Custom Christmas cards don’t have to use scissors and glue. Create professional DIY cards from the comfort of home, ready to print or share on social media.
If you really want to make somebody’s Christmas extra-special, there’s nothing nicer than sending a card you’ve created yourself. With this how-to guide you’ll end up with a card that is professional, personal and beautiful to look at. You’ll find everything from what software to use to create your designs, guidance on sizes, plus design tips and inspiration for using on-trend type, color, and graphics. Consider this your ultimate guide to creating your own fridge-worthy holiday cards that you’ll want to display for many Christmasses to come.
What You’ll Need to Create Your Own Christmas Cards
While creating your own card design by hand is really rewarding, it can be difficult to replicate the design by hand alone. If you’d like to create a set of identical Christmas cards, you’ll need to digitize your design by either scanning hand-created artwork or creating digital artwork using design software.
If you want to incorporate a photo into your design, editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Shutterstock Editor will be your best bet. This card design uses a fun festive photo by contributor alexei_tm.
If you’re new to using design software, don’t be intimidated. There is a wide range of intuitive and budget-friendly software options for you to create professional card designs. The type of software you need depends on the style you choose for your card design:
- Create illustrated imagery by hand for card designs before scanning them into your computer. Or, use vector software like Adobe Illustrator to create graphic or type-based designs.
- If you’re using a photograph for your card design, you might want to edit the image using photo-editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom.
- To create a complete card layout, publishing software like Adobe InDesign allows you to set up a card design for print. You have more control over page size, color format, and print features like bleeds. Then, export the artwork as a printable PDF*, which you can print from a home printer or send off to an online printshop.
- If you want to set up your card design as a shareable image for social media, a simple design app like Shutterstock Editor allows you to quickly and intuitively create images you can use on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. You can also as create downloadable e-cards you can share on email.
*Top tip: When you export your card artwork as a PDF, always include trim or crop marks. These will guide you with cutting your cards once printed.
Not sure where to start? Download this free Christmas card template kit and use these five stylish designs as a starting point for creating your own unique cards.
What Size Should My Christmas Cards Be?
While there is a limited range of widely accepted standard sizes for cards, these are mainly for the purposes of mass commercial printing and for fitting cards into standard-sized envelopes.
Some of the most widely used card sizes in the US include 4.25 x 5.5 inches (to fit inside an A2 envelope), 4.5 X 6.25 inches (A6 envelope), and 5 x 7 inches (for an A7 envelope).
While it’s a good idea to set up your DIY cards at a popularly-used size, particularly if you’re planning on mailing your print cards in store-bought envelopes, you do have more freedom with dimensions for bespoke card designs. So if you want to create a super-sized one-off card to delight your family, why not?
For sharing your cards on social media, you will need to adapt your print card designs to post size to avoid having the screen inadvertently cut off bits of your design. Note also that some platforms, such as Twitter, prefer landscape oriented images, which might require a bit of forethought when you start designing.
The standard sizes for post images are:
- Instagram – 1080 x 1080 px
- Instagram Story – 1080 x 1920 px
- Facebook – 1200 x 630 px
- Twitter – 1024 x 512 px
Creating Fantastic DIY Christmas Cards: Design Tips and Inspiration
Christmas cards shouldn’t be limited to traditional colors, styles, or images. Today, holiday card designs can be as creative and quirky as you like—all the better for giving your designs a unique and memorable look.
From unconventional yet suitably festive color palettes to contemporary font styles, there’s a range of techniques to make your card designs modern and stylish. Read on to discover pro tips for designing your Christmas cards, from how to use photos in a cutting-edge way to inspirational ideas for typography, color, patterns, and graphics.
Christmas Card Inspiration: Typography
Whether it’s a seasonal phrase or a personalized message, text is often the focal feature of holiday cards. Designing your own cards gives you more control over the content of the message, as well as the style of typography. Your text can be traditional or contemporary depending on the chosen style of your cards.
Minimal geometric type or hand-lettered calligraphy? Text is an essential feature of many holiday card designs, so it pays off to be extra-creative with your type choices.
To make your type feel particularly festive, look for calligraphic script styles or handwritten fonts to give your cards warmth and openness. Fonts that take their cues from mid-century type styles or typewriter fonts also suit cards with vintage-inspired designs.
While you can download free fonts easily from sites like FontSquirrel, you can also find more unique calligraphy designs on the Shutterstock library, such as the “Tis the Season” hand-lettering in the card design below. I downloaded this as a vector EPS file, before opening the file in Adobe Illustrator and copying and pasting the vector directly into the card layout I had set up in Adobe InDesign.
