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how to design greeting cards

Updated on July 31, 2012

Better Your Chances of Making Sales at Greeting Card Universe

Many artists upload their designs to GCU, then wonder why they haven't made any sales or their sales are in the very low (and let's face it, kind of depressing) figures. This lens will hopefully give you some ideas and tips on how you can design greeting cards that have a good potential to sell and earn you money.

The Art of Selling Greeting Cards

Stand Out From the Crowd


These days, many people are seeking ways to make an extra income. One route is through POD (print-on-demand) businesses like Zazzle. For artists and photographers looking to make more money, Greeting Card Universe is a specialized POD selling only paper greeting cards on-line. Artists can join for free, upload their designs, and start selling. I've ordered sample cards from GCU in the past, and the quality is high, comparable to retail stores.

Can you make $$ at GCU? Yep. I joined in February 2007 and I'm one of their top sellers. Not ready to quit, become a dharma bum and start living on my private island yet, but I do supplement my income. My experience so far points to a steady increase in sales each year. Here's a link to my GCU store if you want to take a look, and my other PODs as well:

CorrieWeb at GCU

CorrieWeb at Zazzle

CorrieWeb at Red Bubble

CorrieWeb at CafePress

New to GCU? More information can be found at GCU's website HERE.

Now I won't say you can retire tomorrow on your earnings. Anybody who thinks selling products using a Web-based business is easy and quick and your ticket to millions... well, maybe you should look into another line of work, or stop watching late-night TV infomercials. There's no get-rich scheme, no magic formula, no mantra that will make you wealthy overnight. If you want to make money, you have to work hard - period.

For a lens on how to market your GCU store, you'll probably want to visit HERE(a wonderfully informative lens, if I do say so myself *self-promotion horn tooting*). What I'm going to address in this lens is how to create cards that appeal to the buying public in general.

Many times on GCU (and other PODs, it must be said), I've seen would-be artists come in, slap up a few blurry photographs, do no marketing except mentioning their creations to family members, and complain when they don't get a lot of traffic to their store and make no sales after a couple of months. Sorry, folks, I'm going to be blunt - if you can't take a decent photograph, can't draw, can't write, and have no artistic abilities whatsoever, making greeting cards is probably not for you.

On the other hand, if you have a decent eye, a modicum of talent, possess a basic understanding of a graphics program like Photoshop, have patience, an imagination and/or a flair for verse - you might be able to make a success at selling greeting cards at GCU. How can you do that? Over time, I've learned a few things that have worked for me, and I'm going to share that information with you. So without further ado, here are my top 5 tips on how to design greeting cards for Greeting Card Universe that will better your chances of making sales.

Top Five Tips


First, study your market. Cruise over to one of the other greeting card retailers - you know, Mallhark and American Grootings and those guys *wink wink*. What kind of cards are they selling? What's popular? What's trendy? What new lines are they promoting? These people know the buying public like no other because they've commissioned market surveys, have many years of sales stats, etc., so taking a look at their selections will give you an idea about what kind of designs are hot. Don't be a copy-cat, though. Naughtiness (ie., copyright infringement) will only get you a cease-and-desist order and perhaps a day in court.

Need inspiration? I get inspired by all sorts of things including other artist's artworks, my garden, walking around the neighborhood, TV shows, movies, books... you name it. Keep your eyes open. If you're in a creative slump, do something else. You might be surprised to find that inspiration can strike at the oddest moments.


Art is subjective, and I'm not here to argue about what constitutes art or not. However, photographs should be sharp, well composed and interesting. Don't know how? There are a number of Squidoo lenses that address how to take photographs, and more information is available on-line (and through books). Yes, there's a lot to learn, but believe me when I tell you that nobody is going to buy an out-of-focus, oddly cropped, badly composed picture of your pet dog Wilbur (except maybe your great-aunt Gertrude, but she's a little odd anyway). Got a camera? Learn how to use it. Study professional photographs in magazines. Take a lot of practice shots while you walk down the street or in your garden. Just be aware that any photographs of people where the faces are clearly discernible will require a model's release on file before you can use that shot for greeting cards, unless they're antique shots of your own relatives.

Illustrators are a different breed, of course, but similar advice applies. Make sure your subject is appropriate to the greeting card's purpose (for example, a drawing of a toilet is probably not going to sell well as a 'happy birthday to my dear mother' card unless you've got a joke and a punch-line involved in there somewhere). Is a happy kitten with a hula-hoop appropriate for a sympathy card? You get the idea. The ability to sketch like Leonardo daVinci isn't necessary, but some modest skill and/or experience is a big help.

Artists who paint as a hobby or side-line should be aware that the number one thing they need to do is have good, well lighted, in-focus photographs or scans of their paintings. Very little is as dreary on a greeting card as a dark, out-of-contrast, out-of-focus painting. Whether landscapes, still lifes or portraits, you will need very good scans if you want to make good greeting cards. Images should suit the card's purpose.

Be your own worst critic. Ask yourself: 'would I buy this on a card?' Be honest with yourself. If the answer is no, it's time to start over.


