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Review | Button Making Tools

Buttons are arguably one of the most popular basic embellishments in all of papercrafting, especially among scrapbookers and cardmakers. Even though buttons are commercially available in almost any color, shape, or size available, sometimes you want to be able to use your own supplies to make that perfect button as an accent for your project. There are several tools on the market designed to help you do exactly that, and we’re going to give you a closer look at three of them – Epiphany Crafts’ Button Studio, the Double Embossed Button Punch from Martha Stewart Crafts, and Papertrey Ink’s Buttoned Up #1 Die Set.

To do this, I’ve tested each one in my craft studio using a variety of materials- patterned paper, coasterboard, and 100% wool felt (wool felt has less “stretch” to it than synthetic and is better for die cutting in general) – and recorded the results to help you decide which of these tools might be right for you.

Button Studio by Epiphany Crafts:

The Button Studio from Epiphany Crafts is first up on our tour of button making tools. This little gadget is a self-contained one-stop shop for punching and assembling your own customized buttons. It allows you to easily select the exact part of the patterned paper that you want to use for your button. Several models of the tool are available to produce a variety of sizes and shapes of buttons, and the similar Shape Studio line of tools from Epiphany Crafts allows you to create acrylic shapes without the button holes in the middle.

Using the Button Studio tool is quite simple. You start out with just the base and an open lid…

…and then slide your patterned paper in until it completely covers the punch opening and displays the portion of the pattern that you want to use on your button.

A button blank (must be purchased separately) is then placed on top of the patterned paper but is not yet “pushed down” to adhere it.

The final piece of the tool is a plastic guide that helps line up the holes in the button blank with the “holes” in the (now obscured by patterned paper) punch mechanism below – thus the reason for not adhering the button blank to the patterned paper in the step above.

After everything is assembled, you close the lid, give the top of the mechanism a quick, firm (it requires some pressure, but not ridiculous amounts of it) press…

…and remove your completed button. I like the look of the plastic cover on top of the button, but I do need to point out that the punched paper never seems to line up perfectly with the button blank. It leaves a millimeter or so on one side hanging out from under the edge of the plastic top.

I experimented with some of the other test materials I had on hand and was able to punch through uncovered coasterboard to create a button, though one of the holes didn’t punch all of the way through. Covered coasterboard wouldn’t cut, and wool felt was too thick to even load into the paper slot.

Strengths

  • Allows you to easily use the exact part of the patterned paper that you want shown on your button
  • Produces the most realistic looking buttons of the tools reviewed due to the clear plastic blanks used to top the patterned paper

Weaknesses

  • Requires the purchase of blank plastic buttons specifically made for the tool
  • If you wish to make other shapes or sizes of buttons, a whole new tool and set of blanks must be purchased for each size and shape
  • Loose tolerances in either the punch alignment or button blank size cause a small (1mm or less) amount of patterned paper overhang on at least one side of the button

Martha Stewart Crafts Double Embossed Button Punch

The Martha Stewart Double Embossed Button Punch is definitely the simplest to use of the three tools being reviewed today.

The tool works just like any other paper punch: insert the paper you want to cut, squeeze the handle, release, and remove your completed button.

This punch adds a nice, heavy embossed edge to the cut for a more dimensional (and thus more realistic) look.

I was quite surprised to find that the punch actually cut through and embossed coasterboard, as most punches I’ve used in the past aren’t strong enough for anything thicker than heavy cardstock. Coasterboard covered in patterned paper though was, unfortunately, a no-go with this tool.

If I was surprised that this punch cut through coasterboard, I was even more shocked to find that it cut through wool felt, as well! The felt did not emboss, as is expected since it’s closer to cloth than paper and doesn’t hold creases in the same way, but the cut (including the holes in the middle) was nice and clean.

Strengths:

  • Does not require the use of any additional tools or supplies – all you need is the punch and the material to be punched

Weaknesses:

  • Closed punch mechanism does not allow you to see exactly where on the paper you are punching
  • Can only punch one size of button

Papertrey Ink Buttoned Up #1 die set

The last stop on our tour of button making tools is Papertrey Ink’s Buttoned Up #1 die set (a Buttoned Up #2 set with scalloped edges is also available). It’s definitely the smallest tool on the list, if you don’t take into account the fact that you also need a manual die cutter (the die is compatible with the Cuttlebug, Sizzix Big Kick/Big Shot, and many other popular die cutting tools) to use it.

