Craft Terms for Newbies

Craft Terms for Newbies

Have you ever heard someone in a craft tutorial use a term you didn’t understand? You will find definitions of paper and mixed media craft terms listed here.


Absorbent Ground

This is an opaque acrylic primer used for watercolor medium. It can be used to prepare a page for Bible journaling to keep color from bleeding through to the back page. Another example of a “ground” is gesso (see Gesso below).



An adhesive is a product that allows you to permanently or semi-permanently attach one thing to another. In paper crafting the following adhesives are very popular: white glue, glue stick, glue pens, glue gun (hot or low melt); spray adhesives, double-sided tapes, double-sided sheets, foam mounting pads self-adhesive dots, adhesive rollers, washi tape, and fusible webbing.


Angel Policy

Any crafter who plans to sell their projects to the public – craft shows, online, Etsy Shop, or storefront – must have the permission of the manufacturer/artists of the products that were used in the project. An Angel Policy is an agreement between the manufacturer and artists, and the maker, that allows the maker the sell projects made using someone else’s art and products for the purpose of making money. It gives the crafter a “limited license” to use their products to create a project to sell for personal profit.   An Angel Policy spells out in specific detail what the manufacturer/artist requires. Typically, the manufacturer or artist requires the maker to include the name of the artist or manufacturer somewhere on the card or project if possible. Makers must give credit where credit is due. A maker cannot ever take credit for someone else’s art.

It can be tricky. For example. If I make a card using Tim Holtz stamps, I must determine who makes his stamps and has the license for his art. That would be Stamper’s Anonymous. So I go to their website and read their Angel Policy. To sell a card I must comply with all of their terms. If I want to make a card using Tim Holtz stamps and his dies, I now have to do a little more research. I know that Stamper’s Anonymous holds the license for the art for Tim’s stamps. But now I need to determine who holds that art license for his dies. That would be Sizzix. So now I must find out what their Angel Policy requires. To sell my card I will have to be in total compliance with the Angel Policies of both companies. That will require me to give full credit to both companies on my project for Tim’s artwork.

Some companies are even more specific. They will restrict the use of their art in projects to only local craft shows.  Some companies will limit the number of projects that you can sell with any one design. Some companies will require you to comply with the terms of their angel policy to use their clay molds, glitters, paints, ephemera, and even solid-color card stock.  Some companies require you to apply for a license to sell your projects.  Some companies will not allow you to make a profit using their products.   Do the research and know that you are in compliance and giving credit where credit is due.


Anti-Static Pad

Sometimes when you use glitter or embossing powders or glazes on a project, little flecks stay on the surface. If you don’t catch them and brush them off before you set it with a heating tool, you have permanent flecks.  To prevent this, you rub the surface of your cardstock with an Anti-Static pad which coats it with a chalky powder and prevents glaze or embossing powder from sticking to the areas of your cardstock where you don’t want it.



Art Journal

An art journal is a visual way to express yourself with the help of writing and images. There are no rules or guidelines. You can use a blank mixed media spiral-bound book or watercolor paper that you glue into a journal. Collage is popular, though makers use rubber stamps, stencils, painting, drawing, zen drawing, calligraphy, or even doodles. Some makers use old books or ledgers for their journals and layer over the top. You can use loose sheets of mixed media or watercolor paper and then bind your own book. You don’t have to work in your journal. You can use an art journal as a scrapbook to permanently keep your favorite flat paper projects like cards or tags.



An assemblage is a 3-dimensional version of a mixed media project which involves combining different materials on a specific surface.



This metal tool has a sharp point that can be used for punching holes in paper, chipboard, or scratching the surface on a project.  It is also used in bookmaking, leather tooling, and other craft projects.



