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Designing Your Own Holiday Cards

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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) that 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 artwork 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 that 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 four 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.

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 that 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 online. 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. 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, then 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 sturdier 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 of your choice.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Wow! And you’re creative too! Thanks, Dave!

  • Or you could just go to somewhere like moonpig.com and get something better, quicker and for less…

  • Yes, Christopher. Or even easier and more professional you could go down to your local bookstore and buy a pre-made card with a generic greeting in it. Or hey, why not an ecard. That’s about as impersonal and unoriginal as you can get.


  • Have you actually been to Moonpig or similar, Dave? The cards are completely professional but personalised, as opposed to generic, and therefore far superior to either your homemade suggestion or to pre-made cards or ecards. Quicker and cheaper too.

  • Yes, I’ve been to sites like that and I checked out Moonpig. Nothing wrong with them – excep that odd name. But that’s not the point of this article. The point of this article is to do the work yourself. To produce something which is a bit more personal and hand crafted, even if it’s harder and not as professional looking. Some people think that personal element has value.


  • Dave, the one thing that consistently impresses me about you is your incredible work rate. I genuinely have no idea how you manage to run your own business, have a family life, get involved in politics and write all the articles and comments you do for Blogcritics, to say nothing of your own sites. I for one have no time to spare for making my own cards as well.

  • I clearly have some sort of compulsive personality disorder, in addition to ADD. And I do write very quickly, which helps.

    Believe me, I’m not making my own cards either. It’s something I did once some years ago and I agree that it’s something you need to have time on your hands to take on.