Make Your Own Holiday Cards

When I was a kid, during the holidays my mom would buy several boxes of bland holiday greeting cards, inscribe a short message, and nestle a wallet-sized photo of the family into each one.

I continued that tradition myself for a while as an adult, thinking that was what you were supposed to do. But for many years now, I've been making my own cards using my digital photos and a photo editing program. This week I'll show you how I do it.

Sizing It Up

You can print greeting cards of any size, as long as you can fit the paper in your printer--and the paper fits into the envelopes that you plan to use. The easiest kind of card to make is the single-fold variety, in which you take a sheet of paper, fold it down the middle, and open it like a book. To make this kind of card, you'll need to print one side of the paper, feed it through the printer a second time, and print again.

Let's assume that we'll print on 4-by-6-inch photo paper. When it's folded into a 4-by-3-inch rectangle, that size fits nicely into the small envelopes available at any office supply store.

Resizing the Photo

To get started, pick out the photo that you'd like to use as your cover image. If you prefer, you can experiment with my snowy tree.

Open the photo in your favorite photo editor. (I use Adobe Photoshop Elements, but the steps are similar no matter which program you use.) Choose Image, Resize, Image Size, and set the photo dimensions to fit on the front of the card, with a small margin around the edges.

In this case, since the card will be 4 inches tall and 3 inches wide, let's enter a height of 3.5 inches and let the width set itself automatically to keep the photo in proportion. That will make the picture a little smaller than th card, so there will be a snazzy blank border around the image.

Place the Photo

Now it's time to set the picture in the card's "canvas." We'll do that by setting the background of the photo to the correct size. First, choose Image, Resize, Canvas Size. Enter the width and height of the closed greeting card, which in this case is a width of 3 inches and a height of 4 inches.

When you click OK, you'll see a border around your photo.

Next, it's time to stretch that canvas horizontally. Again choose Image, Resize, Canvas Size, but this time enter the width and height of the open greeting card--a width of 6 inches and a height of 4 inches. Before you click OK, tell Photoshop to expand the canvas to the left by clicking the right-middle anchor tile, as in this screen shot.

Finishing Touches

Now add text and anything else you'd like, keeping in mind that anything you add to this canvas will appear on the front and back of your card.

What about the inside of the card?

Grab the text tool and draw a text box over the photo, matching its dimensions. In the Layer palette on the right side of the screen, turn off the card's outer layers (which include the photo), so all you see is the text box. Now enter the inside message. When you're done, select the card's outer layers and print, then load the paper back in the printer, switch the viewable layers, and print again. You might have to experiment with orientation of the paper to get your card to print on the correct side when you load the paper for the second pass. Check your printer's paper tray for a symbol that indicates which side of the paper gets printed on.

Voilà, homemade greeting cards!

Hot Pics

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique. Every month, the best of the weekly winners gets a prize valued at between $15 and $50.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Water," by Nicholas Kosloski, New Britain, Connecticut

Nicholas writes: "I took this photo using a black backdrop and two strobes. I placed one strobe in back to illuminate the water, and one on the camera to serve as a fill light. I had a partner drop the ball into the water, and I captured the result."

This Week's Runner-Up: "Green Flash," by Alfredo Garcia, Jr., Torrance, California

Alfredo writes: "I was recently at the beach near Manhattan Beach, California, trying to capture an image of the rare atmospheric phenomenon known as the green flash. On September 30, around 6:43 PM, such a flash occurred and I captured it with my Canon Digital Rebel XT. I used an Orion 120mm f/6 refractor telescope and exposed for about 1/500 sec. You can see the little flicker of green atop the sun."

Hot Pic of the Month: Each month we choose one of our weekly winners to be the Hot Pic of the Month. For November, we chose "Sleeping Fairy," by Gianna Stadelmyer, from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Congratulations to Gianna and to everyone else who won a Hot Pic of the Week last month. To see all the Hot Pic winners for November, view the slide show. Keep those entries coming!

See all the Hot Pic of the Week photos online.

Have a digital photo question? Send me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have the Digital Focus Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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