Make Your Own
Greeting Cards

All you need to know to make your own personalised greeting cards.

OK -  it’s not as easy as buying cards from your local superstore, but you can make your own so easily in your photo-processing software.  These instructions were written for Corel PaintShop Pr X8 and the same steps will work for any digital editing software such as, earlier versions of PaintShop Pro,n Photoshop (any version) and Photoshop Elements.  

The procedure will work for any style of greeting cards - birthday, graduation, thanksgiving, new years - any major date in your life and pretty much any editing software you may wish to use.

What you will need

  1. Making greeting cards is an intermediate/advanced level tutorial.  You may need to check out your skills in; Composing an image; RAW or basic image processing; Making adjustments such as levels, curves, contrast, brightness, white balance, Cropping, Using layers, Re-sizing and Printing.

  2. You will definitely need PaintShop Pro X8 (or similar); A scene suitable for the front of your card; An image suitable for the back of your card;Fonts to match the style of any wording you use; A good quality card on which to print your greeting cards (see below); Envelopes in which to send your awesome greeting cards; A printer capable of meeting the needs of your print (see below); Somewhere for the prints to dry – preferably a flat clean surface.

  3. You may possibly need - Access to colour profiling for the printing (or a lot of time, card stock and patience) and a good quality trimmer to cut large card sheets into smaller ones.

Greeting Cards
Procedure

Step One - The Planning

This is the greeting cards most important stage  – get this bit wrong and it costs money and grief.  This step will probably take you 10 times the other steps put together.  Make copious notes of what you do.  If the project is successful, you won’t need to go through it again next time.

Ask yourself "what's the purpose of the greeting cards"?

Mine was to show my skills as a photographer to my friends at Christmas and to give them an item which could be framed and saved.  This is a high-level task because one doesn’t want to look a complete “dipstick”.  

If you can’t match your own expectations you have two choices; go to the superstore and buy some pre-printed cards OR practice your skills and make the grade by making your own greeting cards.

I started my greeting cards planning in September so I could meet a late November postal deadline!

My images were from several I thought might make the grade; they were processed and printed several times as trial runs before two candidates were chosen in a couple of process versions.

In the first mock-up the final two were chosen.  This final decision was as expected because as you’ll discover should you follow my journey, the choice of printing greeting cards stock and envelope will influence your choice of image and process style.  This subjective bit is the most difficult; only you can make it; this is point of no return.

You can go to a good office supply store and buy packs of blank greeting cards with envelopes ready for printing.  If you choose this route the next stages in planning are unnecessary for you.

You will need to know ...

  1. The maximum thickness of paper/card your printer will accept and will stand as a card without collapsing.

  2. If your printer will print acceptably onto non-photo-paper surfaces.  Some printers roll the card around the drive rollers as they print and so thicker cards jam the mechanism.  Some printers will only feed thick cards singly through special feeders.

  3. The final size you would like your cards.

  4. If your image will look good on a chosen surface and colour and texture.

  5. If you can cut large card sheets successfully into smaller ones without them fouling the printer head.  Stray shards from cut card will destroy print heads and transfer ink everywhere inside the printer for it to emerge later on other print runs.

  6. If you can marry your greeting cards with a suitable envelope.  (colour, quality, size).

  7. If you can fold the card after printing without damage.  UK postal requirements give 5mm thickness for the basic tariff.

After deliberation and investigation, I chose

  1. From a Hobby superstore 300 g/sq. metre watercolour paper (card) in a very pale cream embossed surface for my Christmas greeting cards.
    The sheet was approx. 50 cm by 70 cm making it easy to use a Rotatrim to cut 9 cards in 3 rows of 3 from each sheet. (10 cards could be achieved but cutting was less easy).

  2. From a different office supply store C6 envelopes in a matching pale cream high quality finish.

The total cost per card and envelope un-printed at Dec 2015 prices was 38 p for a 4 inch by 6 inch (approx. folded size) card.  Rough estimates put between 5 p and 10 p onto this for printing.

