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Make Your Own Personalized Cards in One Hour or Less



It’s probably no surprise I’m a big fan of anything customized and personalized, not just photo books.  That includes canvas prints, photo collages, engraved gifts etc. I also like making custom cards for folks for their birthdays, weddings, baby showers etc. – pretty much any occasion.  It doesn’t have to be a time consuming project.  If you create yourself a few templates, you can easily put together a memorable custom card, upload it to your local one-hour photo finishing store and pick it up on your way to the party!

1) You will need a editing or design program like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe InDesign (try a FREE trial of these programs downloadable from the Adobe site or try a free online photo editing program such as pixlr.)

2) Create your design and save it as a jpeg.  Use photos of the recipient – who doesn’t like to see photos of themselves? 🙂

3) Upload your jpeg to your local drugstore or retail photo outlet like RitzPix with one-hour service, or print them at home on your color printer.

I favor using a one-hour service since I never have printer ink when I need it!  I used to do a decent amount of printing at home, but it has never been cost efficient for me nor convenient since one color cartridge is always mysteriously out and printer ink and paper is so expensive.  Also, if you don’t use it for a while, the ink seems to dry out.  At about 20 cents at most for one print, it’s very cost effective – so it’s one-hour photo for me!

4) If you want to make it look more formal, or add handmade embellishments, you can buy blank photo frame cards at stores like Michaels or Paper Source (search “blank photo cards”).  Slip your creations into them, or mount your design onto a blank folded card.  You can find these for about 40 to 50 cents each and then about another 40 cents for a nice envelope.

Blank photo card from Papersource - the sides are "brackets" that you slip your card into.

That’s about $1.00 for a custom card!

Don’t want to use or have to learn how to use external design software?  Here’s some other options:

  • Sites like Mixbook and Picaboo allow you to create completely customizable cards from scratch starting at $1.29 to $2.49 per card (depending on whether your card is flat or folded).  Shipping ranges from 95 cents ground shipping to $2.99 depending on the company, your order size and location. That’s fairly comparable to buying a card in the store, but better since it’s personalized.  You can use the design tools on their site (just like the ones available to create photo books) to make your cards.  You can also find attractive pre-made templates to make a quick card by dragging and dropping your photos.
  • Some other sites like Tiny Prints, Snapfish, MyPublisher and Shutterfly offer semi-customizable cards.  What I mean by “semi” is that you can’t change the template or layout, but you can put in your own text and have some font options.  You just upload your photos and drag and drop into the pre-made design.
  • Think about using your best photos to create a set of all occasion, thank you, or birthday cards that you can have on-hand.  Even though they aren’t made specifically for the recipient, what’s unique is that your card is created by you.  Landscape photos, photos of flowers, nature, cityscapes would probably work best.  Leave them blank on the inside so you can handwrite an appropriate personalized message.  If you buy in bulk, you can normally get a discount.

Here’s a look at some past projects of mine where I used my local one-hour photo store to make cards or gifts:

Holiday Cards

Two years ago I made personalized “holiday cards” for my friends and family.  Instead of slipping them into photo frame cards, I bought actual frames so they could hang them on their wall or display them on a shelf.  (hmm…I was pretty confident they would like them wasn’t I?)  Most were printed on 5×7 or 4×6 prints.  I made larger 8×10 versions for my folks and in-laws.

Birthday “Card”

I used the same concept recently to make a birthday gift for my mother-in-law.  Since I recently had a baby, I incorporated photos of my little guy as well as my nephews (her grandsons) so she could have a photo collage of all her grandkids together.  I printed it on an 8×10 and plopped it into a nice frame.


I made these fun VIP pass-themed invitations for my husband’s birthday just a couple weeks ago.  I bought plastic badge/ID pouches with black lanyards on Amazon and made one for every guest with their name and photo on it, just like a real photo badge.  I uploaded them as standard 4×6 prints and then just trimmed them.  This worked since we had about 20 guests (it would be quite time consuming for a big event, but it worked for our small gathering!)  I actually mailed them to our guests the old school “snail mail” way. (Isn’t it nice to get something other than bills in your mailbox every now and then?) Our guests liked them so much, even though it was only a mock VIP badge and they really didn’t need them to get into the party, a lot of them actually wore their passes to the event!  How fun!

Gift Tags/Save the Date

gift tags

I surprised my family with the announcement that my husband and I were expecting by making these “save the date” tags with my baby’s expected due date.  I had come up with the idea to buy stuffed bunnies and attach the tags to the bunnies.  I presented my parents and brother each with a box and the bunny with the secret message inside addressed to “Grandma-to-be”, “Grandpa-to-be” and “Uncle-to-be” etc.  I decided on the bunnies, since my baby was to be born the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.  I sent the images to the one-hour photo in 4×6 size and then cut them in half.  I used a hole punch and attached the double-sided tags to the bunnies with ribbon.  Each of them opened their boxes and my mom screamed with glee!




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