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Creative, Unique Holiday Card Ideas

November 12, 2012

(card  design and photo source for first two pictures: Amanda Jane Jones)

You know, it’s been a fairly stressful week around here. Not only the dramatic down-to-the-wire election, but also a heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat, last-second, come-from-behind win… followed by an equally suspenseful, undefeated-season-ending loss for our #1 ranked hometown college football team. So, let’s talk about more cheerful topics. Like Christmas cards!

I love paper goods and stationery, but I am also a pretty practical person. For Christmas greetings in years past, David and I usually scour around to find boxed sets that are more attractive and tasteful than the average offerings. We write messages on the insides, pop on holiday postage stamps, and mail them out. Done and done.

But this year, my friend Katie inspired me to consider some possibilities that are a little more crafty, creative, stylish, and unique. We e-brainstormed together a bit. And that made me think that maybe this will be the year I become a little less practical and a little more special. Even though David and I don’t have sweet children to show off in a photo, or a year’s worth of big events to announce… there are still plenty of ways to send a memorable greeting if you poke around Pinterest and get to thinking about it.

I thought I would share some of the idea sprouts that are bouncing around my head, in case they help you imagine a card you’re excited to mail this year. I corralled most of these concepts a couple of weeks ago, by scratching them down on the back of an Office Depot gift certificate during a meeting that didn’t really apply to me. That’s how I roll. From brain to paper bits, whenever inspiration strikes. :)


1. Look for simple, clever ways to draw and embellish cards or tags. I am not incredibly artistic, but even I could draw these adorable reindeer/birds around little scraps of fabric or paper. I couldn’t find the original source of this image, but Claire K Creations has a similar tutorial.

2. My big technological/eco-friendly idea this year is to see about creating one of those bar code images that you can scan with your phone. You could link your image to a blog post or Snapfish album with all the photos or information you want to share from the past year. That way you don’t have to actually format and print a nice Christmas letter or pictures.

3. If you have children and want to do a photo card but also incorporate their signatures or interests, you might have them each hold a frame or chalkboard in the family photo. They could sign their names on the chalkboards, or the frame could hold an example of something they’re really into, like a photo of their greatest lego creation or their latest special drawing. You could have the frames add some style to the picture too, either spray-painted in coordinating colors or matted with pretty patterned paper. In this one from Tiny Prints, the family held hand-made signs.

4. If you have multiple photos you want to share, you could create a photo enclosure card. I’m imagining a collage or collection of several neatly arranged pictures printed on a double-sided “postcard” or 5×7 matte card. (I know Vistaprint allows you to upload your own designs for both matte and glossy postcards, and they are very budget-friendly if you sign up to receive their email discounts. I am sure there are other easy resources for those types of print jobs too.)

5. Oh, while we’re on the subject, here’s a hot tip for dressing up inexpensive cards from Vistaprint or other places: put them inside good-quality envelopes from Paper Source.

6. Another idea for sharing a number of photos: print them to look like photo booth strips or filmstrips, and stick them into the envelope, or tie them to the card with festive bakers’ twine like a little package.

7. If you decide to go the photo strip route, you could get a little craftier and create a pocket made from of scrapbook paper or pretty patterned fabric on your card to hold the strips, a folded letter, or any other enclosures you’re including. This one from Hello Sandwich has multiple pockets and accordion-style folds.

8. Or you could staple your photo strips together into a tall, narrow booklet, perhaps with a piece of plain or patterned paper folded over top as a cover.

9. I really like those streamlined “year in review” graphics that are popping up all around Pinterest, in either full-page or card formats (like this one pictured from Minted). If you design your own, I wonder about incorporating some small graphics, like these “tiny stiches” images from Crystal Wilkerson. They might be cute divisions between the rows or columns, for just a tiny bit of subtle decoration and a pop of color.

10. You could also attach a printed year in review and/or photo strip to the inside of a folded card (or either side of a flat card) using double-stick tape, decorative washi tape, or a hole punch and ribbon. I love the way Amanda Jane Jones designed this page to fold over top of her card, secured it with a staple, and added that little piece of information on the reverse. So clever.

11. Stickers and stamps can also be budget-friendly ways to add a little personality and save on printing costs. For example, in the photo above, you could use a stamp or sticker on the front page instead of printing a whole separate piece of the card.

12. I wonder about a Christmas “card” in a bag, like a little treat sack with all your different elements inside: letter, photo strips or snapshots, small note, confetti, etc. I’m not sure how much it would cost to mail something like that, but I am thinking it might be a fun and unique way to disguise inexpensive printed components, because they would be gathered in a packet like favors instead of presented like a single impressive piece of stationery.

13. Lastly, I am considering designing a holiday postcard and printing it through Vistaprint. I’d tie bakers’ twine around it and add a cute little tag that says “Love, David & Sharon.” I figure then people could mail the postcard to a friend if they’d like, or keep it as their holiday card, so it is kind of like a greeting and a tiny gift in one. Is that too odd? I feel like I’d like to receive something unique, cute, and even somewhat practical (ha!) like that, so I might give it a try and see how it goes.

14. Speaking of tags, I was excited to find these two sources recently on Etsy: silver washi tape tags from Pumped on Paper, and budget-friendly custom-designed, personalized tags from White Pixel Fence Graphic Design.

Do you have fresh Christmas card ideas? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Happy holiday planning season, everyone!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

katie November 20, 2012 at 8:57 am

wow. such great ideas. i feel like i have options for many holidays to come.

but i beg to differ on one point: you and david do have a year’s worth of big events to announce. if something is big or important to you and david, it is likely big and important to those who love y’all. just a thought. ;O)

happy thanksgiving, katie


granolagrits November 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Katie, you are so kind! You are right, I suppose we do have plenty of things to announce despite not having a wedding, birth, school milestone, big vacation, etc. to highlight. Thank you for the validation and thoughtfulness! That is a much better way to think about it! :) Hope y’all have a wonderful Thanksgiving too. Thank you, as always, for visiting and for sharing your ideas!


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