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Getting Started

Getting Started

Welcome to the awesome world of papercrafting. You’ll find so much inspiration and so many talented people. It can be overwhelming at times!

Although I occasionally do other projects, my love is for card-making. I love it because it’s a quick project from start to finish. And, I love it because you can send the card to someone and hopefully brighten his/her day.

I started cardmaking about 10 years ago. Up to that point, I had been a very basic scrapbooker. I didn’t consider it an art form. My pages consisted of ½ sheet of colored cardstock adhered diagonally on a white 12×12 piece of paper. Slap about four 4×6 photos on it (usually trimmed by hand with decorative scissors!) and maybe some stickers. Done. That being said, I really had no supplies and no experience when I started card-making. Just a love for creating.

Are you just getting started? If so, don’t worry. You don’t need everything to get started (although you might want it!). I will walk you through the basic supplies you need.

I’ve organized this content into the following sections:
Your “canvas” or card base
Color – inks and cardstock
Tools – trimmers, adhesive, etc.
Stamps – tips and recommendations
Where to Buy

Your “Canvas” or Card Base

You’ll need some white cardstock. My favorite is Neenah Solar White, 80lb. I use so much of this stuff that I buy it by the 250-sheet ream. It is a great all-purpose paper that works fantastic with every medium – dye inks, pigment inks, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, alcohol markers, etc. It’s also the perfect thickness for a card base.

What’s a card base? Think of it as the canvas for your card. Take one 8 ½ x 11 sheet of cardstock, cut it in half, and you have two perfect folded standard cards (referred to as A2 size). I use white because it’s best for writing your message on the inside. I like to add color and designs to my canvas, so I almost always start with a white one. I get the 80lb weight so that it’s also thin enough to layer. To start, I suggest purchasing one 25-sheet package.


Add color to your canvas using inks and, if you want, colored cardstock. Deciding what inks to invest in is a difficult decision. The number of colors and brands is quite overwhelming. When I started, I purchased the Stampin’ Up! Brights collection. I still have these inks after 10 years, and I still use them! Not only are they great quality inks, but you can purchase coordinating solid paper, patterned paper, embellishments, ribbon, and more. One thing Stampin’ Up! does well is take the thinking out of color coordination. That being said, I would recommend this collection, along with a pack of Stampin’ Up! white paper. Their paper and ink are made to work beautifully together, and the difference between using Neenah and Stampin’ Up! is noticeable.

If you already have Stampin’ Up! inks or you aren’t a fan of Stampin’ Up!, my second starter choice would be a set of Distress Oxide inks. They are great for stamping and very easy to clean. For a list of my favorite Distress Oxide colors, see My Favorite Inks. I recommend purchasing one color for each band of the rainbow.

I wouldn’t worry about reinkers for now – you can always buy them later.

You’ll also need black and white inks. For beginners, I recommend Versafine Black Onyx pigment ink. It’s stamps very crisp and clean, which makes it great for sentiments. If you think you might be coloring your images with markers or watercolor, you should consider getting a black dye ink. I like both Hero Arts Black and Memento Tuxedo Black. If you want to select your black ink based on what you will use it for, check out this summary chart and my Black Ink Review post.

Regarding white ink, Stampin’ Up! white is my favorite. For details on the different brands, you can view my White Ink Review post.

As far as colored cardstock goes, I used it a lot at the beginning but then my use tapered off significantly. I would recommend purchasing a multi-color pack. If you’re getting the Stampin’ Up! Brights ink collection, I would purchase the coordinating Brights Cardstock pack. If you’re going the Distress Oxide ink route, you can rub your ink pad onto the solid white paper to get matching colored cardstock.


You’ll need a few tool basics to get started:

  • Scissors – I started with a pair of scissors from Target. When you’re ready to buy something really nice, go with the Stampin’ Up! Paper Snips. I love mine.
  • Adhesive – You’ll need something to hold the pieces of your card together. To start, I would go to your local craft store and buy whatever tape runner is on sale. When you know you’ll be continuing with this (crazy addictive) craft of making cards, purchase an ATG. The size takes a bit getting used to, but it’s extremely economical. You’ll end up using a lot of adhesive.
  • Stamp Cleaner – You’ll need something to clean the ink off your stamps. No one told me I shouldn’t submerge my red rubber foam stamps underwater to clean them. How would I know? I’m telling you not to – it’s not good for the foam. I use an Absorber to clean my stamps. It’s extremely inexpensive, and it does a perfect job of cleaning your stamps with JUST WATER! When it gets dirty, rinse and squeeze it a few times in the sink. I cut mine into about 8 inch squares and use them for 1-2 years before disposing and switching to a new one.
  • Trimmer – Honestly, a trimmer is optional. If you don’t mind cutting your paper with scissors and you’re not too concerned with straight lines, you can put this tool on your wishlist for later. An inexpensive trimmer to start with is this Fiskars trimmer. I still use it for all my small cuts.