I used this die in my Sizzix Big Kick, making my cutting “sandwich” with the multi-purpose platform (using all the tabs), an acrylic cutting plate, coasterboard covered in patterned paper, the die (face-down on the coasterboard), and then finally another acrylic cutting plate covering it all.

I then ran the sandwich through my Big Kick…

…and out came perfectly covered and shaped little buttons. The dies give a slightly rounded finish to the edges of the cuts, eliminating any layering effects from the paper that’s adhered over the coasterboard. These dies can also cut plain paper and felt.

If you are into stamping and would like to make more decorative buttons, this die has a matching stamp set called “Button Boutique” from Papertrey Ink that can be used to create less plain buttons.

Strengths:

  • Die can be placed over the exact portion of the patterned paper you wish to cut
  • Can cut several sizes of buttons with the same tool
  • Affordable – die is only $5 if you already own a die cut machine
  • Matching stamp set available to create decorative effects

Weaknesses:

  • Requires that you also own or have access to a manual die cutting machine that is compatible with the die

At the end of the day, all of these tools do the same thing: produce realistic-looking paper buttons that can be used on your layouts, cards, or other projects. In fact, all of the buttons styles coordinate together well when used in a single project, such as the layout below that uses examples produced by all three tools.

Supplies | Patterned Paper: Bella Blvd “Making The Team” (Borders, Football, Quadrants, Fan Club). Cardstock: Core’dinations (Elephant) . Letter and Decorative Stickers: Bella Blvd “Making the Team”(Alpha + Bits, Journaling Stickers, Miniatures). Yellow Label Stickers: Studio Calico “State Fair” (Yellow Labels). Flair Badge: American Crafts (Peep Backyard Flair). Journaling Spot: Elle’s Studio (Handmade Layers Cutouts). Twine: Doodlebug Designs (Beetle Black, Ladybug). Color Mist: October Afternoon (Paper Doily Sprinkler). Button Tools: Papertrey Ink, Epiphany Crafts, Martha Stewart Crafts. Punch: Martha Stewart Crafts (Star Border). Date Stamp, Tag: Office Supply. Pen: Zig Millennium (Black .03).

 

All of these tools are easy to use and produce attractive buttons. If you’re in the market for a button making tool, take some time to think about what shapes and sizes you may need and what materials you’ll want to use, then review the strengths and weaknesses of each option to help guide your choice.

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32 Responses to Review | Button Making Tools

  1. Fabrizio August 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    Thank you for this review, I’m tempted by the Marfa punch now :)

  2. May August 18, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    SUCH a fantastic article. Great work – and love the format. Makes it easy to compare/contrast what would be best for me. :)

  3. Renee J. August 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    Thank you for this great article! I like the way you pointed the strengths and weaknesses of each tool. I really like your layout, too, Melissa!

  4. Sara G. August 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    Great info! I am now eyeing a button punch or die. Probably the die :)

  5. Duckienz August 19, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    Just a note. I buy clear buttons then place a thin coat of a clear drying glue over the back of them. I then stick them onto my favourite pattern papers to create custom buttons. I simply snip around them with my scissors and create holes in them once it is dry. It means you do not need to purchase any machine to do it.
    You can also put a thin layer of paint behind clear buttons, let it dry then glue it to your LOs.
    Allie

  6. Tracey August 19, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    Same as Duckienz, I have a stash of clear buttons from a long time ago, and I’ve always just used small circle punches and glossy accents to create custom buttons. Sure, the Epiphany tool saves a few steps, but I find it rather expensive for something where you still have to buy the coordinating buttons (assuming you’ll be able to find them forever, which is never a guarantee. The punch the and die are pretty tempting, though, since they take up so little space and are so quick and easy to grab and use. Thanks for the review!

  7. AllisonLP August 19, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    great review. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Beth August 19, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    Love this review! Thank you! Been wanting to get a button maker, but didn’t want to waste my money if they weren’t what I wanted. This REALLY helps me decide which is best for me – thank you!

