Lay Out and Print a Greeting Card

For amateur and professional photographers alike, greeting cards are a powerful and unique way to share your images and grab your client’s attention.  Use them to solicit new clients, say “thank you” to your customers or just wish family and friends cordial greetings. 

Once you understand the process, cards can be designed and printed quickly.  But be forewarned, you need to do a little homework first.  

Before you get started

Before you march head long into Photoshop you need to understand a few key limitations for laying out greeting cards. 

Greeting cards are usually printed on a special paper stock.  Like standard photo papers, you can purchase greeting card stock in glossy or matte finishes or even elegant artistic papers.  These papers, however, are scored to accommodate the fold and are cut in unusual dimensions that will result in standard folded dimension.  For example, if you wanted a 5” x 7” greeting card, the pre-scored stock will be 10” x 7”. 

This brings us to our most important limitation.  Because greeting card stock is usually cut to non-standard dimensions, there are few printers that have the capability to print borderless images using these papers.  You’ll find that even with a printer that is advertised to print borderless, the feature is limited to specific standard sizes such as 8” x 10”, 5” x 7” and 4” x 6”.  Because of this you need to allow for a non-printable margin on all sides of the card. 

The size of this margin depends upon the minimum margin for your specific printer model.  To find this look in the printer reference manual for the section that describes the Printable Area.  The sample above is for the Epson R800 and you’ll see the minimum margin is 3mm or 0.12”.  We’ll use this for our sample card.

Lay Out Your Card

Now that you have all the printer specifications and know the size of the greeting card you want, it’s time to open an image and create a card.  In our sample card, we are going to create a 5” x 7” card and prepare it for a printer that has a minimum margin of 0.12”.  The card stock is 10” x 7”.

  1. Open the image that you want to use for the card. It’s a good idea to do a File > Save As… to save the greeting card using a different file name.

  2. Select the crop tool and crop your image using the following tool options;

    • Width: 6.76 inches

    • Height: 4.76 inches

    • Resolution: 300 ppi (or whatever you use for your printer)

  3. Now add the unprintable margin by using the Image > Canvas Size… dialog; enter the following options;

    • Width: 7 inches

    • Height: 5 inches

    • Keep the Anchor in the center

    • Canvas extension color: White

  4. Now that the front of the card looks good, it’s time to add the portion that will become the back of the card. Once again we use the Image > Canvas Size… dialog box but this time we change the anchor point. Where you move the Anchor point depends upon whether you are creating a portrait style or landscape style card.

    In the Landscape Style sample above we move the Anchor point to the bottom. This will create a fold above the image. (For a Portrait Style card, the Anchor point would be moved to the right.) In the dialog box use the following options;

    • Width: 7 inches

    • Height: 10 inches

    • Anchor: Move it to the bottom center

    • Canvas extension color: White

  5. Once you have completed the previous steps it’s time to simply polish the card with a cordial salutation. To make a copyright on the back look right, lay out the text and then rotate it 180 degrees.

Once complete you’re ready to print your card.  You’ll need to follow your printer’s directions to know how to load your card stock to ensure that your image is printed on the proper side of the paper. When you are done you will have a beautiful greeting card ready for mailing. 

Greeting Card Stock

If you're looking for card stock on which to print your images, click on over to the Red River Paper website.  They have a tremendous assortment of greeting card stock from Glossy and Luster cards to 100% cotton fine art papers.  My personal favorite is their 60lb. Polar Matte and I've basically standardized on the 9" x 6.25" size.  I've printed our family Christmas Card on this stock for the past six or seven years. 

Help Laying Out Cards

If you want a little help laying out cards - and you know how to run actions in Photoshop - you should take a look at the Greeting Card Designer. It's a set of actions that run on Photoshop that lays out the card for you.  (A little disclaimer here - I wrote these actions and they are sold by Red River Paper.) The nice thing about the actions is that you can lay out your images on any size card stock Red River sells.  It can be a real time saver.