Crafting with Cardstock and Paper: Tips and Tricks for Creative Projects

Finding a new hobby is so exciting, it’s a whole new world of creativity and opportunity that has opened; and you’re chomping at the bit to get started.

But as with anything new, there is usually a learning curve, and depending on your chosen hobby, it can be a pretty steep curve!

But fortunately, today, there are many resources available, both online and in-person, to help you, advise you and educate you.  For new card makers, YouTube offers a wealth of information, tips and tricks as well as suggested supplies. 

There are also plenty of in-person cardmaking classes and workshops you can attend in your area.  These are usually a great idea, as you will be provided with supplies, and as you use them, you will learn about them and can decide whether or not they are a good fit for your style of cardmaking.  And the best part, you will have created beautiful handmade cards that you can take home with you to hand out to your friends!

But let’s have a look at what you may need to get started.  As the name suggests, to make cards, you will need some good quality cardstock.  Cardstock used in card making is usually available in 8.5” x 11” size, which, when cut according to standard card sizes, means you can get two standard A2 size card bases or four A2 size card fronts out of one sheet.

If you are cutting slimline or larger cards such as 5” x 7”, you will potentially only get one card per sheet, but make sure to keep the leftover pieces as you can use these for die cutting and creating smaller border pieces or layers.

To simplify, here is a list of the different types of cardstock you may come across:

  1. Solid white cardstock – for card bases, stamping and die cutting.
  2. Coloured cardstock – for card bases, matting, borders, and die cutting.
  3. Watercolour cardstock – as the name suggests, you need this when you are planning to use watercolour mediums for your project.
  4. Alcohol Ink cardstock – for use with alcohol inks, these are usually non-porous surfaces.
  5. Specialty cardstock – these can include specialty finishes such as foil and glitter.
  6. Vellum – a semi translucent paper, used for creating layers on cards.
  7. Acetate – a translucent, flexible sheet used for creating shaker cards, can also be foiled and heat embossed.
  8. Patterned papers – these are available to purchase individually, or in coordinated packs, which usually have a theme such as Christmas, Valentines or Halloween.

 Solid White Cardstock

There are a few options out there, but the brand that I reach for the most, and stock in my craft room is Neenah Classic Crest Solar White Cover 80lb or 110lb smooth cardstock.  The 110lb is a great option for card bases, and works wonderfully for stamping and die cutting, as well as ink blending and alcohol markers. The heavier weight ensures your card base is sturdy and can stand up on its own.

The 80lb is a more economical option, and can be used for stamping, die cutting and ink blending backgrounds.  The quality is just as good as the 110lb, it is just slightly thinner.

These both come in 8.5” x 11” size, which is US letter size.

Another great quality white cardstock, albeit a more expensive option is Strathmore Bristol smooth surface 300 Series.  This comes in a 9” x 12” inch pack of 20 sheets and is a beautifully smooth surface for ink blending.

Another option that is quite popular is Xpress It Blending Card.  These come in various size options but be sure to choose the heavy weight option which is great for use with alcohol ink markers.

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Coloured Cardstock

You may also want to stock up on some colourful varieties of cardstock, for example when you make themed cards for Christmas, Valentines or birthdays.  You can build these up over time and start with your most favourite colours.  Many paper crafting brands out there offer their own range of coloured cardstock, and I would suggest looking at Gina K. Designs, Spellbinders or Lawn Fawn – these are especially great since they offer stamping ink in coordinating colours!

You can create a card base from coloured cardstock or keep it white and add colour in the form of layers, borders or die cut elements.  I love using beautiful reds and greens for my Christmas cards, and even mix it up sometimes and use non traditional colours such as lilac and pink!

Coloured cardstock is usually sold in 8.5” x 11” packs but can also be available in a 12” x 12” size.  Be sure to check before you buy whether the cardstock is smooth or textured, as these will yield different results.

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Watercolour Cardstock

Watercolour cardstock is a specialty type of paper that is heavier and thicker than normal cardstock, as it has to have a degree of absorbency.

Watercolour cardstock comes in a variety of textures, which will affect the look of your finished product.

I have a few in my craft room, but a good economical option to start with would be Canson XL Cold Press 140lb.  It comes in a pack of 30 sheets, and is sized at 9” x 12” which means you can get a good amount of standard A2 sized card fronts from one pack.

Another good option to try is Aquarello Artistico Extra White Hot Pressed 140lbs.  This paper has a beautiful smooth texture and is a little more white and bright than the Canson.

I have had a lot of fun playing with metallic watercolours on black watercolour cardstock too!  For this I would suggest Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress from Legion.  A pack of 15 sheets in 140lb/300gsm and sized at 8” x 10” will last you a good while.

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Alcohol Ink Cardstock

Alcohol Inks are designed for non-porous surfaces.  Smooth, slick surfaces, think metal, plastic, and glass.  The fact that they are solvent based inks is what gives them the magical quality when used on the appropriate surface.

Tim Holtz has a range of Alcohol Ink cardstock options available, in different finishes, colours and sizes, and the effects you can create with this substance is really unique and fascinating.

Alcohol Ink CardstockInk CardstockCardstock Alcohol Ink

Specialty Cardstock

Adding a little bling to your card will always make it stand out, and specialty cardstocks are there for that reason.  Glitter cardstock comes in so many colours, you can use it not just for Christmas but any season or occasion.

Foil cardstock has a reflective surface and adds such a special touch when used as a border or for die cutting things such as snowflakes.  Some cardstock also have a pattern with foiled accents.

Specialty Cardstock Paper cardstockssnowflakes cardstocksGlitter cardstock Glitter cardstocksFoil cardstock Christmas cardstock


Vellum is a semi-transparent paper, and can be used for embossing, heat embossing and die cutting techniques.  It adds a beautiful softening effect to your design.  You can also use it for ink blending and even use alcohol markers on it to colour stamped and heat embossed images.  There are plenty of economical options available.

Vellum paperink blending vellum paper


Acetate is a thick, clear plastic paper.  You can heat emboss, and stamp on this surface with a solvent ink such as Stazon.  You can use your alcohol markers to colour in your stamped images on this surface too, although it is a little harder to blend your marker colours on this surface. Acetate is also used to create shaker cards, which is a really fun technique we will cover in a later article.

One thing to remember is to purchase a heat resistant acetate if you are planning to heat emboss on it, as regular acetate will not be heat resistant.

Acetate plastic paper crafting

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