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Artful Mini Cards: Creative Techniques and Inspiration for Card Makers

Artful Mini Cards: Creative Techniques and Inspiration for Card Makers

by Janice E. McKee

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Bringing professional-looking cards into the realm of do-it-yourself home crafting, this reference teaches the processes for embellishing fabric, pressing flowers, handstitching easy designs, and using paper napkins to create stunning card art. Encapsulating the unique joy of mini cards, this book—buttressed by dozens of color photographs—weaves a


Bringing professional-looking cards into the realm of do-it-yourself home crafting, this reference teaches the processes for embellishing fabric, pressing flowers, handstitching easy designs, and using paper napkins to create stunning card art. Encapsulating the unique joy of mini cards, this book—buttressed by dozens of color photographs—weaves a number of crafting techniques that will appeal to card makers, art enthusiasts, and general crafters alike. It also imparts useful knowledge on embroidery, monoprints, vintage images, and how to use rice paper and emboss stamped images.

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Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Artful Mini Cards

By Janice E. McKee, Tanya Fox, Matthew Owen


Copyright © 2011 DRG
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59635-452-4


Coloring Rice Paper

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."

— George Bernard Shaw

When I was experimenting with creating handmade paper back in the '90s — the kind that's made from recycled gift wrap, unused fast food napkins, credit card offers, etc. (torn and turned into pulp in a household blender) — nearly every type of plant matter was fair game. In addition to the usual flower petals and grasses, I tried overripe strawberries, pine needles, cantaloupe rinds and the tough ends of asparagus stalks. While not everything produced great-looking paper, there were enough successes (loved the blueberry paper!) to inspire further experimentation.

At one point, while looking in the refrigerator for possibilities, I spied some leftover rice. I'd heard of rice paper but had never actually seen or used it. "Why not?" I thought to myself.

Let me just say: Do not try this at home! It was a disaster. The goopy mess adhered to my screen and couching sheets like glue and absolutely would not form itself into a sheet of paper. Months later I read somewhere that "rice" paper was actually a misnomer as the paper had nothing to do with rice.

Well, that is not exactly true. According to www.rice-paper.com, original rice paper had its beginnings in the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) and was made from rice straw and wingceltis bark in the Xuancheng area of China. It was known as Xuancheng paper and was valued by calligraphers and sumi-e artists for its strength and durability.

"One of the special characters of the paper is that it is rotproof and mothproof. This is the reason why an artwork from 100 years ago can still have its original freshness," so declares the website.

I've only worked with rice paper for a couple of years, but it is indeed a wonderful paper. It has qualities that remind me of cloth. For one, it is easily torn and yet its strength allows for quite a bit of manipulation. Another benefit is that once the decorated paper is dry it will usually lie flat, instead of curling up as other papers do.

Here are a few ideas to try, including a materials list.


Rice paper

Acrylic paint


Spray paint

Spray bottle filled with water

Various objects such as ferns, fl oral petals,

cut-out paper shapes and stencils

Spray sizing (optional)

Freezer paper


Sea sponges

Bamboo skewer (optional)

Aluminum foil



Temporary adhesive

Note: Cover work surface with freezer paper. When thinning acrylic paint with water, the paint should have the consistency of whole milk.


Spritz a sheet of rice paper with water. Using a natural sea sponge moistened with water, dip sponge into three coordinated colors of watered-down acrylic paint. Press sponge onto rice paper, pressing down and allowing the colors to spread out. Spritz with more water to make the colors mix as desired.

Modified Marbling

Use water to dilute three or four coordinated colors of acrylic paint.

Make a puddle with one color in the center of work space. Add other colors in the puddle as desired. Use the end of a paintbrush or a bamboo skewer to swirl paint colors. Do not overmix.

Carefully lay the rice paper on top of the puddle and watch the colors spread.

This method begs for experimentation. Allow the rice paper to dry partially before lifting it away. If you move the paper too soon the colors may run in streaks, but perhaps that look will be just what you desire.


Crease the rice paper as if making a paper fan. Apply thinned acrylic paints or inks to the creases. Spritz the creases with water as needed to make the paint move. Once dry, unfold and iron flat. If the result is boring, try creasing the paper again, either offsetting the creases or creasing in the other direction.

Using Aluminum Foil

Slightly crumple a piece of aluminum foil that is a little larger than the rice paper you are painting. Smooth the foil out and lay the rice paper on top. Spritz with water, and then paint the paper using a brush or sponge with as many colors of thinned acrylic paint as desired. To speed the drying process, place foil with the paper in an oven set at about 250 degrees for 5-10 minutes. The colors will migrate to the creases in the foil and the results are amazing.

A similar look can be achieved by spritzing the rice paper with water until quite damp and then crumpling it up into a ball.

Slightly uncrumple it and paint as desired.

Again, the paint will seep to the creases and surprise you when it is dry.

Spray Paint

Paint a sheet of rice paper with one or more light colors of thinned acrylic paint; let dry. Next, using a temporary adhesive, adhere objects such as ferns, flower petals, stencils or cut-out paper shapes to the painted sheet. In a well-ventilated area, or outside, using a protected surface and surroundings, lightly spray the paper with spray paint in another color. When dry, remove adhered objects.

