Sunday, 30 August 2015

I Set Myself a Challenge!

I decided to set myself a challenge today.

To make two A5 pieces of a single image and to use it to make several different cards until it was all used up. I also challenged myself to use a shade of green that I hate.

The image I chose was a fern leaf. It came from a font, so no drawing was needed. I used a variety of techniques, from stamping with ink, to stamping with texture paste, to stencilling. It got cut out in silver foil; in rubber table mat (to make the stamp); in thin plastic table mat to make embossing shapes that I can keep and use time and time again.  I cut them out in different sizes. I used different colours.

This is the process of embossing the card. This very thin plastic table mat cuts like a dream and will not compress in the same way that card ones will. They give a nice clear impression too.

I learned here, that it would be easier to use texture paste if I made my stamp double thickness. Oh well, there's always next time! It actually looks better in the flesh than it does here.

This one has a stencilled leaf made with clear texture gel. The black stamping is done with  Memento  ink.
Offcuts of the black were used like ribbons in this one.
A bit of glamour is sneaking sentiments as I want to be able to choose what to use them for.
This one is very quick, just some fancy glitter tape either side of the black.
So here is the embossed version. The ribbon is silver florist ribbon, cut down.

So, as you can see, you can do a lot with just one basic shape.
It is worth making a whole sheet of the same thing in different sizes or indeed the same size to use in other projects or, doing as I did and use up scraps of foil card by squeezing in a few bits here and there.

And here is a card I made yesterday with a different home made stamp.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Embossed Rose Card

I fancied making a simple, classic white on white embossed card.
This is what I came up with.

The card is made with a 'window' cut into it and the embossed image fitted behind. Why do it this way? Well it means that I can do other things with the card base if needs be or use a different backing colour.

I've made a quick video of how the file was designed but as usual forgot to mention one or two things!

First and foremost, once you think you have it right, SIMPLIFY if necessary in SCAL. Sometimes this drastically reduces the nodes.

Secondly, check with the zoom tool to see if any extra nodes are on the inside of the outer cut. I found that there were a few on the right side, oddly, not on the left! They just made little flicks. Use the node edit tool to select single nodes and delete them.

I mention making embossing plates from card to use in my Evolution embosser, and it really does work well. Use scraps of card in your stash or card you don't like! Why waste nice pristine card?

Use temporary spray adhesive on the back of your plate, so it won't move on you. 

I also made a cover from window cling to go on my base plate. Why? So I could mark it up with a centre horizontal and vertical line, to aid placement. Don't know about you but if I stick a plate onto my card to keep it in place, either it doesn't stick or it sticks too well and I damage the card getting it off!

I used window cling because I had it but you could use a piece of graph paper if you have any handy. I don't have any but I think I may get some, just for that!

The design itself is quite versatile, you could do it as an inlay, show the debossed or embossed side, do it in another colour, make it from foiled card (that embosses really well) or even heat emboss the completed image. There is no sentiment because I wanted the focus on the rose. Silver marker was used to colour the frame, I did mask it off to do that for a clean edge. I was lucky to complete it as my pen was going dry on me!

The setting for the Evolution was number 3 - using the latex mat with it and the B plate. The design plate was made with 3 layers of 250gsm card  cut out then glued together - but I could easily have just used two layers.

My thanks goes to the designers of the fonts used, Kalocsai Flowers and Janda Flower Doodles by 
Levi Halmos (No images Fonts)  and  Kimberly Geswein  respectively - both are free for personal use from

Monday, 24 August 2015

Penny Planter Card (Free File)

Today I did something a little different, actually used patterned card as a base. I'd noticed I have rather a lot of it and I always seem to use a plain base for some reason!  It's like when you save the best china for special occasions...:)

The other unusual thing is that I folded the card manually. Why? Because I hadn't decided what dimensions I wanted at the time, or how it was going to turn out..just going with the flow!

The card was 12cm x 34cm. I folded at 9, 18, 22, 26 and 29.5 cm approximately.

To get the raised back section, I used the only metal die I have, a set that came with my Evolution embossing machine. The trick is to position the die over the fold and tape in place, then have it hanging half off the front of your base plate when you cut it. No base plate, no pressure, means no cut. Simple! I cut a whole smaller version in white card to go behind Penny.

If you decide to make the file in your software, just make a shape and duplicate it. Put one to the side, to cut out whole and then make an offset of the other. Take the offset only and either cut it in half or rub half out, choice is yours. Place the half line to the appropriate fold line.

