By Valerie Battaglia
‘Tis almost the holiday season, which often entails scrambling at big box stores for holiday cards or rushing to order custom ones online – but what could be more custom than cards made by hand?
Handcrafting holiday cards can be relatively easy, depending on what supplies you have and the amount of time you’re willing to put into crafting. Seasoned crafters can probably knock out a few in an hour, whereas beginners may spend 30 minutes on one card.
Nevertheless, DIY holiday cards are a rewarding and one-of-a-kind pursuit. Even those who can barely draw a stick figure can create a card that someone special appreciates, especially if they follow these steps.
Get your supplies
- Blank cards
- Pens, colored pencils, or markers
- Decorative tape (also known as washi tape)
- Glue sticks
Photographs or stickers
Warning: if the recipient is a parent or grandparent, the card may leave them teary-eyed. Consider bringing tissues, too.
All of these supplies may be purchased from a local craft store or online. If you’re purchasing everything brand new and in bulk, rather than individual cards, pens, glue sticks, rolls of decorative tape, or singular stickers, it will be at least a $30 investment, not including tax or shipping.
But a little bit goes along way while cardmaking. A $30 budget will be enough for a box of 48 blank cards and there’ll be enough surplus of the other supplies to last for other crafting projects.
Organize and store your supplies
Implementing proper storage is vital to preserving your supplies. If you only plan on card making for the holidays, a plastic art supply box with tiered shelves or a small plastic drawer will suffice.
However, if you intend on crafting as a hobby or a side business, you should invest in a desk with shelving. IKEA has affordable desk options in a range of shapes and sizes with shelving or cubbies. From a decorative standpoint, having all of your supplies displayed on shelves also adds color to a room and doubles as a fun conversation piece.
Choose an art medium
Choose an art medium you feel most comfortable with to ensure your card is legible. For those with smaller handwriting, colored pencils or fine-point pens and markers will make it easier to fill out the card and easier for the receiver to read the message inside.
“I personally use fineliner pens ranging from sizes of 0.05 mm to brush sizes,” said Amy Liston, a crafter from the United Kingdom who turned her hobby into a part-time job online. “For inks, I use Winsor and Newton, and metallic pens to sparkle things up a bit.”
To stock up on cards and envelopes in a variety of sizes, Liston recommends Anita’s Cards, an Amazon retailer who specializes in stationary.
Additionally, Paper Source, a specialty craft supply store in Philadelphia, has everything you need to create your own holiday cards, including stationary, envelope inserts, stickers, custom postage, and washi tape, among many other niche supplies.
“For cards and envelopes, I recommend anything from our paper bar,” said the Paper Source store manager who preferred to be known only as “Mary.”
Gesturing to a wall of stationary in hues from red to blue, Mary added, “You can do a lot with washi tape, but the heat embosser is amazing. It gives cards a nice finish that kind of feels like a thermography.”
At Paper Source, heat embossing is done with a clear VersaMark stamp, embossing powder, and a heating tool to achieve a glossy look, Mary explained.
“We also sell a lot of kits that can be put on the front of the cards, like 3D snow globe stickers or stamps,” she said.
Decorate the card
First, line the outer edges of the card with decorative tape. Generally, decorative tape comes in rolls that are 0.5, 0.3 and 0.1 inches wide, which you can play around with to alter the dimensions of the “blank space” inside the card.
Begin with 0.3 inches decorative tape on the left and right edges of the card, then line either side of the card’s fold with 0.1 inches decorative tape. Finish by lining the top and bottom edges with a 0.5 inches decorative tape.
Once you’ve finished lining the card, it’s time to begin decorating with stickers or pictures. The more you focus on decorating the card, the more unique it will be.
“I love using festive and seasonal colors, but this is the best time to use metallic pens or anything sparkly,” Liston added. “You can never have too much sparkle at Christmas.”
For the front of the card, Liston uses ink and fineliner pens to do detailed artwork and calligraphy. She gravitates toward nature themes, but plans on selling pun-driven holiday cards this season.
“I watercolor in my spare time, so I normally paint a skyline on the front,” Mary said. “Hand-lettering can really elevate a card, and we teach a hand-lettering class here on Thursday nights from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.”
Add stickers or images
Stickers of snow-covered evergreen trees, snowflakes, snowmen, and presents will tie the holiday theme together. Gluing old photographs from previous holidays is another way to capture the season that will breathe nostalgia and meaning into the card.
“Anything with glitters can be used to look like snow,” Mary said. “We sell Stickles and Quickie Glue Pens to give a dot of glitter for really fine detail.”
If you’re gluing in photographs, carefully wipe off excess glue from the card before closing it. Place the card under a flat, heavy object (for example, a textbook) and allow time to dry.
“Ink smudging can be a bit of a pain too, but it adds to the handmade feel of the card,” Liston said. “In the words of Bob Ross, it’s just a ‘happy accident.’ However, it’s good to let things dry in layers to prevent it. I like to put a bit of paper behind the front of the card so no glue or ink transfers onto the inside.”
Additionally, Mary recommended using washi or painter’s tape to “block out” the card so that nothing bleeds into that space.
“I’d say do a test run of the card beforehand,” Mary said. “You can also use another piece of paper to map out the part you’re trying to do.”
Decorate the envelope
If you plan on mailing the card, place it inside of another envelope or package from the post office so the decorative envelope doesn’t get damaged.
“I leave the envelope blank since I mail my cards to customers, so I leave decorating it up to them,” Liston said. “But, I tend to add sweets and favors in the postage envelope to let them enjoy the parcels themselves.”
Decorating the envelope follows a similar process to decorating the card. Begin by lining the top and bottom of the envelope’s back with varying sizes of decorative tape.
Caution: don’t forget to leave space in the middle of the envelope to write the receiver’s name. If you’re particularly artistic, you can also draw a small portrait of the receiver in the center of the envelope.
On the front of the envelope, line the left and right sides of the flap with 0.3 or 0.1 inch decorative tape. Then, line the top and bottom edges of the envelope with 0.3 or 0.5 inch decorative tape.
Continue decorating the front of the envelope with stickers, googly-eyes, or doodles. Consider drawing a pair of lips on the seal that says “OPEN ME!” to add a playful and intriguing spin.
Furthermore, Mary recommends tracing a piece of decorative paper to match the shape of the envelope and gluing it inside to add a three dimensional look.
“You can use a seal to close it,” Mary added. “A sticker on the flap is always nice. Paper Source also makes custom gift stampers and vintage stamps, which add a really cool touch on the outside.”
Choose your message
Last but not least, it’s time to fill out the card. You can keep it light and simple with messages like, “Seasons Greetings,” or “Happy Holidays.” Alternatively, you can pour your heart and soul into the blank space of the card, cementing your place as the favorite child, grandchild, niece, friend, coworker, or student.
“I normally leave the message inside short and sweet to let the front of the card do the talking,” Liston said. “I haven’t had any custom message requests from my customers yet, but I’d put one in if I were asked.”
In the long run, creating your own holiday cards may be more time consuming, but it’ll leave a lasting impression on the receiver. They may not remember every gift or card they get this holiday season, but they’ll surely remember yours.
Contact Valerie Battaglia at email@example.com