Basic guides to tools & adhesives

Tool Kit

It really doesn't require a shopping trip to begin your foray into card making; almost all of the tools & materials you require can be found around the home. Here is the basic list of the other items needed to get you started, but I will go into each in more depth below:






Base card:I will begin with the base card as it is likely to be the only thing you need to buy before you can embark upon your adventure & it is obviously the most important of all. There is an overwhelming array of card available, but as a base card it needs to be of a certain weight to ensure that it will stand without buckling, won’t constantly be pulled over by a sudden breeze or by the weight of what you attach to it.


Your base card needs to be between 270 & 300gsm & although there is meant to be a standard measure for card weights (gsm) I have found that it is much like shopping for women’s clothing (here in the UK at least), the size you buy does not depend on your measurements but on the store you are buying from. So even if it does state 300gsm on the packaging there are no guarantees, so open the pack & take a look before you buy.


Quite recently I come across some card in Hobbycraft that really is 300gsm, it comes in ivory, white & textured - all of which are perfect to use as base card. Right now (in summer 2017) it retails at £9 per 100 sheets of A4 smooth, & the textured is £10, but they do sell smaller packs. I generally order online as I buy three or four packs at a time, & they currently offer free p&p when you spend more than £30.


Pencil: The best type of pencil is a 2H, the letter following the number indicates how hard the graphite (lead) is, so the higher the number before the H the harder the graphite. When it comes to pencils at the other end of the scale, they use the letter B, again the higher the number before the B the softer the graphite is. A regular pencil being a balance between the two is an HB.


The advantages of using a 2H pencil is it will require less sharpening so lasts longer & the line they draw is so fine that when you cut through it with scissors it disappears. Just don’t press on as heavily as you would with a regular HB pencil or it will leave indentations on your card, which will make it difficult to rub out if you need to.


Ruler: I have tried out loads of different rulers as a crafter & they all have their place in crafting:


A white ruler is useful as you can put pencil marks on those for repeated measurements & then simply rub those off with your finger when you are done, & a clear Perspex ruler is a good tool for lining up the points you are measuring as you can see through it.

But basically our working ruler needs to be sturdy; as if it is too flexible it will simply snap or even shatter. I find a 30 cm (12") preferable to a smaller one as well as more useful. If you do need to go out & buy one, choose one with imperial & metric measurements on, & then you are covered for all eventualities.


Rubber/Eraser: There is nothing at all wrong with the regular eraser you will find in any stationary department, but I personally prefer those 'pencil end' ones & they are widely available in supermarkets & pound type shops. Buy yourself a pack of those & push one on to the end of your 2H pencil, firstly you won't ever have to rummage around in your tool kit for the eraser again, & secondly the pack lasts forever - unless you have 'borrowers' in your house that is?


Scissors: I began with those packs of two or three from the pound shops, firstly it is useful to have more than one size - little ones for intricate cutting & larger ones for straight lines & circles. In many of the three packs the largest pair is simply too cumbersome for crafting, but perfect for the kitchen. You really don't need to spend money on good scissors as paper & card is embedded with chalk so it blunts them anyhow, though I do keep one set of sharp one’s in my kit for cutting ribbon etc.


While you are in the pound shop look out for packs of decorative edged scissors too - there is a huge variety to be found, buy any that you like - they won't last forever but you will be bored with them long before they do break anyhow!


Glue Stick: These are just fine to begin your new hobby with, they are versatile & you will always have need for one in your crafting work, though using them does have a downside - due to their high moisture content your work will 'warp' as it dries - so you will need to put in beneath a heavy book to flatten it out again. But don’t waste your money on the brand names, stick to the ‘no frills’ variety as they are far better suited to crafting.


Other stuff you may find useful:


Tweezers: Seriously, in my humble opinion, an absolutely essential tool, I couldn't manage without my tweezers when I craft - I use them for everything! But don't go out & buy them unless you see the multi packs which are also widely available in the pound shops etc. I simply use my old eyebrow tweezers that either went rusty in the bathroom - cleaned with baby oil first of course – or the ones that scratched. I have several pairs in various shapes & sizes that I always keep in my tool kit.


