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Mom and I have a long history of exchanging handmade cards. Store-bought cards can be wonderful, but there’s something special about knowing a person took the time to not just buy something but create something unique for you.

For this past Mother’s Day, I wanted to make a card that would be unlike any I’d sent her before: a pop-up card. It turns out the Internet has a treasure trove of tutorials and inspiring examples, so I picked one and ran with it.

Mine has a pretty simple front: a butterfly based on a design I pulled from an image search, with the black lines done in Sharpie marker and the color done with acrylic paint thinned with water. Mom likes blue and butterflies, so I couldn’t go wrong with a blue butterfly.

pop up card exterior

All the paper is Bristol paper: what comic books used to be drawn on before the digital age. I did all the butterflies and other colored pieces individually, then cut them out and glued them in place.

Here’s the interior:

pop up card interior

Thanks to the sturdiness of Bristol paper, which is a bit like cardstock, the card can be displayed open like this. It took me the better part of a Sunday to put it all together, but this barely scratches the surface of what’s possible in a pop-up card. People have made everything from multi-layered hearts to dinosaur skeletons, so clearly the sky is the limit in the pop-up master class.

The basic idea is pretty straightforward, though. The body of the card is two pieces of paper. For the interior pop-up sections, you cut one of those pieces along lines perpendicular to the center fold. You fold those cut-out sections so they pop up at right angles to the fold of the main card. Glue the inside piece to the outside piece, without putting glue on the folded pop-up sections. Finally, cut out and glue anything you want to attach to those sections.

Bristol paper is sturdy and well-suited to being painted and displayed, but it can be challenging to make precise, smooth cuts in it with scissors. I originally intended to cut out the butterfly antennae. I settled for drawing them on with Sharpie after I glued the butterflies in place. If I were making another card from shapes with finer, more complex details, I would try a thinner paper stock for those pieces.