Monday, February 13, 2012

Handmade Valentine Love

Just a few hours left until Valentine's Day arrives but it's not too late to crank out a set of handmade cards. I want to share a fun, easy, no-fail project that works for all ages, perfect for a family to tackle together.

I've got a lovely tutorial to share for these Valentines, with lots of details and tips and ideas that will allow you to fully enjoy making and personalizing your own cards. 

But if you're in a rush, let me just cut to the chase: Grab some printer paper, paint cool designs with red and pink watercolors, rip them up and collage the bits onto blank postcards, toss them in the mail or hand them over to your loved ones. Got it? go and show us the meaning of haste!

The rest of us can enjoy a more leisurely pace as we explore the makings of these cards:

1. Gather up watercolors, small brushes, a container of rinse water and some plain white printer paper.
I painted 12 sheets of paper and ended up with 24 postcards.
You could use any kind of paint, of course, or for that matter, any medium..colored pencils, crayons, pastels, you name it. But for their fresh color, ease of use, fabulous coverage and dainty cheeriness, watercolors win the day for me. I'm a huge fan.

2. Paint each sheet in Valentine colors, keeping in mind that you are going to rip it up for your finished product.
Stripes, plaids, circles, splatters and other small overall patterns work best.
Of course you are probably going to want to emphasize Valentine-y colors, but I find that I get bored with just reds and pinks. If you're like me, choose an accent color or two and incorporate it into some but not all of your paintings. You'll see a lot of yellow in my work.

3. As your paintings dry, gather up scissors, glue sticks, a ruler and some white card stock. Cut the card stock into fourths which will yield four postcards per sheet. 
I used six sheets of card stock to make 24 postcards in all.

4. Plan out your overall strategy for designing the cards
Of course, you can make each one completely unique, if you like, but when I am in assembly line mode, I find creative freedom within the confines of a self-imposed structure. As you can see, I decided to use a landscape orientation with three different papers per card. I used the widest strip at the center of the card, framed by two smaller strips of matching design at the outside edges of the card, and a pair of thin strips tucked in between. 

5. Ok, it's time to let 'er rip. Take a deep breath and start ripping up those lovely paintings into strips and gluing them down on the cards.
Do NOT use the scissors! Rip with your hands. We want all those lovely torn lines and wiggly edges so embrace your loss of control over the process.
I prefer to rip a little bit at a time, arranging and gluing each card as I go. 
Of course, I do lots of experimenting and editing; it's so much fun to try this pattern against that, varying the prints, mixing them up in different ways. I spend a lot of time in this process and find it relaxing and fun.

There isn't a lot of rocket science involved in gluing the strips, but I have found that it's least messy (for me, anyway) to glue the outermost strips first, then the skinny strips, and then the wide boy in the middle.


When you finish gluing, you'll have something that looks like this:

6. Last step: trim off the edges and give them a quick press.
I trimmed the bottom and sides of each card with scissors, for a sharp clean line (and to minimize the number of times my cards jam up the post office's sorting machines). But I also used a ruler along the top edge to help me make a neat but still interesting ripped edge. To make this work, lay the card face down, align the ruler with the top edge of the card stock, and gently pull away the exposed collage papers.
An hour or two under a stack of heavy books will do wonders for creating a flat card and a crisp, clean look.

Voilà! You did it! I will share the rest of my finished cards with you; I'd love to see what you came up with, too. 

P.S. Cute Valentines deserve cute stamps. Even though they are more postage than my cards require, I splurged on these Love stamps because their color palette is so perfect with my art. I'm in love! 


  1. Totally inspired. I'm quitting my job immediately so I can devote more time to living like Diane. It sounds so much more fun and colorful!
    Happy Valentine's Day to you my fun friend!

    1. The challenges are steep and the rewards are incomparable...but the pay could be better. :)

      Happy Valentine's Day to you too!

  2. oh and many, many thanks for that wonderful line from Gandolf! Made my day.

    1. Isn't it so weird how a quote from a movie will just jump into your brain? And to find a youtube of EXACTLY the same bit?! Crazy. Glad you enjoyed.

  3. Oh my. I love watercolor. You are so crafty I can't even handle it. And oh my gosh. I forgot how much I love cute postage stamps! Those are a dream. Worth the extra money.

    1. Court, I firmly believe we are all creative and inspired in our own ways. Some of us watercolor, others write about sloths and weasels. Potato, po-tah-toe.

  4. I love these! Such a great idea for any occasion or just to brighten someone's day. When I send gems like this out, the camaraderie tells me that he gets a real kick out it, also, so it's like I'm brightening days all along the way.

    1. Kathleen, I agree..any homemade card with a simple message is sure to lift anyone's spirits. It's such a simple and fun thing to do, isn't it?!


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