Sunday, July 19, 2015

Chatty Sunday: Choosing Patterned Paper

Warning! Rambling long post ahead! For the tl;dr version, head down to Paper Checklist.

My wonderful friend Ka (check out her blog here!) left a question on my last post about how I choose what patterned paper to buy. And at first, I started answering in a comment, but as the reply started getting longer, I thought I'd better turn it into a proper blog post. Since it's chatty Sunday, it's a perfect time to jump into it!

First I have to disclose that I have a lot of patterned paper - and when I say a lot, I really mean a lot. Patterned paper is my favorite supply (even more than stamps!) and I've often put a stamp set back in favor of 2-3 patterned paper packs while doing my crafty shopping. All this has resulted in a very hefty patterned paper stash, with what I semi-jokingly refer to as my "towers of paper".

Now, I'm not saying that everyone needs a huge collection of paper like I do, but I very quickly learned that patterned paper really inspires me. The colors and the patterns make me want to get creative and get me thinking about new and unique ways to use it. I also notice patterned paper on other card-makers' cards and I'm especially drawn to cards that incorporate patterned paper. So, for me, patterned paper is an essential supply and I like having a lot of choices. I also happen to have room to store it, which is one thing that I know some crafters struggle with.

If you are short on space to store paper, I still encourage you to get a small selection of paper to use and play with. You may find yourself more careful about what paper to buy, but I firmly believe everyone needs at least 2-3 patterned paper packs in their stash.

A few months ago, I had a chance to re-organize my crafty supply stash and I paid a lot of attention to the paper. Being able to look at everything at once made a lot of things click for me and the result is that I've gotten a lot smarter at buying - and using! - my paper. So, I'm happy to share my experience with you and hopefully it will help out.

I first started buying paper when I got into card-making about 2 years ago. My early purchases included a couple of really large 'best of' 12x12" collection packs from K&Company - one was 365 paper collection, and the other was the Brenda Walton collection. At the time, they seemed like an incredible value - hundreds of papers at a fraction of the cost. But I quickly learned that they weren't great for card-making. The majority of the patterns were things I didn't really care for or see myself using. Of the patterns I did like, a lot were too large for the kind of cards I was creating. So, I put those packs into crafty storage and started buying 6x6 paper pads. In time, I found a few projects the big papers will be useful for (art journaling, altering projects, decoupage, etc). However, they taught me an important lesson: Quantity is not as important as quality. This is a lesson I learned pretty quickly - especially when it comes to crafty tools and essentials - but it's one I continue to remind myself of.

My foray into 6x6 papers started with shopping for bargains. I bought a lot of paper on sale in various stores and online shops. This seemed like a fantastic idea for someone on a budget, and I got quite a bit of fun papers this way. Since I was still trying to work out what kind of style I wanted for my cards, having a large variety of papers was amazing. However, I started to notice that I just did not use the paper. I did not want to use the paper I loved the most, and I saved it forever. But what started to happen was that, over time, I was less and less excited about the paper I really loved until it eventually stopped being inspiring altogether. Some of that had to do with my style evolving and changing over time. But at the core of it was the fact that I simply bought better and more exciting paper down the line. So, cue lesson #2: You will outgrow your supplies and there will always be more to inspire you. This is another lesson that I am still learning, and it has been radically changing the way I craft and shop for crafty supplies.

It was at this point that I started to really organize my crafty supply and start keeping track of what I was buying and using. I noticed that a lot of papers that inspired me the most came from specific lines and manufacturers (ex. Echo Park, Dear Lizzy, Fancy Pants, Pebbles, etc). So, I narrowed down to buying new paper pads from those manufacturers only, and this resulted in a ton of papers that I loved and found useable. However, the problem was that I was still buying a lot of paper and not using it as quickly as I was buying it. And while I liked the majority of the paper lines, there were still an odd paper pad or two that were a big challenge to use. My lesson #3 was: You don't need to buy everything your favorite manufacturer releases. This lesson in particular is something I'm working through right now and trying to apply to other crafty supplies.

So, after reorganizing my supplies (again), I've come up with a little check-list to use when buying patterned paper. I've been following this list for the past 6+ months and every single paper pad I've bought in that time frame has been filled with papers I've used and can continue to use. It works for me, and hopefully it will give you some ideas of how you can make it work for you.

