If you really want to make somebody’s Christmas extra-special, there’s nothing nicer than sending a card you’ve created yourself. With this how-to guide, you’ll end up with a card that’s professional, personal, and beautiful to look at.
You’ll find everything from what software to use to create your designs, guidance on sizes, plus design tips and inspiration for using on-trend type, color, and graphics.
Plus, we’ll show you how to master the craft of the Christmas card using Shutterstock Create’s design assets!
Consider this your ultimate guide to creating your own fridge-worthy holiday cards that you’ll want to display for many holiday seasons to come.
Let’s get to it.
What You’ll Need to Create Your Own Christmas Cards
While creating your own card design by hand is really rewarding, it can be difficult to achieve the design you want by hand alone.
If you’d like to create a set of identical Christmas cards, you’ll need to digitize your design by either scanning your own hand-created artwork or creating digital artwork using design software.
If you’re new to using design software, don’t be intimidated. There’s a wide range of intuitive and budget-friendly software options for you to create professional card designs.
The type of software you need depends on the style you choose for your card design:
- Create illustrated imagery by hand for card designs before scanning them into your computer. Or, use vector software like Adobe Illustrator to create graphic or type-based designs.
- If you’re using a photograph for your card design, you might want to edit the image using photo-editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom.
- To create a complete card layout, publishing software like Adobe InDesign allows you to set up a card design for print. You have more control over page size, color format, and print features like bleeds. Then, export the artwork as a printable PDF*, which you can print from a home printer or send off to an online printshop.
- If you want to set up your card design as a shareable image for social media, a simple design tool like Create lets you quickly and intuitively edit images and create designs that you can use on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. You can also create downloadable Ecards to share on email.
Pro tip: When you export your card artwork as a PDF, always include trim or crop marks. These will guide you when it comes to cutting out your cards.
To do so in Create, simply click the Settings (gear) icon at the bottom, then toggle on “Show bleed marks.” Done!
Not sure where to start? Check out our top 25 Christmas card templates on Shutterstock. Or, download this free Christmas card template kit and use these five stylish designs as a starting point for creating your own unique cards.
What Size Should My Christmas Cards Be?
There’s a range of widely accepted standard sizes for cards. These are mainly for the purposes of mass commercial printing and for fitting cards into standard-sized envelopes.
Some of the most widely used card sizes in the US include 4.25 x 5.5 inches (to fit inside an A2 envelope), 4.5 X 6.25 inches (A6 envelope), and 5 x 7 inches (for an A7 envelope).
It’s a good idea to set up your DIY cards with a popularly-used size, particularly if you’re planning on mailing your print cards in a store-bought envelope.
But, you do have more freedom with dimensions for bespoke card designs. If you want to create a super-sized one-off card to delight your family, why not?
For sharing your cards on social media, you’ll need to adapt your print card designs to social sizes. This will help you avoid having the screen inadvertently cut off bits of your design.
Note also that some platforms, such as Twitter, prefer landscape-oriented images, which might require extra planning when you start designing.
The standard sizes for social post images are:
- Instagram: 1080 x 1080 px
- Instagram Story: 1080 x 1920 px
- Facebook: 1200 x 1200 px
- Twitter: 1024 x 512 px
The good news? Pro subscribers have access to our nifty tool Smart Resize, which allows you to customize sizes for any platform (and multiple platforms) in seconds.
Creating Fantastic DIY Christmas Cards: Design Tips and Inspiration
Christmas cards shouldn’t be limited to traditional colors, styles, or images. Today, holiday card designs can be as creative and quirky as you like—all the better for giving your designs a unique and memorable look.
From unconventional yet festive color palettes to contemporary font styles, there’s a range of techniques to make your card designs modern and stylish.
Read on to discover pro tips for designing your Christmas cards, from how to use photos in a cutting-edge way to inspirational ideas for typography, color, patterns, and graphics.
Christmas Card Inspiration: Typography
Whether it’s a seasonal phrase or a personalized message, text is often the focal feature of holiday cards.
Designing your own cards gives you more control over the content of the message, as well as the style of typography. Your text can be traditional or contemporary, depending on the chosen style of your cards.
To make your type feel particularly festive, look for calligraphic script styles or handwritten fonts to give your cards warmth and openness. Fonts that take their cues from mid-century type styles or typewriter fonts also suit cards with vintage-inspired designs.
While you can download free fonts easily from sites like FontSquirrel, you can also find more unique calligraphy designs on the Shutterstock library, such as the “Tis the Season” hand-lettering in the card design below.
Also, the Create tool comes with hundreds of fonts to choose from, if that’s the software you choose (we recommend it).