Kitchen paper & wet wipes: Whatever form of craft you take up which involves substances such as paint or glue, you need a quick way to clean up afterwards, but a few sheets of kitchen roll & a handy pack of wet wipes are the only products I have ever needed. Though I have to admit that I couldn’t live without my miniature dustpan & brush (think Victorian butlers sweeping crumbs from the table) & a hand held vacuum too!

Guide to Adhesives

There are so many adhesives on the market now that for crafters it can be a nightmare trying to figure out which ones you need for the project you have in mind. Here I will give you my opinion of which adhesives are best suited to which purpose, & then you can make a more informed decision on which one's you need to keep in your craft stash as your hobby progresses.


Tacky glue:  A concentrated form of general PVA glue which comes in various sizes, but even the smallest at around £, is going to last you an awfully long time. Because it concentrated it has less moisture content so will not warp your work & a little goes a long way. It comes with a tiny nozzle, so ideal for applying small gems etc. it dries fast, so no need to peg the corners of boxes etc.


The only downside I have found is that it doesn't work well on glossy card; this is due to the fact that the glue works by absorbing into the fibres of the paper or card & because of the glossy finish is unable to penetrate the card. (Double sided adhesive tape works better in this instance).


I also find it ideal for attaching larger pieces, such as backing paper, to the card as it gives you time to slide it around before it bonds. It is also ideal for sticking handmade & fibrous papers whereas removing the carrier paper from double sided tape (see below) often removes the tape itself as well, as damaging the delicate paper.


Double Sided Adhesive Tape: This comes in a variety of widths - usually 3, 6 & 12mm, though I have seen some as wide as 25mm which is intended for DIY applications. I use this mainly when layering up card pieces, but I have also used it with smaller pieces of backing paper, where you have more control than you would otherwise have with a larger piece. It is great for adding lines of flocking or glitters to your work too, simply position the tape, remove the carrier paper & rub in the glitter or flocking before removing the excess. You can even use it to secure little half pearls or gems.


Glue Sticks: These are a great buy when you first start out; as they give you time to adjust the position of pieces before they bond firmly. They are also useful for dabbing onto sticky pads & double sided tape, to give more time to position the piece. I used these exclusively with my residential care groups because they found them the easiest to manage, but using them to attach your backing paper for example, will warp the project due to their high moisture content, but you simply need to put your project beneath a heavy book until it straightens out again!


I have to be honest & say, I rarely use glue sticks at all in my craft work at home. But the only difference I found between the supermarket brand & the craft brand is that the expensive one goes on 'gloopy' so you use the tube up very quickly, whereas the cheaper ones have a drier consistency so are much better suited to the job. So save yourself some cash & add them to your shopping trolley at the supermarket.


Double sided adhesive pads (3D pads): These pads come in a variety of sizes & thicknesses & are available in black as well as white, though white is the most commonly available.


They consist of a layer of foam that has been coated on both sides with adhesive & in crafting their main purpose is to raise elements on your projects to create a three dimensional effect. I get through shed loads of these, but generally only buy the ones from the pound shop – currently 320 medium sized pads for £1.


You can buy teeny tiny ones too, but I rarely use those one's as I find it easier to cut up the others if I need a smaller piece (always do this before removing them from the carrier paper so you don’t get in a mess)! These one's are also VERY sticky - especially in a warm room or on a warm day so you may want to smear them with a glue stick to give you more control, as once these have stuck they are very difficult to remove completely without damaging your work. 


The downside of the cheaper ones is they don't hold their shape & squish down where the more expensive ones don't, but with the cost of postage now, I will stick with the one's that squish!


3D/Shaker tape:  As above but rather than individual pads this comes in the roll. It earned the name of shaker tape as it is ideal for making shaker cards but I find it invaluable for creating penny slider cards too! It has one obvious advantage over the individual pads, the backing paper come off in one strip! This is also available in several sizes from around 3 – 8mm.


Silicone glue: Used mainly to add dimension to your work & there are a variety of makes on the market, but they all do the same job. There is a very distinctive down side to silicon & that is the odour, so if you can find one that is silicone free, buy it!