Paper Checklist
  •  Does it have at least 2 papers I absolutely adore? -- If seeing the paper makes me happy or makes me feel like creating something, it's worth buying.
  •  Does it have at least 2-4 basics/classics? --  Polka dots, stripes and solids never go out of style. Make sure that your paper pad has a selection of these as it will make the pad easier to use by itself or in combination with other paper pads.
  •  Can I think of at least 3 cards (layouts, themes, etc) I can make with this? -- Inspiration is great, but I need to be practical. If I can't think of at least 3 projects or unique ideas when I look at the paper, then it's not something I just have to have. This is particularly important for paper pads with unique themes, such as a paper line about cooking or a line about Independence Day. Some of those specific themes could prove not to be versatile enough for the majority of your cards, and you'll want to really think before buying them.
  •  Does it go with any of my current paper pads? -- For this question, I mainly look at the colors and illustration style. I have a lot of bright and modern paper, so I know that paper with bright and contrasted colors will probably be easy to use. But I might take a little more care when looking at a vintage paper pad because it might not fit with the rest of my paper stash.
  •  Which 3 stamps could I use with this paper pad? -- This question is probably the most important one. Look closely at your stamp sets and note what style they're in. If you have a lot of cute critters, for example, you might want to stock up on bright paper pads with basic shapes and cute icons. For flower stamps, you might want more classic pads with polka dots and stripes. While your masculine stamps could require a textured industrial feel. There is no paper pad that will have absolutely everything you'll need, so try to pick things that will work with as many other supplies as possible.
The list is, of course, not full-proof. I buy a lot of my paper online and there are cases where the paper pad looks slightly different from the screenshots. There are a few paper pads I've purchased because they looked just perfect on my screen, but turned out to be a lot more muted in person. I've still made them work, but I now try to look for a few cards or YT videos that showcase the paper. A lot of the paper manufacturers have a blog or FB page where they showcase their paper, so make sure you check out their website and social media, too.

Lastly, if you're just not sure where to start or you have a limited storage space, I strongly suggest first stocking up on a few basics. Basic/Classic paper pads stand the test of time and can be used in a large variety of project styles. 

Here are a few of my go-to and favorites for basic packs:
- Lawn Fawn's paper pads - especially Let's Polka line, which features stripes, polka dots and hearts. These papers fit in perfectly with Lawn Fawn stamps and can help you chose bright colors that go with the cute images.
- Avery Elle's paper pads - while these paper pads have colors that match the Avery Elle inks, the main reason I love is because they have some fantastic basic patterns and tone-on-tone looks. If you're not confident in creating your own color combinations, Avery Elle's packs come in a 4-color palette that fits together. So, you end up with 4 colors that you can use as a launching point to picking your own card palette.
Simple Stories Color Vibe 2 - this pad has a very large variety of colors, which makes it a great staple paper pad for your stash. The patterns are very simple and easy to use, so if you can get only one paper pad, go with this one.
- Echo Parks Dots and Stripes - this particular line of Echo Park paper pads features the classic patterns in a variety of colors. The nice thing is that the pads are divided by color range, such as pinks and browns for baby girl cards or teals and greens for baby boy cards.

 And, of course, I just had to share a few of my current favorite pads:
- Echo Parks Pirate's Life 6x6 - this paper line has super cute illustrations and I love the nautical theme.
- Pebbles Inc. Fun In The Sun 6x6 -  this line has bright and cheerful colors, modern design and a variety of classic patterns such as stripes, waves and gingham.
- Pebbles Inc. Cottage Living 6x6 - this line features some of my favorite color tones: peach, pink, mint and black. It also has several classic geometric shapes that make for a great background. 
- Authentique Radiant 6x6 - this line is a bit brighter in person than it looks online, but it has lovely warm tones and a great combination of colors. 
- Simple Stories Homespun 6x6 - the colors in this line are a bit more muted and features some fun and unique patterns. It's a good choice when you want to have brighter colors, but a cream background or less contrast than stark white.

Thanks for hanging in there with me through this massive post! There was just so much info to share. Hopefully, it will be useful to some of you out there. Have a creative day!


  1. Elle, you are amazing!!!!! Thanks so much for writing this post and sharing your experiences on selecting and buying your paper pads! And thanks for including your favorites! I've checked them out and I absolutely love the Lawn Fawn and Avery Elle collections! They have classic patterns and the colors are something that I typically go for.

    Right now, I am trying really heard to finish using my old patterned papers from my scrapbooking days, but am finding it hard to make it work with the style of cards I am currently making. Maybe I'm just long overdue to get a new patterned paper pack! :)

    1. Yay! I'm so glad this was useful to you. I'd love to eventually do this type of post for other supplies, so maybe I'll try to do something down the line for other card-making necessities. :D

      I love that you're using up your old patterned papers, but I agree that it might be fun to get a new pack of paper that better fits your current style. At the end of the day, if the new paper inspires you more and makes you create things you love better, it's worth getting. And maybe you'll find a fun new project for the old papers -- like art journaling or mixed media. :D

  2. Love this, Elle! I truly love getting insights into other creatives thought processes, organisation, etc. This was wonderful!

    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Kylie! I always fret that posts like these aren't terribly exciting since I tend to ramble on, but I'm so, so glad they're interesting to read. Definitely worth the time it took to write them up. :)

    2. Ramble away, my friend. ;) You never know just what might resonate with your audience.