What Makes a Good Design in a Handmade Card?

When you look at handmade cards, do you ever think about what makes a good design?  Or why some cards don’t seem to work very well?  Let’s look at the design of this fall card I made using the Four Feathers stamp set and coordinating Framelits from Stampin’ Up!  For contrast, you can look at the Four Feathers card I showed last week in this post:  Four Feathers for Fall Gratitudes.


Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you look at a card:

  • Is it obvious where the designer wants your attention to go?  In other words, does your eye know where to come to rest?
  • Are there conflicting elements in the card competing for your attention?  Or are other elements subtle enough that your eye can go explore another area, but it’s always drawn back to the focal point?
  • Is there enough texture in the card to be interesting without being overwhelming?
  • Are there repeating motifs of shapes, colors, or textures that help pull all the elements together?
  • Do the colors go well together, or do you feel like they clash?

These are questions I ask myself as I create a new design.  For example, the background looked way too plain until I added the splatters from Gorgeous Grunge.  Splatters are a great way to add some interest and texture without making a design too busy.

What about the angle of the art piece?  Does it make you want to reach out and straighten it out?  Or does it fit in with other elements.  In this case, I started out with the focal point and mats square on the card.  It was a little boring, until at some point the art piece moved into it’s current position by accident.  All of a sudden it was more interesting!

How about the colors?  Doe they work well together?  Is there enough interest and contrast?  Our color preferences are very personal.  I often look at a card that uses colors together that I might not choose, but they still look good.  Another card could use colors I like, but the combination doesn’t feel harmonious to me at all.

A very effective design strategy is to use repeating motifs.  Can you pick out the repeating motifs in this card?  Here’s what I see:

  • Colors:  The Early Espresso behind the leaf really makes it stand out, and is repeated for the card base.  The mat of Cajun Craze repeats one of the colors sponged on the leaf.  The feathers are Cajun Craze stamped on Baked Brown Sugar card stock, which is the color of the background.
  • Angles:  The angles of leaf, feathers, and the position of the art piece on the card all repeat a diagonal line.  Not exactly the same diagonal, but close enough to make the design feel harmonious.

Another issue you can look at is textures.  If you’re like me, you love to use Embossing Folders to create texture.  In this card I purposely embossed only one layer, which creates a nice contrast with the smooth layers.

So you can see there isn’t any right way to do things, but there are lots of choices one makes when designing a card.  Do you make those choices consciously?  Or does your card just kind of come together.

Leave a comment and let me know if these ideas are helpful to you.  And feel free to voice your opinion about either of the Four Feathers cards, both what you like and what you don’t like.  Don’t worry, you won’t hurt my feelings!  🙂

I hope you now have a better idea about what makes a good design in a handmade card!

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8 Responses to What Makes a Good Design in a Handmade Card?

  1. bernice thompson October 7, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    love these colors, they complement one another beautifully .. thank you for refreshing my memory, as i had went back to two layering instead of following your brilliant tips and guidance. thank you for all of your wonderful videos so… until next time

    • Sage October 7, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback. I love these colors, too, and the All is Calm DSP. I’m glad you can remember those tips once I remind you of things!

  2. Ruthy October 7, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    Sage, I love your videos. Thanks so much for the helpful hints.

    • Sage October 7, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

      Thanks, Ruthy!

  3. Trish October 8, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    Love your teaching style. The goal is not to CASE a great card, but to learn principles to use in whatever papercrafting project I might create. As a retired teacher, it is fun to be on the other side of the proverbial desk:)

    • Sage October 8, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

      I’m so glad you can see that! As you know, teaching is so exciting, sharing a vision and encouraging others to learn to see their own visions!

  4. Carol Carriveau October 8, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

    Thank you Sage…I’ve printed out the information and will save it for future use! Your cards are wonderful!

    • Sage October 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      Thanks again, Carol. I’ll be continuing to write about design in future posts.

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