Holiday Gift Cards 101

If you are a computer whiz you can skip this story. Really. You probably know all about today's topic and watching the rest of us learn it will only frustrate you. So move on! Good-bye! In the next few paragraphs I'll provide information exclusively and gently for computer novices. People that boast about how little they know about computers. If that's you, read on.

As computer technology advances, so do the number of options available for creating things on our personal computers that would have required free reign over all the equipment in a KinkosTM only a few years ago. The great news is that you don't have to be a computer genius to produce some high-tech results that could make your friends and loved ones say "Wow."

Let's take holiday greeting cards, for example. Retail card shop owners across America are surely dabbing sweat from their foreheads with the extremely high print quality + low cost of today's inkjet printers (some printers cost less than $200 produce remarkably high-quality results). If you've ever considered printing out your own holiday greeting cards, there has been no better time than now to make that leap.

If you're feeling ambitious and want to give it a try, here are some considerations:

The Printer...

If you have purchased a color printer during the last 2 years then it will probably do nicely. If you are not sure if you have a color printer check the front to see if it says "Inkjet" or you can just go to a web page that contains a photo and print it out to verify that it prints in color. (If you were insulted by that last sentence see paragraph 1, sentence 1)

The Paper...

You'll need some card stock. 8 ½ x 11 is fine because you can cut it to size later. You can find it at any art supply or stationery store. The Paper House Fine Stationery in Toluca Lake is a fine choice. If you'd like to have some fun while paper shopping you can impress a store employee by casually asking for some (memorize this) "Bristol 110 Lb Cardstock #67 in a nice Salmon or Orchid." Then watch how they eat it up. I've found that "Stationer" is a fairly easy language to fake. To seem fluent, just memorize a few lines of jargon like "what's the poundage on that?" and "but what about a vellum overlay?" ...or you can just ask them for some card stock after confessing your plan to make homemade greeting cards.

Another option (if you have the patience) is to order complete greeting card kits. Provantage.com has some nice all-in-one packages you can order from their web site for delivery to your home.

...The Greeting Card Maker

Once you have your computer, printer and paper you'll need some software to make the actual card creation easy. There are many good software programs that will walk you through the process. Sure, you can try to use software that's already installed on your computer (like MS Word or MS Paint). But you'll find it's a bit like trying to recreate a Renoir with an Etch-A-Sketch! Proventure Greeting Cards ($5) is a good inexpensive choice. You can grab a copy of this software at the StaplesTM a half a block from Jerry's Famous Deli or at most any store like Best BuyTM that carries software.

If you don't mind using a predefined template with limited customization you can visit American Greetings.com where you can join and print out your greeting card right from their web site for free.

Your Original Content

Now comes perhaps the toughest part of this task -what to say in your card! Be honest, have you ever been stuck in a card shop unable to find a card because they're all too "cheesy?" Well, here's your chance to shine with your own customized, creative messages for friends and loved ones. Set your mind free and wax poetic if you can. It may be difficult to get started but once you do it's truly a thing of beauty. I've seen people get in such a card-creating flow that in one sitting they produce an entire year's worth of birthday, holiday and special occasion cards! The more practice you have the better you'll become and the more cards you'll want to design. Don't get too carried away -leave the postage stamp design for the US Postal service. (they frown on homemade stamps)

Tweak it. Preview it. Tweak it again. Print it.

That fancy card stock you bought can be pricey. You won't want to waste it by printing many test pages. Fortunately your computer should be able to show you a preview of your masterpieces before you actually print them. If you don't see an obvious Print Preview button inside the software program you can usually find a preview option by clicking the File menu in the top left corner of the screen. Examine the print preview carefully. Not happy with it? Just click cancel and go back to work.

The great thing about undertaking a creative project like this on you computer is that you'll inevitably become more computer savvy in the process. Learning the menus, buttons, and navigational tools while creating a greeting card can translate directly into using them in other programs on your computer. Before you know it you are listing computer skills as a line item on your resume! How do you think the wizards we kicked out of this story earlier got that way?

After you've printed out your masterpiece make sure you let it dry before folding it. (If you just mumbled "duh" under your breath please review paragraph 1, sentence 1)

Next time you walk by the card shop in a mall and see the many people clamoring for the last decent cards just smile and reminisce about the old times when you were forced to do the same. Remember when you'd wait in line? When you hunted for matching envelopes? Indeed, when you were forced to fit the mold? Now shake it off! That's not your world anymore!

Happy "carding!"

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