Sometimes I find and save advertising materials printed on nice paper. I might like part of the imagery, or be attracted to the weight and feel of the paper, or both. It’s sometimes less intimidating to start an art journal page on paper that already has something on it than a blank piece of paper. In this article I’ll show you two ways to creatively alter found papers with text on them.
Tools and Materials Assorted found papers and scrap papers Clean scrap paper Stencils Markers and other drawing and coloring implements of choice Painter’s tape or masking tape Scissors Glue stick Burnishing tool
First, select a piece of paper with text on it, and a stencil. Tape the stencil in place over the text. Using the marking implement of your choice, outline the openings in the stencil only in the spots where there is text to cover.
This results in an interesting effect. The text turns into a texture rather than something you read, and the resulting graphic effect might suggest what to do next to finish the composition. You might decide to color in some or all of the outlines you just traced over the text.
In the example above, since I’ve used permanent black Sharpie markers, I can use almost any medium I want to add color if I want to.
There is no need to restrict yourself to using a black marker. My brother got off to a very good start on this page. He took advantage of the pale text to use colored Sharpie markers. If he wants to work on this page more it has a lot of potential.
I have a real weakness for amoeba shapes and any graphics that suggest mid-century modern imagery. I cut these blocks of text from a magazine because of the pretty shapes and colors backing some of the text.
The article I took these cutouts from was about work-life balance. There are some words in these paragraphs that would be good to have in my art journal, which I use as a self-care tool as well as for creative expression. I covered up the words I didn’t want to see with strips of scrap paper and left exposed the words I did want to see. When the glue was dry enough to handle, I trimmed the shapes. Toward the end, I got tired of gluing paper strips and for the last few lines I wanted to cover, I used a yellow opaque paint marker to finish off these pieces.
Some people compose prose or poetry this way, by removing words instead of writing them to make new compositions. In this sample I was mainly interested in making a visual statement, and I treated the words as random elements. But if you wanted to, you could make a carefully considered visual AND literary statement by selectively covering words.
Here is a two-page spread using both techniques from this article together. I think these two pages are almost complete. I’ll think about them for awhile before doing anything else to them, if I decide they need more.
It helps that these two found pages here were already strong graphically, which was part of the reason why I was attracted to them in the first place.
I know several people who could use some encouragement right about now, including myself. I decided this week to get out my paper craft supplies to have a bit of creative fun and make supportive cards to use and more to give to people I know.
First I’ll explain what both self-care cards and Project Life cards are. Self care could be considered the practice of maintaining your physical and mental health in order to prevent burnout and breakdowns. While looking for some resources for my Self Care Pinterest board that I use for reference, I found some specifically aimed at caregivers of different kinds. Even if one chooses from their own free will to be a caregiver, it’s still a tough job. As these resources I found mention, one should not feel guilty for practicing self care even if you are naturally inclined to be giving – a burned out or broken down person is not in a good position to help others. We are able to be of much better service when we are strong. We are often socially engineered by individuals and institutions to sacrifice our own agency to serve interests not our own or of our own choice. I think it’s a beautiful thing to voluntarily share but not to be manipulated or coerced into it. The latter is just being a victim of people who choose to live a parasitic lifestyle.
So what are self-care cards and where do they fit in? There are many types of cards with different information that people have used over the years as reminders or teaching tools. Small cards are portable and fit in a wallet, a planner, a journal, a pocket or wherever so that you can access reminders on the go or wherever it’s convenient. When learning new life habits we might need a touchstone of sorts to keep us on track. Self care cards are just cards with self-care content. They can be purchased, downloaded for printing, or handmade. I often like to use a combination of desktop printing and paper crafting methods to make or decorate self care cards for myself.
What are Project Life cards? Project Life is a commercial product developed by designer Becky Higgins intended to make scrapbooking and related memory crafts easier and less time consuming, and to relate the activity to living well and positive personal goals. Pocket scrapbooking is a generic term for using clear pocket album pages to organize cards and various paper items. Like a lot of people, I picked up the modern form of the hobby of scrapbooking in the 1990s. When I first heard of pocket scrapbooking I was intrigued and purchased some cards to use in conjunction with with my “conventional” scrapbook pages and also in other paper crafts.
Several years ago I purchased the Project Life Cinnamon Core Kit and the Road Trip Theme Pack. These sets featured lots of colors I used a lot, and graphic themes that were complementary to a number of products I already owned.
