Design Your Own Holiday Cards

With the right fonts and the right art, most computer users should be able to make their own holiday cards at a reasonable price, of a quality equal to most professional cards, and with unique personal touches you can’t buy in a store.

To start with, you will need some inexpensive and easily acquired items. You’ll need a good color ink-jet printer – Cannon, Hewlett Packard and Lexmark all make good quality printers at reasonable prices and they all have the same basic capabilities. Even models priced under $100 should do a decent job. You probably already have a color ink jet printer and it ought to do the job. The catch with any printer is that the ink runs out fast and will cost you in the long run, and holiday cards are likely to use a fair amount of ink.

You will need 70# or 80# 8.5×11 inch paper (may be called Bristol or card stock) in a light, neutral color (white, ivory or buff) which you can write and print on. If you’re going to put a family photo on the card you’ll also need photo paper to print it on, but if you plan to use holiday artowrk you may be able to get by without the photo paper. Alternatively you can also substitute a full-size sheet of photo-quality ink-jet paper and use taht for everything.. It would also be good to have either a blade-style or roller-style paper cutter and spray adhesive (we recommend 3M’s Super 77 brand – identical to their more expensive SpraMount brand, but more likely to be found in a hardware store than a craft or art store). You will also need a graphics editing program like Adobe Photoshop or one of the free or low priced alternatives like Seashore or GIMP.

Start by selecting the image you want to use on the front of your card. You can use a digital photo of your family, your dog or your Christmas tree, or whatever represents the season to you. You can also find good high-end seasonal clip-art online at sources like The Scriptorium. For the ideal result, shrink and/or crop your image to reduce it to a size of about 3.75 x 5 inches. In your graphics program lay out 4 copies of the image in a square on your page. Print this on your printer on photo quality paper using the photo-quality setting and highest quality. Once the print has dried, cut the four images apart and lay them aside temporarily.

Now you want to do the text portion of the card. This can be done well in a layout program like Quark Express or Adobe InDesign, but for a small job like this a good graphics program, like those mentioned earlier, will do just fine. Start by creating a document that is a full 8.5×11 inches in size. Pick attractive fonts for your greeting and type it in appropriate colors. Once you have the greeting text you will need to flip it upside down and position it in the upper left quadrant of your layout. You will probably also want to do a signature, credit, copyright or return address and put it in the lower left quadrant of the page, right-side up. It will be on the back of the card.

Font selection is an important part of your design. You’ll want to pick a font which is decorative and seasonal. Most of the fonts which come with your computer aren’t very appropriate, but there are good selections of more seasonal fonts available in our Holiday Fonts and Art package. You may also want to enhance your message with decorative initials or a seasonal border. Like all fonts, Decorative Initials start out in black and white, but they are easy to colorize. Using a dark color for the letter and lighter colors for the surrounding decorations usually works best and is easy to do using the paint bucket tool.

Next, fold your card in half along the shorter dimension. Then fold it in half again along the new short dimension, so that it has a blank side on the front and if you open one fold the greeting is right-side up on the right interior page. Take one of the images you printed earlier, spray the back lightly with spray adhesive and apply it very carefully, nicely centered, to the blank front side of the card. See the diagram above for details on folding. Be careful with the spray adhesive. It will theoretically allow you to peel off and reposition the image, but the longer you wait the stronger the bond is, and the force needed to peel off the image may cause it to be creased, damaged and unusable.

If you’re less concerned about appearance than simplicity and cost, instead of using expensive photo paper, you can print your image directly on the card stock. Just add the image to the lower-right quadrant of your layout before printing. This option works particularly well if you’re using a clip-art image rather than a photograph, and can produce a nice antique look with the right art.

At this point your card is complete. We recommend using the inside front page as a place to write a personal message. The double-folded structure of the card makes it more sturdy and helps it stand on its own more effectively. For mailing, use a standard 5×6 card envelope. Make sure you send it off in time to arrive by the holiday your choice.

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