Celeste Smith's picture
By Celeste Smith

Quick Christmas Cards

Handmade holiday greetings made easy
eZine image: 

Have you ever heard the saying "You can have something fast, cheap, or high quality—select any two"? Well I’ve discovered that when creating Christmas cards to send to friends and family, you can achieve all three. The secret is using technology. Yes, technology! By utilizing an electronic cutter,

computer software, and/or your printer, you can speed up your Christmas card process, create great cards, and keep costs down. Good, fast and cheap—it’s entirely possible! And I created four cards to prove it.


Happy Holidays Card

If you have access to large paper punches or a die cutting machine such as the QuicKutz Silhouette, making handmade Christmas cards is surprisingly easy. Simply cut out a greeting or holiday shape from the paper of your choice, then attach it to a pre-made card foundation. This card design may appear time-consuming, but it’s easy to mass produce.


patterned paper (KI Memories, Sassafras, American Crafts) • transparent overlay (Hambly) • punch (Marvy) • Corner Chomper (We R Memory Keepers) • digital cutter (Quickutz Silhouette) • sticker (KI Memories) • 4¼ x 5½ card designed by Celeste Smith

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Here’s how:

  1. Using a Silhouette electronic cutter or an oversize punch, cut four tree-shaped windows into one sheet of white cardstock. (Save the white tree shapes for another project.) Trim the paper into four 3 3/4 x 5 rectangles, making sure each negative tree shape is centered left-to-right, with room at the bottom for a greeting. Round all four corners.
  2. Pull out several Christmas-themed patterned papers and cut a few thin slices from each piece. Find a 12 x 12 sheet of cardstock that you don’t care for and cover it with adhesive. (I used neon green cardstock and my ATG adhesive gun). Adhere the patterned paper strips to the cardstock, covering it from edge to edge.
  3. Cut the strip-covered page into 3.5 x 2 rectangles. (You’ll end up with 18 rectangles for 18 cards just like this!) Layer one 3.5 x 2 rectangle behind each tree-shaped window and adhere in place.
  4. Choose your card base, preferably a neutral color or small pattern. Round all four corners. Adhere the tree piece to the front of the card base.
  5. Punch a star out of yellow or glittery gold cardstock, and add to the top of the tree with dimensional adhesive.
  6. Add a greeting with a stamp, rub-on, or sticker.



Joy Card

For my second card, I decided to use my printer to print a large sentiment, and then I added a little patterned paper to jazz it up. The large bold graphic meant I didn’t need to add much more to my design.



patterned paper (KI Memories) • Sketch Rockwell and Xmas Dings fonts (dafont.com)) • punch (Corner Chomper from We R Memory Keepers) • 4¼ x 5½ card designed by Celeste Smith

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Here’s how:

  1. Download the “Joy” template I created in Microsoft Publisher. (Click here for red or here for green.) This PDF file includes two cards on one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, and you can choose between red letters or green letters.
  2. Print the PDF on textured cardstock and cut it straight down the middle lengthwise. These cards fold at the top, but you can cut it width-wise as well; the PDF is set up for both orientations.
  3. Punch a 1 1/4-inch circle of patterned paper and adhere it over the ornament with dimensional adhesive.
  4. Add a strip of striped patterned paper to the bottom of the card, then add a tiny strip of solid cardstock on top of that. Round the bottom corners with a corner rounder.



Noel Card

For the third card, I created a layered photo frame template in Photoshop so the word “Noel” reverses out of my photo. Click here to download my template, which can be used in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements!


patterned paper (American Crafts) • paper frill (Doodlebug) • Rockwell and Xmas Dings fonts (dafont.com) • 4¼ x 5½ card designed by Celeste Smith

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Here’s how:

  1. Add an image of your choice to the Photoshop template provided above and print it on photo paper. (If you’ve never used a template in Photoshop, here’s a quick tutorial.)
  2. Choose a neutral card base, and center the image towards the top of your card.
  3. Add a strip of patterned paper, some striped paper and a scalloped edge below. (Note: I used a Doodlebug paper frill here. I have loads of these in colors that are too bright for my typical tastes, so I just flip them over and use the white back side. This is much faster than punching a border.)



