Basic Greeting Card Cutting and Folding

The Kindest Cut

I suggest investing in a paper trimmer. Even if you aren't heavily into crafts or making greeting cards, a paper trimmer is a handy thing to have around the house. But if you don't have a paper trimmer yet, a craft knife along a metal straight-edge works well.

Paper is actually hard on cutting edges, so change the blades often to ensure a clean cut. Another handy item is a self-healing cutting mat. A cutting mat has a surface that mininmizes paper slippage and a measuring grid, and blades last longer than if cutting on wood or other hard surface.

Going Against the Grain

Like wood, machine-made paper has grain. Depending on the paper, a fold against the grain can crack or look ragged and be generally uncooperative. With some papers it doesn't matter as much.

photo of hands bending paper with type and arrows overlay showing grain directionTo find the grain of a paper, bend it one direction then the other. Let's call it side-to-side and top-to-bottom. You will notice that in one direction it bends easier. So if it bends easier side-to-side, the grain is running parallel to the sides. As shown at right, the paper is bending easier side-to-side, so the grain is in the direction of the arrows (parallel to the sides).

Unfortunately, paper is often cut so that the grain runs side-to-side. This means for cutting in half the common size of 8½ x 11 to yield two 4¼ x 5½ cards, you'll need to fold against the grain. Like I said, it depends on the particular paper. You can often get away with folding against the grain - as with many things, experience will tell you what you can and cannot get away with.

Welcome to the Fold

To prepare card stock for folding, you need to score it. Scoring can be done with an awl, bone folder, weaving needle, or stylus. A stylus is nice to have because it can also be used for dry embossing. A bone folder is also useful because you can score with it and use it to press the crease.

Always score the outside of the fold. In other words, fold away from the side that is scored. Lightly mark the card stock with a soft pencil a small tick at each end of the intended fold line. Using a straight edge, draw the stylus or whatever you're using along the straight edge. Moderate pressure is fine - you don't want to tear the card stock.

Fold away from the score and then to make a nice sharp edge, press the crease with your thumb nail or bone folder. To avoid a shine from the bone folder, lay a sheet of thin paper on top of the card stock before pressing.

If your paper trimmer has a grooved grid, you can place the card stock along the top edge of the trimmer and line up the intended fold with one of the grooves. Use the groove to guide the scoring tool - quite slick!

Tearing paper

Tearing paper can create an interesting and decorative edge. Use a paint brush to "paint" water where you want the tear. Give the water time to soak in, then carefully tear on that line. For a finer edge, hold a straight edge on the paper as a tearing guide. A hot iron can be used to dry and smooth the paper.

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