How to Create DIY Greeting Cards With Original Paintings
Handmade Birthday and Holiday Cards Show You Care
Billions of greeting cards are purchased and sent every year for a wide range of occasions such as holidays, birthdays and milestones. By making your own cards instead of buying them, you can save quite a bit of money. Creating your own greeting cards also makes your message more personal and meaningful. It shows the recipient that you took the time to craft something just for them.
Whenever I have to occasion to make a greeting card, I usually make several so that I have a stash of ready-to-go cards left over for future occasions. After doing this for a while, I began selling my handmade and hand-painted cards out of my studio and at art events—people really seem to appreciate their unique designs!
Use Blank Cards and Envelopes to Make Custom Greetings
I like to create my cards using purchased blank cards as support. Other people make the whole card from scratch, and that's definitely a good option too. Store-bought blank cards are very convenient because they come with matching envelopes and look professional. They came in different sizes and colors, so pick whichever variety suits you.
For this project, I used 5' x 7' white cards, which have the advantage of being an easily framable size. Since these cards are made from original paintings, many recipients choose to frame them and hang them as decor after enjoying the message inside.
- 1 blank greeting card (I use ) 5x7" Strathmore cards
- 1 matching envelope
- 1 small painting on paper or canvas paper (if you do not have a painting ready to use, you will need paper, brushes, and paint as well)
- Colored paper of your choice for the background/mat (optional)
- Acid-free glue stick
- Create small paintings or select old paintings to use on the cards.
- Create interesting edges for your painting by tearing the paper with your hands or using pattern scissors.
Create a mat using colorful background paper.
- Glue the small painting on the background paper to create a mat effect.
- Glue the matted painting on the front of the blank card.
- If you are selling the cards, protect them in clear plastic bags or slips (optional).
- Include the information that the cards are handmade (optional).
1. Select or Create a Small Painting
Get some of your paint and brushes out, relax, and create several small paintings without worrying about the final result. Trust me—this is the best way to end up with interesting pieces that look stress-free and cute. Alternatively, you can create a large, abstract painting and cut it into smaller rectangles to use on your cards. Be sure to cut the larger painting into pieces that will fit well and look nice on your blank cards.
- I usually like to have a colored background on each card to frame the painting like a mat. If you'd like to do this, make your paintings smaller than the actual cards to leave space for the mat.
- I create my watercolor mini-paintings on watercolor paper using acrylic or watercolor paint, but you can also use markers, tempera, or any other medium that won't smudge when handled.
- If you mess up, no worries—it's just some paper and a little bit of your time.
Using Old Paintings
You can also use existing paintings for your cards rather than creating new ones. Oftentimes, I go through my old paintings and cut the ones that I don't like into smaller pieces then use these to make cards.
For example, you can take a landscape watercolor painting, tear it into several rectangles, then look at each piece and transform it into its own little painting by adding details as needed. Use each painted section as a starting point, then change it into something else. You can add buildings, flowers, animals, trees, or small abstract elements. You can also add color or intensify existing colors.
2. Tear the Painting's Edges to Create Some Interesting Textures
Instead of cutting out your paintings with scissors or paper cutters, consider tearing them by hand. Tearing the watercolor paper with your hands instead of cutting it with scissors adds extra texture and interest and makes the edges of your paintings appear more organic.
- For a neat tear, fold the card both ways along a line to create a straight edge.
- When you tear, pull the paper away from the front of the card. This creates an irregular white edge.
3. Create a Mat With Colorful Background Paper
The purpose of the colored paper is to create a background that gives the card a more finished look and complements the colors of the small painting. Avoid busy patterns or intricate designs for the background—you want something that makes the main image pop, not something that fights with it. It's good to have a nice variety of colors and textures to choose from.
Inexpensive Colored Paper Ideas
- Paint samples from the paint store
- Paper sample catalogs from the local printer shop
- Scrapbooking paper
Cut the colored paper about an inch or so larger than the painting all around (you can cut it larger or smaller as long as it fits inside the bounds of the card you are going to use as support). You can give your mat paper straight edges with your scissors and a ruler, or you can bend and tear it like you did with the paintings for a more organic look.
4. Glue the Painting to the Background Mat
Apply some acid-free glue to the back of the small painting then stick it to the background mat you selected and cut. Make sure you center it nicely. Press it well and get all the edges to adhere flat. I like to use a brayer to press to get it nice and flat all over. Once you've glued the painting to the mat paper, place it under a heavy object while it dries to help it adhere nicely. I like to use a stack of large books.
- Don't use too much glue, and don't apply the glue too close to the edges of the painting. If it seeps out, it can discolor your mat paper.
- Practice centering your painting on your mat paper before applying the glue. You can make light pencil marks on the mat paper where you want the corners of the painting to be to help guide you as you place it.
5. Glue the Mounted Painting to the Blank Card
Using your acid-free glue stick, apply glue to the back of the mat paper and stick it to the front of the blank card you are using. You can place the image centered on the front of the card or position it in an asymmetrical fashion. Try different options before you apply the glue, and choose what looks prettiest to you. The gluing tips mentioned in the previous step apply here too!
6. Protect Your Cards Using Clear Plastic Bags
If you plan to sell your cards, I strongly recommend that you protect them by inserting each card in its own clear plastic bag. This will look very professional, and the slips will protect your cards as people shuffle through them to find the ones they like. If the blank cards you're using are a standard size (e.g. 5x7"), you can likely order plastic sleeves for them online or find them in a craft store.
7. Market Your Cards as Handmade Crafts
I like to include a small sheet of paper with each card that specifies that the image on the front is an original painting. Since there are so many mass-produced greeting cards for sale, people may not realize that yours are handmade and include original artwork. This information will make your card more valuable to the recipient or buyer.
Additional Card-Making Tips
Here are a few more things to keep in mind when creating your own greeting cards. These apply whether you plan to send them to friends and family or sell them as crafts.
Sign Your Work
Once you are done, your card is a true piece of art. The recipient may even choose to frame and showcase it, so make sure you sign your artwork!
Embellish Your Paintings with Handwritten Notes
Make your cards even more personalized by adding quotes, wishes, or doodles. You can use one of the many handwriting and monogram books on the market to find interesting font styles and patterns. Sometimes I like to use stencils to add interesting shapes and images to my cards' interiors.
You Can Use Reproductions as Well
Of course, there is always the option of using prints of your art on the cards instead of the original paintings. If you want to do this, you'll have to take good photos of your art, have them printed to size on high-quality paper, then glue them to the cards the same way you would with the originals.
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© 2013 Robie Benve