This glue the ideal adhesive for sticking dimensional elements to your work - such as buttons, ribbons, coins & shells etc. & using a cocktail stick as a tool I squeeze a little out of the tube & then apply it to the embellishment I want to place. I find this slightly less messy than using it direct from the tube though I have tried the syringe method, but if I want dimension on my cards then I want DIMENSION so the syringe empties way too quickly for me!


TIP! Always test the glue to make sure it doesn't 'bleed' through & leave a greasy stain on the reverse of your work.


Photo Glue: This is a clear gel in a tube used for all mounting work, & excels with light weight embellishments. The bonus of this product has to be n the fact that once dry you can rub off any unwanted excess with your finger.


Sticky dots:  A mass of miniature dots of adhesive on a roll, which is useful for attaching ribbon & lace, & as it is a dry adhesive there is no hanging around waiting for it to set.


Glue dots: Unlike above, these are individual dots of glue on a carrier paper, they generally come on a roll or on sheets & are ideal for fixing dimensional stuff to your project, such as paper or silk flowers, buttons & charms etc.


Glue pen:  These come with either a felt tip type nib or a biro style, & are perfect for fixing little things like gems etc. also for adding fine glitter details to your work.

Glue runners: Double sided tape from a dispenser - you will see these used widely by demonstrators as they are a handy little gadget. But they are way more expensive than the tape on the roll & they never seem to last long either!  But there is a repositionable version that I do find comes in very useful for masking techniques etc.


Adhesive sprays: Glue in an aerosol! Never really been tempted by these, my craft cupboard is way too small to be spraying anything in there, so I can't comment.


Low tack tape: This comes in a variety of forms, in a roll, on a dispenser etc. Never really saw the need for this until I began using dies & now I couldn't live without it! I tried the usual masking tape from the decorating stores & did the 'stick it to your clothing a couple of times to make it less tacky so it wouldn't rip the card' etc. but it always did! Invest in some if you use dies! You can use the same piece several times, so a roll lasts a long, long time & is a really good investment!


Some alternatives to adhesives


Hand sewing: It really is much easier to use a little adhesive to keep your work in position if you are going to sew by hand onto your cards. It makes it even easier if you use some kind of pointed tool to make the holes first too. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it looks amazing when it is finished - & you only need to do small areas.

Personally I use a ruler which has a line of holes in already, a dense foam pad & a pointed needle tool – otherwise known as a ‘pokey tool’. You can download free templates from the internet if you want to try out some more intricate patterns & designs.


Machine stitching: I bought a miniature one at Pound Stretchers for about £15 a few years ago, it only does straight stitch, but it is small enough to store on a shelf in my craft cupboard! This saves me the trouble of dragging the regular machine out & setting it up etc. only to have to put it all away again after a very quick minute of sewing! If you have a craft room where you can leave your regular sewing machine set up - great! But make sure you have a good supply of machine needles as paper & card blunts them!


Stapler: You can get lots of lovely coloured staples now & even large designer one's - though these need a specialist stapler - needless to say both of which a lot more expensive than the basic or coloured versions.


Safety pins: Yes seriously, you can even use tiny safety pins to attach things to your project with, though obviously not to be used on children’s cards!


Mini Clothes Pegs: These too are available in miniature format so you are able to stick them to your project to attach things with, & are lovely to use on a card featuring a washing line such as a baby card.


Brads: The basic ones that you can find in any stationers - are similar to those decorative nails that they use on old fashioned chairs to keep the fabric on the seat pad in place - but on the back they have two little legs. The idea is to make a little hole through the card & backing paper then poke the little legs through & open them up at the back to secure them. Again, there are a zillion decorative ones out there now, in the shape of anything from a pair of scissors to teddy bears, & in virtually any colour or size you can think of!


Eyelets: Like the ones you find in trainers where you thread the laces through. You will need some sort of 'setting' tool to use these, but there is a variety on the market from a little hammer & hand held tools to a great big enormous thing that I can't even fit into my hand, never mind actually work! Prices vary, but the hand held set with hammer can be picked up for a few pounds, whereas the bigger 'gadget' will cost you about the same as a weekly food budget for one person! The eyelets themselves are in a variety of colours, sizes, designs & finishes. Unlike brads there aren’t a lot of designs on the market.

Get in touch........

Email me at:

Print Print | Sitemap
© The Paper Craft Tutor