  9. agnes August 19, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    i have the MS button punch and i love it. so easy to use and if you are careful, you can punch that specific part of the pp you want.
    thanks for the review. so well explained and such a good visual.

  10. Raquel August 19, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    I have owned a few of Epiphany Crafts items since they first came out and I love them.

  11. Joyce August 19, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    Good, good report. The die seems the best to me, since I have a Cuttlebug, and 3 buttons at one cutting. Daughter wanted “teapot” buttons for a project .. yay Cricut and Glossy Acents and of course a hole punch. Buttons rule.

  12. Denise August 19, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    I have the Epiphany tool, the Sizzix which I use the basic circles to make buttons along with my Crop-a-dile. I don’t have the Martha Stewart punch, but now I want one. I love buttons!

  13. Gab August 19, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    Thanks for the review. I have the MS punch and really like it … but might have to look out for the die set too

  14. Emily August 20, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    I really appreciate this detailed review. I’ve been going back and forth on the Ephiphany button machine, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to make the investment. I love the concept and your step by step photos helped bring it to life. Now i’ve got to add the MS button punch to the wish list!

  15. Jennifer Priest August 21, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    Interesting review. One of the best features of the Epiphany Crafts Button Studio that was not discussed is that you can use it on PROJECTS, like home decor items or headbands. I guess you could use the paper buttons for that but after some time, they just would not hold up to any kind of long term use. There’s definitely some advantages to the EC Button Studio – it is the only tool of the three reviewed where you can actually see the exact place the button will be created from on the paper–you can’t truly do that with the die even though that was listed as a positive in your review of the die. Also, you can use the Epiphany Crafts Button Studio without the Buttons to make punched paper buttons with the insert in place when punching) and circles when you leave the insert out and punch paper by itself. Something to consider ;)

    [Editor's Note: Jennifer is a member of Epiphany Crafts' design team.]

  16. Penny Smith August 21, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    I have punched many, many epiphany buttons, and never had them punch off a mm??? Not sure how you even managed that!! It is made to punch RIGHT next tot the acrylic button!! And per the instructions, you load the acrylic button onto the 2 prongs on the insert, not place it into the opening. :)

    [Editor's Note: Penny is a design team member for Epiphany Crafts.]

  17. Melony Bradley August 21, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    The Epiphany crafts button maker is one of my favorite tools. I have used it to make Home Decor, Jewelry as well as some very unqiue gifts. Warning- their tools are very addictive, it is very diffcult to stop once we get going!

  18. Penny Smith August 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Thanks… But still, your suppose to put acrylic button onto prongs w/ the adhesive facing away from insert. Adhesive on button is over the holes at this point, so holds the button onto the prlongs until you then place the insert with button on it into the opening. The button doesn’t go into the opening first. Thanks!

    [Editor's Note: Penny is a design team member for Epiphany Crafts.]

    • Melissa Stinson August 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      Hi, Penny!! Thanks for chiming in.

      Okay, two things. First, in my article I may have put the button down first, but I didn’t “stick it” and did make sure it lined up with the prongs before punching (I tried to make sure I noted that in my text). Second, I *just* tried it again by putting the button on the insert first, with the adhesive facing away from the insert, and punched another button and mine is still off. :(

      The first time I used it I was following Epiphany’s instructions on their web site- http://epiphanycrafts.com/try-it-out.htm- but it seems to still be off either way.

  19. Jennifer Priest August 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    The picture showing the button crooked in the EC Button Studio is still there–doing that will break the prongs on the insert. Also, that might be why Melissa got a halo of paper around her button–if the button is twisting in the tool while punching (because it is crooked and being forced to twist when she inserts the prongs on the insert), it can be forced to pull up against the paper, causing the paper to punch larger than the button. If used correctly, this does not happen with the tool. It would be nice to see the use of the tool corrected because the review can’t be accurate if you are using the tool wrong, know what I mean? I appreciate your taking the time to address this Nancy :)

    [Editor's Note: Jennifer is a member of Epiphany Crafts' design team.]