I’ve used a lot of the cards in scrapbooks and other paper projects over the years but still have a good quantity left. Because some of the Project Life cards feature positive messages and others contain grids or lines to help with journaling or record keeping of various kinds, they are well-suited to use as a base to make self care cards. If you want to make these of course the bases of your cards don’t have to be specifically from Project Life – a variety of products could be used.
One activity that I learned a few years back from a depression support group web page is the acronym G.R.A.P.E.S. It stands for:
Being Gentle with yourself
The idea behind using this acronym is to try to do one activity on the list from each category every day. From my own experience and from what others have told me who have tried it, even if it isn’t possible to do each category each and every day, striving to do it and tracking the activities each day to make sure one is continually improving does result in better mood and health. It helps you “social engineer” yourself into having a better life. This is anecdotal information of course, but if you delve into scientific research on mental health you will find out why it’s effective. In this project, I’ll show how I made self care cards track the use of activities from the G.R.A.P.E.S. categories. I put more “decoration” on these cards than is strictly needed but it’s fun to use up paper scraps while making cards that fit my own personality. And paper crafting itself is a great way to get the Pleasure “task” checked off for the day!
Tools and Materials
Project Life or other cards Scrap papers in harmonious colors Scissors Paper cutter Glue sticks Thin markers in black and colors harmonious with chosen color scheme Small letter stencils Small letter stickers Assorted encouraging stickers, die cuts, paper scraps featuring helpful sayings or sentiments, or other appropriate embellishments Rubber stamping ink – black and harmonious colors Rubber stamps Hole punch Cord or string to loop through hole
First I added paper scraps to the existing Project Life cards I had whenever I wanted to make the existing designs more to my taste. Mostly this consisted of adding paper scrap strips to the borders on some of the cards, leaving the grids or lines in view. Some of the cards were fine the way they were.
Next I assembled a variety of letter stickers from my collection that spelled G.R.A.P.E.S. For more variety, I drew some letters with marker through alphabet stencils and cut those pieces of paper out. I added the letters G.R.A.P.E.S. along the side on on side of the card. Since these cards came with designs on both sides, I used the other sides for spaces to take notes, or for making a mini encouraging collage with stickers and paper ephemera.
When necessary to make a grid to keep track of activities, I added vertical lines with thin markers.
I punched a hole at the top and added some string with a lark’s head knot so that I can use these cards as bookmarks also.
I thought some of the cards needed just a little bit more added to make them looked finished, so I stamped here and there with assorted rubber stamps and added a few more stickers.
As I complete daily activities that fit one of the G.R.A.P.E.S. categories, I’ll put a checkmark in the proper spot on the grid.
I designed this project around some collaged stars I had made awhile back while working on my previous tutorial, Making Greeting Cards From Scrap Papers. If you don’t want to make your stars in that style, you can use any paper or cardstock star of your choice.
This card design uses quite a few tools and materials, so if you are going to get them all out you might as well make several. Having extra cards on hand is a real time saver sometimes!
Assorted small paper scraps
Decorative paper large enough to make envelopes
Tape, single and double-sided
Black rubber stamping ink
Clean scrap paper
Envelope template – free download here for a template that fits a 5.5 inch x 4.25 inch card – Envelope template for Rectangular Card
Greeting Card With Star and Arrow Template (free download here)
Self-healing cutting mat
Rubber stamps with sentiments
Prismacolor art stix or similar product (like Conte crayons in more than just basic colors)
Sharpie Twin Tip Marker Fine/Ultra Fine
Squeegee or bone folder tool
Rubber stamp Bubble Border Small or other border stamp
Rubber stamp Rounded Squares and Rectangles Border Large or other border stamp
Stencil for the “awesome” arrow – Mini Word Arrows 6×6 Stencil – if you don’t have that stencil, you can use a stamp, stencil or paper of your choice for the small arrow portion of the card.
Tape tracing paper over the printed out template, and make tracings in pencil over the star portion, the arrows and the shapes on either side of the star.
Write “front” on the tracings before you remove them from the template.
You’ll use these tracings to transfer your pencil markings onto the the backs of scraps of chipboard to make templates for tracing and masking.
To transfer, place your scrap chipboard pieces face down and flip your tracing paper over so that the back is facing up. Tape in place and go over your pencil lines. When you lift the tracing paper, you’ll have lines you can follow as you cut.
Out of one piece of chipboard, use a utility knife and a metal ruler to cut the two side shapes and the star out.
Make yourself templates for the large and small arrows as well.
