If you're just starting out as a card maker, first things first - congratulations! You've discovered a fantastic hobby that can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be, that will relax and stimulate you at the same time. Life will never be the same again.
But, as with anything new, if you've never tried it before, you might need a few pointers. Though card making is largely an instinctive business, we thought it would be helpful to put the basic principles in one place so you can use them as a reference - at least until you get more confident with your card making. So here is our step-by-step guide to card making for absolute beginners.
===Choosing your card base
[[s2|Card blanks]] are where it all begins. They come in a huge variety of colours, sizes, shapes and finishes, though the most popular we sell on Handy Hippo is a standard [[p3019|A6 white card blank]].
These are a great place to start, because unless you have a very particular look in mind, it makes sense to choose the most versatile base for your cards. Buying them pre-folded makes life a bit easier, and they also come with matching envelopes to save you having to buy them separately.
However, if you find a [[s12|sheet of card]] that you like and want to use, it's not too difficult to score and fold it to use as a card base. Just measure the halfway point, draw a line in pencil, score with a craft knife or scissors, fold crisply, then erase the line. You'll ideally want the card to be above 220gsm to ensure it is sturdy enough to stand up without buckling, and able to support embellishments.
When it comes to shape and size, the world's your oyster - the only thing to bear in mind is whether you'll be able to find an envelope to fit!
===Designing your layout
(card sketch here)
Designing a card from scratch may seem daunting if you've never done it before, but if you look at some [[http://www.handyhippo.co.uk/articles/tagged/craft-ideas card making projects]] you'll see that many cards share similar basic layouts. What gives each card its individuality are the different materials, colour schemes, images and wording used.
It's perfectly possible to find a layout that works for you and create all of your cards using it, and still make every one look unique - though you'll probably want to experiment with new ideas as you get more confident.
Craft challenge blogs are a fantastic source of ideas for layouts, since they often feature templates for their readers to use. Similarly, there are hundreds of layout ideas available for free on the internet if you search for "card sketches".
If you'd prefer to create your own layouts, the easiest way is probably to refer to a sketch as a rough guide, and move and change things around to suit you.
Have a go at sketching some out yourself and seeing what you come up with. Once you've decided what will go where, everything else should flow naturally on from there.
Most card designs feature a main focal point, which is usually - though not always - in the centre. It is also often framed, either by appearing on a 'mat' of card which is then mounted onto the card blank, or if you have added the design straight onto your card, by having some kind of border drawn, stamped or stuck around it.
Your focal point doesn't necessarily have to be one big image - it can be made up several smaller parts, like in this example:
[[image:viewofcard.jpg|centre|//Glittered Flowers card]]
And it can even be wording, as in this example:
(Valentine's card project picture)
There are a number of ways to create the main design on your card. [[s89|Rubber stamping]] is one of the most popular. It's an easy technique (all you need is a stamp and an ink pad), and the choice of stamps available means you'll have no trouble finding a design you like. The other great advantage of rubber stamps is that you have them forever, and can use them on lots of future projects.
Other easy ways to add a centrepiece are stickers (for example [[s347|Penny Black Stickeroos]]), stick-on [[s84|embellishments]], and [[s349|card toppers]], all of which are simply stuck where you want them to go on the front of your card. Easy peasy.
As we mentioned earlier, it's a nice touch to mount your main centrepiece onto a 'mat' of card in a colour or colours which complement your card blank. The mat can be any shape you like, and you can also add a border around the mat to frame it even more. You can also have more than one mat, and overlap them, as in this example from Wild Rose Studio:
Borders can be added around your main design using adhesive paper ribbons, pens, border stamps, or you can create the illusion of a frame when making your mat by using one piece of card stuck onto a slightly larger piece of card in a different colour, creating a coloured outline (as on the Wild Rose Studio card above).
===Background detail - to add or not to add?
With your main design decided, you now have the choice of whether to use backing papers or similar to add more background detail to the card.
If you find some [[s12|patterned paper]] or card you like that matches well with your card base, you can use it to cover a section or the whole front of the card, create a frame to go around the main design, or even to make the 'mat' for mounting your main design on.
You don't need to restrict yourself to papers specifically designed for card making - you can also use wrapping paper, decorative paper bags, scraps of fabric and much more.
===Wording/messages (this section needs more work)
If you are making a card for a specific occasion, you'll probably want to include some appropriate wording on the front of your card, and possibly inside too.
Just like with images, there are lots of different ways to add wording, including stamps, stencils, stickers, adhesive letters and numbers, and good old fashioned pens.
Wording can be as subtle or as dramatic as you like. It largely depends on the tone you want to create. Generally, big, bold wording is best on lighthearted or humorous cards, while smaller, subtle wording helps to create a more heartfelt feel.
There are so many ways of positioning your wording too. You can have it banner-style across the top of the card, on a mat of card above or below the main image, written onto a tag, running vertically down one side of the card, and much more. How do you decide where to put it? This is where a layout sketch can come in handy.
If you're making a card for an important birthday or anniversary, you may just want to use numbers on the front of the card. For this, you can use rubber stamp sets which include all the numbers 0-9, or alternatively there are number stickers, wooden and chipboard numbers, and lots more.
For wording inside your card - ie a verse or sentiment - there are plenty of stamps with wording in the right format, like this one:
Or, if you're good with words, you can type your own verses up on the computer in a decorative font and print them out. If you can't find the right words or just need a bit of inspiration, there are lots of websites you can use to find appropriate verses. A quick search for 'free card verses' will bring up a list of relevant websites that allow you to print out their verses for free and use them on your cards.
===Other little extras
There are lots of other design touches you can add to to your cards - flourishes, decorative corners, ribbon, brads and eyelets, etc. It's best not to go overboard though, however tempting! You don't want to have your attention pulled in too many directions when you look at the card.
There's plenty of time to experiment with all the lovely bits and pieces out there. A great way to do it is to just use one new thing on each card when you first start out. That way, you'll quickly get a good idea of what you like to use and what creates the kind of look you're aiming for.
Of course there are many more techniques than we have covered here, and you can have lots of fun learning about them as you get more involved in your card making (we've got lots of other articles and projects that cover more techniques), but hopefully we have given you enough information to get you started.
So get stuck in, and have fun!