Paper Scoring


“You may get skinned knees and elbows, but it’s worth it if you score a spectacular goal.”  Mia Hamm

Luckily, paper engineers generally don’t skin their knees and elbows in the paper studio.  Nonetheless, learning to score paper in a clean and accurate manner is not only essential to making your pop up mechanisms work properly, but will also give your cards a professional look.

Pop up birdhouse

Some mechanisms require extremely accurate scoring in order to work. This card closes flat and opens to reveal a beautiful three dimensional figure.

butterfly and star

These pop ups required clean accurate scores as well.


There are a number of tools available to aid in paper scoring.


scoring tools


To score accurately, you need a stylus and a ruler.  The stylus can be as simple as a ballpoint pen whose ink is dried up, or the pointy edge of a compass.  Some folks even use a safety pin.

To make a clean score, hold your scoring tool at a 15-20 degree angle to the paper.   Line up your ruler and draw the stylus toward you, using light pressure to make the score.  If you hold your tool at too high an angle, you can tear the paper.

Some folks differentiate between scoring and creasing.  In the art of Origamic Architecture, scores are made with a blade.  The artist cuts into the top 1/3 of the paper (no more!!) to make a score.  They use a bone folder or other indenting device to make a crease in the paper.  To see beautiful examples of Origamic Architecture, click here.

Paper Crafters generally use the word “score” to mean “crease” or “indent” into the paper you are working with.

You can buy a tool made specifically for scoring, like the one shown above.  It was part of a tool kit from Punch Bunch.  It’s unique in that it has a number of interchangeable stylus heads for scores of different depth and width.

Paper Craft Museum has a great “Advanced Tutorial” which discusses proper scoring techniques as well as a number of other paper crafting techniques.

Measure and Score

So really, it is that simple.  You just measure and score the paper you are working with.  But therein lies the rub…Measuring and squaring your paper to make accurate scores can be tedious.

One of the first and most useful tools I ever purchased was the self healing cutting mat with a 1/2 inch grid.  It makes measuring and squaring your tools to your paper so easy.  The one shown above is from Alvin. These mats come in a variety of sizes and grids.  (When you start cutting paper, your kitchen table, your phone books and your blades will thank you for purchasing a self healing mat.)

Any ruler will serve you for scoring, but the flexible stainless steel ruler with a cork backing is ideal for both scoring and cutting.  Plastic and wood rulers will eventually become “unstraight” after a number of cuts.  I like to turn the ruler “cork side up” for scoring, and “corkside down” for cutting.

I do a lot of scoring these days.  I recently purchased a scoring board from Martha Stewart Crafts and I am very, very pleased with it.  It makes accurate and precise scoring quite easy.

martha stewart scoring board


Simply find the center of your piece and align it with the center of the scoring board.  Use the scoring tool to indent the paper.  I’ve created a number of complicated folds using this $20 tool.  Here is a link for more information.

The Scor-it-All board is recommended by paper crafters as well.

Accurate scores create beautiful art…

Accurate scores can help create beautiful art.

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