A Genius Card Making Hack for Faster, Better Fancy Cards

Image of Copics-colored mailbox on card using letters cut by the Silhouette Cameo

Today’s card is about the card making hack that struck me between the eyes the night before “construction” began. Let me explain…

Strategic planning is your friend

(Disclaimer: Lots of photos today!)

Sometimes you know going in that your card needs to be extra-special. Maybe it’s for a wedding or baby shower. Or a milestone birthday or anniversary. Maybe, as in this card’s case, it’s for a new home.

So you want it to be highly detailed. Fancy. Elaborate. Which translates to mean time-consuming, aka… complicated.


So what do you do? Do you waste time searching the ‘net for “simple yet fancy greeting cards?” Do you search your supplies in hopes that the answer will present itself? Maybe you resign yourself to a simple “Congrats” card, suspecting the recipient(s) won’t really notice the card anyway. (They will.)

No, you don’t. You’re a card maker who loves playing with all her “stuff.” And a fancy card is the perfect time for going all out. What you need to do is simple, really.

You need a card making hack.

The architect’s “plan of action”

Hand drawn blueprint of the congrats card
It’s not fancy, but it did the trick

I’m talking about a blueprint, that “detailed plan or program of action,” according to Merriam-Webster.


I confess I’ve never drawn a card’s design out before. And I also confess that I’ve spent hours, even entire days on a single card before. But I don’t have the luxury of taking that kind of time anymore. Who does?

Without a plan or a map, how do you get to your destination, in this case, a finished (fancy) card? You can take the long way there, putting this on the card, and that. You can guess and come up with a jumble of “stuff” and risk it looking like your 7-year old niece’s art project, or you can draw up a blueprint and hit the ground running.

Now don’t get me wrong – you don’t have to know every exact little detail about every exact element that you’re going to use. I didn’t. I knew I was going to use my favorite sweetheart flowers painted with my homemade shimmer paint, but I didn’t have a color scheme pinned down. I knew the words I was going to use for the greeting, but I didn’t know the exact placement. And that was ok. I just needed a “rough draft” of the entire layout to get me going.

Because that’s always, ALWAYS my biggest headache – the layout. Sure, I usually use sketches, and that’s all fine and good. But sometimes I spend more time on sketches than is smart because sometimes I just can’t find a sketch in my binder (of 100’s of them) that quite fits my idea. Which was the case with this card – I didn’t need a sketch because I knew exactly the story I wanted to tell.

The story, both seen and behind the scenes

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The blueprint next to the finished card
You can see a few differences between the blueprint and the finished card

This card, a welcome-to-your-new-home card for my daughter and her fella was actually quite complicated. There’s much more to it than meets the eye. But I hadn’t made this kind of card in years, so it was time to “stretch my legs,” starting with the blueprint I drew up the night before.

I wanted the use this sweet mailbox digital print from MelJen’s Designs because look how cute it is.  (Sadly, she has gone out of business or else I’d include a link.) I wanted to use a fence and flowers and grass, too, which are all planned for my daughter’s new garden. The bow was a given, along with a key, symbolic of a new home.

I wanted to use digital paper for the decorative layer and I knew I’d have to cut the words with my Silhouette Cameo since I don’t have any word dies. That’s right, not one. single. word. die. I design all of my surface 3-D greetings with my Cameo. It has saved me a ton of money and storage space. (If you’re wondering what else a digital die cutting machine can do (hint: it’s a LOT), here’s a good rundown on 11 Reasons to Own a Digital Die Cutting Machine.)

I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Close up of Copics-colored image
She’s got mail!

I colored the mailbox with Copics. Then I airbrushed the sky with Copics, covering the mailbox with a mask cut from copy paper. I also used cloud-shaped masks, after which I enhanced the resulting shapes with light grey Copics because clouds are never a flat white. I colored the floating heart and base flowers with Gelly Roll Stardust pens.

I decided to ink the edges of the image layer with blue ink because that soft blue just didn’t contrast enough with the soft green mat behind it. It all kind of blended together, which is a design no-no. What a difference the inking makes.

Corner view showing stitching and distressed edges
Small touches for big impact

The paper is a digital print from Pink Gem Designs that I resized and lightened on my Cameo to act as a subtle “wallpaper.” I distressed the edges with my Tim Holtz Distress Tool and stitched around the edges for added texture.

Because clearly the card needed more texture.

Closeup of the fence and grass die cuts as well as the custom colored tiny flowers
Lots and lots of color, texture and custom details

She’s going to have a white picket fence someday, though I chose to use an “iron” fence die cut on this card. (The picket fence die was too “heavy.”) The grass die cut softens the edges. There are a few of my favorite Miniature Sweetheart Blossoms from the gang over at Really Reasonable Ribbon. Love those posies.

I colored them using my homemade shimmer paint but didn’t have the pink on hand, so I made some on the spot.

Close up of hand-died bow and miniature key charm
A fitting symbol of good fortune

I had some of this hand-dyed distress green seam binding on hand and made the triple loop bow using my handy homemade bow maker. I tied the tiny silver key on using pink baker’s twine. Another flower keeps it company.

Antique spool holds hand died ribbon
Storage for hand-died ribbon

This picture’s just for fun – it’s of one of my antique spools which I use to hold my hand died seam binding ribbons. I have another which holds antique laces. How do you store your ribbons? (Really – we want to know!)

The inside is decorated too - with a fence, grass and more words
Fancy outsides get fancy insides too

The words, front and insides, were all cut with my Silhouette Cameo. They were welded together in whole words, as usual, so I wouldn’t have to place individual letters. Can you imagine?

It seemed fitting to add some more grass and iron fence as well. There’s still plenty of room for a message from Mama.

Sometimes it takes tricks and hacks to simplify the card making process

We as crafters can’t always just sit and create out of thin air – we need a blueprint to work from. (The same goes for writers, photographers, cooks, and anyone else in creative fields.) Creating our own blueprint ensures complete control over our creative process, yielding truly unique, made-just-for-you works of art.

Share your fancy, elaborate, complicated cards with us on our Facebook page and let us oooh and aaah over them. Share as many photos as you want. We love details and photos!

We’ll wait for you. Happy crafting!

Angled view of congrats card
Welcome to your new home!

Bonus! My darling crafting companion paid me a visit today and I managed a quick shot before she turned her head. She’s kind of rude like that when I shove a camera in her face.

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Plan your work, work your plan.”

More detailed card projects you might like…

A Cute Birthday Card Using Two Fun Techniques
How to Make Your Own Custom Designer Cardstock
Summertime Fun with Fibi and Lilly

Challenges entered:

Splitcoast Stampers MMTPT626

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