Put the front of the card on your work surface and tape the stencil/mask over it. With a thin, light pencil outline the star and two side shapes. These light pencil lines will help you line things up in the later steps. Place the large arrow template where you would like it and trace around it too.
Stamp in black through the mask onto the front of the card, alternating the border stamps you are using.
Lift the mask to see that portions of the front of the card are partially filling the cut out shapes. This is a technique you can use with stencils or masks you cut yourself or with purchased stencils.
At this point, you can choose to erase your pencil guide lines, or disguise them by drawing over them with a marker or color pencil. I drew over mine with harmonious colored pencil colors.
Choose an art stick color and go over your outlines heavily, and the insides of your shapes lightly.
Choose a 1″ x 5.5″ piece of scrap decorative paper in a harmonious color. Fold it lengthwise, apply glue to the back and use it to cover the fore edge of the card.
Trace the large arrow onto a piece of decorative paper and cut it out. Glue it in place on the front of the card.
Take a bright, lighter piece of paper and tape it to your work surface. Tape your stencil over the paper so that the paper shows through the word “awesome”. Outline the “awesome” arrow and lettering with a black Sharpie pen, then lift the stencil and finish filling in the arrow with the fine tip of a Sharpie double-sided black marker.
Glue the star and small arrow to the front of the card. Accent the lower and rightmost edges of the star and small arrow with the thick tip of the double-tipped Sharpie marker.
2. With some light colored markers or colored pencils, color around the outside edge of the faux stamp sheet and inside some of the open areas inside the stamps.
3. If you own any rubber stamps with postal type words or sayings on them, get them out and stamp them on some white or light colored paper to make parts to collage onto your stamp designs.
4. Tear or cut the words out and glue one onto each rectangle.
5. Take some border stamps and stamp them in black ink around the composition to make a border. I used some fairly bold stamps because the black rectangles in the original printout are pretty bold and dark so a strong border will help balance the whole composition.
6. Add some color with other rubber stamps from your collection. I’m currently working on Christmas cards and party invitations so I used some rubber stamps that would fit into use on those kinds of items – either on the actual card or on the envelope.
7. When I make a stamp sheet like this that is designed to be viewed as a whole composition as well as single stamps, I take the original and get color copies made of it. Then I cut out individual stamps from the color copies to use on other projects and keep the original to display intact.
Faux postage is a really fun mixed media project to make because it’s relatively non-threatening to create tiny works of art in a format that everyone is familiar with. There are lots of craft products you can buy that make it easier to make artwork that looks like postage stamps. A long time ago I designed some rubber stamps for this purpose and some of them are currently for sale in my Etsy shop. You can make this project with any other small stamps that you own also and a selection of paper crafting supplies. Enjoy!
1. Download and print out the two-page PDF file Low Tech Faux Postage. You’ll use the first page for Part 1.
2. Cut out some paper rectangles that are 1 3/4 inches tall and 1 3/8 inches wide from dark paper. You will need at least 16 rectangles.
3. Trim the edges with a paper edging scissors and arrange on your Low Tech Faux Postage sheet Page 1. You can think of your sheet as one composition made up of 16 tiny compositions if that helps you to get ideas. Glue down your trimmed paper rectangles.
4. Use a 1″ square paper punch and start by punching out one square for each rectangle from a selection of random scrap papers. Arrange until you are satisfied. If you have similar sized paper punches in other shapes such as circles, feel free to try them out. As you look through your scrap papers, you might get inspired to cut out other shapes. If you are moved to do so, go ahead and cut out whatever you like and glue down on your sheet without worrying about whether or not you’re “inside the lines”.
5. Take some tiny rubber stamps with words, phrases, numbers or symbols that have to do with philatelic stuff like stamps or cancellations. Stamp them in permanent black ink on light colored pieces of scrap paper. When the ink is dry enough to handle, cut or tear out what you have stamped.
6. Glue the torn or cut pieces to the collage work you’ve already done to help make each rectangle suggest a postal stamp design.
7. Continue to add embellishments to your stamps until you think they look finished. Here are some suggestions for what you can add:
More cut collage papers, found or commercial
Drawing – paint and gel markers are interesting choices to experiment with because you can write with them on slick surfaces and sometimes dark backgrounds as well
Stenciling Image transfers
8. When your stamp sheet is done, you can frame the whole thing to display it, cut apart your stamps to make tiny artworks, make color copies then cut apart the color copies, or put the whole thing in an art journal. Your imagination is the only limit and the most important thing is to have fun!
