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Pop-Up Cards

Martha Stewart Living, December/January 1999/2000

The holiday card is one of the nicest traditions of the season -- both meaningful (it says you're thinking of someone) and decorative (it's often put out on display). But finding a card that expresses the right sentiment and style isn't always easy.

A handmade pop-up card, by contrast, is always unique and anything but two-dimensional. Open one of these whimsical cards, and, like a jack-in-the-box, it reveals an unexpected treat. As impressive as a pop-up looks, it's deceptively easy to make. All you need is paper, cutting tools, a straightedge, and glue, plus materials to embellish it.

The first step, in almost every case, is to create a cardboard template, which you'll then use to trace the shapes onto your card stock. Whether you choose a pattern as simple as a snowman or as intricate as a snowflake, the effects are equally charming. The special effects depend on a few basic cutting and folding tricks. Once you've mastered these methods, there's plenty of room for improvisation and creative license, not only in the shape-making but the ornamentation as well.

The color of the paper affects the whole mood of a card: silver, gold, champagne, pink, white, green, and red will all give your cards a lift. Think about paper texture, too: Corrugated or ribbed, brightly metallic or with a slight pearlized sheen -- all these choices change the look.

As for the trimmings,virtually anything that catches your fancy, and can be glued on, is potential adornment: Try attaching beads, buttons, embroidery thread, glitter, or hole-punched paper dots. In general, the simpler the background, the more impact the pop-up images will have. And impact is the idea. A pop-up has the kind of presence that virtually guarantees it a prime spot on the mantel. It has a long shelf life, too. Like favorite ornaments, it's likely to be saved and treasured, to be brought out and admired, year after year.

You can use almost any type of paper or card stock to make these cards; just be sure it's sturdy enough to withstand cutting and folding. Most of the cards are composed of an inner card glued to a stiffer backing that provides support and hides any slits or tabs made to attach figures. It's easier to fold the backing before the interior of the card has been glued on.

Puzzle-Cut Pine Tree Card

Get the How-To

Mirror-Image Silhouette Card

Get the How-To

Holiday Card with Fold-In Shapes

Get the How-To

Stand-Up Figures Card

Get the How-To

Comments (4)

  • 30 Apr, 2010

    I found the cutest pop-up card patterns at http://www.easycutpopup.com. I made some with my kids and a great time. They're easy and look incredible!

  • 5 Dec, 2008

    I intend to make the snowflake card. I can't wait, I love Martha crafts, they are easy and beautiful. Thanks!! I will post how they turn out.

  • 1 Dec, 2008

    I have seen more than several comments complaining about the directions on the crafts listed on this site. I have yet to have any trouble understanding any of them! I teach PreK through 12th grade art and have even used some for my class projects. The kids love them!!!! Yes some of the ideas are challenging but it gets them thinking in a broader spectrum which helps in other subjects. Keep up the great work and thanks for the ideas!

  • 22 Nov, 2008

    I made the card with the trees two years ago. It takes some time to get everything prepared, but once that's done, it is pretty simple.