In traditional art, balance is the even distribution of all the elements used to create a harmonious project.  In papercraft projects, makers are not as concerned.  In my own projects, I try to follow the “rule of odds” using an odd number of elements in a make, as opposed to an even number.  Odd really doesn’t provide more balance – whether it’s adding flowers to a vase, or arranging pictures on a wall.  I try to keep an even distribution of elements in a make so that it isn’t “one-sided” with the focal point on one side.  In papercraft projects, we are more concerned with the process and enjoyment. (If you would like a more detailed explanation, check out:


Blending Stump

A double-ended stick with a soft covering is used for blending charcoal, graphite, and pastels.


Bone Folder

A plastic tool that allows you to score, mark, or crease paper and fabric.  It works well when you use it on a board like a Score-Pal.  



A brayer is a hand roller that comes in various sizes and is used to spread ink on paper, Geli plate, or another surface.  The rollers can be soft or hard.  



You rub a surface to transfer an image using a tool of some sort, such as a bone folder or Tim Holtz’s Remnant Rub Tool.



Collage is an art technique that allows you to piece together photos or other images into a finished project. Mixed media collage involves the building up of layers of papers, ephemera, and photos that overlap.  The texture is added with molding paste, texture paste, fabric, and items called “found things”. (see Found Things below) Color is added with acrylic paints, paints sprays, gelatos, art crayons, pastels, and more.



Colorwash is a mixture of thinned-down-water-based paint.  For example, you can add a little water to acrylic paint and then brush it over a substrate such as wood or paper for a “wash-out” look.



This art requires attaching designs on paper or tissue paper with Mod Podge or some type of some brand of collage medium.  Once the paper is attached, brush another coat of the medium on and let it dry.  It is popular for decorating unfinished craft wood (boxes, plaques, trays); furniture, or even wood chips or ornaments.


Die Cutting

Die-cutting requires the use of a special machine and a metal plate with a design embedded in it, to cut shapes out of paper, fabric, chipboard.   The shapes are commonly used in making greeting cards, scrapbooking, and mixed media projects. Dies add depth and dimension to craft projects.



In terms of paper crafting, distress is the process of making something look old and worn out.  Tim Holtz made the concept popular with his line of distress inks. To achieve the look on a paper project, you can use a blending tool to apply brown-tone inks to the edges to give it a vintage look.  You can also distress fabrics, metals, and a variety of materials.  (See Tim Holtz’s demos on Facebook and YouTube for instructions.)



Dry-brushing uses a dry paintbrush that creates a more scratchy effect on the surface.  It is particularly good on fabric such as cotton or Muslim.



Materials that add texture, interest, or even sparkle to a craft project.  Embellishments can include glitter, buttons, sequins, ephemera, or found objects.



Emboss creates a raised design on a project.  Dry emboss in crafts is typically done with the use of an “emboss folder” in which paper is inserted.  The folder is run through a die cutting machine and creates both a raised and depressed design on the paper.  Wet emboss is typically done with lettering, but can be used in other creative ways in a project.  In wet emboss, an emboss fluid must be applied to the surface either by marker, liquid, or pad.  A special embossing powder is then sprinkled over the wet emboss fluid.  The excess is tapped off.  To set the emboss requires the use of a heat tool. As the embossing ink sets, it changes color and becomes permanent on the surface.  The result will be a slightly raised and shiny effect.


Embossing Tool

There is a difference between an embossing tool and a heating tool or gun.  An embossing tool does not have a handle and has a smaller opening at the tip.  It also heats higher and faster than a heating tool or gun.  A heating tool is a preferred tool to use when setting embossing powder or glazes. 



This is a mixed media art form that incorporates pigments melted with wax that are fused to the substrate with heat.  An array of embellishments and tools can be used to produce creative effects in the wax.



Ephemera is something that was printed on paper and was meant to be a value for only a short period of time.  Ephemera includes tickets, seed packets, old greeting cards, baseball cards, etc.  Manufacturers and designers now sell packages of ephemera for the convenience of makers. Some of us still love the challenge of eBay searches and visiting antique stores and estate sales in search of ephemera.



