Paper is a wonderfully versatile craft material. The term paper crafting covers such a wide variety of things. I think we are all papercrafters as children, once we learn cutting and sticking (which was my favourite thing to do as a young child!) we are paper crafters!
Paper crafting covers card making, scrap booking, paper cutting, origami, quilling, mixed media and much much more. Lots of the materials and tools you need can be used for many different techniques, while some techniques require something more specialist.
As with every craft there are some things which are essential and some wish list items that are amazing to have but you can manage without in the early days. I’m a big fan of keeping it inexpensive to start with, try a craft out and see if it’s for you before you splash out on lots of expensive gadgets. Once you know papercrafting is “your thing” then you can fall down that rabbit hole of NEEDING all the things. That’s what birthdays and Christmas are for after all, the opportunity for your loved ones to gift you craft supplies!
Paper craft essentials
Paper and Card
Sounds obvious right? To paper craft you will need paper!
Scrapbook paper is a good place to start. You can use it for scrapbooking of course but also card making and lots more. A nice 12” x 12” mixed pad or two will provide you with lots of delicious papers to experiment with. Some paper pads have some sheets which are embossed, metallic or glittered which can be fun. One patterned and one plain would probably be ideal to start.
You can get smaller sizes, 6” x 6” is common too. Personally I find the bigger sheets more versatile as you can cut them into smaller pieces and remember, when you are papercrafting you never throw the offcuts and small bits away. You keep them because they will be exactly right for something one day!
To keep things cost effective do think outside the box a little too:
Once someone in your house has a birthday I’ll bet at least a couple of cards come in coloured envelopes. These are a great source of thin coloured paper that you can stamp, punch, die cut, mount other things on. Ask your friends to save any they get for you and before you know it you’ll have a fantastic selection!
Talking of birthdays, old cards themselves are a great source of materials for new paper projects. Maybe you can cut out an element and make a new card topper, or the sentiment could be cut off and reused.
A lot of craft magazines off a few free papers in them that you can pull out and use, a great way to build up a stash. Next time you flick through any magazine look for pages that could make a nice background, a gardening magazine, or a washing powder advert, you’ll soon start seeing everything for it’s craft potential! All these papercraft projects used magazine pages:
You can give wrapping paper a try but really only the very nice quality stuff, thin wrapping paper will crease and spoil and just be frustrating for you.
What other card and paper will very much depend on what you are doing:
To make cards you need card blanks, most cost effective is to buy a pack that comes with matching envelopes. Pick a size you like, 5” x 7” is my favourite, but I do also like 6” x 6” . Both are big enough to feel a little special but still go through the post with a regular stamp. A5 is popular but always seems a little bit small to me, best idea is to try a few different sizes and see what you prefer.
Top Tip: If you decide to make your own cards from card stock do make sure you either have, or can make, an envelope to fit before you start - I make these mistakes so you don’t have to!
For paper cutting you need a paper that’s not too thick but not too thin, something around a 160gsm - 180gsm is ideal. You can papercut on regular copier paper but it’s difficult and often disappointing as it will tear easily, something a bit nicer will help you enjoy it more.
For origami you need a nice thin paper. Packs of specialists paper are available and are lovely but if you just want to see if it’s for you you can use something like thin copier paper or pages from an old magazine.
For quilling you need quilling strips. You could cut your own but that would be a complete b***ache so just get a starter kit and save yourself a lot of hassle!
Here’s a can of worms to open! Glue. What are you going to use to secure your paper? There are a million different options and everyone you speak to will have a favourite. These are mine:
Pritt Stick - I love a solid stick glue for attaching paper to paper. It’s mess free, doesn’t make the paper wrinkle and you have a second to reposition things if needed (but only a second)
PVA - my favourites are Anita’s Tacky Glue and Aleene’s Tacky Glue. I use these for attaching embellishments to paper and card, things like gems, fabric ribbon and flowers, buttons, lace etc. A little dob of this and it’s sorted. It dries clear and doesn’t take too long to dry. Some people will use a PVA with a brush for all glueing, it can work but may wrinkle thinner papers so go carefully and maybe try a little practice with off cuts first.