Digital Card

If I didn’t convince you that you do have time to make paper cards, just join the digital revolution! Last year, I made this card using a pre-made digital template. I had it printed at Winkflash.com and I got free envelopes with my order. It was a lot less expensive to print 5 x 7 cards than it was to order a typical 4 x 8 holiday card, plus envelopes. If no envelopes are provided, then purchase some at an office supply store.


digital design card template (Andrea Victoria, Holiday Greetings No. 1, designerdigitals.com) 5 x 7 card by Celeste Smith

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There are plenty of free digital kits to get you started. Here are a few kits to try:
December Deer
Cardinal Card
Be Merry
Berry Days
Jingle Bells
Shabby Princess Holiday Sampler

So now that you’ve been inspired by these good, fast and cheap cards, go get started on your own! If you make just a few a day, you’ll have plenty to mail before Christmas.

Bonus Tips!

Make it Fast

  • Set up an assembly line. Find an area where you can work undisturbed, then make small “stations” with the papers and embellishments necessary for each step of your card. If you have children at home, ask them to help with the cutting, gluing, and envelope stuffing.
  • Use the assembly line to address and mail your cards too! I have a return address stamp. At my house, one child stamps the return address, one adds the postage stamp, and I adhere then address labels.
  • Look for pre-cut and pre-folded card bases, which save time and are often even cheaper than cutting your own—especially if they come with envelopes!
  • Avoid adhering individual letters to your cards. 100 cards with the word “merry” means you’ll be adhering and aligning 500 letters! Yikes! It’s easier to cut out a set of linked letters with a digital cutter; to typeset and print your sentiment at home; or to use rub-on words, printed sayings, or word stickers.
  • Always make a few more cards than you expect to send. This prevents you from having to dig everything out again when you remember those few people you’ll surely forget.


Make it Cheap

  • Be sure you understand the postage rates for certain card sizes and shapes, so you can avoid unexpected charges. (See “Know Before You Post” below.)
  • Download free Christmas clip art to jazz up your cards at no extra cost. Try Christmas Clip Art, All Free Clip Art, or Christmas Graphics Directory for starters.
  • Incorporate holiday-themed fonts or dingbats in place of clip art. Dafont.com is a great source for free fonts of all kinds, including dingbat fonts.
  • Use stamps or your printer instead of stickers or rub-ons to add sentiments to your cards. Quick stamping tip: cut a piece of cardstock to the size of the card you are creating. Then cut an opening in the cardstock where your stamp should go. Lay the cardstock over the card front and stamp in the opening for perfect placement every time.
  • Start with 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock if you’re cutting your own invitation-sized card bases. This size is cheaper than 12 x 12 paper, and there’s less waste.
  • All year long, cut any large cardstock scraps into invitation-sized card bases (4 1/4 x 5 1/2 folded size). You can always “wallpaper” the front a different color to match your design. Invitation-sized envelopes are often cheaper at the office-supply store than at the craft store.
  • Don’t go out and buy new patterned paper for cards. You can stick to the same design and simply switch out the patterned paper if you run out your original choice. Don’t forget that pink, lime green, purple, and turquoise combine beautifully with red and green for a fresh holiday feel, so dig in to your scrap stash.


Make it Good

  • Decorate the envelope as well. Simply stamp a single image that matches your card design on the front left of the envelope or on the back flap.
  • Add an envelope liner (tissue paper or vellum), which is easy to make and adds a great touch to any handmade card.
  • Choose a design that is simple and iconic. It will provide maximum impact and make your goals of “fast” and “cheap” easier to achieve.
  • Get inspiration from expert designers. Visit Target or your local card store to find ideas, or look for card sketches online at sites like these:


Know Before You Post

If you make your own cards and intend to send them through the mail, it’s important to understand postage rates and regulations so you can avoid extra charges.

In the United States, read through USPS guidelines for domestic and international postage price. The minimum size of an envelope is 3 1/2 inches by 5 inches. The maximum thickness is 1/4 inch. A card that meets any of the following criteria is subject to additional charges because it won’t fit through the post office machines:

  • It is a square letter
  • It is too rigid or does not bend easily (think acrylic)
  • The envelope has clasps, string, buttons, or similar closure devices
  • The address is parallel to the shorter dimension of the letter
  • It contains items that cause the surface to be uneven (brads, buttons, and bulky items fall under this category.)

I recommend taking holiday cards to the post office to have them hand-cancel your cards, which saves them from going through a machine that could damage them or cause embellishments to fall off. Most post offices will do this for no additional charge.


And once those cards are out of the way...

And, of course, after you've picked out the perfect Christmas tree, create a few vintage holiday crafts with help from Margie Romney-Aslett and her daughters Megan and Brooke! In their popular eBook, Vintage Hip Christmas Crafts, this talented trio offers step-by-step instructions for holiday decor, cards, layouts, gifts, and more!

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