Whenever I post a tour of my craft room, most people are surprised by my stamp collection. I don’t have a huge collection because I try to be practical by buying stamps that I can reuse. Here are a few tips for beginners:

  • Purchase red rubber stamps and high quality photopolymer clear stamps. These stamps seem to work best with all types and brands of inks. Avoid acrylic and silicone stamps.
  • Go with stamps that are generic. Think balloons, butterflies, and flowers. Not coffee cups, elephants, and donuts (even if they are really stinkin’ cute).
  • Look for all-occasion stamp sets. Can you make a birthday card, a thank-you card, and a congrats card with it?
  • Buy stamps that adhere to an acrylic block, not wood-mounted stamps. Wood-mounted stamps are larger, require more storage space, and cannot be used in the stamp-alignment tools (should you choose to buy one later on).

You’ll also need a set of acrylic blocks (or at least a few blocks) to adhere your stamps to. You could start with an inexpensive set at your local craft store. If the hobby sticks, you can splurge on the complete set of Stampin’ Up! blocks. I absolutely love mine – they are solid and comfortable to hold. They are pretty expensive, but it has every size I ever need.

As far as which stamps to purchase, it’s really up to your personal preference. Some people like flowers, some people like animals. If you’re not sure, go through the Card Gallery to find a few cards you like and purchase the sets used in the video.

Where to Buy

You’ll notice that in the supply lists on each post, there are multiple stores that are linked for purchase. My favorites are Stampin’ Up! (25% of your purchase goes directly to foster children when you buy from my friend, Michelle), Simon Says Stamp, and Ellen Hutson. I also buy bigger ticket items at Amazon.

Hope this helps you getting started! Good luck!



  1. wrote on March 23rd, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Sara T.

    Oh, Darlene, why didn’t I see this two years ago when I started?!? It is SO incredibly helpful! I spent months trying to figure it out! LOL All kidding aside, I am still learning a lot, and found this post very helpful! Thank you!

  2. wrote on April 19th, 2014 at 5:22 am


    Darlene, this is a brilliant idea. Ican think of acouple of friends who have been thinking of trying card making and this will be an excellant start for them. Your a wonderful person for starting this.

  3. wrote on April 19th, 2014 at 8:27 am


    Hi Darlene. I love your blog and website. May I add a possible Stampin Up suggestion to the sentiment stamp set for beginners? Teeny Tiny Wishes and Express Yourself are my two most used sets. They are a bit more expensive but you can find what you need for every occasion.

  4. wrote on April 19th, 2014 at 10:10 am


    Hi Darlene,
    What a great idea for beginners and ole school card makers and scrapers like myself. I love what you’ve done. Thank you for being an inspiration all these years..

    I love your new craft room..

  5. wrote on April 19th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Jasmine Patrick

    Love this article, wish I had known all this when I started card making!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. wrote on April 19th, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Ann Tuck

    Hi Darlene
    My blog is titled Cardmaking 101 so when your post came in my email box, I thought you were speaking directly to me lol! Like the other comments, I too could have used this list 2 years ago when I started (perhaps I should now change my blog title) and I would have saved a lot of money and frustration. Those craft and paper shops are so alluring, it’s hard to find the ‘necessity’ items amongst all the frills! Love your cards – thank you for your inspiration! Ann

  7. wrote on April 20th, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Mary Tilman

    Another Hero Arts stamp that has just about everything is “All Occasion Messages.” This one stays on my desktop. In addition to the sentiments, it has eleven tiny images, including heart, happy face, star, leaf, and the cutest little bird for everywhere else! Yours is a wonderful guide for beginners, although I’m pretty sure a scoring board is a must have for some folks, myself included.

  8. wrote on January 6th, 2015 at 6:55 am


    Hi Darlene, As many I am a beginner and have a folder with all your Wednesday cards and advise. You are a blessing, I still have a lot to learn, but enjoying the experience. Looking foward to you teaching me more.

    • wrote on January 6th, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      Darlene DeVries

      Thank you so much Sharon!

  9. wrote on January 9th, 2015 at 9:09 am


    I’m so glad you created this site. I have a favor to ask of you. Could you make the print black? It may not be as artsy, but it would be a lot easier to read.

    Thanx, Cyn

  10. wrote on November 21st, 2017 at 8:06 pm


    Thanks for putting all that information down so concisely. Very helpful. Is it okay for me to share this information with 3 of my friends who want to start Card Making?

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