Holidays | Crafts + DIY

Holiday Card Survival Guide

MintedEvery year fellow parents ask me where I get my holiday cards done and express frustration at having to tackle the chore of finding the right photo/card that reflects their family and fits their budget. The good news is that there are more options now than ever to get holiday cards finished on time – yes, even if you start late.

Whether you’re crafty or klutzy, creative or traditional, here’s a guide to 4 ways to do your holiday cards, from using services to do some or most of the work for you, to making your cards yourself.

And if the pressure in December is too much, all these ideas would work just as well for New Year’s or Valentine’s Day. Now put on your creative jingle bells and get started!

Minted cardOption 1. You send photo, they design and print

Snap a family photo (see tips below!) and upload it to any of these online services, choose a design, and they’ll do the rest. Many offer discounts so check your favorite coupon code website ( is mine). The vendors below are arranged from most to least expensive, with an average cost of $120 for 50 cards for, to an average cost of $50 for 50 cards for Vistaprint.

- The Cadillac of photo card websites, is a community of independent graphic designers and an online store that sells the best of their designs. Designers compete for exposure to build their careers, so you’ll find fabulously creative cards. The trendy family infographic card (at top) is sure to be a big seller this year. Try one of these coupon codes to save (15% off, RSHOLIDAY or MSLHOLIDAY).

- This company was started by some friends who wanted to revive the art of letter writing. Many of their clever and current designs offer more space for customized text so you can include highlights from your year. (Save 20% plus free shipping, JOY121 or JOY122)

- Part of HP, the company that makes the great printers, Snapfish is a mid-range priced card printing service with a huge selection of designs. They are also a photo storage and management site and can help with photo gifts and albums as well.

Woodblock printing - Ello There, Etsy- Another mid-range priced vendor, Mixbook allows more design freedom than some of the other sites, although the website is a bit fussier and requires a log in before exploring options.

- With basic cards running a little less expensive than the sites above, Pear Tree Greetings offers crisp design with a smaller selection of cards.

- A huge online printer with very low prices and more typical drugstore-style greeting card designs.

With a twist: Ello There, Etsy – Send in a photo of your clan and this artist will create clever colorful woodblock-like illustrations of your family on cards printed on a wind-powered printing press (see example at right). Well-executed at a cost, $130 for the design, plus $3.50 per folded card.

Photo ideas:

- Rather than a traditional family portrait, how about a photo of all of your cute toes in the sand at your favorite beach, or hands rolling out cookies.

- Use props! Hold letters that spell out a message, wrap yourselves in holiday lights, highlight some family members by holding a frame (new parents framing a baby would be cute!).

Option 2. You design, they print

If you’re handy with computer software it’s easy to design a card to send to the printer. You can even create a photo postcard using MS Word (do a “how to” search for many sets of instructions).

If you’d rather steer clear of the computer, you and/or your children can make a handmade card or drawing to scan and send to a printer. If you don't have a scanner, a neighborhood print shop can do it for you.

Design ideas

- A recent addition to the family goes through a lot of changes. Create a card with a photo from each month of the year.

- Illustrate a family vacation, something cute your child said this year, or ask them what they’re most excited about for the holidays. In 2009, we made holiday cards with favorite quotes from our son about the holidays (see above).

Printer options:

Go local: Printers in your neighborhood often have prices competitive with the online printers listed below. While I especially adore working with Swifty Printing  in downtown Seattle (you can tell them I sent you), I’ve worked with many other local printers who bend over backwards to do a good job.

Prices? You can expect to pay from $50 to $70 for 50 one-sided flat cards, not including envelopes. Folded cards will be more, starting at around$110 for 50. In order to get an accurate cost estimate, you'll need to tell them the total quantity needed; finished size (dimensions and one-sided or two-sided. whether it be folded; paper type; format of artwork. Examples, even handmade, are helpful.

Online Printers: A cost effective way to get your own designs printed without leaving the house. Be sure to check for online coupon codes! Options include:

House holiday card- FedEx: This was once Kinko’s. They accept almost any type of file you can imagine, including Word files.

- Vistaprint: Also noted above, this is a huge online printer that will print your design at very low prices. They also accept many different file types.

- Bigdotprint: If you’re able to save your artwork to a pdf, this company offers higher print quality and slightly higher prices.

- With a twist: HouseLoveShop, Etsy – This artist creates a custom illustration of your home for a delightful holiday card (see right). They provide the file digitally so you can arrange the printing yourself. $25 for a pdf-file you can have printed or print yourself.

Card exampleOption 3. You design and print

It has never been easier to lay out and print your card at home. Look at the ideas above for inspiration, and then get busy. Here are a couple of great resources. The Avery Company makes oodles of supplies for home printing, including the easy-to-use Avery inkjet holiday cards. Their website has many resources, including design templates and software, an option to design online, project demos and a help center. Not only does HP offer professional quality printing through Snapfish (see above), they also have an online Creative Studio to help easily print customized cards at home (requires downloading a desktop app). Select from 150 templates.

Option 4: Handmade cards

Rudolf 2Get a bunch of printed family photos and start cutting and pasting! Ideas include:

- Family wreath: Cut your photo out in a circle, paste it to your card, and frame with paper dots to make a wreath. (Wreath idea courtesy of Diy Maven on Curbly,)

-  Find the “how to” for this adorable reindeer (see right) and thirty-four other inspiring ideas.

- is of course a great resource for DIY inspiration. This card would be easy to replicate with some printed photos, some holiday stickers, and a few rubber stamps.

- This adorable tree card is made of recycled materials and could easily incorporate a photo layer. (Don’t be locked into the “window” idea – you could simply layer cut paper pieces to great effect.


Karla Smith-Jones is a Seattle-based artist, master crafter, graphic designer, writer and mom to a five-year-old boy.

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