Where do I start?
That’s probably the question that brought you here. Designing your own Christmas card for social media can be a little stressful. It’s certainly not as bad as looking for parking at a mall this time of year, but it’s up there.
From trying to figure out what program or tool to use, to what kind of theme (or meme!) to go with, you might find the internet is not always your friend. And maybe it’s part of a larger outreach strategy, making getting started a little overwhelming. But that’s why we’re here, to shrink this mountain back into a molehill for you.
This short article is your first and last stop on the way to designing an awesome Christmas card. Whether you’re just dabbling in design, or a pro looking for ideas, these 6 straightforward tips will make designing a Christmas card an absolute breeze.
1. Choose a unique font
It’s a fact of life, as far as fonts go, that Times New Roman and Calibri just aren’t… very exciting. Sure, for a contract, an agreement or an email, you want something that’s neutral and professional. But when you’re working on a fun and exciting Christmas card, dare to be a little adventurous. And no, Comics Sans doesn’t count as kooky and playful anymore (that was the 90’s).
Now there are literally hundreds of thousands of popular font types out there – but I’ll assume you don’t have a few years to go through all of them (or that you’d even want to). Instead, check out these 3 types of fonts that you could use, each with its own distinct feeling. They’re not at all typical but will make your card stand out.
Holidays are Coming is a little messy and imperfect, styled like someone’s actual printing, It’s got all the innocence and heart of a little kid making his or her own card with construction paper. Aww, who doesn’t love that?
Enchanted Land is mystical and fairytale-esque, there’s a real Disney feel to it. You can pair this font with an image of some far-away, wintery wonderland, or use an interesting colour palette to keep things mysterious.
Square Font is pretty cool, it’s very retro and blocky. If you want a card with a vintage look, some simple graphics and colours then this is the one. It harks back to an era of gaming in the 80s and it packs a bit of nostalgia with it.
You may not be convinced that choosing the right font matters that much. Well, “The Science Behind Fonts” is a cool post that explores how fonts make us feel. Without realizing it, we associate specific feelings and ideas with different fonts. The last thing you want is for your Christmas Card to read like an invoice!
2. Stay Certified Fresh
When figuring out the colours for your card, try a colour theme that’s not traditional. Everyone knows red and green are the “official” Christmas colours, but there are plenty of different colour palettes that work just as well in the holiday season.
A winter palette consists mostly of warm and cool tones of blue, with shades of gray and something like a bright red acting as an accent. These are all familiar winter-season colours, we see them in the heaps of snow outside, the clouded skies, the sleet and the ice, the exposed asphalt, you get the idea. Using these colours on a card resonates well with people because it’ll make sense without being traditional.
You can take a look at the card above to get an idea of what you can do with this colour palette. Super minimalist.
With a natural palette, you’re looking at more warm, earthy tones that produce a fuzzy-on-the-inside kind of feeling. We can imagine these colours in a cozy log cabin with its crackling fire, frosted windows, blankets and rugs, surrounded by pine trees and firs outside.
The card above is a great example of how these colours really come together.
Tint and & Shade palettes are really versatile. You just take a few colours and work with their different tints and shades.
For example, if you look at the chart you’ll see red and its lighter shades and darker tints. Same thing with the blue and green. You get quite a bit of range with this trick.
Check out what we managed to do by just playing around with blues and greys.
These are just a few of the infinite possibilities. And if you’re like me, you’d rather see some of these colours in action before deciding on a combination. A HuffPost article lists the colour palettes that are trending this holiday season, and you’ll recognize some of them from this post. The article might help you decide how to approach your own card.
Maybe you’ll get some last minute home-decor ideas too. Two birds, one stone, how perfect.
3. Use Icons to make Bigger Icons!
I know, it’s pretty ingenious. After all, no card’s complete without a few simple icons. Sure, you can repeat an icon over and over to make a background, use them as accents, use them as characters, use them as design elements (like borders), whatever your heart’s desire.
But once you use icons to make an icon, that’s when you know you’re in the big leagues. All you have to do is line up a few flat icons (just 5 or 6) and then decide on what shape you want to make.
Flat Christmas icons are simple graphics that don’t have any depth to them. They’re pretty versatile.
This card basically uses flat Christmas icons to create a Christmas tree. It’s a subtle way to add a real designer’s touch.
Making a snowman, a wrapped present or Santa’s hat would have worked just as well.
In the age of the internet and emails, icons are a great communication tool. If using icons is something a little new to you, check out this Designrfix post on“8 Ways to Use Icons”. It’s really about using icons in general, not specifically for holiday cards. Still, you’ll have a better sense of how to get the most from the icons you do decide to use (and why you’d want to use icons in the first place).
4. Work Smart
Don’t try to design a card from scratch in Adobe Photoshop or something. There’s no need to start YouTubing tutorials and spending hours making the perfect line, looking for the right icon, or searching through stock fonts for something that’s cool. All that’d be a heap of wasted time, and you’re at a point in your life where you’re trying to keep heaps to a minimum.
Instead, work off a template. There are a lot of online tools that have Christmas card and invitation templates. The good ones will have a ton of template options, let you change whatever you want, and also have a bank of thematic icons, graphics and stock photos for you to use. Kind of like this one.
Just look at those cute icons all lined up for you! This holiday card template is perfect for beginner designers. Personalize the greeting, maybe change the colors or swap out the icons to add your own touch and you’re done! That wouldn’t have taken more than 5 minutes.
5. Keep it Simple
Less is definitely better when it comes to cards. In the end, you want something that’s polished and professional. You might be tempted to throw in a little bit of everything, or maybe you just can’t decide between a bunch of things that you like.
But keeping things simple is key. This 99designs blog post insists on simplicity too, along with some other tips for designing a Christmas card that explain why.
After all, your Christmas card isn’t supposed to be a modern-day Rembrandt, just memorable.
6. Stick to Your Deadline
Unless you want to finish your cards on Christmas morning (pretty sure you’d rather be unwrapping gifts), you should really stick to your own deadline. Creating a Christmas card should be fun, not frustrating.
To make sure you finish on time:
Stick with the first idea you like.
You’ll feel like trying out a bunch of different templates and font/colour/icon combinations, but that also means you might end up rushing the final product, or not finish at all.
Set a reasonable deadline.
If you’re starting today morning, you don’t have to finish your card before you leave the office (I mean, don’t let me hold you back or anything). But as long as you can get them done a week or two before the holidays, you’re good!
Just be careful, you don’t want to fall for that “Wow, I’ve got so much time!” trap – you never have that much time. There are so many things that can come up between now and your deadline that could stop you from finishing this project. This Zapier article talks about missing deadlines, why it happens and how to avoid this productivity-snatching cycle. If you’ve got a ‘flexible’ deadline, do yourself a favour and give that post a quick read. You’ll thank me later.
That’s it. There isn’t much more to it, really. You could probably have finished your Christmas card even while reading this post. A few of the links shared take you straight to templates you could use.
In fact, why not whip up a card for New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day – you know, keep that creative fire alive? You’ll be a design wizard by the end of it.
Just a thought.
Happy designing and happy holidays!