Hints & Tips

I'm always asked when creating the projects for magazine commissions to come up with some hints and tips, here are a few that you may find useful. I've put them into categories to make it easier and I'll add more hints and tips as I come across them :o)

Heat Embossing

Pigment inks are best for heat embossing, dye based inks dry too quickly, the embossing powder won't stick and you'll be left with a patchy image.

Don't overheat the powder, otherwise it 'disperses' into the card and you will get an uneven outline.

Heating the powder from the back of the card gives you more control.

Rub an anti-static bag over the card surface will help stop the embossing powder from sticking where you don't want it.

Clean, dry hands are essential. Fingerprints can attract the powder.

Apply and tap off excess powder over a piece of clean scrap paper. You can then tip the excess back into the pot with little waste.

Fine, detail embossing powders work best with intricate images.


Dye based or alcohol based inks are great if you are using alcohol based pens such as Promarkers. Sometimes these inks don't adhere to photopolymer or clear stamps very well. You can use a pigment based ink such as Versafine. Use a heat gun to 'set' the image before colouring in with your markers.

Get into the habit of cleaning your stamps as you use them. Baby wipes are a good quick fix. The best way to clean your cling stamps is with warm soapy water.

Always take the ink pad to the stamp, not the other way round.

Light tapping of the ink pad on the stamp will ensure you get a good even coating of ink, perfect for a crisp, clean image.

Card & Paper

In scoring, you have a 'valley' on one side where you push the card into the scoring groove and the 'mountain' on the other. When scoring card to make a blank, the 'valley' should be on the outside of the blank and the 'mountain' on the inside.

After scoring your card/paper, use a bone folder for a crisp, sharp crease.

Cutting around intricate images/motifs is called 'fussy cutting'. Remember to turn the card/paper rather than the scissors when cutting.

If you are making 3D roses or rosettes, use a really good quality PVA glue to hold the shape. 

If you want to make unusual sized cards, make your own envelopes out of old papers from your craft stash. There are some really good envelope templates/boards on the market.

If you make your own circle blank, don't forget to trim a small section from the bottom so that your card doesn't roll around everywhere!

If you are ever stuck on finding a piece of card to match whatever you are colouring in with Promarkers (or Copics), use the chisel end to colour a section of white smooth card big enough for you to use. As alcohol based markers tend not to leave colouring lines, it's a quick and easy way (and cheaper) to match up card.

Die Cutting

Sometimes when you pop-out a motif from a pre-cut sheet of images/shapes, you get a little tab where they have been held in place during the cutting process. Remove by gently sanding away the tab with a fine emery board.

After die cutting a shape, run a ball tool or a bone folder around the edge. It will flatten and neaten it.

If your die cutting plate is getting worn and is not allowing the dies to cut properly, using a paper 'shim' will help.

If you are having problems with intricate dies releasing the card. Run the dies through with a sheet of wax paper. This helps lubricate the die, you may need to repeat after several cuts. Reynolds Cut Rite Wax Paper is excellent.


Hand cutting shapes such as clouds and scallops give a lovely quirky, whimsical feel to your projects. If you are not confident to cut directly into the card/paper, lightly draw the outline with a pencil on the reverse.

Keep scissors and punches sharp by cutting through strips of tin foil.

Glue pens with a roller ball tip are ideal for gluing small, intricate items to your design. You have much more control and don't get too sticky!

Metal rulers with a non-slip backing are best for cutting perfectly straight lines. They are safer too.

Chalkboard markers are great for covering wood embellishments. They are also available in some great colours.

Paint tester pots are a good cheap way to decorate chipboard or wood embellishments.

When covering wood/chipboard shapes, trim close to the edge of the shape and then use fine sand paper or a sanding block to smooth the edges.

Stop the ends of ribbon fraying by smearing a thin layer of PVA glue on the reverse, near the cut edge. When dry, snip off the end.

Spend time arranging elements/images on your blank. If you're not sure, walk away and leave it for a while, then come back and look at it with a fresh eye.

Colour in the letters from sheets of plain stickers with an alcohol based markers such as Promarkers or Copics. You can then match the lettering to suit the colour scheme of your design. Basic Grey letter stickers are great for this.