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Craft Paper Punch Basics

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author. I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.

Punched flowers add dimensions and interest to all of your papercraft projects

Punched flowers add dimensions and interest to all of your papercraft projects

Getting Started With Craft Punches

I love paper punches! I have a passion for them. I use them on my scrapbook pages, my greeting cards, and on lots of other paper craft projects. They add lots of dimension and bling to my projects.

There are so many choices for paper punches and each has its own use! Shapes help you create the sweetest little embellishments for your scrapbook pages and greeting cards. Larger shapes such as circles, rectangles, and squares help you make journaling spaces, mats, and backgrounds for all kinds of paper crafts. Edge border punches are probably my personal favorites. You can make borders, edges, titles, and lots more.

The newest punches are the all-over-the-page punches. You can create a paper that adds lots of design elements.

The best thing about paper punches is that they don't use any electricity and they are very portable. They also store easily even in the smallest craft spaces.

  • You can use them as many times as you want.
  • They last a long time if you take care of them.
  • They offer plenty of design possibilities.
  • They are very portable.

If you are just starting out with punches, invest in a few simple shapes like squares and circles. Get a few small button punches like a butterfly. Get a hole punch; it's very useful to make holes for tags and such. I have several in different sizes. I would also invest in a flower punch. I use those a great deal. Once you have the basics, add them to your collection. There are so many options.

You can punch all types of paper ranging from standard printer paper to construction paper. With the thicker types of paper like cardstock and construction paper, it is imperative to use more force when punching so the cuts are clean.

Avoid using punches on are homemade papers, adhesive-backed papers, and fabric-lined paper. These types of papers often jam up the paper punch and are difficult to cut through.

Layered flowers made with craft punches

Layered flowers made with craft punches

Lever Punches vs. Squeeze Punches

There are two basic ways a punch works: by a lever-action or with a squeeze action.

In the lever punches, you basically push on the punch to create the cut. Some of the smaller lever punches are used with a single finger.

In the squeeze punch, you squeeze two handles to create the punch. The squeeze punch is considered easier and less fatiguing than the lever punch.

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Punches vs. Cutting With an Electronic Cutting Machine

As products have developed, electronic machines such as the Cricut and the Scan N Cut have taken over in the sense that they can do multiple cuts of the same image in different sizes quickly.

So the question is, are paper punches still relevant to paper crafters? My opinion is that they are still very useful in any craft space where paper projects are being done. Here's why:

  1. They are reasonably priced. I started out with paper punches way before I invested in my Cricut machine. Lots of people may not be willing to pay the price for such a machine. Paper punches are a lot more reasonable in price. You can often get them on sale.
  2. They don't use electricity. The only energy they need is pressure from your hand to punch or squeeze to get the shape. If you are going to a crop or class, you may not have access to an outlet.
  3. They are portable. If you are going to a crop or class, they are easy to pack and take with you.
  4. They don't require a craft mat or other tools to create the shape. All you need is some paper and the punch.
Punching a soda can is another way to sharpen the blades of your craft punch

Punching a soda can is another way to sharpen the blades of your craft punch

How to Care for Paper Punches

The biggest problems that you may encounter using your paper punches are jamming, dull blades, and the punch getting sticky.


When paper punches jam, the first thing to try is wiggling the punch back and forth. If that does not free the jam, the next step is to lightly hit the punch on a hard surface like a table. Next, try placing the punch in the freezer for a half hour to allow the metal to shrink and release the jam

If none of those techniques work the last step is to take the paper punch apart piece by piece to free the jammed material. When putting the paper punch back together, be sure to clean each piece with rubbing alcohol. Never rip a jammed piece of paper out of a paper punch. That can make it more difficult to remove the rest of the paper.

Dull Blades

If the blades of your paper punch have gone dull, you can sharpen it with aluminum foil. Rip off a sheet of aluminum foil and fold it a couple of times or until the blades are sharpened. Place it in the paper punch and punch it a handful of times. A good rule of thumb is to sharpen your paper punch after ever 100 punches.

Sticky Punches

If the paper punch is sticking to the paper and having trouble releasing, use wax paper to relubricate the blades. Simply place a piece of wax paper under the blades and then punch until the blades are no longer sticking. You should relubricate your blades with wax paper after 50 punches.

Shape Punches

These are craft punches that have a defined shape. They often come in different sizes. Any shape you can think of there is probably a punch for it. The smallest of these can be used for fillers for your window cards, They can also be made into confetti. Think of these more like themed punches.

There are hundreds of shape punches that can be used for embellishments. You can use them just about anywhere. Have a glue pen handy to adhere them. Or you can run them through a zyron machine. You can also make confetti with them for parties.

Shapes come in so handy! I love the ones that punch out flowers and leaves. Use them on your scrapbook papers and on your cards. The larger shapes make perfect sense for just about any card or scrapbook project.

Detailed Shape Punches

Detailed shape punches have more detail than regular shape punches. They would include things like flowers, leaves, butterflies, animals, and more.

Shape Punch Ideas and Projects

Using a piece of cardstock as a banner with a punched section that shows the pattern paper is a nice idea. You could create this card using more masculine paper too.

Using a piece of cardstock as a banner with a punched section that shows the pattern paper is a nice idea. You could create this card using more masculine paper too.

Circle Punches

Circle punches create doilies, bags and paper crafts. These punches make perfect circles and they come in different sizes, so you may want several.