A flair for the written word is a big plus when it comes to designing successful greeting cards. Be witty. Be profound. Be amusing. Be provocative. Be sincere. Be funny. Be passionate. The point is, cards with inner verse sell much better than blank cards. Don't believe me? Check cards in retail stores, or the grocery or drug store. The majority of them have inner verse because publishing companies know that sells best. Yes, I know that can be a difficult issue for many artists, but don't give up. Get inspired by quotes, books, poetry and songs (just be careful not to infringe anyone's copyright).

If you're really struggling in the verse department, consider a partnership with another artist (or family member, or friend) who does have a way with words. The other artist is likely going to ask for compensation (sharing the commission), so you'll have to decide if that's worth it. If you do decide on a partnership, my best suggestion is a contract that spells out both your obligations and responsibilities, so there's no possibility of trouble later down the road. You never know what's going to happen and when you might need legal protection, even if the other party is a member of your family. Be sensible.

If you're absolutely opposed to inner verse, if you can create a themed line of cards, that will help with your marketing and sales. For example, suppose you like to take pictures of your Chihuahuas in funny costumes. If you make a line of humorous Chihuahua greeting cards, you can market them towards the dog breed lovers. A mixed bag of general greeting cards is rather difficult to market successfully on-line.


Once you've created your design, check the composition of your greeting card as a whole. Does the text on the front work with the image? Does it look good? Is it eye-catching for the right reasons? Doing a slapdash job won't make you many sales, so take the time and do it right. Check other cards in the same category your card will be in, especially the popular cards. If your card looks amateurish or not very good compared to the other cards, do you think it's going to attract a lot of attention from buyers?

A really good photograph can be ruined by ill-applied or badly thought-out text, and vice versa. There's an awful lot of competition, and one way of standing out from the crowd is to make your designs look 'the business.' Your cards should have an overall look that speaks of quality, professional design. If you're not up to that level, and you're serious about wanting to make money with your own line of greeting cards, keep practicing until you are.

When I began at GCU, I made plenty of mistakes. Sometimes I cringe when I see one of my older cards. However, I persevered, I learned, i believe I've grown better as an artist, and my cards sell quite well, so I must be doing something right.


It's vitally important to know how to use a graphics program (your choice; while I'm a Photoshop gal myself, there are other programs out there, including free ones). Whichever one you choose, spend some time learning the basics, then go beyond the basics. You can find books and on-line tutorials to help you out while you learn the ins-and-outs of your chosen graphics program, then you can apply what you've learned to your greeting card designs.

One piece of advice I can give you is: don't try 'tricks' (like bending, stretching or morphing a line of text, or special filters, or distortions) unless you're 100% convinced this will actually help enhance your card. A lot of the time, it doesn't, and is considered a beginner's mistake in the greeting card industry. A card that's pared down, not overly fussy, but pleasing to the eye will often be more effective than a card laden with bells and whistles just because you can.


Patience is not only a virtue in the POD world, it's a necessity. Don't pack up your toys and leave the playground if you haven't sold a thousand cards in the few weeks your store's been open. If you're experiencing a sales slump, or you need to get your store kick-started, my other lens about marketing your GCU store has some good tips for you.

If you're truly serious about making extra money by developing and selling your greeting cards on-line, hopefully this lens will help get you on your way to success.

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    • profile image

      jean Ries Potter 3 years ago

      I am new any tips ? Ty!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hi Corrie. Thanks so much for the advice. The first card I bought at GCU was one of your cards. It was the perfect Father's Day card for my dad. I am a new artist at GCU and am looking forward to creating my first card for review.

      Cheryl (Agape Garden)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This looks like some wonderful info! I need to come back tomorrow when I have time to properly read and digest it. These darned day-time jobs really infringe on my creative time! LOL

    • Gigglish profile image

      Gigglish 5 years ago

      Very useful lens. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This was so helpful to me. I have been making greeting cards for years but could not figure out how to take the next step with online sales. I am grateful to you for all of your information and I am excited to get started.

    • bmthour profile image

      bmthour 7 years ago

      Wonderful Lens, it's just the kick it the pants that I need. Thanks for all the great tips and advice.

    • profile image

      jadavision 7 years ago

      Thank you soo much for this lens, I have found it very very useful, Thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hello Corrie and missminy! Wow, wish I'd paid more attention and saw these terrific lenses sooner! But, no time like the present! I have some reading and learning to do! Thank you for sharing all this terrific information!


    • profile image

      gavster23 8 years ago

      Great lens, helpful and informative, well written and appreciated.Thank you!

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 8 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Really nicely put together lens and very interesting. Blessed by a Squidangel

    • profile image

      dlgbzh 8 years ago

      very good tips, thanks !

    • profile image

      ernestine 8 years ago


      You've done it again! You're so generous with your expertise, skills and talent. Thank you.


    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 8 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Very excellent points you make! I really like the books you recommended. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Very helpful! Very clever you are. thanks for sharing.

    • SalonOfArt profile image

      SalonOfArt 8 years ago

      Corrie, it is so nice to have someone who has been successful in the POD world 'pass it on' to those of us who are trying hard to do the same. Thank you! I have created a blog to help my GCU card sales and I have a monthly newsletter on my art and new designs which I use Squidoo for at These both seem to be working well and I'm ALWAYS up for reading your great wisdom! I'll rate your lens and thanks again!


    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      A must read for those interested in getting started in greeting card design or those looking to improve sales. A very well written and amusing blend of the cold hard truth and practical tips on how to make your cards a success.