One way is paper piercing. We'll be using this technique in my upcoming class, but you can easily practice at home. If you don't have a piercing template, any ruler will work...for the straight lines. Line up the ruler and pierce every 1/8 inch. To pierce a different shape, cut out the shape and do your best to punch evenly around the shape. It's really not that hard once you get the hang of it.
In the card below, I pierced around the green stopping when I got near the sentiment. No embossing, no fancy die cuts, just a little bit of piercing to add accent to the card design.
Your piercing can also be the focal point of your card and I'll post more examples of paper piercing after the April 23 class.