Updated on 09.03.14

Homemade Gift Series #8: Personalized Cards and Stationery

Trent Hamm

How to Make Your Own Homemade Cards for the Holidays (and Any Occasion!)

A few years ago, Rachel gave my wife Sarah a wonderful Christmas gift: some beautifully-constructed stationery with photos of her own choosing placed on the front of note cards, along with envelopes to mail them in. Here are three examples that Sarah has kept:

Rachel's examples

As you can see, there’s some variety in the cards – the border colors changed, some of the photos are in color and some are grayscale, some depict nature and others depict family. The full set, numbering about 25 or so, included a wide variety of pictures and colors.

Simply put, this was one of Sarah’s favorite gifts she’s ever received. Some of the cards are nice enough that they could easily be framed for home decorations. Others are so aesthetically pleasing to Sarah that she simply can’t bear to part with them.

When we first started thinking about doing homemade gifts for people this year, these cards were the first thing that Sarah mentioned. We should make a batch of them for a great gift for someone.


What You’ll Need

Our first step was finding the elements that we needed to pull this off. The things we needed most were the material for the cards themselves, some additional craft paper for the borders, and the photos we wanted to use.

For the card material and the craft paper, we simply checked flyers and waited patiently for a sale. We watched craft stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby, as well as art supply stores and paper stores. Eventually, we found some huge discounts on just the items we wanted, picking up big piles of both craft paper and cards for a pittance. However, even if you do buy them at face value, the cost for 20-30 cards’ worth of material is $10-15 if you shop around.

Craft paper

Picture Printing Rule of Thumb

This is something I’ve been dealing with lately and deserves a full post on its own. However, my rules of thumb are this:

If you need just a picture or two, home printing is probably worth it.
If you’re printing ten or fifteen, the local department store is probably the best place.
If you’re ordering a lot of pictures (enough to get free shipping – say, 100+), there are online sources that take the cake.

Assembling the Card

No frame?

Here, I just chose a black and white snapshot of my youngest son (actually taken by my niece). The simplest thing to do, of course, would be to simply paste it to the front of a card without any border at all. It’s quite simple and works, but I want to add a bit more panache to it.

Just brown frame?

My next attempt was to add a brown frame to the picture, using craft paper and scissors. Since the card is 5″ by 7″ and the picture is 4″ by 6″, I cut the paper at 4 2/3″ by 6 2/3″, making a thick brown border and a thin white border around it.

Do you like that one? I did, but I wanted to keep going.

Centering the photo

I then cut out a tan craft paper rectangle measuring 4 1/3″ by 6 1/3″, then placed that between the dark brown rectangle and the photo, creating a “multi”-border effect that I quite liked.

As you can see, there are infinite options here and you can make whatever you like – different colored cards, different colored borders made out of craft paper, different photographs. They all result in different effects.

Final card

Deciding Which Picture to Choose

I would suggest using prints that would have some personal meaning for the recipient: family members they care about, locations that have meaning to them, and things like that. You can also choose some of your best natural shots as well to give the card recipients some variety in the pictures.

Another note: I think the cards look better if the edges on your own work aren’t absolutely perfect, so don’t obsess on straight perfection. A little tiny bit of skewing adds a wonderful handmade flavor to the cards that can’t be duplicated.

One final thought: if you send out holiday cards to your family and friends, consider making some of these instead. They will really stand out from the pack.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Sheila says:

    Because we have access to a print kiosk at my husband’s work, we made a set of cards for each of our (adult) kids, using photos my sister took (she’s an awesome photographer who wins awards). They turned out beautifully and were 100% free. However, I realize that people seldom write notes anymore (they send e-mails instead), which is sad, and I don’t think any of my kids have used the cards.

  2. DeeBee says:

    A friend of mine is a photographer and she sells her small photos/cards. I took some of them and framed them with inexpensive clip frames from Ikea and they look great in my kitchen. So even if the recipient does not wish to use the cards, they can be framed to make a nice decoration. They would be great to decorate an office/cubicle as well.