This little lady is on foam pads and made from a sketch I did on paper. I scanned it and used an iPad app 'Concepts' to trace the main features. Saving to SVG, I was able then to draw it with a pen in my Silver Bullet and then have it cut it out.  The flowers were already in my design stash from previous doodling, so I just made sure to make a 'pen' layer and an outer cut line.

I use a permanent fine liner to draw with in the pen holder, I find it is ok with my Touchfive markers.

I added a bit of ribbon with double sided tape, to the front section and a pre made sentiment. (I make whole stacks in one go and then choose from my stash later!)  

I'm pleased with the result. The yellow flower really lifts the card, it ties in with the t shirt, as the blue flower ties in with her jeans.

So, the file for the flowers and Penny Planter are here. It is in SCAL and SVG. SCAL has notes in the project info section with the size of the card and where the folds are.

NB  If you want the file, get it now, I don't keep them in the drop box forever!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Braille Cards, Tutorial for Sighted People

I was sifting through my stash of materials, card, papers etc and busy sorting.  As it is prone to do, my mind started off wandering down paths previously not thought of. It was triggered by the array of different textures I have access to. Everything from tissue paper to foam, to glitter paper and card, even velvet paper.

It occurred to me that our craft of cutting is superbly placed to make cards etc for the visually impaired. Not only the blind but those who know that they are or will be losing their sight; those whose sight is failing in one way or another.

Why should they be left out when it comes to special occasions, or 'Thank you' cards, or even cards that just say 'Hello' I'm thinking of you?  Maybe you have a friend or colleague you'd like to make a card for but you don't have a Braille slate.

Yes, there are places you can buy such cards but most of us probably don't and they still wouldn't have that very personal touch of being made by you.

So that made me do some research on Braille. Although it looks highly complicated if you see it in sheets of text, Braille is actually a very simple concept. Think of a set of Dominos, only with bumps instead of indents. The 'brick' is known as a 'cell' and each cell has two evenly spaced vertical lines of up to 3 bumps. How many bumps and in what position they are placed, determines what letter of the alphabet is represented. Each letter has it's own pattern. The dots on the left are numbered positions 1-3 (starting at the top) and the right hand row is number 4-6, starting at the top again.

There are other forms of Braille, some use 8 dots, there is a contracted version, like a Braille shorthand, but for sentiments you don't need to go into that.

By now, you may be wondering how you could do this. Well, quite simple really. There are several ways.

You could cut the Braille out in foam or card and use as a stencil. If you flip it over and write the letters from right  to left, you can just make indents with an embossing tool or stylus.

If you use it 'right side' up you will need to make marks and then add some dots.

Use 3D glue in the holes to make the dots.

Use small rhinestones or flat backed pearls for the dots. If you are making it for someone who is partially sighted, that would be the best of both worlds, pretty and practical.

If you are going to use it often, you may want to make it into an embossing plate, or if your cutting machine embosses, use that to make the bumps.

I would recommend planning any sentiments on the card first, it takes up more room than written text. Maybe make the card a larger size than you normally would to account for it.

Now, for the rest of the card design, go to town on cut out shapes, layers and textures. Embossing with either your cutter or an embossing machine for patterns. Think with your fingers. Do you have some card that feels really nice. If you are making a cut out of a teddy, do you have some velvet covered paper? Make 3D flowers, leaves, crimp and fold things. Use glitter, 3D glues, heat embossing. All of it will add interest and enjoyment.

If you do this, you'll end up with a card that not only looks good but feels good too and what could be better than that?

To get you started, I have created a Braille alphabet file.  It is in SCAL format, please read the notes in the file (go to Window/Project Info)

Raid Your Make Up Bag!

We all have times when doing a project when we wish we had items we don't have.
Sometimes there are no replacements but on occasions there are unexpected solutions.

Maybe you want to add some shimmer to a card, either with words or design but you don't have the right embossing powder or foil to do what you want to do.  Perhaps your glue won't stick to cellophane or acetate to give you that nice sentiment on a shaker card.

What you probably do have, is a palette of eye shadow that was just too glitzy to wear ( or at least, access to some!) Look for ones where 'mica' is a main ingredient. That's what gives shimmer and shine. I don't know of many women who don't have colours they never use, or an old palette that is past it's best. This isn't a project for your best designer brands!

With that and a two way glue pen, you can get some really cool effects. Oh, and raid the bathroom for some talc. I put a tiny amount in a small travel pot and added a cotton wool ball. I use it to get rid of grease and static on card before embossing, but it is used for this as well. Just use it BEFORE you put down the glue. It may work with sticky embossing  ink pads too, but I've not tried that, as I don't have one.

