Techniques by Susie - based on a Class given at Blade Rubber

Punches are a great way to add interest to any style of artwork: cards, scrapbook pages, deco books, ATCs...

Assorted punches

Punches are available in all shapes, sizes and styles – something to suit everyone: adding borders to cards, photo corners, corner shapers and alphabets to name just a few.

Card made with Punches
©Pat Shephard 2009

Punches can be used to die-cut shapes out of cardstock, so the images can be applied separately to another piece to make up a picture. There are huge, oversized ones which can cut out windows to reveal more artwork underneath. There are hand-held punches with a long reach, to get right into the centre of a card, so that you can thread ribbon, apply brads or eyelets etc.


Hand held Punch

Hand-held punches are metal and have soft rubber handles. They look rather like scissors and are used by positioning over paper or card, and squeezing the handles together. These are wonderful for punching tiny holes (1/16th inch, upwards) little hearts etc, in hard-to-reach areas. Also in the range is a very useful a 2-hole punch, which makes holes in exactly the right position for sewing on buttons; also a 2-slot style, for threading ribbon through which is reminiscent of Broderie Anglais.

Paper Punch

Standard punches come in two styles: one with a plastic body and with plastic handle like a tab. The metal cutting blades are hidden inside. To operate this style, just push down with the heel of your hand. Use even, steady pressure and allow the weight of the punch to work for you.

Paper Punch

These usually have a clear plastic window underneath, which catches the punched image. The advantage of this style is that you can safely use it upside-down, positioning an image in the window where you can see it, so that you can punch exactly where you want the shape.

Paper Punches

For the metal style with a push button, place one hand on top of the other, then use the heel of the bottom hand to push down and punch. Use even steady pressure, and punch on a hard surface (a kitchen worktop is ideal). With giant punches, you may want to punch thick card. If you find it difficult, put the punch on the floor and use your foot! If you have a problem with your hands and find it difficult to use punches with the push button handle, you might like to buy a punch lever – this is a heavy duty plastic extension handle that the punch fits into, where you can use both hands to lean on and punch.

Card made with Punches
©Pat Shephard 2009

In every case, you will get the best results punching from text-weight paper. Vellum and scrapbook papers also give wonderful results.


Border Punches

Fiskars make a border punch approximately 6 inches long, which punches a repeating pattern so that you can easily deal with an entire length without too much work involved. Use the “bits” as confetti, inside envelopes, invitations or shaker cards. As they are made from plastic, with a plastic handle, keep these for paper only as thicker cardstock may jam the teeth.

Corner Punches

Decorative corner punches are very effective – just position the corner of a piece of paper or card into the punch (the built-in guide will make sure you have the paper in the right position) and punch away – many punches curve corners and cut out designs in one go. Otherwise, for a different effect, use one which makes diagonal cuts for a photo corner style. Use as decorative corners for layered cardstock to thread through, or tuck a photograph inside. Fancy corners punched from your pictures, or pretty photo corners, add emphasis and elegance without overwhelming an image. Use scrapbook papers for albums as these are archival and acid-free.

Many corner punches are made so that you can remove the corner guides, which then allows you to punch down the straight edge of a card. To turn it back into a corner punch, just re-insert the corner guides.


card made with Punches
©Pat Shephard 2009

This is an art movement in itself! Developed by Leonie Em of Australia, who has published books and DVDs on the subject, this is punch craft at its highest level. Leonie has created entire flower arrangements and bouquets – just using a standard punch and coloured paper. The method is easy: punch out shapes from vellums and papers and shape them to give dimension, using simple tools (eg: the handle of a spoon, a chopstick, a used-up biro – or the special tools developed by Leonie Em) and pressing onto a mouse mat. These shapes are then assembled onto card, adhering with silicon glue and a toothpick. For example, punched and curled balloon shapes can be assembled into a very realistic 3-D rose! Some of these examples are truly exquisite, but do require patience and a steady hand. These look wonderful framed in shadow boxes.


If you like scrapbooking and use alphabet scrapbook papers or stamp the letters onto thin cardstock, you might like to buy punches which will cut out your letters for you: a circle punch for typewriter key effects, or a small square for framed letters. It is much quicker and more convenient than trying to cut accurately with scissors. To be able to see where to punch, turn the punch upside down! You can then position the hole over the piece you want to cut out, and see exactly where to punch.

There are also hand-held punches which have interchangeable heads, available in sets (alphabets, numbers etc) so that one handle will work with all the dies in the set.


card made with Punches card made with Punches

Punches are perfect for Altered Books, art journals, photo albums and scrapbooks. Big punches make windows so you can see something underneath – a wonderful surprise when you turn the page. A series of holes down the edge of the page makes a real statement. Scallop-edged pages and fancy corner edgers also make a statement and add a change of pace. Wedding albums in particular benefit from punched page designs – these add detail which enhance wedding photos but don’t distract attention (use scrapbook papers which are acid-free and archival).