Many years ago, as one of my Mail Art projects, I used to fold two-inch wide pieces of paper into little accordion books and decorate them with rubber stamps and pieces of paper that I cut out from incoming Mail Art and decorated envelopes. I carved a rubber stamp with a little graphic of a Mail Box and the words “Bits of Mail” to stamp on the little book covers. Before sending them out, I dated and numbered them on the back. I saved one example for my archives and made a few color copies to use later as collage inspirations. While I was getting the color copies made, it came up in conversation with the copy center worker that one of the black and white machines had red toner in it. I made a lot of copies with the red toner because I knew I’d find uses for the copies later!
Some of my old collage papers along with my Mail Archives had been in storage unseen for 20 years or more. I’ve been getting some of them out lately as I move stuff. With fresh eyes, I’m getting some new ideas and inspiration for improving old ideas. I decided to take these old copies and make new versions of the mini accordion books.
First I cut up the copies that weren’t already in strips into two inch wide pieces, the same size as the originals. Then I folded them and glued one red ink copy to one color copy back to back to make longer books.
I had a large paper crafting stash by 1998 already because I started making collages in 1985 in my first college design class and I’ve been collecting interesting papers for collages ever since. In the intervening years, there are a lot more paper crafting supplies available and some of them are a lot more to my taste than what was available in the late 1990s. Back in the day I would have said I was a “weird” stamper not a “cute” stamper. I also enjoy sophisticated antique imagery and have a lot of papers from two of my favorite brands, Tim Holtz and 7 Gypsies, in my stash. I decided that the Tim Holtz idea-ology Correspondence paper pad was a good fit for this project and I glued some of the postal themed textures onto a selection of the blank pages of my books. The dominant colors in this series are red white and blue which looks good with the red toner ink on some of my papers and the postal motifs fit the “Bits of Mail” theme.
Next I went through I box of paper scraps that I keep for teaching a card class that I run from time to time on how to make greeting cards from little scraps, rubber stamps and stencils. I took out a selection of papers that I thought would make good backgrounds and glued them in a random fashion to every other page, leaving some blank.
There is an old trick that I learned in drawing class long ago to help get unstuck if you are facing a blank piece of paper with no ideas – draw a quick frame around your drawing area before you start. This helps because it’s less daunting to start drawing on a paper that you’ve made some marks on than a blank surface. I get the same creative boost from using scrap papers for perhaps a similar reason – there is already some content there, however sparse and random, and that is often all I need to get me going in a creative direction.
The little accordion books I’ve made are pictured above ready to add content. What kind of content would that be? There are lots of things I could do with these little books. I could write, draw, stamp or paste in words and/or images to make a finished artistic statement. I could use them as a storage and display folio for tiny works of art such as postage stamps, faux postage stamps or tiny photos and images. I could send them off into the Mail Art network as an “add and pass on” project. What would you make?
For additional inspiration, here are some samples of tiny books made by other people that I’ve received through the mail over the years. People of any age and ability level can make tiny books. Why not try one?
In this project you can practice your skills in fabric painting, fabric coloring and applique. I had a lot of fun with my stashes of fabric, trim, buttons and threads to create different blends of colors and textures. I used blank burlap bags and fabric remnants to make festive and reusable containers for small holiday gifts of different kinds. I wrote this last year and it didn’t get published by Canvas Corp at that time because they got sold to another company and disbanded their Creative Crew that I was on. It might seem a little early for Christmas projects but if you make your Christmas gifts it’s really not unreasonable to start working on them now. Also you can use the same techniques with different themes to fit the season. I had a ton of fun making these. Enjoy!
Printed canvas sheets
Burlap wine sacks
Burlap shoulder bags
Assorted burlap, trim and other fabric remnants
Gold fabric paint
Assorted sewing and embroidery thread including gold metallic
Clean scrap paper
Small paint brush
Sewing and embroidery needles
Iron and ironing board
Select images from printed canvas sheets by Canvas Corp and cut around them with fabric scissors. Tape an assortment of cutouts to a piece of scrap chipboard or cardboard. Outline the images with gold fabric paint. Let dry, and heat set the paint with an iron if necessary. Place the fabric pieces between two pieces of clean scrap paper to protect the iron and ironing board from paint and ink.
Color the images with fabric markers, and heat set if necessary. The particular fabric markers I used did not require heat setting.
