You don’t need fancy equipment to make paper craft and pop-up cards, but using the right tools and materials WILL make a difference. Here are the tools and materials I recommend: a good self-healing cutting board, a scalpel knife with sharp blades, and a scoring tool will give you clean results and an enjoyable experience.
Basic Tools and Materials
A self healing cutting mat such as this one is invaluable for cutting with a scalpel knife. Though you can protect your table by cutting over old newspapers, this will preserve the life of your blades and ensure your cuts are smooth.
Although you can find more basic models, I find it’s worth the extra couple dollars to get a comfortable knife which is easy to control. This X-ACTO Designer Series #1 Hobby and Craft Knife is definitely a worthwhile investment.
Sharp blades make all the difference! I like this particular X-ACTO blade dispenser, with 15 spare blades because it also has a compartment for used blades.
Traditionally bone folders are used for scoring, but I find this type of embossing stylus much easier to handle. Use the finer tip for scoring, and unless it’s a tiny fold, use it with your ruler so your score lines are nice and straight. I use a ball point pen to score my lines, but I spent a whole afternoon emptying it of all its ink. It was messy, difficult and boring. Buying a proper tool like this is much easier.
You will need a stainless steel ruler with non slip cork base, rather than a regular plastic ruler, which is too easily dented and nicked and slips while you’re trying to use it.
White glue is the most durable, but you need to have a light touch and apply it sparingly to avoid a bumpy result. I really dislike Elmer’s dispensers, which get blocked and make it impossible to control the flow, so I use this Neutral pH Adhesive.Another option is Rubber cement.
Tools and materials for mechanical pop-up cards
Most of the pop-ups you see on this website (those cut from colored paper) are made with CANSON Mi-Teintes, a paper designed for drawing with pastels but with an ideal weight and feel for pop-up cards. You can buy it by the sheet for a gorgeous selection of colors. The paper is a pleasure to cut, easy to fold, and it holds its shape and glues nicely. It’s not great for laser printing though (it goes through the printer well enough, but the ink has a tendency to flake, you can rub it off with an erasure). This makes it perfect for the “no ink” origami architecture style pop-ups, those which tell a story with the simple cuts and folds of one sheet of paper.
Silhouette Paper is generally used, (as the name indicates) for making old-fashioned silhouettes, but this thin, strong paper with white on one side and black on the other can also be used for making striking pop-up cards. This is best suited for the more intricate pop-ups with small detail, such as the Village Square or the Statue of Liberty. Since the paper is so thin it is particularly sensitive to the moisture in glue, so apply it VERY sparingly or use rubber cement.
Fadeless 2-Color Duet Paper is another two toned material which can deliver interesting effects when you’re making pop-up cards.
A good, all purpose cardstock to have around, this 65 lb colored card stock can be purchased as a multicolored pack as shown here, or you can choose from many individual colors, including, of course, bright white.
Books and tutorials
Tools and Equipment for those who are seriously hooked
Although the Silhouette is a better known consumer brand, I love my heavy duty Klic-N-Kut KNK plotter cutting machine which I can use with my Mac. You won’t need to purchase cartridges; the KNK comes with a software program called “Make the Cut,” for drawing and controlling the cutter. The program is useful for scrapbookers (it has lots of shapes like stars and speech bubbles) but I prefer the control and flexibility of Illustrator or InDesign. I export my files to Make the Cut and it works seamlessly. The KNK MAXX I use is no longer available for purchase, but this Zing Air model is prettier and less expensive than mine was, plus it’s wireless. For making pop-ups you will need to buy the Klic-N-Kut KNK ZING Blue Embossing Tool. While you’re at it, I also recommend getting an extra standard material blade, or, if you need them, thick material blades for cutting chip board, and fabric blades. Although I’ve never tried it, you can also get an engraving tool for the KNK. It’s an amazing machine, and they have good customer service too.
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