Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Make It Right Tips: Working with Paper Templates

I spend a lot of my creative time designing and testing new paper craft templates. A template is simply a pattern you use to make an item like a bag or box. You can purchase them online as PDF files and print them at home or you can purchase them at the craft store.  While testing out new ideas, I've made every mistake you can make, but along the way I've found a few techniques that I'm going to share to make your paper crafting more successful and satisfying. 
All you need to get started is the following:
 • self healing cutting mat
I have a small and a large one to accommodate different projects, but all you really need is one big enough to fit a 8.5" x 11" piece of paper.
double sided tape 
Must be double sided! Don't torture yourself by trying to fold over regular tape.
exacto knife with extra blades, size #11
metal ruler
I use both a 24" and a 6" ruler. The 6" is really handy, I recommend getting one. Do not use plastic rulers - the sharp exacto blade will cut up the sides and ruin the ruler and your project. I speak from experience here. 
awl or bone folder 
I use an awl because it's a great multi-tasking tool, I use it to mark holes when needed and for other craft projects. Feel free to use a bone folder if you chose.
decorative paper
Make your own, buy printable paper online, or get some from the craft store. You can even recycle paper bags. There is paper everywhere you look so don't be afraid to experiment.

Now for the tips. Most templates come with some sort of directions but I find that there are a few tricks that can be used with any template. I'm going to demonstrate these tips with my favorite paper gift bag, but these techniques will work for most paper template projects.
Tip 1 - Print out your template on card-stock so it is nice and sturdy. Some templates work great printed on the back side of decorative paper, however I've found that too often marks can show through, or my paper is the wrong size for the printer.  Obviously, if your working with a plastic template from the craft store you can skip this part.

Tip 2 - When cutting out your template cut just on the inside of the line. When done consistently this will give you a perfectly sized project.
Tip 3 - Trace your template on the wrong side of your paper with a pencil. (For the sake of visibility I'm using a dark pen on the right side for the paper in these photos.) Make small notches on the outside of the paper to mark fold lines.
Tip 4 - Don't worry about tracing the corners exactly. Just be sure your lines are nice and straight. You will use the lines as your guide when cutting, this creates sharp corners.
Tip 5 - Score your folds before you cut out the template lining up the notches you made when tracing the template. This creates very accurate folds.
Tip 6 - Use a fresh exacto blade for every project. Don't work with dull blades, it tears paper and makes your edges wonky. Cut out your project using your ruler to guide your exacto. Cut just on the inside of the line. 
Tip 7 - To cut inside corners, start by placing the exacto tip on the inside of the corner and slicing outward.
Tip 8 - Fold your project all the way together to see how it fits before you place tape on it. When putting on your tape, lay the paper flat and press it firmly, then fold your project back together, securing the tape.
Yay! Now I have a cute little bag to sit back and admire. 

Using paper templates is a quick and easy way to get crafty without investing in a lot of supplies or materials. If you want to try your hand at some paper crafting using templates check out these two super cute ideas.
On the left: This adorable milk carton template from Glazed Mud really struck my fancy. Wouldn't it be fun to put candy in these for a party favor?
On the right: This template for a pillow box from Greenka is incredible versatile and a great project for beginers.

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