So what about on the other side of the pond? Not an easy task to find suppliers when you don't know them from a couple of thousand miles away.  I asked some photographer friends who they used for art and craft supplies and then tracked down comparable materials.

Similar board from the same manufacturer that I used is available in 22 inch by 30 inch sheets.

Cutting 10 cards from each board is tight but do-able.  9 cards could be cut with ease making the cost of each card in the $.45 to $.50 range.

The correct envelopes were available inthe smallest office size pack at around $.16 each and a rough estimate for printing is between $.08 and $.15 each.

All of this means that the costs are about the same in the UK and the US and probably a bit higher in Canada.

Stage two – the images

This bit of the decision making process is so subjective and personal and relies on objective assessment of how the image looks on the card itself.

You will need to take into account ...

  1. The texture of the finish.
  2. The uptake of the ink by the card.
  3. The colour of the card.
  4. The amount of ink in your image.

Original repaired and spotted

My 2015 Christmas card was chosen from a series of snow scenes.



The texture of the card complemented the texture in the footprints in the snow.  The scene was at sunrise.  When the colour balance was undertaken the blue cast in the shadows in the snow was decreased slightly and the yellow colour in the sky was increased only very slightly because the card itself had a very slight colour tint.

The contrast was increased because the tonal range of a watercolour card is lower than that of photo-printing paper.

The brightness of the shadow tones was increased slightly to prevent blocking in and bleeding of the ink.  I use a colour management system so that my monitor and my printer give the same colours.  Whatever I see in PaintShopPro, I see on the print because the paper has been matched.

If you don’t have ICC profile access, you can buy into a profiling service or you can print and tweak until it looks right.  PaintShopPro X8 has only basic colour management; the use of ICC profiles for control of printing is through the printer’s own dialogue boxes.

It’s perhaps at this stage that you need to do a dummy run with an image and a sample of the card you intend using.  A 6 inch by 4 inch sample is enough to assess the capability of the image, printer, ink and card components.

Once you’ve made your image, save it as a TIFF file (or PSD file or PSPImage file if you think you’ll need to re-edit it).



Stage three 
Preparing the image for the front of the greeting cards

You will need to know if your printer will print right to the edge of the card.  Some won’t.  You may need to consider placement of the image carefully to prevent loss of the image at the edge of the card.

A 4 inch by 6 inch image needs to be about 1000 pixels by 1500 pixels.  You can resize the image in Image > ReSize.

The image needs a border to “stop the image drifting off the page”.  The easiest way to achieve this is by increasing the white border; adding a thin coloured border; and adding a final white border.

Image > Add Borders - in the dialogue box keep the “symmetric box” checked.  Use a size of about 50 pixels.  Click OK

Image > Add Borders - click onto the Color box to choose a colour from a colour palette, or move the cursor to the image and it will change to a colour picker so you can select from the image.  Use about a value of 10 to 15 pixels.  Click OK when you’ve found a colour which suits – the dominant one from the image or its colour wheel opposite work best.  I chose the dark area bottom right as a sample for the border.

Image > Add BordersSelect ‘white’.  Use a size of about 50 pixels.  Click OK

If your card is going to be a ‘landscape’ rather than ‘portrait’ design you need to do the next step.  Omit it if the design is ‘portrait’ rather than ‘landscape’.

Image > Flip > Flip VerticalNow save your prepared image under a new name again as a TIFF file.

You’ll see that my image has been lightened as part of the ongoing development process.



Stage Four
Preparing the image for the back of greeting cards


A 1 inch by 1.5 inch image needs to be about 250 pixels by 350 pixels.  You can resize the image in 

Image > ReSize - the image needs a border to “stop the image drifting off the page”.  The easiest way to achieve this is by increasing the white border; adding a thin coloured border.