A fixative is designed to stabilize and help preserve a project.  Most fixatives today come in spray form.  Some are used to keep the glitter from coming off a project or sealing a project to protect it. There is a caution I need to insert. There are some fixatives that should not be used indoors.  Anytime you use a fixative, it should be used in a well-ventilated area, preferably close to a window.   Always read the labels and warnings.



The word fluid means something moves or flows easily.  If you describe a fabric as being fluid, it means that the fabric moves or flows with ease – it drapes well.  The term can be used in crafting and art.



To achieve the look of flyspecks on paper, you load a paintbrush with water-ed down paint.  You then rub your thumb across the bristles over your paper to release speckles of paint.


Focal Point

When you look at a painting or other art form, the element or object that draws your eye to it, is the focal point.



If you fold one piece of paper in half to form four book pages it’s called a folio.


Found Things

Found Things are used in paper and mixed media projects. They are typically items that you find around the house – the mesh bags that grapes come in, junk mail, packing papers, bubble wrap, small screws, paper clips – anything that would add texture, dimension, and interest to a project. Manufacturers have made it easy for makers by packing an assortment of “found things” you can buy and keep in your craft stash.


Fusible Web

Fusible webbing is an adhesive that requires heat to activate the glue.  It is used frequently on fabric projects, to adhere one piece of fabric to another with the assistance of a hot iron.  Fusible webbing is used frequently in the non-sewing applique on quilts and fabric projects.  One of my favorites is Wonder Under. Another webbing that comes in a narrow role is Stitch Witchery which I use frequently in sewing projects. I use it in place of pins for basting fabric.


Fussy Cutting

Regular cutting would include cutting a piece of paper in halves or smaller pieces.  Fussy Cutting is very detailed cutting that requires cutting around the exterior edge of a pattern or design.  It requires small, sharp scissors. (Anyone who had little girls and cut out paper dolls for them has done fuzzy cutting.)


Gelli Plate

A Gelli Plate is a printing plate that feels like gelatin or very soft rubber.  Paint or ink is applied to a Gelli Plate with a roller.  Sometimes designs are added to the plate into the wet ink or paint with rubber stamps or items found around the house.  These leave a design that will make an interesting print.  A piece of card stock is placed over the top of the Gelli Plate, smoothed down with your hands, and pulled off.  The result is called a monoprint. (A great resource is, “Gelli Plate Printing” by Joan Bess.)


Gel Medium

Gel medium is used to create texture when it is applied to a surface. It is an acrylic polymer medium that will accept additives such as color medium, glitters, or even beads.



Gesso, (pronounced jesso) is a thick substance that is brushed onto a substrate to prime it and prepare it for the addition of paints or other mediums.  It comes in black or white.  Artists prime their canvas with gesso. Mixed media artists will frequently prime their papers before they begin a project. It prepares the surface and allows it to take whatever medium you apply. In mixed media, artists will use gesso to cover up parts of their project to add interest.


Ghost Print

If I apply ink to a rubber stamp and make a print of the design, it is possible to get a second print using the residual ink on the stamp. The second print is called a ghost print.  It is a lighter version of the original print. A ghost print is a “second generation” print.



Glaze is a combination of paint and an acrylic medium that creates a transparent topcoat without obscuring the design underneath.  Powdered glazes require the use of an embossing medium.  Popular embossing medium in a bottle includes Ranger’s Embossing Dabbler, Embossing pens, or pads as a base, then applying the powder glaze over the top and setting it with a heat tool.


Heat Tool

Not to be confused with an embossing tool, this small tool resembles a small hairdryer. It blows hot air designed to dry, heat-set, or melt embossing powders and glazes onto your project.  A heating gun or tool will emboss, but it takes longer than it would if you were using an embossing tool.  A heating tool has a wider opening than an embossing gun and is better for fast-drying paint or inks.


Image Transfer

This is the process of moving an image and replicating it onto another surface.  It can be done by rubbing, iron-on transfer, a printer, or dozens of other methods.  The internet offers many project ideas and resources for image transfer.