We downloaded this as a vector EPS file, before opening the file in Adobe Illustrator and copying and pasting the vector directly into the card layout I had set up in Adobe InDesign.
If you have something more modern in mind, clean sans serif fonts or geometric display typefaces look fantastic paired with bold color palettes and simple grid-based layouts.
We love free-to-download Gilroy for minimal, chunky titles.
However, you don’t always need to use fonts to create your desired type style. In many cases, creating your own type design using vector software or by scanning in hand-lettered artwork can be even more effective.
In the example above, the type has been created using vector drawing tools in Adobe InDesign, without the need for a font at all.
Unlike the last example, this template is less busy, but a whole lot of festive. To find customizable graphic letters like this one in Create, click Graphics, type the word “Letter,” and find the floral letters.
Select to apply, then drag to position and adjust sizing. Edit colors, then pair them against a festive background.
Christmas Card Inspiration: Color Schemes
When creating Christmas-themed designs, it’s easy to start and stay working exclusively with a palette of red and green. Why not push the boundaries, though?
Rethink your approach to Christmas color with alternative holiday color palettes that evoke the winter season in a contemporary way. Icy pale and cobalt blue are suitably frosty, while rich orange makes for a warm and cozy alternative to Coca-Cola red.
Switching up your color palettes can have a dramatic effect on your card artwork. Plus, it’s surprising how almost any color palette can have a festive feel when paired with the right imagery and type styles.
In the designs below, we’ve experimented with two different color palettes in Adobe InDesign, giving the same design a dramatically different mood.
Looking for an extra-special color palette? With more on-demand printers able to produce spot and Pantone colors for better value, custom color types like metallics and neons are not beyond the reach of the DIY card designer.
Tones of silver, copper, and gold are festive and glamorous, and contrast beautifully with rich midnight blue, inky black, or snow white.
Neons are also surprisingly effective for Christmas stationery—set calligraphy in eye-popping neon lime, pink, or yellow to offset the traditional aspect and bring a celebratory mood to your designs.
Want an unconventional card, but don’t want to stray from traditional colors too much? Mute or fade your colors by mastering the art of hex codes! Just kidding. You don’t have to know anything about hex codes, except that each color has its own.
In the Change color tab in Create, peruse the infinity of reds and greens to find compatible faded versions.
Then, once you design an element, use our nifty Eyedropper Tool to customize any and all other elements to be the same color as anything else!
In other words, instead of tediously having to search for that one shade of red over and over, simply use the Eyedropper Tool to customize any element with a precise color without the hassle.
To use it, click on the background layer, or whatever element you want to change colors. Then, select the Eyedropper Tool next to the hex codes, drag it over an element that has the color you want, then click to set it!
The background layer we customized matches a shade within the blue bow on the present below “Peace Love Joy.”
Christmas Card Design Inspiration: Photography and Illustration
Christmas cards can feature a wide range of image types. Whether you opt for a photo, illustration, or patterned background, imagery is the most effective way to make a memorable impact.
You can either create your own illustrated imagery by hand and scan to duplicate, or you can use vector software like Create.
Alternatively, why not use stock illustrations to create a quick and professional design?
Folklore-inspired graphics, woodland forest textures, witty festive patterns, and so much more, there’s a huge range of choices in Create.
In the design pictured above, a watercolor illustration has been adapted into an elegant card design using Adobe InDesign, complete with an overlay of blue colors and sans serif typography.
Pro tip: The key to working with stock images in your designs is to build up layers of texture, type, and color to give the design a more unique quality.
Festive patterns and backgrounds are also a quick and easy way to incorporate color, texture, and interest into your card designs, and are designed to pair well with type.
Look for pop-art inspired flat lays for quirky designs, letterpress textures for vintage-style cards, or metallic and marble backgrounds for instant luxury.
Using a photo on your design is the best way to personalize your Christmas cards, making them truly unique and special for family and friends.
When selecting photos, look for images that will afford you plenty of space for placing text or other graphics, or place the design into a frame with surrounding border space for a typed message.
If Christmas isn’t at home this year, or you’re just highlighting one of your favorite family memories, share a happy photo with your nearest and dearest.
Even if you don’t have a pro photo, use Create’s many photo-editing effects to make it so!
Whether you’re newlyweds or long-time lovers, highlight your love this year with a Christmas-like vibe. Show an image kissing under the mistletoe (or pine tree), pair it with a simple message and you’re set!
These general “Merry Christmas! Love, The So-and-Sos” sentiments are especially nice if you plan on sending out a bunch at once.
Just be sure you don’t mind folks witnessing your intimate moments!
Don’t forget your furry friends!
Instead of looking for stock photos and then uploading them into Adobe Photoshop, why not go for a tool with millions of images already inside of it?
