Monday, December 30, 2013

Tools and supplies for beginners (part 1)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I want to spend a little time talking about the tools I'm using -- things that are useful, things that are fun and things that weren't quite worth the money.

Before we get to the specific tools, however, I wanted to mention a few essentials -- things that are must-have for anyone starting out in the wonderful world of card-making. So, I've compiled a list of 10 basic supplies that you will want to buy. These will be posted as a 3-part series, since the posts will be getting quite lengthy.

1- Cardstock

Card stock is like a blank canvas - it will become your card base, background and layers. And one of the first things you'll learn about card stock is that it comes in many varieties. There are different densities (weights), different finishes, different colors and textures. Certain card stock is excellent for one technique or tool, but will not work with another. So, be prepared for a lot of experimenting and working with different types of card stock before you find your own favorites.

Generally speaking, you will want card stock that's 80-120lbs in weight, and 8.5x11" in size. One sheet of 8.5x11" cardstock will make 2 standard (A2) card bases. You will be cutting that one sheet in half, and depending on how you cut it, your card will fold on the side or on the top.

You will want to start building your paper stash with neutral colors. White is basic and works with any color, pattern or shape. Kraft is another neutral option that is more subtle -- it's especially useful for when you want to use darker backgrounds and white creates too much contrast.

For white cardstock, I suggest:
- Bazzill Marshmallow -- this is a heavier (110 lbs) card stock and it makes a very solid card base. It's a very smooth card stock that stamps crisply.
- Neenah Solar White -- this is a less heavy (80 lbs) card stock and it's fantastic for layering or for stamping and cutting out shapes. It's also smooth and stamps crisply. This is the card stock I use to line the brightly-colored card bases.

For craft card stock, I suggest:
- Neenah Desert Storm -- this is a less heavy (80 lbs) card stock that makes a solid card base. It's smooth, and lighter than most craft card stocks. Though it looks textured, it's very smooth and stamps crisply.

I find myself using the Desert Storm card stock very often, so I've bought several packs to have on hand. About 90% of my card stock is from Bazzill, however. I've found that they have the kind of weight and finish in cardstock that I like, and they offer a huge variety of colors and finishes. I've tried off-brands or cheaper brands like Recollections, but I ended up not liking how they work as card bases. It really is a case of paying a little more for a big brand like Bazzill, but knowing you'll be getting a great quality card stock that will work for you.

My other suggestion for card stock is to visit your local paper craft store. My local Michael's carries a lot of Bazzill single card stock sheets, so it's a fantastic place to visit. I can buy a particular color or try a new texture for a quarter. If I find that I like a certain color, I can then order a larger pack on Amazon (25-packs are usually 10$).

Lastly, you might see pre-made card bases for sale in various places. I started out using the premade card bases, but I didn't like how flimsy or expensive they generally were. Your experience might be different, however. So do pick up a cheap pack if you find it on sale. If nothing else, you can use it to practice card layouts or cut them to size to line colored cardstock.

2- Paper Trimmer/Cutter
Whether you're cutting your card stock in half or cutting patterned paper, a paper trimmer makes it much much easier to cut a straight line. The trimmer is also handy because you can use it to measure and cut at the same time.

I've only owned 2 brands of paper trimmers.

The first paper trimmer I got was from EK Success and it was their mini Cutterpede. It worked fantastically, and it stayed sharp for quite a while. However, it was only 6x6 and this meant it was difficult to cardstock to size, as well as cut any large paper. I had quite a bit of 12x12 scrapbook papers that ended up sitting in the back of the craft closed because cutting them manually into 6x6 squares took too long.

Not too long ago, I got the bigger version of Cutterpede, but I ended up not liking it. It was a lot flimsier than the mini Cutterpede, and it actually ended up cutting things in a crooked way (despite the fact it was lined up properly on the cutter).

So, finally, I upgraded to the Fiskars Portable Paper Trimmer. This is a high-quality trimmer, and the one I would recommend getting. The only down-side is that the blades end up getting dull after a lot of cutting (I've gone through 2 blades since I got it, but I did also end up cutting 350 sheets of paper and card stock while making Christmas cards and sets). The trimmer uses these blades, which are not too expensive to replace when Amazon has them in stock.

3- Adhesive
When I first started out, I used liquid glue or Elmer's glue sticks. What a disaster that was! The paper either ended up wrinkly, or it ended up falling off because the glue stick dried. I've gone through a couple of different adhesive runners, and I finally upgraded to an Advanced Tape Glider (ATG). ATG is my preferred adhesive runner now, but it is on a little more expensive side. It's also really large -- which is a problem for those who have limited crafting space.

I've also found that adhesive runner is really hard to use with certain embellishments -- thin strips of paper, small trinkets that need to be firmly glued on or materials like textured fabric that makes it difficult for the tape to stick to. So, I bought a couple of liquid glue varieties.

For basic paper glue, I recommend:
- ATG with general use refills. This is a very strong adhesive, and it's permanent. There's no papers falling apart after you've pressed them together.
- If ATG is out of your price range, you can try the Tombow Adhesive Runner. I have not used it personally, but it's received positive reviews.

For a permanent glue that dries clear and bonds with non-paper surfaces, I recommend:
- Tombow Mono Multi Liquid Glue. It is a very strong glue, but it dries clear and it has a thin applicator side, so you can put just a pinpoint of glue wherever you need it. It also does not dry immediately, so you can wiggle the object around a bit if the placement is off.

See you next time!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Learning and Supplies

Although I have not been making cards for very long (I really only started doing it this year), I've discovered a few things that might be helpful to others - especially those of you who are just starting out and not sure what kind of products to get.

The first and the biggest thing I've learned is that you need to shop for quality rather than the price. I've got a huge boxful of things I bought because they were cheaper alternatives or were on sale. I've used some of them a couple of times, and ended up just disappointed. So, now I save up and buy products from brands I like. This is especially important with tools that you will be using again and again (such as stamps, ink, cardstock and glue).

The second thing I learned is that you don't need everything. This might sound like common sense, but bear with me. There's a HUGE variety of things you can get for card making. From materials, to tools, to embellishments. Before I pruned it a bit, my wishlist on Simon Says Stamp's site was over 700 items in size - and that's just the stuff I really really really wanted to get. If I started counting things I just found interesting, that number would be well into thousands. But, at the end of the day, I find myself always first reaching for a few favorites and letting my creativity turn them into things that are interesting and

And the last big thing I learned is that craft supplies are addictive. I'm still struggling with setting up a small budget figure for myself and keeping my purchases under it. But there's always a temptation that's impossible to resist -- a big sale, a brand new product, a better tool, and so on. So, always be prepared to spend just a little more than you intended to.

I was inspired by Jennifer McGuire's series where she talks about her favorite products and tools (you definitely want to check out her My Crafty Things videos, I learned a ton watching those), so I'm going to be starting a small series about my own favorite supplies. Stay tuned, I'm hoping it will be an interesting read.

Oh, and I need to take more pictures. I've been on a card-making spree, but the cards have been slowly sent off as gifts. I still have a few favorites that haven't been sent, so I will try to take photos before they're gone.