Punches have centre index marks on the outer covers, so it is easy to work out a repeat positioning: use a ruler to draw faint pencil marks evenly along the length of your paper, then use the index mark to position your punch. If you always push the paper in to the full extent, the punch design will also be exactly the same distance from the edge of the paper. Corner punches also have indexing marks, so that you can co-ordinate the spacing on conventional punching and corners. Border patterns can be punched right around the edges of a piece of artwork.


The 3-D aspect is one of the most attractive things about punched art – so use Pop Dots, glue dots or silicon glue (use a toothpick) to add dimension. If displaying in a frame, check the depth of the frame is greater than the depth of the artwork to be displayed, especially if using glass or acrylic in the frame (otherwise you may squash all your hard work). Alternatively, use shadow boxes, box lids or cigar boxes to mount your work inside. If you don’t wish to use glass or acrylic to protect your work, spray with Krylon Crystal Clear or a similar product to varnish the piece.


Make Your Own Stencils

Card made with Punches

Punch shapes out of scrap paper as a stencil, lay onto card stock and add colour using any of these: a Dauber Duo ink stick, Brilliance Teardrop or Colourbox Cats Eye pads (all are tiny pads perfect for stencilling).

Card made with Punches

Add embossing powder and heat if desired. Stamp extra images randomly, using Brilliance ink. Punch images from patterned scrapbook paper and layer onto a greetings card blank. Keep the little shapes and add onto the finished piece to embellish.

Positive and Negative

Card made with Punches

Cut a small square of card and draw a pencil mark from corner to corner, diagonally. Repeat for the opposite corner. Use these pencil marks to line up a punch (with the outer edges of the punch touching the pencil marks, as in the photograph) punching a design on each side. Either turn the piece over, or rub out the pencil marks.

Card made with Punches

Mount this square on a larger square of contrasting cardstock so that the negative of the design is highlighted. Use the positive portion of the design (the pieces you have punched out – you may need a few more as well) and stick these at the corners of the contrasting cardstock. This is an easy, elegant look which only needs the finishing touch of a ribbon bow.

Scallop Edging

making cards with punches

Cut a strip of paper the length of a shelf and about 7.5cm (3 inches) deep. Mark every 3cm (1.5 inches) then score and fold into a concertina, and curve the two outer corners on one side (use a 2p piece to draw around, then cut through all layers with scissors). Undo and flatten out, for a scallop edge.

making cards with punches

Choose two large punches that co-ordinate in design, and punch alternate scallops right along the length of the strip.

making cards with punches

You will have enough space at the top to fold over the shelf and attach with drawing pins or double-sided tape. This will give you an elegant “Shaker style” shelf edging for a country kitchen (or liven up your workspace). Or stick around the sides of a box (and finish off by hiding the top edge with a length of satin ribbon tied in a bow).


Stiff Punches

If your punch is stiff to handle, punch through waxed paper several times. This helps to loosen the mechanism.

Blunt Punches

If the punch is tearing paper rather than cutting through, try sharpening the blade by punching through layers of aluminium foil several times. It really does help. If you are really desperate, try the finest grade of glasspaper.

Clogged Punches

Usually caused by cheap giftwrap paper – it’s highly glazed and looks very pretty, but is extremely thin and has no body. The punch has nothing to bite into! If you HAVE to use it, place it on top of a piece of text-weight (photocopier) paper and punch through both pieces at the same time.

Jammed Punches

Usually caused by using card that is too thick! Punches usually release if turned upside down and bounced on a hard surface a few times (on the “button” you press down on, which illustrates the design). Try not to poke with anything sharp like scissors, as this is dangerous. It is usually the spring which has jammed, and bouncing the punch often does the trick. If all else fails, look for a little plastic “lug” on the bottom of the punch and carefully insert the point of a scissors to pop the plastic cover off the punch. This allows you to remove the button handle, take off the spring (which you can rework with your fingers) and remove the stuck piece of card. Put everything back together in this order: spring, button, then outer cover. Press down until you hear a click, and this should have fixed the problem.


Punches are extremely heavy when grouped together (most people can’t stop at one!) so they need designated storage. They need to be kept clean and dry (to prevent rust). Ideally, keep them in a designated drawer, or stack inside several cigar boxes with the heaviest punches in the bottom one (another decorating opportunity: try the Scallop Edging, above).

Little silica sachets (as found inside the packaging when you buy shoes or bags) tucked in with the punches will make sure they stay moisture-free and in tip-top condition.

©Susie Jefferson for Blade Rubber Stamps 2009
Susie is a regular teacher of popular Classes at Blade Rubber