Lozz Berry
U'Lair Cloud Stalker
Neru, Prince of the Desert.
Leviathan, Scourge of the Depths.
Ladybird and Dragon.
Big Cats:
Snow Leopard Cubs
Cub Club
Lion, King of Beasts
Blue Tits
Long Tailed Tits
Emperor's Son
Birds of Prey
Little Owl
Eagle Owl
Sky Master
Bald Eagle
Timber Wolf
Red Fox
Ferrari 250 GTO
'Old Sam'

Choosing appropriate backgrounds for parchment craft can be a tricky business. You want something that will not only enhance and highlight your parchmenting skills, but also something that will stay in the background and not draw attention to itself.

Backgrounds can create different moods, so that an image becomes either part of a story or a portrait in its own right.

Foreground as Background

The tiger in the articles section is a good example of putting the background into the foreground for maximum effect. The cut cardstock that creates the grasses in this card presents the tiger in his natural element – stalking and hunting. It reflects the ‘essence’ of tiger and, by creating a frame, draws the eye through to the main image.

The mood of the card could be altered completely by presenting the tiger as a portrait through matting and layering the image with no further embellishment. He would then lose the ‘natural and wild’ effect of the picture and become a static portrait.

Which effect you wish to create determines what kind of background to go for.

Different Background Techniques

For all of the examples below we have used the same stamp (Tulips) embossed in exactly the same way then coloured with the same pens. This is so that the only thing that affects the image is the background that’s been used.


Blending chalks are one of the unsung greats when it comes to backgrounds. You can create abstract swirls and rainbows for a romantic or fantasy look, blocks of a single colour to either contrast or complement the colouring on the parchment itself, or use it to suggest actual landscapes which lend reality and substance to a variety of elements.

The only real problem with chalks is the difficulty in producing a strong enough colour so that it shows brightly through the parchment.

This is easily seen from the image above as the green and blue blend together behind the vellum, losing the distinction between grass and sky. But if the faded look is the one you want then chalks are the way to go.


Rubber stamps come in such a vast array of sizes and themes for every possible occasion that it’s relatively simple to find something that will complement the main image.

For instance, if you’re embossing a floral image, such as our tulips, why not randomly stamp leaves, or bees, or any other floral-related image onto a piece of card to use as a background. Bear in mind that your background will need to have a dakr base colour as embossing doesn’t show up against white paper.

To create a more interesting effect you can tone down strong colours by stamping onto scrap paper first then stamping again onto your main card without re-inking the stamp, as well as straight from the stamp – giving you a multi-tonal effect that will show through the vellum in different strengths.

For our background above we’ve used a graduation of different greens for the base colour, from pale lime at the bottom to deepest forest at the top. On top of this we’ve stamped some ferns in a darker green. Because the colours are strong they allow the embossing to show, while the choice of ferns for the stamp retains the natural theme.


Most crafters have a selection of stamp pads in a rainbow of colours. Don’t think they’re just for stamping. You can use them to frame a cut out parchment image by dabbing ink around it’s edges. If you do this try to keep the colours complimentary. For example, on our coloured tulips we would use a deep red or green as these are the predominant colours of the design.

For the majority of the Purely Parchment Craft projects we recommend that you smear black, or any other very dark colour, directly onto the back of the parchment after you have finished the rest of the design. This direct application hugely increases the effect of the ink as it is able to seep into the vellum thus reducing the opacity. Embossing is made much more prominent using this technique allowing the viewer to easily see all the little details.


‘Paints are oddly frightening things for us normal crafters and I usually find that after I’ve bought a new set of even the most bog-standard watercolours just taking all the wrappers off seems a touch daunting. I think it’s because they all look so perfectly neat in their little packets and I know I’m about to make a shocking mess with them.’

It is worth the effort though as some fantastic effects can be achieved with even the most basic watercolour paint set, and best of all you need no experience with painting what-so-ever as all you are creating is areas of colour, not life-like detail.

A word of warning though -never apply a watercolour wash straight on to the vellum as this will cause it to warp horribly and be completely unusable.

Try to use colours that complement your parchment image and if you want a subtle wash then also use plenty of water. Use as many matching colours as you like in swirls or stripes, or go for a single colour if that is more suitable. It’s best to make a puddle of the colour, or colours, to be used for the wash before you begin so that you can test the intensity of colour on scrap card first, and also to make sure you don’t run out of wash before you’ve covered all the area.

Tip – when you’ve created a background you like, try scanning it into your computer. That way you can print it out again for an original background whenever you need one. Once on the computer you can also mess about with colours to get even more mileage out of your original piece.


Oil pastels are a firm favourite for bringing out the unique characteristics of parchment craft in a subtle, unobtrusive way. You can use either scented oils or plain white spirit to blend the colours, and precise colouring effects are possible with a little practise and a wad of kitchen towel folded into a point. Any mistakes are easily erased with an ordinary pencil eraser and depth of colour easily increased or decreased according to your needs.

You will need a reasonable quality set of oil pastels to get a nice smooth background as really cheap ones do tend to be a bit gritty in texture and thus need an awful lot more work with the kitchen towel to get them smooth

Having said this any artist quality ones will be fine, you don’t have to go for the ultra-expensive parchment craft branded ones.

Whether you’re using a parchment image as a matted topper, or using parchment vellum as a wrap, there are multiple ways of presenting the same image in many different ways. Be willing to experiment and bring in other crafting techniques. The only thing to remember is that a background should highlight the main image without drawing attention to itself.

If you have any good background ideas, why not send them in to us here at Purely Parchment Craft?

At: berry@purelyparchmentcraft.co.uk

We’d love to hear from you


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