The Elements of Design for Crafters

by Melissa Andrew

See what design elements make a cardmaking project pop!

There are simple principals papercrafters and mixed media artists can follow to create gorgeous designs. If you think about the cards, scrapbook layouts, and canvases that you love, what are the defining elements? In the crafting industry, you hear words and phrases like “clean and simple, monochromatic and layered” which refers to a style or technique. But, the simple fact is that the creations you feel the most attracted to have one thing in common–good design.

See what design elements make a project pop!


Whether it’s a bright and bold piece or a soft and subtle piece, color can either draw you in or send you flying. Let’s start with the color wheel. A color wheel itself is quite appealing and often in papercrafting, you see the use of rainbows as a part of the concept. But let’s talk about colors that can be put together to really entice your audience to want more.

Some of my favorite crafters use these complimentary colors so beautifully that it’s hard to look away. Complimentary colors are those opposite of each other on the color wheel. Card designs with blue and orange, red and green or purple and yellow paper colors or matching inks tend to stand out. When applying color theory to your project, remember not to think of these colors in a rigid way. Blue can have many hues and saturation such as turquoise, sky blue, and teal so the compliment is not a static orange but a coral, light orange, or yellow-orange. There are many tools and color charts to help you explore color theory. See the links below for Imagine’s article on the subject.


The human eye is amazing. We can naturally pick up details that are difficult to explain. Often in mixed media, the main goal is to create texture and detail to allow the eye to get lost in the magic of wandering around the design. You begin with a plain flat canvas and you add various elements to create patterns of smooth and rough or raised and flat. Another point of interest with texture is the desire to reach out and touch an element on a piece of artwork. In the image above the “you” die cut has a layer of Creative Medium in Shimmer to give a shiny texture from the rest of the card. There are a number of products that help achieve texture in card making or scrapbooking. A few of my favorite are Creative Medium, irRESISTible and even the use of fabrics on a card or scrapbook page. If you are curious about the photo above then see the full tutorial.

Shape and Form

Shape and form can go hand in hand when it comes to making a craft or a piece of art. Whether it is a square, star, heart, circle, or diamond, the shape is clear to identify and the list of possibilities is endless. Form has to do with dimension which can be another rabbit hole to explore. In paper crafting, shading an image, adding foam tape to a layer, or making a pop-up gives a project a 2D or 3D effect. Together, shape and form can change the whole appearance of a card and make it more visually appealing. In the photo above, the card has three layers–the hearts and sequins on the top, the pink linen layer has the large circles cut out in the middle, and “too sweet” sentiment and heart-shapes stamped on the base working in harmony to maximize visual interest.

Line and Space

When you hear people who design for a living speak about “line” they typically mean the addition of lines to add framing, cohesion or emotion. In card making, you often see people adding layers of paper. Layering can add little boxes to a design or layout that is an effective way to make a sentiment more noticeable. Or you might see hand-drawn doodles or stitching that has the same effect. Even a simple ribbon on a card can add a subtle line that says I’m finished, clean and organized. This line creates …. space! Space can be an important aspect as it really sets up the whole design. If too many elements are spaced oddly on a card the eye will not know where to focus. A quick and easy rule to remember is odd numbers tend to look better. If you’d like to add bling, try doing so in sets of three. This can often bring balance to your space.


Understanding these basic principals and using them to create a beautiful card, layout or canvas can help you love your artwork even more. These rules aren’t meant to constrain an artist but are intended to give you a place to start and to give you confidence. Try to keep the few principals in mind when creating and watch your creations be transformed.

Color Theory

What Ink Should I Use

Cutting Tools

Embossing Basics

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