Image > Add Borders - in the dialogue box keep the “symmetric box” checked.  Use a size of about 10 pixels.  Click OK

Image > Add Borders - click onto the Color box to choose a colour from a colour palette, or move the cursor to the image and it will change to a colour picker so you can select from the image.  Use about a value of 3 to 5 pixels.  Click OK when you’ve found a colour which suits – the dominant one from the image or its colour wheel opposite work best.

I used the border colour from the one I used as the front border colour.

Now save your prepared image under a new name again as a TIFF file.


Stage five
The choice of font

This is probably the most difficult part of the process.

I would suggest using a word-processing package such as WORD (Office) and making your greetings line several times; choosing a few contenders for the font; typing the name of the font at the end of the line; printing it out; and viewing it against the image selections.



Again, font size is a very personal preference.  You might print out your chosen text in the chosen font at a few font sizes and view it against the images just to get the feel of it.  The choice of font colour is again so very personal; try different combinations until you are sure it’s sympathetic with the message.  Once you’ve made that selection, you’re ready to start the card assembly.

I chose the image border colour as the colour for the main text.  The text colour for the rear of the card was a neutral mid-grey.


Stage six
Assembling greeting cards

Assuming that you’ve got your images as TIFF files in the configurations suggested you’re ready to roll.

If you are making a card which will be presented in the landscape mode, you’ll actually place the image onto a piece of card which will be printed in the portrait direction – the front image part is placed inverted at the top of a piece of card which will go through the printer in the portrait direction.

If you are making a card which will be presented in the portrait mode, you’ll actually place the image onto a piece of card which will be printed in the landscape direction – the front image part is placed on the right hand side of a piece of card which will go through the printer in the landscape direction.

Confusing isn’t it – but the diagrams should make it a little clearer.

Make two new blank files; for a 6 inch by 4 inch card the files should be white background, 250 to 300 ppi, 6 inches by 8 inches.  For a landscape card you need the files to be portrait mode; for a portrait card you need the files to be landscape mode. (All will become apparent).  Save one of them as “inside.pspimage” or “inside.psd” and the other as “outside.pspimage” or “outside.psd”.  Ensure that compression is zero or minimal.  Embed the ICC profile.  Set the version to be compatible with early versions of the software only should you want to work on the file on another PC.

Study the layout images below as a guide to where to locate the components.  Save the files as layers and also save a JPG of each file so you can inspect it in your browser.

At this stage, go and do something else, then check your work later in case you want to modify the layout.


Greeting Cards Landscape Front
Greeting Cards Landscape Inside

Landscape Front

Landscape Inside

Greeting Cards Portrait Inside
Greeting Cards Portrait Front

Portrait Inside

Portrait Front


Stage seven
Printing

The rules

  1. Every printer is different.
  2. Some printers won’t print right to the edge of the card. 
  3. Every print feed is different.  Some feed the top of the image first; some print on the front (top of the stack).
  4. Every printing paper is different.
  5. Every ink set is different.
  6. Every greetings card is different.

PaintShop Pro has no way of communicating the colour profile to the printer – you’ll need to use the printer’s own dialogue box to set this up.  If you have no way of setting a colour profile, you’ll need to experiment with the image settings and print test prints.  There are third party printer/printing programs which can help – and that’s outside the scope of this tutorial.


The advice

  • Take a small piece of the printing card and print the images and the text separately (you should have saved them this way as well as the assembled card files) to check for colour etc.

  • When you print the cards as complete entities PRINT THE INSIDE GREETINGS PART FIRST because that has less ink to dry.

  • Let the cards dry singly for at least a couple of hours before printing the next side.

  • When you print the cards, especially the fronts, collect them from the printer individually to dry them, don’t allow them to stack and transfer ink to the next card.

  • Let the cards dry singly for at least a couple of hours before folding and finalising.

  • ALWAYS do a test for one card before printing a batch.

  • ALWAYS print in small batches – say around 10 cards. 


So there you have it – a few months experimentation – but next year it should be so much easier to do.


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