Designing Handmade Cards–A Behind the Scenes Story

Here’s a little story I thought I’d share with you about my biggest challenge in designing handmade cards, and how I stretch myself to grow.

I love Designer Series Paper (DSP) from Stampin’ Up!  I’m always attracted to the beautiful color combinations and interesting patterns I see in the Catalogs.  But when I order a pack, I often find myself not knowing just how to incorporate the beautiful designs into a cardDoes that ever happen to you?

The problem for me is that too often the patterns are too big, bold, and/or busy.  When I try to use them as a card background, they tend to overpower any focal point, sentiment, or embellishment I want to add.  So to challenge myself, sometimes I’ll sit down with a piece of DSP I like and play with it until I find a way to use it that still fits with the principles of good design.

One thing I look for is a subtle enough design that will allow a focal point to be more prominent than the background.  I showed this example earlier this week, using one of the patterns from Sweet Sorbet–a free item in the Sale-a-Bration Catalog.  Click on the image to see the post with the photo of the full card.

IMG_3156 detail wtmk

This piece of DSP was easy for me to work with, because the pattern is subtle enough.  I still had to work at getting the focal point to stand out–hence the crochet trim around the tag.  Otherwise it just blended into the background.  The DSP is also monochromatic, which meant I had to find colors to add some contrast so the card wouldn’t end up looking too blah!  The Calypso Coral card base and the Old Olive accents helped make a striking color scheme.

Today I decided to take a more challenging piece of DSP, and use it as a background.  This is one of my favorites from the Watercolor Wonder collection, since it makes me happy just to look at it:

Watercolor Wonder Designer Series Paper from Stampin' Up1

But as usual with a design this bold, my focal point tended to get lost on top of it.  So I experimented.  Here’s what unfolded:

First I knew it would be important to have a strong color for a card base to set off the pastels in the DSP, so I chose the darkest color in the paper, Island Indigo.

Watercolor Wonder DSP on Island Indigo Card Stock

I knew the focal point would have to be bold and simple, so as not to compete with the background.  I decided to use a layered tag (Gumball Green and Whisper White), with a sentiment from Perfect Pennants.

Watercolor Wonder DSP with tag

I always look at a design in terms of where my eye travels on the card, and where it comes to rest.  What happens to your eye when you look at this example.  For me, the focal point does grab my attention, but the background quickly confuses my eye, as the background has an almost equally strong pull, and my eye doesn’t “come to rest.”  It keeps going back and forth between the background and the focal point.

So I fussed and experimented until I came up with this:

Watercolor Wonder DSP with tag and mat

The Island Indigo background helped, but it was a little too small. I played some more, added a ribbon, and here’s the final result:

Lif is Perfect Card using Watercolor Wonder DSP and Perfect Pennants Stamp Set from Stamping Madly

Do you see the repeating motif?  The Delicate Dots Embossing Folder and the splatters on the tag from the Gorgeous Grunge set repeat the pattern of circles of color in the DSP.  This is a very effective design element, and one I try to use frequently.  It can be very subtle, but kind of brings the design together at an almost unconscious level.

So that’s the story of how one card design developed, starting with the choice of a DSP pattern.  Leave a comment and tell me what you think, and whether you learned anything helpful for your own cardmaking adventures.

Items used in this card include:

Click here to order Watercolor Wonder Designer Series Paper from Stampin' Up!                 Click here to order Perfect Pennants stamp set from Stampin' Up!                 Click here to order Scalloped Tag Topper Punch from Stampin' Up1
  Watercolor Wonder DSP         Perfect Pennants Stamp Set     Scalloped Tag Topper Punch

Decorative Dots Embossing Folder FREE during Sale-a-Bration                                   Click here to order Gorgeous Grunge stamp set from Stampin' Up1        Click here to order cardmaking and paper crafting supplies from my Online Stampin' Up! Store
Decorative Dots Embossing Folder         Gorgeous Grunge             
Earn for Free with $50 order of any               Stamp Set
Stampin’ Up! merchandise.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this behind the scenes story about designing handmade cards!


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4 Responses to Designing Handmade Cards–A Behind the Scenes Story

  1. Cynthia Cooper February 24, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    That was very helpful Sage. Thank you !

    • Sage February 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

      Thanks, Cynthia. I figured I wasn’t the only one that gets stymied by DSP.

  2. lisa March 25, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Sage, I was surprised that you get stymied when designing homemade cards. I figured that after you have made so many beautiful cards, you probably knew all the ins and outs. Bless you for sharing, it was very helpful to see the process in action. Thank you.

    • Sage March 25, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Lisa. I do know lots of ins ad outs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get stuck at times. The design process goes most smoothly when I’m willing to experiment and reject things that don’t work, keep the things that do. If I can’t do that, I need to step away from my craft table and wait until I can!

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