How to Make a Printable Christmas Card from Scratch
Hand-made Christmas cards are one of the best ways to show you care for those on your Christmas mailing list. But getting enough unique cards for everyone on that list can be difficult. Replicating a design by hand is tricky and time-consuming. Custom-made cards can run from $6 to $8 each at craft shows or gift stores. So how do you find a card you can send to all your friends and family and still make it feel like it’s been made for them especially?
Last Christmas, I solved this problem with a Printable Christmas Card.
Printable Christmas Cards
In college, I started making cards for all occasions out of necessity, as driving to Walmart for a Hallmark card was out of the question. To my surprise I liked it so much I’ve never stopped. By 2014, I had discovered the perfect process to make Christmas cards for my family without breaking the bank. I made a single hand-drawn design and reproduced it with my home printer.
The cards I made this way were a hit. They’re completely unique in size and design. They’re made with materials I already had. There’s enough for everyone. And most importantly, they showed a personal connection through the obvious investment of time and thought – which is really what giving good gifts is all about.
I’ll tell you how to make your own in just a moment, but first let me give you some news I’m really excited to share. As a special gift to the Spare Room Project community, we’re making our own Christmas card design available for free download. Print Christmas greetings for pennies apiece by entering your email in the box below, and you’ll receive a link to download a PDF you can print at home. We’re thrilled to connect with our readers this way, and we promise to protect your privacy and your spam filter.
Four Steps to Printable Christmas Cards
Making printable Christmas cards breaks down into four steps. First, create a seasonal design or artwork you can be proud of. Next, scan and digitize that artwork. Third, use a word processor to create a document your printer can interpret. Finally, print and re-print those cards for your friends and family! Let’s get into those steps in detail.
Step 1: Artwork
For me, creating a good design means thinking about what I can do with what I have, and holding on to the first worthwhile idea. For 2014, I hit on the idea of using progressively smaller objects to draw perfect circles for a field of Christmas ornaments. On an 8 ½” by 5 ½” sketch pad, I used a 2H pencil to trace jar lids, loose change and a button to start.
I selectively removed lines to overlap the ornaments, and drew in ferrules (metal caps) before adding color with watercolor pencils.
I also made sure to reinforce my edge lines with a 2B pencil before scanning.
Step 2: Scanning and Digitizing
Be sure to scan with a resolution of at least 300 dpi (dots per inch; you can change this in your scanner’s options). The key to your printable Christmas card is to work larger than the final project, so you’ll want to aim for a picture that’s at least 2,500 pixels on a side.
I’ve divided this step because it’s a bit more than just putting your artwork on the glass; you’ll want to edit that image digitally before you print it. Crop the raw image to just inside the actual design. Colors often wash out when scanned, so take the opportunity to use a few simple color balance tools to make the image brighter and more vivid. I also cheated a bit and added depth of field to the image digitally in GIMP 2.8. Now rotate your image 90 degrees to the left; you’ll see why in a minute.
Step 3: Desktop Publishing
One of the perks of this method is that you can get two cards for every sheet; at that size, the card will remain sturdy and durable even with general-use cardstock. To do that, open a new document and change the following settings:
- Set the orientation to landscape
- Change the number of columns to two, with a 0.05pt line and no space to separate them
- Apply borders to the left, right, and bottom margins
- Set your left and right margins to the maximum print width allowed by your printer; in this orientation, they will be listed under top and bottom, respectively. You can usually find this information in your printer’s specifications; either check the manual or Google the model number. I found mine under the heading “Paper Handling Specifications.”
Now we have to do a little bit of math to set your bottom margin. Most word processors will let you drag and drop the image into this document, and it will automatically set itself at the maximum width for the column; in this case, that’s 5.25”. Now check the height of the image; here, it’s 3.63”. Multiply that number by two to find the final width of the card (7.26”). Now subtract that number and your top margin (an extra 0.25”) from the full width of the page to find exactly the size of your bottom margin so that the card will come out square (0.99”). Here’s the formula again:
8.5” (paper size) – 2 x 3.63” (height of image) – 0.25” (top margin) = 0.99” (bottom margin)
Step 4: Print and Re-print
Before starting your full run, always print a test page on regular printer paper in black and white, to make sure that your math and design are correct without wasting more expensive resources. Once you’re sure, you can print as many Christmas cards as you need on regular card stock. These cards are blank inside, allowing you to hand-write your Christmas greeting for an extra personal touch.
The cards will fit roughly into a standard security envelope, or you can fold your own envelopes from printer paper that fit much more snugly. Check back later this month for a video tutorial on how.
And that’s how to make printable Christmas cards at home!