In Create, simply click Images and upload your own or peruse our infinite stock photo library. Of course, personal pics are likely best in this case.
Once you find your image, drag to adjust sizing. We added an adorable elf hat by going to Graphics and typing in “Christmas” to find all the fixings.
With Create, you’ll find a range of preset image textures, effects, and background options to give your photos more warmth, vibrancy, or a vintage-style effect.
To add your own, click Effects and scope out your favorites. We added Film Grain, Arcade, and then Sunglow. Yes!
We know what you’re thinking. You can always layer multiple effects on top of each other. While effects do serve as filters, in this case, this combo also added some subtle texture.
And remember, when you’re ready to customize for social media, click Smart Resize. For basic subscribers, simply click Canvas edits > Resize and type in your designated specs.
And, if you start from scratch with a blank canvas, you’ll want to choose the template specific for your desired platform and customize from there!
To begin your DIY Christmas card vision, simply click File > Create new > Blank Canvas. Instead of searching for a card template (although you can), go straight for the size of your social media platform. Then, customize with festive backgrounds, colors, graphics, fonts, effects, textures, and more.
Christmas Card Templates
Making your own Christmas card from scratch sounds like a lovely holiday activity—until you realize it’s already November!
With pre-made card templates, you can take a ready-made design and make it your own in a few clicks. Then, it’s just about scheduling social media posts or stuffing envelopes to get those cards out on time!
Ready-to-Use Christmas Card Templates
In this collection of 25 pre-made Christmas card templates, we’ve picked a range of styles and layouts that work for different card-sharing options.
Single panel templates are perfect for social media. The three- and four-panel downloads give you several artistic options for your card so you can take your pick or make a series!
Download the image of your choice, then open it in a PDF editor to add a blank page. When you print, cut and fold over the line to make a standard folded card.
And, if you’re looking for even more templates, Create‘s chock-full of them. Here are a few more Christmas card ideas to bring out the holiday decorating spirit.
You don’t need an ounce of design experience to make a keepsake-worthy Christmas card. Pair a simple yet bold color, like this classic Christmas-red, with two different fonts, a simple message, and sweet mistletoe graphics!
Ultimately, for a sound design, you just need a few elements to work well together.
Print on card stock or something more durable than your average printing paper. And, if you’re printing in bulk, you might consider consulting a local print shop for cost-effectiveness.
If you’re in Hawaii (or anywhere besides home) this Christmas, customize your Christmas card to show it. Infuse tropical, wildlife, or beachy graphics and textures to make it clear to everyone exactly where you are.
Or, if you’ve just watched Christmas Vacation for the zillionth time and you’re in the holiday spirit, this card will surely be received with humor and smiles.
If you’re up for making a couple different cards for different groups of people and purposes, this one’s for you. Holiday cards don’t have to be specific to Christmas, especially if you’re hosting a party for all faith backgrounds.
Given that Christmas and holiday time involves spending quality time, customize this card with gold brushstrokes and collaged images for a warm and welcoming impact.
Add a bokeh effect like the pink photo above and include specific details on top. Then, get ready to host!
To achieve this collage-like look without actually using a collage layout, simply click Images and upload your own or choose from our stock library. Then, drag and position them so they overlap a bit.
Now, Let’s Create Some Christmas cards!
Alright, Christmas-lovers. Now that you’re set with the above design inspo, just a quick recap to get started on your own in Create.
- Open up a blank canvas by clicking File > Create new > Blank canvas. Scroll to Formats to find the Card template, or select the template for social media-specific sizes. For pre-made templates, click File > Create new > Templates. Type “Christmas card” in the search bar or scroll to find the category. Click to apply.
- Customize or add your own background textures, images, colors, fonts, and graphics.
- Add effects and personal details for finishing touches.
- Download in PNG, JPEG, or PDF format to desktop or print, or upload straight to social. Done!
No matter if you start with a blank canvas or a template, the subsequent steps remain the same.
Remember, you can always undo or redo your work with the small left and right arrows at the bottom, so feel free to experiment.
When you’re done, your work is auto-saved in our cloud storage for re-editing anytime. Just be sure to save an OG version if you like it so that your new edits don’t override your old ones.
We’ve demonstrated multiple software options for you to get started. With the right software, design inspiration, and plenty of festive cheer (of course), you’ve got all the tools to create your own spectacular DIY Christmas cards.
Whether you opt for an illustrated card, a personal photo, or a modern typography design with a non-traditional color palette, there’s a style to suit every personality. And, there’s no wrong way to do it! No doubt your friends and family will be delighted with the results.
License this cover image mockup via Evgeny Atamanenko and PERSONA design.