Even if you do not have a scalloped punch, you can create a scalloped circle

Even if you do not have a scalloped punch, you can create a scalloped circle

Circle Punch Projects and Ideas

  • Scrapbook & Cards Today Blog: Fabulous circle punch tutorial with Cindy Stevens!
    Hi Everyone! I'm back with a few more tricks to help you get more out of your punch stash, partnered with a few small things from around the home like twine, toothpicks & buttons. The first project is a pinwheel I made by punching a large circle
  • A Telescoping Birthday by ravengirl - at Splitcoaststampers
    I made this card for Robyn's VSN challenge called []Round 'Em Up[/url]. Robyn challenged us to make a telescopi
  • Easy Paper Punched Poinsettias | Damask Love
    It seems like a lifetime ago that Toile Gift & Project Guide went live and today, I thought I'd post my absolute favorite project from Toile as a part of the Visions of Sugarplums Blog Hop being hosted by blog friend, Lori...but instead of having
Adorable angel using a circle edge punch

Adorable angel using a circle edge punch

Corner Punches

Corner punches create even and accurate corners in traditional to detailed designs.

These punches make a nice edge to your project. I like the corner rounder. It's one that you will use a lot on your cards and scrapbook pages. It's also useful on the edges of photos to give them a nice rounded corner. It makes your images look softer.

You can also get a three-in-one corner punch. With these types of punches, you get three designs on one punch.

Corner Punch Projects and Ideas

Edge or Border Punches

Craft continuous borders, eye-catching edges, and impressive paper ribbons with user-friendly border punches that create beautiful results in seconds. This type of punch is usually a lever (press down) type of punch.

They usually have an alignment grid that allows you to continue the pattern as long as you wish it to be without any breaks.

Edge Punches

What a thrill it is to work with edge punches. Where can't you use them! I use them on scrapbook pages for titles, around the edge of background layover pages, for photo mats, and for journaling.

What else can you do with them? When I make greeting cards, I use them to edge and add pieces. In paper crafting, you can use them to make wreaths and other projects where you just need that special touch.

Border Punches

Border punches can punch a continuous border along any length of paper by making the first punch, then sliding the paper along with in the punch to match the white printed design on either side of the punch base.

How to Make Tags With Border Punches

Did you know that you can make tags with your fancy-edged border tags? It is easy and fun. Here is how to do it:

  1. Punch a piece of cardstock with the border punch. You can make these as large or as small as you want them to be by varying the width of the paper.
  2. Cut each section of the border with scissors or a paper trimmer.

These are great as gift tags. You can also create embellishments and journal pieces by using the border punch on both sides.

All-Over Punches

All-over (as in all-over-the-place) punches create unique papers by taking a simple piece of cardstock and punching a pattern. You can also make scrapbook blocks, titles and tags.

All-over punches allow you to punch anywhere on any paper

All-over punches allow you to punch anywhere on any paper

Power Punches

These punches allow you to cut through materials that have never been punched before without ripping or jamming.

Power punches cut balsa, foam, foil, cardboard, and more with a new generation of punches that can handle heavy-duty materials.

Tag Punches

Tag punches make tags in under five minutes. They create tags in all kinds of different sizes and shapes. These are most often leaver punches. They also create holes in the tags. Some even set eyelets. So you can save a lot of time and effort.

Craft Punch Tips

  1. Start with a few basic shape punches. Things like squares and circles will be used over and over again. They are good basic investments.
  2. Flip the punch over so that you can see where you are punching.
  3. If your craft punch jams or locks up, try putting it in the freezer for a little bit. The cold may shrink the metal just enough to release it. Once you get it released, punch a piece of waxed paper several times to lubricate the punch.
  4. When starting to work with a new punch, punch a few pieces of scrap paper before you start on your project. There might be some lubricant left over from the manufacturer.
  5. The more intricate the detail in a punch, the more force that will be needed. Use a solid surface when punching.
  6. Use the right material for each punch. Very few punches will cut fabric. But you also need to think about the different types of paper. Not all cardstock, for example, will cut in each punch. Follow the manufacturer's direction when choosing paper.
  7. Layer different types of boarder punches in different width paper to add depth to your projects.
  8. If you are using a small punch, punch more than you need for your project and save for later use.
  9. Never throw away any small pieces of paper that you have left over. Even the smallest piece of paper can be punched, I keep my scrap paper in a file by color.
  10. Invest in a hole punch; it's a handy tool to have.
  11. Store your punches in a dry place to avoid rusting.
Pegboard storage is a colorful way to store your craft punches

Pegboard storage is a colorful way to store your craft punches

How to Store Your Craft Punches

  • My favorite way to store craft punches is to get a closet door organizer and hang it over my craft room door. The sections are clear, so that I can see what I have. They are really easy to find and they come in terrific designs and colors.
  • You can also hang curtain rods on the back of a door. That idea allows you to see what you have.
  • You can also use small shelves to store your paper punches.
  • Another idea that I recently saw was to use an old VCR storage unit to hold your punches.
These towel bars are another way to store your craft punches

These towel bars are another way to store your craft punches

Organizing All Your Punches

If you are like many crafters, you may have your craft punches scattered all about your craft space. Getting them organized will save you lots of time. You will be able to find exactly what you need when you need it. It only takes a bit of time to set up and get your craft punches organized.

  1. Locate all of your punches and lay them out on a work surface.
  2. Decide how you want to organize them into categories. Your categories will be dependent on how many punches you have.
  3. Decide how you will store them. Options include storing them on a wall, in drawers, in a box, on a tray. You decide what best suits your collection and space.
  4. Create templates for each punch on heavy cardstock or cardboard. Create labels on your computer. Attach the labels on the templates. Put them in a notebook or on a binder ring.

More Organization Tips for Craft Punches

Creative Craft Punch Ideas

© 2014 Linda F Correa