Over at EyeConnect Crafts, we really love chipboard! We love the natural aspect of it —chipboard is made from recycled cardboard and papers that are all ground up and "smooshed" together. It's thicker and tougher than most cardstock, and its brown shade comes from the fact that it's not bleached. Traditionally, white papers are soaked in water and bleach, and then that bleach-water becomes waste that's bad for the environment. After having tested many different types of chipboard, here are our top tips and advice for selecting and working with chipboard.
What Is Chipboard? Tips and Techniques for Chipboard Crafts
When you're buying chipboard, you don’t want it too thin, or too thick either. We tested lots of different chipboard for our embellishments before selecting one that was “just right.”
If the chipboard is too thin, it will not hold up well to layers of paint or glue; nor will it be strong enough to hold its shape. Chipboard that is too thick will make your scrapbook, greeting card or art journal too bulky and it may not close well. Also, the thicker chipboard tends to have more tooth. “Tooth” is the term traditionally used for the roughness of a paper’s surface. This is good for mediums like pastels or charcoal, where you need the paper to hold on to the loose powdered pigments, or the texture of the paper is integral to the finished work. For paints and inks, you want a smoother surface with less tooth so that the surface doesn’t soak up all your medium or ruin your pen and brush tips.
If you're working with chipboard shapes, lay them out on a non-stick work mat or wax paper first, then decide which direction your designs will face and whether you're going to decorate both sides, or just one side. A non-stick surface will keep the chipboard from sticking as it dries and prevent layers of the chipboard from ripping off when you pick it up.
If you want pure, bright colors like this blue corset on my art journal page, paint the chipboard with a layer of gesso first. Make sure to use a dry brush so you don't add any extra moisture to the surface. Let the gesso dry completely and then turn your piece over and gesso the other side to prevent the chipboard from warping.
If you want the texture of the chipboard to show through your medium, don't use gesso. The downside though, is that the chipboard will really suck up ink or paint. If you're using expensive paint markers or pens, not only will the color be much, much lighter, but you'll use them up a lot quicker.
Gesso comes in white or black — white has been traditionally used by painters to prime their canvases. I buy it in bulk and then pour some into a Mason jar or into a small plastic bottle so it's more portable. If you mix white and black, you get a lovely neutral gray. I really like this gray gesso, because then I can use both a white pen and a black pen to add Zentangling or detailing!
If you would like to cover your chipboard with paper or fabric, you can stick it right on the wet gesso. In my opinion, using gesso as a glue works better and is more permanent than any of the glue sticks or bottled glue out there.
Clear gel or fluid medium works really well as an adhesive, as well as a coating on top of the paper for a nice protected smooth surface. If you want to be able to draw on top of the medium-covered paper, don't use glossy — choose matte medium.
You can add stitching with your sewing machine — make sure you have the sewing foot at its highest position and that the gesso/medium is completely dry. Punch holes with a heavy duty punch, an awl or Japanese screw punch. Use eyelets to connect small shapes together. Make sure you paint, stamp, or glue your paper down before you assemble your pieces or add eyelets. Choose eyelets that are either the same or just slightly longer than the thickness of your layers of chipboard. An eyelet that is too short won't hold your pieces together but an eyelet that's too long will get flattened over and look bad.
To attach chipboard to other surfaces, I like using double-sided foam tape. It has the most bang for the buck and it raises the chipboard up just enough so that you can tell that it's three-dimensional.
Erin Sparler is the founder of EyeConnect Crafts. She has designed over 50 different shapes of chipboard embellishments in her Totem Poppets and Lace-Ups lines — fun for crafting, art journaling, cardmaking and more.