Did you forget to buy holiday cards like I did? No worries, I’m here to save the day with a simple, charming holiday card anyone can make. Seriously, if I can do this, you can do this. The project does require a working knowledge of image software, but I can try to answer questions in the comments if you’re a really ambitious complete beginner.
You’ll need to have a few things on hand before you begin. You’ll need image software, obviously. I used Photoshop, but free alternative Gimp should allow you to do all of the tricks I’m going to show you. You’ll also need to poke around sites like Deviant Art to find a few tools to help you out. I used this Photoshop brush set, it’s called Scatterelle and its a scatter brush, instead of painting along the path of the brush, it leaves a trail of tiny shapes twisting near the path of the brush. You’ll also need a custom shape, which is a vector image photoshop can read. (Not an Adobe Illustrator file.) I think Gimp can support both Photoshop brushes and custom shapes, but don’t quote me. Consult your manual or friendly Gimp users on the web for assistance. I can’t find the exact tree I used, but here are several sets of custom shapes on Deviant that will work just fine.
Start with an image however large you’d like your card to be. I want the full size version to fit nicely in a post, so I made this card 550px by 350px. Chose your size based on whether you’ll be sending your card digitally (use pixels and a resolution of 72 pixels per inch) or printing them and mailing them (use inches, and at least 100 pixels per inch). Your setup is done, let’s make some art.
1. Flood fill your rectangle with a background color. I chose a festive red.
2. Create a new layer. In this layer, add the custom shape of your tree by selecting the shape –> custom shape tool, then finding the set and specific shape in the menu. Drag the shape out to fill the space while holding down the shift key to preserve the shape’s ratios. In this shot, you can see what makes a vector shape different than a brush. The thin outline surrounding the tree is a path, not a line. Vectors are drawn programatically, which means they can be stretched to any size without losing any integrity, like a typical image made of pixels would do. Photoshop shapes are a great way to learn the basics about vectors before getting your feet wet on a behemoth like Illustrator, if you’re so inclined to learn more about such things. Below, our vector tree, drug out onto our red rectangle. (The gray around the edges is the PS background, sloppy crop.)
3. Next, create another new layer and select the brush tool and find the Scaterelle brush and choose the snowflake. (phew!) Change the brush size to a 5 or 6, very tiny, and lightly swoop your brush from one side to the other.
4. Now a few more times, all light and smooth
Notice how the brush makes some of the snowflakes different shapes, sizes and transparencies? Cool, huh? This brush has been around since 2003 and I still love it as much today as I did then.
5. Drop on another layer, and go to Basic Brushes. Chose a round brush, 50% strength, at a sizeable diameter, which matches the size of your project. Swoop it across the bottom to make fallen snow.
6. Since everything is on its own layer, you’re free to move things about until they look right. The card is cute, but it can still go up a few points with only a few seconds more work. First, we’re going to add a drop shadow to the tree to make it look like it was cut out of construction paper. Make sure to bring your tree layer in front of the falling snow layer before you add the drop shadow. Click on the pic below to blow it up to see the settings I used. I went with a light touch, a distance and size of 3px each, and 50% opacity.
7. Now we’re going to add some text, I picked the ultra-creative “Happy Holidays” in a cute little font called Existence in solid black. I gave it the same drop shadow as the tree, then added a two pixel stroke in white. It’s high contrast, and it will be readable no matter what color you put on the background. Click the pic below to see the stroke settings for the text.
8. The other beauty of layers is that you can easily drop in a new background color and make a whole set of color coordinated cards. Five minutes, start to finish. Here are my finished products, I dropped on yet another layer which was just a simple rectangle I filled with a coordinating color to the background:
Feel free to right click and save!