If you have something more modern in mind, clean sans serif fonts or geometric display typefaces look fantastic paired with bold color palettes and simple grid-based layouts. We love free-to-download Gilroy for minimal, chunky titles.
However, you don’t always need to use fonts to create your desired type style. In many cases creating your own type design using vector software or by scanning in hand-lettered artwork can be even more effective. In the example below, the type has been created using vector drawing tools in Adobe InDesign, without the need for a font at all.
Christmas Card Inspiration: Color Schemes
When creating Christmas-themed designs, it’s easy to start and stay working exclusively with a palette of red and green. While this traditional scheme is no doubt immediately suggestive of the festive period, it’s a little…unoriginal, no?
Rethink your approach to Christmas color with alternative and on-trend color palettes that evoke the winter season in a contemporary way. Icy pale and cobalt blue are suitably frosty, while rich orange makes for a warm and cosy alternative to Coca-Cola red. Switching up your color palettes can have a dramatic effect on your card artwork. Plus it’s surprising how almost any color palette can have a festive feel when paired with the right imagery and type styles. In the designs below, I’ve experimented with two different color palettes in Adobe InDesign, giving the same design a dramatically different mood.
A pair of identical card designs using different festive color palettes. The design uses a lettering design by contributor Protven, vector berry branches by contributor minimolestudio, and holly sprigs by contributor Giamportone.
Looking for an extra-special color palette? With more on-demand printers able to produce spot and Pantone colors for better value, custom color types like metallics and neons are not beyond the reach of the DIY card designer. Tones of silver, copper, and gold are festive and glamorous, and contrast beautifully with rich midnight blue, inky black, or snow white. Neons are also surprisingly effective for Christmas stationery—set calligraphy in eye-popping neon lime, pink or yellow to offset the traditional aspect and bring a celebratory mood to your designs.
Christmas Card Design Inspiration: Photography and Illustration
Christmas cards can feature a wide range of image types. Whether you opt for a photo, illustration, or patterned background, imagery is the most effective way to make a memorable impact.
Make your card designs more memorable by using a personal photo or a high-impact illustration or photo background.
You can either create your own illustrated imagery by hand, before scanning your work to create reproducible cards, or by using vector software like Adobe Illustrator. Alternatively, why not use stock illustrations to create a quick and professional design? From folklore-inspired icons to woodland forest scenes and witty festive patterns, there’s a huge range of choices on the Shutterstock library.
In the design pictured below, a watercolor illustration by contributor Tatiana Davidova has been adapted into an elegant card design using Adobe InDesign, complete with an overlay of blue color and sans serif typography.
Top tip: The key to working with stock images in your designs is to build up layers of texture, type, and color to give the design a more unique quality.
This illustrated card design uses a beautiful winter scene by contributor Tatiana Davidova, which has been layered behind color and texture overlays using Adobe InDesign.
Festive patterns and backgrounds are also a quick and easy way to incorporate color, texture and interest into your card designs, and are designed to pair well with type. Look for pop-art inspired flat lays for quirky designs, letterpress textures for vintage-style cards, or metallic and marble backgrounds for instant luxury.
A kooky photo card created using this holiday background image by contributor Zamurovic Brothers.
Using a photo on your design is the best way to personalize your Christmas cards, making them truly unique and special for family and friends. When selecting photos look for images that will afford you plenty of space for placing text or other graphics, or place the design into a frame with surrounding border space for a typed message.
Whether it’s the family pet or the whole office team, photos are the best way to make your cards as personal as possible. This design uses a fun festive photo by contributor alexei_tm.
If you have a photograph you’d like to use, open the image in Adobe Photoshop for advanced editing. Or, incorporate the photo into a quick and simple design using Shutterstock Editor, which includes a range of preset image filters to give your photos more warmth, vibrancy, or a vintage-style effect.
It’s time to get started with creating your Christmas cards!
With the right software to hand, design inspiration, and plenty of festive cheer (of course), you’ve got all the tools to hand to create your own spectacular DIY Christmas cards. Whether you opt for an illustrated card, a personal photo, or a modern typography design with a non-traditional color palette, there’s a style to suit every personality. No doubt your friends and family will be delighted with the results.
Looking for more holiday design inspiration? Don’t miss these fun and festive tutorials, tips, articles and freebies:
- FREE Printable Christmas Cards with a Mid-Century Twist
- Modern Holiday Background Images: Festive Patterns, Textures, and More
- The Top 25 Free Fonts for Christmas and the Holidays
- Holiday Gift Guides: Gifts to Give Using Your Photographs
- 20 Free Seasonal Color Palettes for Your Next Holiday-Themed Project
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