Lay out the burlap blanks that you are going to use on a work surface. For my samples I used Canvas Corp wine bag and tote bag blanks. I also had some remnants of burlap that I decided to cut into rectangles to make into little Christmas themed door hangers with pockets that could be used as ornaments or to hold object such as greenery or small gifts. These burlap remnants had a very loose weave so I backed them with green fabric pieces. Match up your decorated printed canvas cutouts with a burlap bag or piece and go through your fabric and trim stash to find scraps that look good layered behind the printed canvas pieces. Pin the trim and fabric remnants together with the printed canvas pieces on top. You might want to leave some fabric edges raw or hem them for slightly different looks. You can explore a lot of design options by working on several pieces at a time. Pin your printed canvas piece on top of the fabric and trim arrangements. Don’t pin the canvas/trim/fabric assemblies to the bags yet – some of the sewing will be easier to do before the assemblies are attached to the bags. Here are a couple of burlap wine bags with pinned assemblages ready to be sewn…
…plus a couple of burlap shoulder bag examples…
…and some rectangles that will become door hangers with the addition of a loop of braided trim for hanging.
Sew around each printed canvas cutout with gold embroidery thread. Secure the trim pieces with embroidery thread in a complementary color. If you want to, add a few buttons or other embellishments as accents. Once all the layers on your assemblage are sewn together, pin the assemblage to the front of your bag and sew in place. You are done!
While making items for my wedding last summer I used a lot of nautical themed papers made by Canvas Corp. I saved a lot of the paper scraps to use in one of my favorite card-making techniques. I like to glue paper scraps onto narrow strips of scrap cardstock then apply rubber stamping ink to the edges to unify the strips. They make interesting parts to use in all kinds of paper crafts. I’ve previously written other articles that show this technique in action.
Materials and Tools
Canvas Corp paper sheet Sand & Sea Art Pages on Kraft CCP2883
Assorted paper scraps with a nautical theme, mostly from collections by Canvas Corp
Black permanent rubber stamping ink
Permanent rubber stamping ink in colors that complement the project
Strips of light colored scrap paper that harmonize with the chosen paper scraps
Pieces of cardstock that harmonize with the chosen paper scraps
Clean scrap paper
Computer with scanner and graphics software
Eraser for stamping the edges of the paper
These very detailed strips tend to look good in designs next to areas with less detail. To make thank you cards to acknowledge wedding gifts and other help people generously gave us for the wedding, I made some scrap paper strips edged in red and scanned them for use in a digital file which I had printed on cardstock at a copy shop. I spelled out the word “THANKS” in nautical flags by making little flag collages with Canvas Corp nautical themed papers and scanning those as well. After digitally manipulating the scanned paper pieces, this is the digital card design I came up with.
The red-edged strips that I scanned were now free to use in actual handmade cards and not just the digital design. I decided to combine the strips with imagery from the Canvas Corp paper sheet Sand & Sea Art Pages on Kraft CCP2883. The six images on the paper sheet are just about the size of the cards I want to make and the subtlety of the designs will really set off my paper strips. I decided to make six 5.25″ x 4.25″ cards. I selected six pieces of cardstock and cut them to 5.25″ wide and 8.5″ long then folded them in half to make the cards. Next I selected strips of light colored paper in colors that harmonized with my color scheme and stamped the sentiments “just a note” and “thank you” with black permanent ink. I made more strips than I thought I would need so that I would have lots of options. Also, I can use the extras for making other cards and for the card making classes that I teach.
To begin assembling the front of the cards, I cut each of the six images on the sheet Sand & Sea Art Pages on Kraft to just a little bigger than the card front. I cut the image in two then I inserted a strip with the words “just a note” then a scrap strip edged in red between the two pieces of the image. I glued the parts to the front of the card with a glue stick then trimmed away the excess. Then I glued the circular paper punched out piece with the stamped words “Thank You” onto the front of the card.
Last fall during the Old Webster Fall Art Walk, I demonstrated making pages for an art journal with paper collage work and stencils at Schnarr’s Hardware. I added in some paint samples to pay tribute to the hardware store atmosphere and remind me to have fun with colors. Later on I added some image transfers I made with clear packing tape. Learn how to make image transfers and add them to your art journal pages on the Schnarr’s blog:
Yesterday was my two month anniversary of getting married! I’ve been really busy with moving my studio, plants and personal effects and before that working on wedding projects so I’m a bit behind on writing new blog posts and coming up with new projects. However here are a couple of new articles about me on the Canvas Corp Brands blog that you might enjoy: