Mementoes In Time

Working with Chipboard

Chipboard is used mainly by scrapbookers to add dimension and interest to their scrapbook pages, most notably with chipboard alphabets and die cut shapes but it has also gained ground as a very exciting medium to create three dimensional projects like you see on this site and elsewhere.

Chipboard is an incredibly versatile medium to use and allows crafters to create in ways that are impossible with ordinary paper and cardstock. With chipboard, you can truly step 'beyond the page' and create mini masterpieces to give as keepsakes.

This page gives examples of some techniques, using our 3D chipboard templates and kits but of course the techniques can be applied to any chipboard project.




What exactly is chipboard?

The term chipboard is applied to quite a broad range of products and the definition does tend to vary.  Most people outside of the crafting world understand chipboard to be a building material or board made from wood chips pressed together and sealed with a resin used to make furniture. In fact if you search on the internet for pictures of chipboard, this is most likely what you will find.

Chipboard used in furniture


For scrapbookers and crafters, the term chipboard means something else entirely and usually refers to a pasteboard made from recycled and pressed papers and card. Paper pieces are pressed and heated to form a strong and rigid material with a smooth surface that can be cut to form shapes.


Other names for chipboard used by manufacturers and suppliers are particleboard, pasteboard, paperboard, bookboard, daveyboard, boxboard and strawboard. These boards tend to be coloured as a kraft brown or as a grey, depending on the raw materials used to make them. 




Chipboard comes in different thicknesses from thinner more flexible boards which can be cut with scissors and die cutting machines and are often used in commercial packaging that we see on the supermarket shelves to thick and very strong boards which can only be cut with larger industrial machines.

Our pre-packed kits use a medium thickness chipboard of 1200 um/650 gsm which gives a good strength but not so thick that you cannot manipulate it.  The same thickness is recommended for using with the downloadable templates.


What can you do with chipboard?

Chipboard is incredibly versatile, making it very popular with scrapbookers and other papercrafters. Apart from immersing it in water, which will make it disintegrate, there is pretty much no limit to what you can do with it.

Chipboard is also a very cheap medium to produce and therefore buy, making it very good value and also a very quick product to turn into something pretty stunning if you know what you are doing. Basic techniques include cutting shapes, painting and papering but of course there are lots more ways to change the appearance which are mentioned in the following sections.


Cutting and Shaping Chipboard

Chipboard is usually available in usefully sized packs from your craft store but you may come across it in big sheets too, which is exactly the way my local store sells it. If you come across it in large sheets and don't have a guillotine, then ask them if they will cut it down for you. You need to get your chipboard to a manageable size for cutting. Now you can cut some interesting shapes to decorate for your scrapbook projects or 3D projects.


The complete chipboard kits we have on the site and for sale in the webstore have been run through a commercial die cutting machine so the pieces are already cut for you and all you have to do is decorate and glue them together.  



If you have your own die cutting machine such as Sizzix, Cuttlebug you can cut a huge range of shapes, depending on the dies you have to use. For my own use I have an original Sizzix, a Cuttlebug and a Big Shot machine, all of which I have used for chipboard and I love them all like family members!




Make sure that the chipboard is not too thick if you are going to be using it in a die cutter. Trial and error is the best way but start with a thin chipboard and go carefully. Make sure you are using the high profile/thicker dies in your machine and not thinner dies like Sizzlits which will not work at all.


Thin chipboard will be most successful but you should check with the manufacturer if you are not sure what your machine will cope with. Another source of good information is to check on the craft forums to see what has been posted in relation to your particular die cutting machine. If you try to stuff thick board through your machine you may end up breaking your plates or worse still the die cutter itself, so caution is the key here.


If you don't have a die cutter, you can still create our 3D projects, all you have to do is trace around a template, and use heavy duty scissors or better still a very good quality craft knife to cut out your shapes.You do need to take care as you need to apply quite a bit of pressure to cut the chipboard and if you slip, then the resulting cut could be quite impressive!


Here are some decorating techniques that I use with chipboard and in particular with the chipboard 3D kits we have on the site but this list is by no means exhaustive and of course these techniques can be used with any chipboard project. I tend to think about wood, when I am using chipboard and more or less whatever I can do with wood, I can do with chipboard, apart from banging in nails!


Painting Chipboard

This is probably my number one technique for using with chipboard. Even if you are going to paper your chipboard, it is often a good idea to give the pieces a coating of paint first so that any gaps won't show through. Before painting, it is usually a good idea to run over your shapes with a piece of fine grade sandpaper to make sure you have a good smooth finish. Any imperfections will be magnified once you start painting so it is worth the effort up front.


  Simple white painted chipboard project


You can use a range of different paints on your chipboard. I tend to use an acrylic paint and in fact I don't use expensive ones as I am usually covering a large area. If you are using acrylic paints, it is worth using one that goes on thick though, so that you don't have to put lots of coats on to cover the chipboard and if the paint is too runny, it can soak the board and cause it to warp.


If you have to paint a second or third coat to cover the board, make sure you leave it to dry well before applying the next layer and it is a good idea to sand away any bumps before painting again. You can speed up drying with a heat gun or even leave it out in the sun but to get the best result, you should give it time to dry naturally. I never said this was a quick technique!!