Draw whatever you want to with the glue pen, wait until it is just tacky and then use a small paint brush to brush the powder of your choice over the top. Voila! A shimmery sentiment or pattern! Depending on how thick the glue was and the type of card, it may even feel embossed. Brush off excess with a clean brush.

For a really great effect, cut out shapes from double sided tape or glue sheets. Brush eye shadows over that. The beauty of it is that you can add different colours as you go, transitioning from purple to green or brown to gold...
Yes. you could use a shimmery pen if you had one but even that does not produce quite the same effect and it is harder to transition from colour to colour.

If you wanted to, you could even smash up the shadow blocks to make a fine powder and put it in small glitter shaker pots. That way you could use dimensional glues and add it like you would  add glitter, leave it to dry and then brush off excess.

Here it is on double sided tape.

It looks really pretty!  Children could have fun with this technique too. It's like having invisible writing. The technique must be similar to collecting finger prints...

As I mentioned in another post, glue pens can be used in cutting machines too, or with stencils. Experimentation is the key. Find that glue sweet spot where it is dry enough but still tacky and off you go!

See the video here  (if the video has not loaded yet, come back a bit later!)

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Make your own Transfer 'foils'!

A while ago I bought some transfer foil from a craft shop, it wasn't overly pricey but not cheap either and I have to admit I have found it to be, well, sometimes, a little awkward. It is so light weight that the slightest breeze causes it to flutter around the room and usually land in the most inconvenient of places. 

I had been wondering how to get around the stamping of fine sentiments and while thinking of this, my mind shifted to other things like carbon paper. Transfer foil may not look anything like that but it does have something in common with it, both transfer marks to something else. 

Then suddenly, I  had a lightbulb moment and had to try something out. What if I could make my own transfer foil out of something already lying around? Heaven knows I have plenty of paints.
So my first attempt was using acrylic paints.

I painted some on a plastic sheet, allowed it to dry, while I doodled on some card scraps with a Sakura glue pen. Sakura, only because those are the ones I have that have a very fine pen nib, or I would have used my Zigs.

Well that didn't work. The gold paint I used formed a skin and would not break away cleanly. Hmm.

Suddenly I remembered that I have some  cheap silver spray paint. I got out a plastic document wallet too.

Well, actually I used a piece of a wallet that had already been cut up, but this shows you what I mean.

You need just one side of it. Cut it down the side and cut off the welded seam. I took it outside and using a couple of clothes pegs on the corners to weigh it down (it was windy), I lightly sprayed ONE side only.

While it was drying (does not take long)  I made a file in SCAL and set up my Silver Bullet with a piece of white card. You could do this with a Cameo though, quite easily.   I set the file to draw and put my Sakura glue pen in the holder.

 This is the glued design.

I gave it a moment to dry a bit more and then placed my plastic, paint side down, on top. (It will feel slightly rougher than the unpainted side) and used a bone folder to rub over the pattern. I did miss a few bits in my haste and excitement - but I can go over those later.

It worked perfectly!

You can see here that the paint has left the plastic.

Now the beauty of this has another level. Think what you could do with different colours of metallic or non metallic spray paints! 

Raid your garages crafters!  Leave no paint can to fester any more. Go wild!  

This method can be used for anything that can be drawn with a glue pen. One note - it needs to be one that is a 2 way glue, one that ends up tacky when dry. Do it too early and it will smudge, so don't be afraid to wait a few minutes for the glue to set.  The paint stays put after it is transferred, no problem there.

Once it is all used up, there is nothing to stop you cleaning off the plastic to re use it.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Fun Foam/Craft Foam, Cutting and Extra information

I love using fun foam but I do have a machine capable of cutting it. If you have tried, say on a Cameo and not been able to cut it, read on.

Many crafters who read this blog will have embossing machines. Well, the good news is that if you run a piece of craft foam through it without any decorative plates, you may be able to compress your foam to make it easier to cut.  It won't necessarily bounce back to full thickness, some will, some won't but you may be able to cut it afterwards. I used 2mm foam and ran it through my Evolution at a setting of 8 and that worked really well.

When trying to cut more delicate items, I have found it easiest to use a CB09 holder with one of the 45 degree blades that fit it. These are much finer blades, so there is less drag. For Silver Bullet  and SCAL users, I have mine set to a blade offset of 60 and an over cut of 1mm and that seems to work well. You can see the teddy stamp I cut from the foam, the lines are quite fine.  That bear has an outline of about 1mm.  To get your blade depth, put it against the material after compressing, it should not be any deeper. I cut with a speed of 300 and a force of 200 to get the result below.