These ideas just scratch the surface of what can be achieved when coloring or decorating rice paper. I always prefer to iron my decorated papers once they are dry, applying spray sizing (the same that is used for clothing) as I iron — it gives a nice finish.


Try using a heat tool to speed up drying time.

Iron dry paper to give it a smooth finished look.


Paper Napkin Images

"Plan out your life on paper but live by your heart."

— Warren DeMike

What comes to mind when you think of paper napkins? Potlucks and picnics? Everyday meals at home? Grabbing fast food on the run in your car? Jotting down an address, song idea or poem on the spur of the moment? How about paper arts and card making? If the last question has never occurred to you, it should! Decorative paper napkins are a great source of artistry and inspiration for making your own paper-art creations.

Crafting with paper napkins has several advantages. They are inexpensive and often showcase beautiful artwork ranging from classic designs to fun party motifs. They are very thin and easily incorporated into backgrounds for cards. Their decorative elements work well in collages or, when supported, can become a focal point. In fact, paper napkins can be utilized in almost any way that other decorative papers are used.

Decorative paper napkins usually come in two- or three-ply form. First, iron the napkin carefully on a low setting to get rid of any creases, and then separate the layers.

While the top, printed layer is what you are most interested in using, do not discard the other layers. The sheet right under the inked top sheet often has a subtle coloring that can be used whole or in part for backgrounds. Any subsequent white layers could make a contribution as pulp for handmade paper. Or, because the layers are extremely thin and therefore somewhat translucent, a white layer can be adhered on top of other gaudy or too dark decorative or scrapbooking papers to either tone them down or lighten them up.

The napkin layers are extremely delicate. The easiest way to add strength and support is to iron them to the shiny side of freezer paper. The resulting piece of paper can now be used as any other textweight paper: as a background sheet or cut up for collage elements.

Designs from paper napkins can be carefully cut out or torn to use as paper appliqués.

Carefully adhere torn piece of napkin to card front.

Another way to strengthen the decorated layer is to brayer it onto a piece of paper or cardstock that has been run through a Xyron adhesive machine.

The printed napkin layer can be torn and decoupaged using matte medium.

Decide on the placement of the torn piece and apply the medium to the foundation of paper, cardstock or cloth.

Carefully lay the napkin piece on top. Taking great care to not tear this delicate piece, gently apply the matte medium on top with a soft paintbrush.

Once everything has dried, the napkin will be stronger and other ephemera can be added as desired.

Alternatively, the torn part can be carefully coated on the backside with a glue stick and adhered to other handmade background papers such as crinkled, watercolored waxed paper.

The reverse side of the printed layer will be much more subtle and might provide an interesting coloration upon which to rubber stamp an image such as a face. Different design portions from several napkins can be combined to create a scene. Specific motifs might be applied using adhesive foam dots to give a slightly 3-D effect. Needle-nose tweezers are a great tool to use for handling delicate, small elements.

A strengthened napkin layer can take additional color and shading from colored pencils or pastels. After trying a few of these techniques, you might find yourself in party shops, gift shops, drug stores and online stores searching out decorative paper napkins. There is a lot of great art out there just waiting for you.


Embellished Fabric

"We live in a web of ideas, a fabric of our own making."

— Joseph Chilton Pearce

Ahhh, fabric ... one of my first loves in the creative world. When I was about 9 years old, my grandmother bought me my first fashion doll. She also included in her gift a few garments for the doll. My doll, who was quite the fashion maven, soon needed more outfits. My mother kindly pitched in and made some clothes for my doll. Soon, I pestered her for more, and she suggested that I learn to sew. She taught me a few hand stitches, and with her leftover fabric scraps and thread, I was on my way to a love of sewing. Somehow the baby dolls I'd had previously never inspired such endeavors, but this fashion doll certainly did. When I finally was able to take home economics in high school and learned to use a sewing machine, the first pattern I chose was a dress with a collar, patch pockets and set-in sleeves. Sewing garments led to quiltmaking in later years. I've dabbled in fabric painting too. There is a large closet in our basement that contains multiple shelves of fashion fabrics, quilting fabrics, home decor fabrics and all kinds of scraps.

Happily, fabric has worked its way into card making too, which is another favorite pastime. These miniature cards show that even the smallest scrap of fabric can achieve special notice. So don't throw out those bits and pieces leftover from dressmaking, quilting or home decor projects — just put them to good use in cards and paper-arts projects.

If you do not sew at home, thus lacking your own scraps of cloth, try fabric stores or garage sales for remnants. There are also online sources, such as clotilde.com, where bundles of a variety of fabrics cut in small sizes called Charm Packs, Jelly Rolls or Layer Cakes can be purchased. Retaining the "good parts" of clothing ready to be discarded can work too.

One of my favorite ways to use a scrap piece of fabric for a small card is to create fringed edges all around. By pulling a thread on each lengthwise and crosswise side of the fabric, you will start the unraveling process. Keep pulling threads until the depth of fringe desired is achieved.

Try using pinking shears to create a decorative edge that won't fray.