You can cover your chipboard with one colour or use paint daubers to sponge onto the shape, which gives an interesting mottled effect.


Distressing Chipboard - painting effects

Sometimes, it suits a project to add a distressed finish to it. You may be doing a vintage project or just want a different look. There are lots of ways to achieve a distressed look on chipboard and we will only just scratch the surface (excuse the pun) here but the key to gaining confidence with chipboard is to just experiment with different techniques until you get something you really like.


One simple technique for achieving a distressed look on your painted chipboard is to use sandpaper to scratch off some of the paint. This will give an instant worn appearance. If you paint the piece in one colour as a first layer and a different colour on top, then by sanding you will reveal some of the colour underneath and this can give a nice effect.You can peel off the paint too, which takes off larger pieces and exposes more 'raw' chipboard.


Another distressed effect can be achieved using darker inks to smudge around the edges of your piece after painting, giving an aged or worn appearance as shown below around the doors and top of the robe.



This cupboard also uses crackle paints to give the effect of old varnish. You can get crackle paints from most craft stores. Tim Holtz makes a really good one but as it is expensive, I have used it sparingly here in only a few places.

A layer of crackle paint was painted over the top and left to dry. When it dries, the crackle paint does what it says and gives an interesting cracked appearance. If you rub some darker ink into the crackle, it will highlight it further, giving a really 'used' effect.


Distressing chipboard - Ink Effects


 This is really my favourite technique but again you need some patience and to be prepared to use a fair bit of ink in the process. The resulting effect is superb though, so maybe reserve it for your most precious pieces.


 The chipboard screen above was inked by adding a mixture of Adirondack reinkers together in a Mini Mister and spraying over the screen, front and back. I have chosen brown colours here to get the really worn old look but you could use any colours to achieve different effects.


The screens need to be left to dry for a while and they will look a little warped. You can flatten them out under some heavy books if you want but I felt that the slightly wonky effect added to the character of this piece.

What you get with this technique is a lovely uneven finish with lighter and darker areas and it is a lovely surface to stamp on, as shown above. Some chipboard letters were inked in the same way to blend in with the screen and the use of old black and white photos really works well with this.


 Dry Embossing

Some interesting and quite subtle effects can be gained from embossing your chipboard before you paint it. On the screen below, the individual pieces were run through some Cuttlebug folders before painting with acrylic. The corners were rubbed with some ink afterwards to give some dimension and create a slightly worn appearance.



You do need to be a bit careful with this as if your chipboard is too thick you will ruin your folders and possibly your machine too. I find that a little spray with water first, slightly softens the chipboard making it slightly more flexible and willing to go through the roller machine.If you don't want to run the chipboard through embossing plates, then just use papers and glue these onto the screens.


A Cuttlebug embossing plate has been used on the wardrobe above for the panels in the doors. I used Morrocan Screen, which worked well with the inked tones. The background was inked in the same way as the Vintage Screen above, using mini misters and ink and then stamped over with some distressed embossing powders to give a really 'tatty' appearance and a texture that you can feel which I love.





Stamping is a technique that is often used with chipboard and the photos show some examples. You can simply stamp onto the acrylic painted background as shown with the window box, or stamp and emboss as shown with the Vintage Screen, Shabby Chic and Oriental wardrobes below.



Of course you can also use all your normal stamping techniques too, such as triple embossing to get a lovely 3D effect by sinking your stamp into layers of embossing powder or glazes.


Glitter and Glazes

Chipboard pieces can be jazzed up really well with glitters and glazes. You can add glitter over the surface of the piece or just glitter sections as you wish. As chipboard is quite sturdy it responds well to these types of techniques. Try adding glitter to heated embossing powder, a good thick one like UTE or Amazing Glaze works best with this.

 A glittered chipboard corset has been used for this mini dress below.



Chipboard also works well with glazes. The mini tree ornament below uses Judikins Amazing Glaze to give it a nice glossy finish. The words were stamped and embossed first and then a glaze put over the top.




Covering with papers

 Using papers with chipboard is probably the most common way to decorate it and is very popular amongst scrapbookers looking to co-ordinate chipboard words with their page layouts. 



Some of the 3D kits respond well to papering and if you are confident about it, then you can easily achieve a lovely effect quite quickly and with little mess. You get far more choice with the result using papers and you can co-ordinate your pieces to match the recipient or occasion.



There is no fixed way to paper but generally it helps to layout all your pieces first and use the chipboard as a template, ensuring that you leave an overlap to fold over if you want to cover edges and to allow for the extra paper when the pieces are bent or folded. As you fold a piece, the paper will slip so you need to allow a little extra. You can always trim any excess after gluing.


Try to think about how the pieces will work and what you want your finished item to look like before you start on the one way street of gluing. For example, with the window box, the paper is folded over on all the edges that will show but on those that are glued to another piece of chipboard, there is no need to fold over the paper as it can be trimmed off completely.


The wardrobe is a tricky one to cover and should be taken in sections. On both the examples above, the panels have not been cut out, so the paper goes over the door completely. This is far easier than trying to cut and paper panels and in fact gives a more Art Deco effect. I hope you have enjoyed our article on chipboard and you feel inspired to give it a go!


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