How to Turn Your Art into the Coolest Greeting Cards Ever

Picture this: crowds of strangers eyeing your artwork and wanting to buy a piece or a whole collection for themselves.

This scene doesn't involve a gallery show (dreamy though that would be). Instead, we're describing a different way to get your creativity out into the world and potentially make some money from it.

We're talking greeting cards.

Greeting cards are a fantastic mini canvas for your illustrations. More than that, they make a fabulous gift that your friends and family will actually use. Plus, your squad will send out those greeting cards to the people they know, who'll get a chance to see your art for the first time.

If you're ready to start producing your artwork at volume and hopefully generating some income from it, greeting cards are a brilliant place to start. We'll break down the steps here, and offer tips to get you going.

Select the Artwork

Your first impulse will be to choose your best work. But consider why people buy and send greeting cards: Usually it's for specific reasons like birthdays , anniversaries, thank yous , a new baby, a housewarming or such. Choosing artwork that can fit into one or more of these themes will ultimately make your cards more salable — and take them from "I want" to "I need."

Choose the Size

It's a good idea to base the size of your cards on popular envelope sizes. This not only makes them easier to package and sell, but also makes them fit better into standard card racks, so they can get merchandised at stores or craft fairs.

Typical greeting card sizes include 4¼-by-5½ inches, 4-by-6 inches, and 5-by-7 inches. If you're working with a printer, make sure that the cards come with envelopes.

The 4¼-by-5½ is especially popular. Why? Because it's easy to print that size at home, since the unfolded measurements of the card (8½-by-5½ inches) are exactly half a standard 8½-by-11-inch sheet of printer paper. That means you can print two-up on a standard sheet.

Format the Artwork for Printing

These tips will work for a variety of printers and for at-home printing. But since printers have varying specifics and criteria, make sure you're sticking to the guidelines for whichever one you're using.

Scan Your Artwork

Scan your art at a high resolution, at least 300 dpi. It's always better to reduce the size of your art than to enlarge it, which can make reproductions look grainy. If your artwork is on the small side, scan it at a higher resolution, which will naturally make the image size larger.

Scanning your work into a photo- or image-editing program can allow you to adjust your image so it's printer-friendly.

Do Any Color Correction

Once you've scanned your image, you may want to do some light digital touch-ups, like adjusting the contrast or brightness and removing dust spots. This is easy to do in image-editing programs such as Photoshop.

Always double check the color format of your image and tailor it to your printer's preferences. It's common for printers to request that your file be delivered in CMYK color, but some prefer RGB color instead. Following their guidelines will ensure that the color you end up with matches what you see on the screen.

Select a Design

Now it's time to start thinking about the front, back and inside of your card, and how these pieces will fit together.

Happily for beginners, many printers now offer design interfaces that guide you through the process with built-in tools, so you can add your own background colors or text and resize images.

Even if your printer doesn't have a snazzy interface, it will likely offer templates specifically designed for greeting-card sizes. Do download these, since they can be helpful in formatting and sizing your artwork appropriately.

A template should include a fold line, a trim line and a "safe zone" border for containing all the key aspects. Don't include those aspects right on the edge: There's a bit of leeway during the cutting process, and you don't want your logo or an important word to get cut off. In the image above, see how the logo rests a little above the bottom of the card, in the "safe zone."

Lay out your design within the template, but make sure to save the final image with the template removed: You don't want those guide lines to show up when you print out your card.

Adjust the Alignment

Format your artwork to take up half the surface area of the card. The other half will be the back of the card; the front and back are actually printed on the same side, and each half is scored.

Make sure that the artwork and back design are aligned so that they face the same way when folded. So for instance, the logo on the back would appear upside down when you look at the artwork on the unfolded sheet.

If you're including a greeting on the card, those words should be about one-third of the way down the card if it's aligned vertically (like the card on the left in the image above).

Double check that your most important design elements aren't too close to the edge. Because of the slight shifting that can happen during the cutting and printing process, there's a small area (usually ⅛ inch or so) that you should leave as "bleed." Extend your background colors to create a little leeway for trimming, so nothing important gets trimmed out.

Pro tip: Make sure that an eye-catching part of your design gets prominently featured on the top third of your card. Many card displays are tiered so that only the top of a card is visible. You want your card to grab people's attention even if only the top sliver of it shows.

Add Your Inner Greeting

Use the same template for the inner greeting, making sure that you're aligning it in the same direction as the artwork. (It would be ultra-weird to open a top-fold card and find the greeting sitting on its side.) Most printers will allow you to upload the front and back as separate files.

Check Twice, Print Once

Double check everything. Print out your finished file on your home printer, so you can have a general idea of how the cards will look when they're printed.

It's worth opting to see a printer's proof (the final printout a printer creates before "going to press" with the file). It might cost you a few extra days of turnaround time and a nominal fee, but it will give you one more chance to OK the file before the entire job gets printed.

Choose Packaging

Package your cards in plastic sleeves or boxes so they're ready to sell. Bonus: The packaging protects them from damage. is a useful resource for buying boxes and sleeves to fit all sorts of card sizes.

If your card includes a greeting inside, add a sticker that reveals it. If it's a blank card, create a sticker that says "blank inside" so people won't pry open the boxes trying to find out!

And now you're done! Get ready to share your artwork with the world, one card at a time.

Illustrations and photos via Unicorn Love

January 26, 2019
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How to Turn Your Art into the Coolest Greeting Cards Ever