Mementoes In Time

Top Tips - How To Make a Great Card


Make it Personal

I had to make a card today to send abroad to an old friend and this got me thinking. What factor makes a good card actually stand out as a great card?

Everyone wants their card to someone to stand out on the shelf and be treasured in a box long past the event. There isn't really a set answer to this but there are a few things to bear in mind when designing a card. Here is the first.


Tip 1 - To make a card you have given stand out from the rest, it really helps to make it personal.


I know this sounds obvious but it really does pay to think about the person and find something that will appeal to them. I have made endless cards for friends with flowers and ribbons which they have loved and enthused over but when I have hit upon something which goes right to their heart, the reaction is nothing short of ecstatic and that makes all the effort worthwhile!


For example, I made a card for a friend a couple of years ago which was focused on her love of shopping, with little shopping bags and a funny sentiment to match. She loved this card so much that it was paraded around the gathering of people and still sits on a shelf today.


Making a card personal might include the use of a special poem or words just for the recipient. In general, I prefer a card to speak for itself without lots of gushy words but sometimes just the use of a single word like 'friend' can make all the difference and melt the heart of even the toughest person.



Our new little wardrobe card kits make it easy to make a personalised card. Just dress up the basic template to suit the person. Some decorating ideas might be:

  • soccer or football shirts in their team colours
  • sports clothes for a particular sport they do
  • nightclub clothes for a teenager who loves to party
  • swim suits and shorts for someone who loves the beach
  • santa outfit for Christmas

I am sure you can come up with lots more!


Put Some Time Into Your Creation

Sometimes you really can just throw a good card together quickly and it all works but more times than not, a rushed card looks exactly that. Even if the actual making of the card is quick, it really helps to spend a bit of time on design, including colour scheme, amount and type of embellishment and the placement of everything on your card base.


I am often impatient and rush to stick everything down but time spent moving embellishments around to get the best design is well worth it. If you rush things you will either get a design that looks awkward that you are not really happy with, or it will take far longer to rip everything off again and risk ruining your card or worse still you will might have to start again.


On the other hand, it is easy to overwork a design and the more you play with it, the worse it seems to get. In these situations, I find the best tactic is go back to the drawing board and start completely afresh or walk away and do something else for a while, preferably something you don't like doing much like washing the floors, so you are super keen to get back to the task!

Clever Use of Colour

Using the right mix of colours on a card can make the difference between a good card and a stunning card.


One of the most beautiful cards I have even seen was just done in a simple silver and black. The design was simple and the colour scheme was simple, using layers in just these two colours. 


Of course the colours you choose will depend on the occasion. You might want to use more upbeat range of colours for a birthday but often keeping the mix of colours simple is the key to a really breathtaking look.


Using two or three different shades of the same colour (monochromatic) can be the easiest way to achieve that professional look and can look quite stunning. This is shown on the colour wheel below. You can vary the texture of the paper used to get variety with this colour scheme.

Colours opposite each other on the wheel are complementary and will work well together.


A triadic colour scheme uses three colours spaced equidistantly around the colour wheel (just like the points of an equilateral triangle) whereas a tetradic scheme is based on four colours equidistantly spaced on the colour wheel.


Where the colour scheme is based upon two or three adjacent colours on the wheel, it is known as analogous and this can work well as they will all contain the same primary/pure colours.


A split complimentary scheme involves the colours immediately to the left and right of an original color's complementary. Sounds confusing?


For example, your original colour is red, then the complimentary colour would be green and the colours to the left and right of this could also be combined successfully with the original colour.


However, if you can't be fussed to use a colour wheel to find out which colour goes with another, look around at what other people have done to see what works and what doesn't. I usually find that if I stick to pastel shades, I don't go far wrong as these all seem to blend well with each other. Often, your own critical eye is the best judge.


Keep It Simple
You don't have to overload a card with bits of ribbon, beads and buttons to make it great, although I have to admit that it is really fun to do! In fact, the more that is loaded onto a card, the more fussy and busy it can appear and that can often be distracting to the eye.


Of course it is a matter of taste but some of the most stunning cards I have seen have featured a very simple mounted embellishment. Your eye could go straight to the centre of the card and it was pleasing to look at.


I know that the trend in recent years has been to produce very 'scrapbooky' type cards with lots of chunky embellishments and a country type feel but a card with lots of heavy things stuck on it can be difficult to put in an envelope and post and can be a bit tiring and 'busy' to look at. Sometimes 'less is more'.


Keep in Mind Basic Design Principles

Design is very much a skill (and some may even say a science) and there are key principles to adhere to in order to get a result that is pleasing to the eye. A card which follows these principles has much more chance of looking great than one which ignores it.


Things like the size, number and placement of embellishments to get a balanced look and making sure that things that are meant to be straight are straight.


Mix up the Materials and the Techniques

 Over the years, I have seen so many different styles and techniques come and go. There are definitely trends in card making just like everything else. Some card ideas just keep circulating, for example little purse shaped cards seem to resurface in some form or another in magazines all the time.


It feels at times as though everything has been done already, how on earth are you going to find something original? But new ideas appear all the time, often as a reshuffling of familiar techniques, designs or materials.


Try using different materials or mix up the styles. Look around all the time for things to inspire you. Sometimes, just by juggling the elements and colours on a card you can get a whole new look from the same basic tools. I remember one year making some notelets for someone who needed them for their after Christmas 'thank-yous.'  I managed to make 12 completely different cards from just white card,  lilac paper and one small daisy punch. Set yourself the challenge of doing something similar, you will be amazed at what varied cards you can produce.


I love playing with metallic embossing powders, mixing gold, copper and other colours and using rubber stamps to make impressions. These can make really stunning embellishments, which can simply be mounted on a card. No two ever come out the same either, so you can get a whole range of different cards from the same basic technique.

Use little pieces of glitzy material to make wonderful backing for your cards instead of backing papers. Often, you can get away with very little in the way of embellishment if the background is glamorous enough. My Christmas cards last year were little gold and silver stars mounted on some fabulous organza material...simple, stunning and cheap!


When using rubber stamps, it is easy to fall into the rut of just stamping and colouring in with watercolour crayons. There are heaps of different stamping techniques though which can give your cards a whole new look. The splitcoast stampers site has always been a favourite. Try combining stamping with other techniques too.


If you like to use die-cuts, try to find a way of using them differently. Die cuts can look a little flat so you should try to jazz them up with decorative embellishments, chalking to give depth and a pen for detail. Sometimes just being a little bit clever with the scissors can give a whole new look to the die-cut shape too. Try to think outside the box when using your shapes.


By mixing up the techniques, materials and designs you will get a different look and make your cards stand out from the rest!

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