Getting Started with Cardmaking is easier than you think. It can look overwhelming when you look at all the products on offer to paper crafters, but I’ll walk you through the basics.

Getting Started

Start with – Stamps, Ink, and Paper

Then throw in a few essential tools and you’re ready to begin! 

The following is my essential list for getting started. There are so many products out there so I’ll guide you through what I’ve worked out over 15yrs of cardmaking that I can’t get by without.  All the rest is icing on the cake. Add as little or as much as you like.

Let’s start with our first SIP – Stamps, Inks, Paper

Stamps (A)

Stamps come in either rubber or photopolymer (Clear see through). You can see the difference in the image below.

Rubber stamps either come mounted on wooden blocks or unmounted with cling foam to easily attach to an acrylic block. 

Photopolymer also easily attach to acrylic blocks.

I use both photopolymer and unmounted rubber stamps as they take up far less storage room. I like both but it’s a matter of personal preference.

You can buy stamps individually or in sets, I much prefer to buy them in sets as it gives you more card design options as you have a number of stamps that coordinate which gives you more design options and avoids a mismatched look.

When buying Stamp ‘Sets’, they can consist of either all images, all greetings, or a combination of both. For me a great set is one that has a combination of larger focal images and smaller background images plus a great sentiment or two that I can use over and over again.  

I have been known on the rare occasion however, to fall in love with just one particular image in a stamp set and have to have it.  I know many will be nodding in agreement.

So, the choice of stamp set comes down to personal preference. There are so many different styles of imagery and designs/genres that will speak to some and not to others depending on their taste and the occasions that they want to make cards for.  There’s no right or wrong.  

If you are looking through the catalogue, one of the things that you may notice is that the images in the stamp sets will either be solid or outline. 

With solid image stamps, the colour of your stamped image comes from the ink you use to stamp that image. I have covered more in my Inks section.

With outline stamps, you can either leave them as just an outline especially if they are realistic type stamps with lots of detail. Or, and this is where it gets fun, you can add colour with either blender pens or water painters and ink, dye-based markers, watercolour pencils or pastels. You can also get some amazing blended colouring results with alcohol markers.  

However, for beginners there is just something magical about putting ink to paper so I would encourage you to look for stamps that are predominantly solid image stamps.

Inks (B)

To be able to stamp the images and greetings in your stamp sets, you are going to need ink.  There are a huge variety of inks on the markets, so I’ll talk about the basics. In fact, the basics that I am going to talk about are exactly what I still use today, 15yrs on, in 95% of my cardmaking.

In this section I will discuss the inks to use with a solid stamp set which is what I recommend started out with. I’ll cover other inks for outline stamp sets in another post.

Start out with a good black ink. My ink of choice is Memento Tuxedo Black ink. It’s a dye-based ink that gives you dark, crisp images when you stamp. 

This is great for stamping sentiments / greetings, but it also doubles up as a first choice for colouring outline stamps with Alcohol markers (Click here to learn more)

The other type of ink that you will need are coloured dye-based inks to add colour to solid image stamps.

I would recommend buying a set of ink pads. it will give you a good variety of colours to choose from.  Stampin’ Up! Classic Ink Pads come in 6 colour families which are a perfect match to their cardstock colour families which make colour coordination a piece of cake.  There is also a small cost saving in buying this way.  If you are on a budget, you can also choose a few colours based on your favourite colours or the season or card occasion you are most likely to make for.

The other option especially if you like bright colours is to buy the little Stampin’ Spot set available in the colours in this image. 

Paper (C)

Wow when it comes to paper the selection available can be overwhelming. And it is so easy to collect all those pretty papers. In truth you really only NEED cardstock. The rest is simply ‘nice to have’ and I admit ‘collect’. Yes, I haven’t met a papercrafter yet who isn’t a little obsessed with pretty designer paper.

Therefore, in this section, we are only going to focus on cardstock because it is simply the one type of paper that is an absolute must-have. 

Cardstock comes in 2 sizes. A4 and 12” x 12” for Australia. I am only going to focus on A4 as the 12 x12 is predominately for scrapbooking

I recommend a good heavy weight cardstock that is coloured all the way through, so you won’t see any white edges when you cut or tear it. 

A neutral colour is essential.  I use a lot of white, so I always use Stampin Up! Basic White for stamping on and embellishments and their Thick Basic White for card bases as it gives a sturdier structure for the card to stand up compared to the Basic White.

There is, however, nothing like a little colour to brighten things up. I highly recommend Stampin’ Up Cardstock colour collections to pair with the Ink Pad sets. They match perfectly so you are assured of a very professional result and the colour coordination makes it so simple. It is also acid- and lignin-free which means it’s safe for memory keeping.

If you have ever tried to match cardstock and inks from different companies, you will know what I am talking about.  There are so many shades of different colours it is hard to get a cohesive look.  No matter which company you go with try to get your ink and cardstock to match each other. 

Here is a list of the other items that I have found to be the absolute must haves drawn from my 15yrs of cardmaking.  There is, of course, always things you can add to make your crafting more enjoyable or adventurous but these are the top products that I’ve tried and tested and simply can’t do without. 

Paper Trimmer (D)

I’ve worked at many places where they had top of the range $400+ trimmers which wouldn’t cut straight. The old ‘you get what you pay for’ isn’t always true. So, what do I recommend?

A few years ago, I would have said my Carl Trimmer was my favourite. It was a rotary style trimmer that always cut very accurately. However, I struggled to find new mats or blades for my trusty Carl in the later years. 