If you are careful about the font you use, sentiments can be cut too.  My tip for these is to choose a very fine font and make it big, rather than a chunky one made smaller. A big but fine font looks great stamped, a small chunkier one doesn't come out so well, you tend to lose detail. I've come to the conclusion that if you want really fine small stamped sentiments you had better just buy them, unless you are prepared to experiment with shrinking them (see below).

Before sending anything to the cutter, if using SCAL, check the number of nodes. I cannot stress enough, how important this is. Editing images with the eraser, adjusting paths etc can increase the node numbers a lot. Use the simplify option to make sure you get a good result.

Enough of the cutting, have you ever thought of decorating your foam cut outs?  I did a bit of experimenting and got some interesting results.

You can use coloured 3D glues to add another dimension and gloss, like this

It comes out really juicy looking, would be great for holly berries and santa hats! Of course, you are not limited to red, other colours work just as well, but match dark foam to dark colours and pale foam to pale colours. It is added AFTER cutting.

I did try some clear PVA but that didn't do too much for it.

My favourite though was a black metallic nail polish, loved the result of this one!

The great thing is that the brighter, more garish polishes are often the best bet - and the ones most likely to be found in the cheap bargain shops or on sale!

Alternatively, you could paint on some glue (or just rub it on with a finger) and use glitter.

Did you know you can shrink foam?

Foam will  shrink up considerably if you heat it, the quickest way is with an embossing heat tool, but you have to keep it still and it will curl up if you are not careful.

You can use an iron. Put the foam between some baking parchment and iron it for a few seconds at a time. Only use a low setting, the highest I used was 'silk'.

These were all cut the same size, but shrunk to different levels.

To stop it curling, turn over and iron on the reverse as well.  (The black marks on the one on the right are just ink stains from the back when stamping with it).
Oh, and before you ask, no, don't shrink it before cutting. It doesn't work. Believe me. I tried it!

I hope this has inspired you to try it out, it's great fun. I think that red foam with a red nail polish on it would look spectacular on Christmas cards...


If any of you have downloaded the latest version, you may notice a change in the Library.

Under the Shapes there is now a section 'Createinspain'!

Why? Because, with all the improvements made in SCAL this year, I thought the developer deserved a little thank you. So I made some shapes and GAVE them to them, asking if they would like to include them in the library. So you win too.

I stress, I am NOT paid by the company, my reviews will always be honest and my opinions formed only by use of the software.

As it happens I downloaded a version of 4.30 from the website and it caused me severe problems - it was not recognising the cutter was on. I contacted them and was sent a different version to try and it solved the issues, so if you have problems with the version you are using and it appears to be the latest version  - PLEASE contact Craftedge. They can't fix problems if they don't know about them!
They really do try to fix anything that goes wrong but to do that they need the relevant information, as below.

Cutter info
Operating system
Version of SCAL used
Nature of problem
A copy of the problem file
Details of what you were doing when the problem occurred
Is it a repeated problem or a one off?

All this will help them to help you.



Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Put Your Feet Up card

The lazy days of summer are well established here in Spain and I wanted to make a card to reflect that feeling. The heat, the warm breezes, the torpor. I also wanted a little whimsy, so I came up with Loopy the rabbit. He's had a hard day of munching on carrots and lettuce leaves and now needs a long siesta.

The whole lot was drawn freehand and then I looked at the shapes and drew them in SCAL. They were just outlines, I used my alcohol markers to colour it all.  The sentiment was cut out in gold sticky back foil. I was really pleased with the thin text, it's about as thin as I could write it in pen!

The front panel is about 9cm square, so it fits well on an A6 front (which was airbrushed pink already). Finally added a Birthday tag to finish it off.

Now where did I put my hammock?....

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Celebrating! 200 Blog Posts!

I noticed the other day that I had made 199 blog posts, so for this, number 200 I am giving you a present. A file for a card that I designed today.

When I was young I started drawing cartoons and for this post I am going back to those roots.  A cartoon cut out cat. Modelled loosely on our very own Black Tippy British Shorthair. A bit of artistic license is involved!

The cat was drawn and painted on my iPad using the Concepts app. I then traced it into SCAL from a PNG.

So here he is,

 Unusually for me, there is a message inside too.....

Of course, if you don't feel like insulting your nearest and dearest, feel free to change the sentiment!

Here is the link to the file in SCAL format

I've included a page of print and cuts and a second page which has the card elements on it. If you want the little cat on the inside, just copy the bigger one and resize it.