so bold!
Complimentary colours are opposite each other on a colour wheel. Red-Green and Yellow-Blue. Classic, they enhance each other, and just plain look good together! I'm not an expert on colour theory, but I like how these combos work.
Monochromatic schemes are tone-on-tones. All within one colour family, like blue. These are my favourites to play with. The only concern is light vs dark. They always look good! And they adapt to every theme.
There are millions of examples of cool things you can do to make a unique, fabulous card that anyone would be happy to receive. But if you start with a basic card, add a focal picture, and a title - you are on your way to cardmaking bliss!
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