Hemming the edges by hand or machine will create a clean finish for fabric to be used as a background. An alternative method would be to cut a piece of cardstock the desired finished size for your mini card. Cut your fabric scrap about 3/8 inch larger than the cardstock. Center the cardstock on the fabric and glue down with a glue stick. Flip it over and trim the corners of the fabric to within 1/16 inch at the corner of the cardstock.

Finger-press the raw edges of the fabric over the edges of the cardstock to bring them to the back side. Using a glue stick, glue in place permanently.

Pre-cut wooden shapes or chipboard can be used in place of cardstock. The fabric is then glued to the top of the piece with the raw edges brought to the back and glued down in the same manner as the previous example.

Now that fabric foundations have been prepared for the small cards, it is time to add embellishments. Pressed flowers and motifs cut from decorative paper napkins work well. Note: See section on Paper Napkins on pages 10–13.

Beads, spangles, sequins, jewelry findings and purchased fabric embellishments, such as ribbon roses, can be added to your mini card for a unique touch.

Ribbon scraps count as fabric too. Wide ribbons can be used for backgrounds while narrower pieces act as enhancements. Ribbons or ribbon-type yarns can also be wrapped around chipboard frames.

Small paper images cut from decoupage sheets, decorative cardstock or scrapbooking paper, drawer liner paper or gift wrap work very well. Use your computer to print out a childhood photo onto muslin for a sweet look.

Don't forget about deconstruction. When fraying or fringing the edges of a piece of fabric to be used as a background, save the threads and tie them together to make the perfect matching bow or swag. Examine scraps of lace for usable motifs that can be cut out and added to the card. Of course, embroidery, quilting or other hand stitching is a good way to embellish fabric for a card too. Keep thinking and observing. You will come up with even more ideas, I'm sure.


Stamping & Embossing

"Nearly all our originality comes from the stamp that time impresses upon our sensibility."

— Charles Bauderlaire

Rubber and acrylic stamps allow those of us who cannot draw a straight line the ability to reproduce fine artistic details on our cards. There is a nearly limitless supply of images to be found at craft stores and online. Subject matters range from classical art images to text, from collage arrangements to pets, from flora to insects to ... well, you get the idea.

Stamps can be purchased mounted (usually on a wood base) or unmounted. Acrylic blocks allow for easy attachment and removal of unmounted acrylic stamps. The clear blocks and stamps also make it easy to see exactly where the image is being placed on your card.

There are several basic types of inks for use on paper and cardstock. Dye-based ink comes in a variety of rich colors and dries quickly. It is usually not permanent in that moisture can make it run.

Chalk-type ink pads have great colors and can be heat-set to make the print permanent. The finish from a chalk pad has a more opaque look. Pigment ink pads are preferred for embossing. The ink is slow-drying and sticky, allowing it to hold the embossing powder better. There are other specialty inks on the market that are worth investigating as well. Ink pads come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Embossing powder is actually minute plastic beads that melt when heated. There are heat tools specifically made for embossing. To emboss an image, apply pigment ink to the stamp and press firmly on the desired surface.

Sprinkle the embossing powder on top of the stamped image; shake off the excess onto a piece of scrap paper.

The excess can be returned to the embossing powder container. Next, heat the powdered image with an embossing heat tool held above and slightly angled until the powder melts and turns shiny.

The heat tool can be moved around as needed to hit all the areas of the image. Take care not to overheat or you may singe the paper. Embossing provides a raised surface to the image, making it easier to add color.

The type of paper or cardstock used to hold a stamped image can affect success. Textured or rough papers make it harder to get a clean, clear image. Smooth papers work much better. Glossy paper or cardstock must be heat-set or embossed for the image to be affixed permanently.

To get a good image, make sure the stamp is inked thoroughly and evenly. The stamp may be pressed into the ink pad or the pad may be pressed onto the stamp. Once the ink is on the stamp, breathe or "huff" on the stamp surface to re-moisten it. Press the stamp firmly onto the paper or cardstock, but do not let it move. It helps to press on a slightly padded surface such as a piece of fun foam that rests on a firm surface. Test on scrap paper first.

Color may be applied to stamped images in several ways. Colored pencils, chalks or pastels applied with foam applicators or cotton swabs, watercolor paints, water-based markers, gel pens, dye -based or alcohol inks applied with a small paintbrush all work very well. Copic® markers are the new coloring agents that are making paper artists swoon. The colors are brilliant and blendable.

Backgrounds for stamping can only be limited by your imagination. The samples shown include cardstock, scrapbooking paper, hand-painted rice paper and torn tissue paper. The autumn leaves were actually stamped onto pages of a magazine, then embossed and cut out. It's also fun to add embellishments to cards with stamped images such as bits of lace or floss, cut-paper motifs or the circles that are left over from a small hole punch. There's even a strip of clipped mesh fabric that, once applied to a circle of fabric, gives the impression of hand stitching.


Excerpted from Artful Mini Cards by Janice E. McKee, Tanya Fox, Matthew Owen. Copyright © 2011 DRG. Excerpted by permission of DRG.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Janice E. McKee is a professional crafter. She lives in Berne, Indiana.

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