    • Melissa Stinson August 21, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

      Jennifer,

      I may not have made it clear in my text, and I apologize for that, but I did rotate the button blank around in the tool to line up with the insert before punching- that’s why I made it clear that I didn’t “stick” it down first. I didn’t receive printed instructions with my tool, so I relied on their web site here- http://epiphanycrafts.com/try-it-out.htm- that said to put the blank in before the insert.

      Also, if I hadn’t aligned the blank with the insert before punching the holes would not have punched properly through the paper, which they did.

      I did just try the tool again by placing the blank on the insert guides before placing it in the tool’s base, and my punch was still off.

  20. Julie Walton August 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    Having used the Epiphany Crafts tools for some time now I felt like I had to make a comment. First of all, you are comparing a button maker that actually makes real buttons to a punch that punches out a button shape and a die that punches out a button shape, in other words apples to oranges. As others have addressed above in the comments, the photo of the button in the tool before it was punched is very misleading, the button is placed on the prongs on the button insert with the adhesive side facing out, then it is placed into the tool lining up the notches on the button insert and the tool itself. The button is never placed in the tool itself. Punching correctly will produce the correct punched size for the button. Punching without the insert in either the button maker or the studio shape maker for the bubblecaps can damage the tool. NOw on the other hand if you were working with the Shape Studio tool you would place the bubble cap directly in the tool and then place the insert and punch, so perhaps you were confused with the way the Button maker worked?

    [Editor's Note: Julie is a member of Epiphany Crafts' design team.]

  21. Melissa Stinson August 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Thanks to everyone for responding.

    I may not have made it clear in my text, and I apologize for that, but I did rotate the button blank around in the tool to line up with the prongs on the insert before punching- that’s why I made it clear that I didn’t “stick” it down first. I didn’t receive printed instructions with my tool, so I relied on their web site here- http://epiphanycrafts.com/try-it-out.htm- that said to put the blank in before the insert.

    Also, if I hadn’t aligned the blank with the insert before punching the holes would not have punched properly through the paper, which they did.

    I did just try the tool again by placing the blank on the insert guides before placing it in the tool’s base, and my punch was still off.

  22. Amy C August 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Great review!! I have the Martha Stewart one……maybe I should pull it out and give it a whirl today. ;)

  23. Nancy Nally August 22, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    I would like to take a moment to remind commenters that Scrapbook Update’s comment policies requires disclosure if you have an association with companies that you are commenting about.

  24. Penny Smith August 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    I disclose that I design with Epiphany tools… and that I still have no idea how you managed to have the paper not align the button when you punched (a mm is about impossible).

  25. Jersey Girl Anne August 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    thanks for the review. I think I will be purchasing the MS punch.

  26. Tere August 22, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    Thank You so much for the review!!
    Everytime I go to M’s or J’s I see that specific Martha Stewart punch but wasn’t sure I wanted to buy it, now I’m!!
    The Papertrey Ink die is also in my list of future purchases!!!

  27. Nina August 23, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    I saw the “Button Studio from Epiphany Crafts” at the Scrapbook Expo this past weekend and it is way too costly just to “make” a button! Even the gal doing the demo mention that it “occasionally” will slip, but hey you can just make it over…..the card of “buttons” for this machine was going for $6.00 and I’m going to do a “do over”….don’t think so! I was also a bit disgusted that tho they had a booth at the Expo they were not offering any “deals”, like buy 1 get 1 1/2 off or buy 2 get 1 free….$19.95 for 1 punch, plus the cost of the button blanks, this “tool” won’t be joining my tool collection.

    I like the MS punch, your review sealed it for me, thanks, as well as the Papertrey die.

    As usual great review, love this site!!!

  28. May August 23, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Great article – I think I’m going to cave and buy the Martha punch. If I add some glossy accents or embossing powder on top – I’ve got a sturdier button that sure can get used on any kind of project at all.

    Love your pro/con method of review. It’s very helpful!

    • May August 23, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

      oops! didn’t realize I already commented on this article! I just get so excited about buttons…

  29. Mandie Wade August 23, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

    I have 3 of the Epiphany Crafts button makers and I love them all! I have had ZERO issues with things not lining up… and I’m NOT on their design team, just a very happy customer. As was pointed out before, you can use the buttons you make in apparel and decor as well. I have several very cute hair clips that I have made with my button maker.

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