How to Create Christmas Cards
I have been creating my family's Christmas card for the last fifteen years. It is a process I learned by doing. In the early years I printed my cards (always black and white back then) with the old tried and true paste-up method. These days I do all of my printing preparation on the computer. I must say here that I am NOT a digitally savvy person at all, so if I can do it, anyone can.
In this article I will walk you through my process for creating our Christmas cards using last year's card as an example. This is it on the right. My goal was to create a fun and colorful card that reflects the joy and hope of the season.
Where do Ideas Come From?
The idea for this particular card came to me while I was driving home from dropping my son off at school. I had recently received some promotional post cards from the Sierra Club that showed a grizzly bear. I was charmed by the bear's engaging expression and honey coloring. I was turning this image over in my mind and thought about how fun it would be to see this bear riding downhill on a sledding disk. I further embellished this mental image by putting the bear into a colorful Nordic sweater and hat. As soon as I got to a place I could stop safely, I quickly drew a sketch of my bear character on the back of an envelope. This little image became the genesis of our Christmas card for the coming Christmas. I must mention that this incident happened in May. I firmly believe that when inspiration strikes, you must respond as soon as possible. This helps your ideas retain their spontaneity and freshness. Also, as a practical matter starting Christmas ideas in spring or summer helps ensure that you will have your product ready in time for the big day!
My inspiration for my other Christmas cards have come from a myriad of other places. Some have been inspired by paintings from the Renaissance, medieval icons, magazine ads - the sources are too numerous to mention. All of them take a kernel of an idea from which my own image and message emerge. Take a moment to view my Christmas card gallery below to see some examples of some of my other cards. I'm flattered to know that a few of the recipients of my cards have collected them over the years. How great is that?
The Christmas Card Gallery
Here are a few examples of my Christmas cards from years past. When I print my cards I have them made into postcards. I like this format because I can get four cards from one sheet of card stock. Additionally the postage for postcards is cheaper than for a traditional card. However, if you wanted to print regular folded Christmas cards, you could certainly do it. You would just have them printed two-up as opposed to four-up for the postcard.
Once I find my inspiration, the actual production of the artwork begins. Since I am a watercolorist, most of my cards begin as paintings, though I have done many cards in pen and ink. I like to work in an 8 x 10" format, since this size can be reduced easily to 4 x 5", perfect for putting four-up with publisher software. The 8 x 10" size is also big enough to let me add detail and intricacy to the image.
When the artwork is done I either photograph the work or scan it on my scanner. Then the file is imported into the publisher software and saved. This publisher file is then sent to the printer where it is printed on card stock and cut into individual cards. I also have the back (or verso) of the card printed with my selected text (usually a Biblical quote or verse from a Christmas Carol) along with the right side of the card formatted for the address of the recipient and the stamp.
Creating your own Christmas cards is a fun and rewarding project. You get to customize your card to portray the images and messages you choose in a distinctly personal way. As you have read, the process is not difficult or expensive. I hope you'll consider building a tradition of personally designed and created cards for yourself and your family. It can bring an extra dimension of meaning to this festive, beautiful season.