Luckily Stampin’ Up have a new improved version of their Paper Trimmer and I love it. It is all I use these days.

These are some of the features and benefits. 

  • The rail that the blade is attached to the lifts up so you can adjust where you start your cutting. Very handy if you don’t want to cut all the way through.  
  • An extra-wide 19.7cm cutting base and an extendable 43cm arm which allows you to cut larger pieces of card.  
  • Imperial and metric to allow you to follow instructions in both measurements.
  • It has a built-in scoring blade so you can score as well as cut
  • The ruler and grid are covered by durable plastic so the numbers won’t wear off.
  • Very lightweight so it is very portable.
  • Replacement cutting blades are available.

Scissors (E)

I find a good pair of small scissors or paper snips a god send. Years ago I thought just so long as they cut well that was all that mattered. Until I tried the Stampin’ Up! Paper Snips. They are excellent for cutting around images and just make me happy when I use them. 

The precision ground tips cut to the end of the blades. They have thin, 6.4 (2 ½”) blades and are very comfortable in the hands. Whichever brand you go with my tip is to keep them clean and gunk free with a little eucalyptus oil.

Bone Folder (F)

If you get into the habit of using a bone folder you are assured of making clean folds and cards that stand up better. It really is an essential item, but it isn’t listed that often in beginner kits. It can be used to score lines with a ruler if you haven’t got a scoring blade on your trimmer and used to make clean crisp folds.

Clear Blocks (G)

These are made of solid acrylic for your cling rubber or photopolymer stamps. I use the Stampin’ Up! blocks as I use their stamps. You can buy cheaper ones out there, but I’ve found that it is hard to get a good grip on them as they are quite thin and I don’t get quite as nice a result. The Stampin’ Up! blocks have an indentation around all sides of the block which act as finger grips so there is less chance of dropping the blocks and ruining your work.

There are 9 sizes and they can be bought in a set or individually. You save 10% buying the set but if you are on a budget and can afford at least two, I would suggest sizes D & E, unless of course any of the stamps in your stamp set are larger than 8 x 11cm. 

If you are buying Stampin’ Up! stamps, the block size recommendations  are listed with each stamp set description. 

Just remember that once you have bought your blocks that’s it, you only need 1 set. This is a once off purchase as your stamps simply peel off when finished stamping ie. they aren’t permanently attached to the blocks.

Cutting Mat – Self-Healing & Scratch Paper (H – I)

Any good quality Cutting Mat is a must. It is really important to have a firm flat surface to stamp on so you get a properly stamped images. Avoid surfaces that have ridges or bumps. I have found really thin stiff cutting mats don’t give a little to absorb the stamp so this is why a little bit of give is a good thing.

A self-healing mat is so you can cut with a blade directly on the surface and it will heal up again. 

Measurements are personal but I like one with both centimetres and inches as I work across both. I must admit I mostly the ruler on my trimmer for scoring and cutting but I use the measurements on the mat when measuring ribbon or when I quickly want to check a size

Scratch paper is any smooth inexpensive paper placed over the cutting board. I use either A3 from Office Works or ideally Stampin’ Up Grid Paper as it has measurements, and the grids are useful to line up your blocks to get your greetings straight. 

I also use it to test colours, to stamp off (explained in basic techniques), to see what the stamped image will look like and to make sure it is placed straight on the block. I also use it as a palette for my watercolour pencils.

Adhesives (J)

There are so many options available but I am just going to list the 4 basic ones that get me through as I’ve pictured in my header image. 

Liquid Glue – I love Tombo Mono Multi Liquid Glue. It has a broad tip on one end, which you can use when applying glue to a large surface area. The other end has a fine tip which is perfect for adding the tiniest dab of glue that you could possibly need to glue down small pieces. The awesome thing about this is that it gives you wriggle room. Meaning it doesn’t stick instantly so you have a little bit of time to wriggle things around before it’s permanent. And it provides a very permanent bond.

The other great thing about this glue is that it is also repositionable if you want to tack elements temporarily before deciding on permanent placement. If you apply the glue to a piece of paper and then let it dry before adhering to another piece it becomes tacky so it is repositionable.

A Tape Runner – I love these for speed. I wouldn’t go to a class or retreat without one. And if I am doing a batch of cards I will use one every time. Depending on brands they can be permanent instantly or other brands will allow you to pull it up and reposition your work.  I use Stampin’ Up’s new Stampin SEAL as it allows me to reposition. I have a little video here to show how to use it correctly. After watching this I don’t have any trouble 

Foam Adhesives – You can never have enough dimension. I LOVE Stampin’ Up! Dimensionals. They are a hexagon shape and are come in a standard 1 cm and Mini 6.4mm sizes. They aren’t too high and provide just the right amount of pop when you want to create texture and dimension on your card. I love them because they are very easy to get the backing off so they don’t slow me down and provide an instant bond.

Extra – nice to have but not essential adhesives

Glue Dots – I didn’t picture this but for sticking on little embellishments such as buttons, sequins, metal and bows these are essential. 

Double Sided Tape – I have only added this here as I pictured it in my list but I don’t use it often as it is very slow going for sticking card layers together. I do however use it for attaching a length of ribbon as it gives a solid straight line of adhesive or for sticking together layers that have ribbon attached as it seems to give a little more strength than the tape runner for bulky layers.  There are various qualities out there so invest a little to find a good one. There is nothing worse than your work coming apart if the tape is inferior.