Masking is a technique that involves covering a designated area of a project to protect it while you apply a medium to a project.  You can use paper or even paper towels as masks. Masking fluid is a liquid that can be painted onto part of a project that you do not want to be covered with a medium, that allows you to rub it off when you are done, like rubber cement.  For example, if I stamp an image on a card, I might use liquid masking fluid to cover the image before I fill in the background of the card.


Matte medium

This medium is an acrylic polymer and is used to increase translucency, decrease gloss, or extend paint in a project.  



Mediums are the materials used to create an art project.  In the craft world, they might include acrylic paints, watercolor paint, dies, markers, pencils, pastels, crayons, modeling (like clay), photography, and collage.


Mixed Media A technique that uses a variety of materials or mediums to make a project.  Collage is very popular in mixed media projects.


Molding Paste Also called modeling paste, molding paste, is a thick substance that is used to create texture on a project.  The use of stencils with molding paste is a popular technique in papercrafts.


Molds A mold (or mould), is a shaped flexible material that creates a cast when hard.  Modeling clay, such as Scuplty or Prima, and even the Crayola brand is popular. Some manufacturers have their own semi-liquid material that can be used in a mold to create a shape.  The image that is created can then be used in a papercraft or mixed media project.



If you apply paint or ink to a surface – cardstock, a Gelli plate – you can lay a piece of card stock over the top and pull off a print.  That is called a monoprint.  This technique is very popular with Geli Plate printing.


Mulberry Paper

This handmade paper has a lot of texture and can be used in a variety of papercraft, art, and mixed medium projects. It comes in a variety of colors. (see:


Open Time

When using paint and or ink, you only have a certain length of time that the medium is flexible before it dries and can be altered.  That time frame is called open time.



The term organic in crafts can refer to the material that is used – items that can be found in nature. Sticks, berries, pods, and flowers are good examples. Organic can also be used to express a feeling of familiarity – fundamental to life.


Photo transfer

You can transfer photographic images onto fabric using this specialized paper.  You begin by printing an image onto the paper and then ironing it onto the fabric.


Positive and Negative Space

In art, you see positive and negative space in a picture.  Positive space is the focal point or main interest of the picture. The negative space is the background or area around the positive space. When you do a project you as an artist decide whether you want to use the positive or negative space.



A resist is a medium that won’t accept paint.  In crafting or art, you cover a specific area with a special resist medium to prevent colorization. One popular resist medium is Ranger/Tim Holtz Resist Spray.  You can also spray an entire surface to seal a project and add a little sheen to it.  


Rubber Stamps

Rubber stamping was first introduced in Russia in 1912.  It involves using a stamp dipped in an ink and pressed onto the paper. Today, red rubber stamps mounted on wood blocks, cling mounted and clear photopolymer are popular.



A stencil is made of some type of thin, but sturdy material, that has had a design cut into it.  Crafters place the stencil over a surface and apply paint, ink, molding paste, texture paste, or other spreadable color mediums. Stencils add texture and embellishment to a project.



A substrate is the base of a project that is used as the foundation. A substrate might be a canvas, paper, cardboard, wood, glass, or metal, to name a few.  A substrate provides the base layer on a project and supports everything that is built on top of it.


Texture Paste

Texture Paste is a paste or gel that you mix with paint to change the consistency. You would use this on a project to add surface or dimension. Ranger, Heidi Swapp, Gina K, Tonic Studio, and Crafter’s Companion are some of the popular makers of texture pastes.



For a surface to accept mediums it must be “rough” and provide something for the medium to cling to. This applies to wet mediums such as paints and is also helpful when you use a color medium like pastels.



Transitory Art

Transitory Art is not permanent, lasting, enduring, or eternal in form and context.



When you write on a surface and then apply paint or other mediums over the top, it is called Under-journaling.


Wabi Sabi

This is an ancient philosophy originating from a 16th-century Japanese legend.   It honors the imperfect, the humble, and the transitory.


Washi Tape

Washi tape is a decorative adhesive tape made from a Japanese shrub. It is popular in papercraft and mixed media projects.