How to Decorate Paper

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With summer almost upon us, it’s the time for weddings, graduations, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and so many reasons to celebrate. If you’re looking for a unique way to show how much you care, you might want to make your own cards or wrapping paper for your loved one. Stencils are a perfect way to do this and there are a couple of ways to approach your project; painting or embossing. Either technique is a wonderful way to create something personal for anyone on your gift giving list or just to create something for you. Keep reading for some easy ideas on how to decorate paper.

 
Embossing 

One easy way to add some fun to paper is to emboss it. You can do this with a stencil, an embossing tool and a lighted work surface. For this technique, you’ll want a simple stencil, ideally one piece. Metal or mylar stencils of 7-mil thickness or more do well. Laser cut stencils are best because they will produce clean edges. Don’t have an embossing tool? Try a knitting needle. Don’t have a light table? Use a lamp set under a glass table. You’ll want good quality cardstock or medium weight paper but not too thick or darkly colored so that you can see the stencil through the paper when working.

To emboss your paper, attach the stencil to the paper with low tack tape. Turn the paper over and place it on your lighted surface. The stencil should be backlit through the paper. Using the larger end of your embossing tool or knitting needle, trace the inside edge of the design. Make sure to press hard enough to make an impression but not tear the paper. Now use the smaller end of the tool to trace again, this time press a little harder but again be careful not to tear the paper.

Remove the stencil and turn the paper over to see the finished impression. This is great for the corner of a note card, personal stationary or a border around notepaper. You can also choose to stencil paint your embossed image by stenciling the paint first then embossing.

Painting

To create gorgeous cards or wrapping paper, try using a stencil brush and blank tissue paper or cardstock. The lighter the paper, the lighter touch you should use. Fabric paint can be an excellent choice for stenciling paper, as it will go on smoothly and blend well. Oil paint also works great on paper because it contains no water.

To paint your paper, use low tack tape to attach your stencil to the paper. With very flimsy paper, you’ll want to hold your stencil by hand. Any paper can be stencil painted but you’ll want to make sure excess paint is offloaded and a gentle touch is applied. With heavier paper, you don’t need to be as concerned with excess offloading. You can also layer more prints and add in free form stenciling if you wish.

To make a set of cards with less hassle, stencil some free form motifs on loose paper, then cut out and frame them into cards with small cutout windows. This way, you’re not wasting expensive cardstock while you figure out how best to design your card.

For larger motifs you can use a roller brush instead. This will even work for tissue or wrapping paper but with tissue paper, make sure to offload plenty of paint or it may pass through to your work surface.

For heavier paper and a roller, you may want to use spray adhesive to keep your stencil in place. If there is any residue left over, use an art eraser to remove it.

These are some quick and easy ways to decorate paper and cards with stencils. Who wouldn’t like a card made by hand on their special day? If you’ve ever tried stenciling paper, let us know how it worked out in the comments below.

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  • Tara Woodbury
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