  3. Jerry Kolber says:

    Love this Trent. Someone once said to me that the difference between fun and entertainment is that you pay people to make entertainment for you, but fun you make yourself. This would be a super-fun way to make cards, save money, and anyone you gave one of these awesome cards to would be blown away by the time and thought you put into it – compared to the $3.50 mass produced piece of paper they sell at the drugstore .

  4. valleycat1 says:

    My husband is an accomplished amateur photog & makes almost all our cards – but we hadn’t thought about making sets as gifts. Although we wouldn’t do this if making a large number, he actually prints the photographs on the card stock – because of his hobby we have a really good printer for that. Great idea that will fill a few gaps on our gift list this year!

  5. kristine says:

    If you want to keep costs down, any ink jet printer will make amazingly rich color prints on 32lb 100% cotton resume paper. You can get it a staples or Office Max. The finish is lovely, and it less vulnerable to marring and hand-prints than the glossy photo paper. It is however, water soluble. So do not spill on it!

  6. Availle says:

    I’ve been doing that for years (special friends only!). Not with photos though, but with small patches of embroidery: little christmas trees, snow flakes, candles, stars of all colors… you get the idea.

    With those, it looks a bit better if you use a card with a cut-out window. In either case, you’ll have to go very easy with the glue.

  7. Lauren says:

    I Love making these for thank you notes.. the best ones have a picture realting to want the Thank you is about (gift party,help etc.) We use acid free glue dots from the scrapbook section they work great and guanteed no mess and you get a ton for about 4.00

  8. Nicole says:

    Here’s a few scrapbooking tricks that might be beneficial to you:

    For those “less than perfect” cuts, you can always ink the edges for a little antiquing or interest.

    On a matte finish, you can use chalks to add a little dusting of color, like if you wanted to add a little color to your son’s cheeks, just for some additional visual interest.

    Ribbons, buttons, etc. can add a lot to a card.
    There’s just so much that you can do. I’ve made many cards and scrapbook pages for family and friends that end up hung up on a wall.

  9. Kasandra says:

    Trent, great post! I’ve done this for Christmas gifts and everybody loved them! I actually use photoshop and matte everything on there, you can also add text right on to the picture to match it or to add a Christmas greeting. You don’t need photoshop (which takes a real learning curve)….Picasa, a free picture organizing program will do all of this for you. I love the computer and all the fun things it can add. I finished off my pictures, cut them out and then stapled them (with cute coloured staples) to the front of coloured cardstock cards that I had made. Put them together, wrap some ribbon around them and they do make a great gift!

  10. Jeanette says:

    These are my favorite kind of cards. I’d be thrilled if friends and family made and gave these as gifts. (And very touched that they took the time and energy to make. That alone makes them valuable.)

    Heck, I’d be thrilled if they would (finally) just email all the pix they take and never get to see (or put them on a flash drive). Ever notice that we now take pix constantly and email but we still don’t send all the great pix and share with others as often as we should?

    It’s too bad that so many people have opted out of writing letters or cards. Email is great and has its place. But so do real notes and letters. Something many very young folks won’t know until much later in life when no digital file will evoke the same pleasures as a hand-written letter! Especially love letters. Sadly, too many today can’t even write; they can barely type and texting abbreviations passes for “communication” (NOT). And that’s just sad. And SOOOO unromantic.

    I’ve got letters that were handwritten (and some even illustrated) from my college and early 20s. The letters mean more now than they did even back then. (and yes, I’ve scanned and saved them digitally!)

  11. As an artist who makes card of my work I have a suggestion for those of you who have Photoshop (or some other photo editing software), make the colored borders in photoshop and save the cost of that sheet of paper. You can easily add as many borders, in any color or size that you want then just attach that to your card. I do all of my printing at home (unless I need large sizes) and I’ve been pretty happy with the quality the inkjet provides. And so have my customers!

  12. Karen says:

    A great idea. My sister does something like this but not with pictures. I agree with some other posters – writing letters is becoming a lost art.

  13. Karen says:

    Also wanted to say what a great photo of your son when he was a baby

  14. MrzFitz says:

    any suggestions on the envelope portion of the gift? handmade or purchased, which is best? Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *