Pop-up Birthday Card

Brandon Mise demonstrates his printing technique on this pop-up birthday card.


Brandon Mise was a San Francisco graduate student studying writing when a friend told him about a popular local book arts center. He immediately fell in love with the craft. As a writer Mise was able to not only write words, but to make his writing more personal by hand-making the structure that they were printed in as well.

Materials and Tools:

image designing software
polymer plate material
large roll of double-sided adhesive
negative of design
platen press
metric ruler
violet and white rubber-based printer's ink
pallet knife
tracing paper
craft knife
transparent tape
gauge pins
painter's tape
glue stick
glue dots




1. Create a birthday card design that will fit on a 7" x 7" square. Create an additional design that will fit on a 4-3/4" x 10-1/2" sheet. This will be the wrap-around and base for the pop-up.

2. Separate the design's various colors into their own files and have negatives made of these images.

3. Place each negative on a polymer plate that is slightly larger than the negative. Make sure that the emulsion of the negative is facing the emulsion of the plate. The design should read backwards when you look at it.



4. Open the exposure drawer on the plate maker. Put the negative and the plate down on the vacuum tray and turn on the vacuum unit. Place the clear plastic sheet on top of the plate and smooth out all the bubbles and wrinkles, this creates even suction. Secure the negative tightly to the plate making sure it is still in proper position.

5. Turn on the UV exposure unit, expose the plate for 45-60 seconds. The image is now burned into the plate. Repeat the process for the remaining plates.



6. Put away the negatives. Put all plates in the washing unit; fill the wash tank with water. When it is just above the plates, bring the brush unit down on top of the plates and wash for eight minutes. All of the plate material that was not exposed is water-soluble and will wash away, leaving a raised backwards image of the design.

7. Shake water off the plate and place it in the drying unit for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the plate.

8. When the plate is dry, apply double sided adhesive to its back. Trim the adhesive to size with scissors. Remove the paper backing from the adhesive.



9. Select colors you will print in a pantone swatch booklet. The booklet will give you proper ratios of various inks that will be needed to arrive at the desired color. With a pallet knife work the inks together until they form a consistent color.

10. Smear a thin coat of ink on a sheet of the paper you will be printing on to make sure it is the proper hue. Generally, the lightest portion of the smear will be what the ink will look like when printed.



11. Apply a small amount of ink to the ink disc on the press. Cycle the press until the ink is evenly distributed. The press is operated with a foot treadle.

12. Place the plate with the design for the wrap-around piece in the bottom left corner of the boxcar base.

13. Tape a sheet of tracing paper to the tympan. Print the image onto the sheet of tracing paper. Draw grid lines on a clean sheet of the wrap-around paper to give you a clear idea of where the design should be.



14. Attach a piece of tape at the top corners of the wrap-around paper, slide this paper under the tracing paper and align it so that the design on the tracing paper is aligned to the grid you have drawn. Attach the wrap-around sheet to the tympan and remove the tracing paper.

15. With a craft knife make two 3/4-inch slits into the tympan, about 1/4 inch below the attached wrap-around sheet, so that there is a slit under each corner. Make a similar slit to the left of the sheet in the middle of the sheets length.



16. Slide gauge-pins into the slits until they rest lightly at the edge of the wrap-around sheet. Lock into place and remove the taped sheet.

17. The image should be registered properly. Make slight adjustments as needed.

18. Print the entire stack of wrap-around sheets by feeding the sheets into the press just before it closes, removing the printed sheet as it opens back up and feeding another sheet before it closes again.

19. Re-ink as needed. Clean the press. Repeat this process for both colors of the inner birthday card.



20. Score the wrap-around paper in thirds.

21. Fold the birthday card square in half in one direction and then in half in the other direction. Unfold.

22. Fold the square from corner to corner in both directions. Unfold.

23. Bring the bottom and top edge of the card to the middle of the page and fold so that the folds divide the paper into quarters. Unfold. Repeat this step with the left and right side.



24. On the back of the folded card apply glue with a glue stick. Carefully set the card face up into the bottom two thirds of the wrap-around and smooth the glued areas to the card.



25. As you fold the card up carefully guide all the folds of the birthday square so that they are neatly hidden away when the birthday card is closed. Open and close to ensure its function.

26. Apply a gummy dot to the inside unused third of the wrap-around. Close firmly so that the pop-up birthday card does not open again until it is given to its intended recipient.

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