Foam pads - perfect to attach a motif and raise it up a little. Buy them in sheets or on a roll, inexpensive and really useful especially for card making.
Honestly, I think I can get by with just those three, but also super popular are:
Double sided tape - buy it on a roll, in sheets or in a dispenser… it’s useful stuff and gives a great finish. Most are not repositionable but they are secure and won’t wrinkle your paper
Spray glue - available as permanent or repositionable. Not something I’ve ever got on with but loved by some. Could be handy for mounting a papercut I guess
Mod Podge - a great all purpose glue that is a must for any kind of decoupage
Something to cut your paper
Scissors - seems obvious but some regular cheap old scissors are essential. When they get sticky from cutting tape just scrub them with a pot scourer in hot soapy water.
A guillotine or paper trimmer - slightly controversial but I’m calling this an essential. Once you have a way to cut paper straight your paper crafting life will change forever! You might think a pencil line made using a ruler and cut with scissors will be the same but no my friend, it will not! My guillotine is only a little one, I’ve had it forever and I adore it. (I concede here that a rotary trimmer with a metal ruler make work too if you prefer but I’d splash out on a guillotine)
For paper cutting by hand you also need a craft knife. Lots of different knives are available. I swear by my trust xacto knife with a no.11 blade. I love it so much I even gave the box it came in a makeover! Whatever knife you choose, change your blade regularly, it makes all the difference.
A surface to work on
You are going to be cutting, painting, printing, stamping. glueing so make sure you have a surface that a) you are not too bothered about and b) you can clean down easily. I recommend a self healing cutting board as big as your work surface will allow. When it’s dirty you can just wash it in hot soapy water and your kitchen table will be protected throughout.
Ample scrap paper is also essential, to go underneath when you are glueing, painting, stamping etc.
Pens and Pencils
To start with keep things simple here, your regular pencil, eraser and a black finer liner are just fine. The kids colouring pencils and pens are just fine too. Anything more than that is going into the wish list.
If you are scrapbooking, cardmaking, box making, gift wrapping etc you are going to need embellishments to use in your papercrafting.
You don’t need to rush out and buy lots to start with, some things you probably already have around the house:
Old birthday cards to cut up
Sequins (cheaper than buttons and gems but give a nice effect)
Ribbon - those ribbons that come in your clothes for hanging are ideal, trim them off today!
Faux flowers - maybe take them apart and use the layers separately
This is how I keep my stash of ‘useful’ bits and pieces!
Stamps and Ink pads - Honestly I’m in 2 minds as to whether these are essentials or not! I didn’t have any for years. If I wanted a little picture or motif I would draw it with a pen, if I wanted a sentiment I would print it on my computer in a fancy font. BUT many card makers and scrap bookers love to use stamps and ink pads and if you are not especially artistic or confident with your drawing they can be really useful.
There are a zillion different designs out there and you can’t buy them all no matter how much you want to. A card making magazine will often have a free set attached, this is a brilliant way to build up a small collection. Buy with care, I use a few stamps now but I still have quite a few that I’ve actually never used. Look at a set and try to pick ones with versatile designs you know you can use over and over. Stamps can be used to make patterned backgrounds, used just as they are or coloured in with pens or pencils to make card toppers or scrapbook embellishments. Sentiment stamps are great for adding words to cards.
Ideas and Inspiration
Like any craft, you need ideas for your papercrafting. If you’ve bought a few craft magazines for the useful freebies attached then you’ll have lots of inspiration inside them. The internet is awash with ideas too, pinterest is a wonderful way to curate the internet for yourself. I’ve got a Greeting Cards Board and a Make it with Paper board that might help you get started.
For origami just pop over to Youtube and search beginners origami. Watching a video is much easier than photos or diagrams. Pause them as much as you need to!
You’ll find some wonderful mixed media videos on You Tube too, because mixed media is a process all about layering it’s lovely to watch it build up in a video tutorial.
If you are trying papercutting then Design Buddies have some fantastic paper cutting templates. These can be used for paper cutting by hand with a knife or for a cutting machine - more about cutting machines when we get to the wish list!
You can find all my paper craft ideas here , over the years I’ve shared ideas for cards, gift wrap, paper decorations, paper cutting by hand and much more.
Ok, so let’s assume you are now in love with paper crafting; you are going to scrapbook your entire life, you’ve vowed never to buy a greeting card again or you are going to make a paper flower photo backdrop for your 3rd cousin once removed’s wedding day! Papercraft is your thing, you’re hooked! This is where it can get expensive. Just add things to your wish list and take it slowly. You do not have to have every paper craft gadget that ever comes out, no matter how pretty it is! Make sure all the family know what’s on your list so they can gradually get you bits and pieces at every gift giving opportunity.
Items for your paper crafting wish list:
A die cutting machine - Sizzix, Spellbinder, Nellies Choice, Gemini - there are loads of different makes and models. If you have a die cutting machine you’ll also need dies and you’ll want them all so just be aware of the rabbit hole you are about to fall down! Use embossing plates and these machines can emboss too.
A electronic cutting machine - Cricut, Silhouette or Brother ScanNCut. Each make has several models with different features and varying in price. These machines are not cheap but they are really versatile and if you do a lot of crafts they can be worth the investment. Everyday Savvy has a good article comparing different machines, a good place to start your research.
Punches - a cheaper alternative to a cutting machine or die cutter but potentially takes up much more space. If you collect a lot of punches then you’ll probably have spent the same amount on them as buying a top of the range cutting machine!
Nice pens and pencils - maybe treat yourself to some really nice pens and pencils. My favourite black fineliners are Sakura Pigma Micron, a pack with mixed sizes is really useful. For a broader pen a good old black sharpie is hard to beat, I like the fine point ones. A good white gel pen is nice to have and hard to find, Uni-ball’s Signo is the best I’ve found. A really good eraser is worth it too, but sadly I can’t really advise properly here. I have a Papermate Black Pearl eraser which I swear is the best thing EVER but they are discontinued. If you ever see one snap it up, it’s a level above any other! I’ve had mine years and it’s smaller of course but still going strong, I don’t know what I’ll do when it finally gets too small to use.
Watercolour pencils - I LOVE my Caran D’Ache SwissColor colouring pencils, you can use them as regular pencil crayons or go over them with a wet paintbrush to turn them to watercolour.
Art Markers - fancy felt tip pens! Lots of choice here, and they are not cheap but they will last you for AGES compared to kids colouring pens. I like Promarkers and Tombow dual brush pens as they are so versatile. Chameleon pens are AMAZING - still on my wish list though at time of writing! Be prepared to store your nice pens flat as that is what most manufacturers recommend, best check the box they come in.
Lots of stamps and inks - I put stamps and ink pads as an essential, and waffled on about why but they are a wish list item too! Once you get into your paper crafting you can slowly build up a collection if stamping is something you enjoy. There are different inks for different jobs, and a million stamps out there.
If you really fall in love with stamping then a Misti can be super helpful for getting great results.
A bone folder - I didn’t realise how good this little tool is until I had one as a gift. Use it to fold your card smoothly and to burnish or smooth paper you have just glued.
Tweezers - A good pair of angled tweezers will save your sanity if you are sticking gems, buttons and other small embellishments, they are the perfect stocking filler!
Small sharp scissors are great if you are doing a lot of fussy cutting and prefer scissors to a craft knife.
The list is virtually endless; glitter glue, paper varnish, watercolour paints, stickers, flat backed gems, puff paint…. if you can think of it someone has made it!
Paper craft is a lot of fun and I hope I’ve shown you that it doesn’t have to be expensive, at least not to start with! Hopefully you are inspired to have a go. If you are a seasoned paper crafter let us know in the comments if you have any more items you’d add, either as essentials or wish list items.