Design a Classy Last-Minute Christmas Card in Minutes

James George

Christmas will be here in a matter of hours, and if you haven’t sent out your holiday cards yet, you’re in quite a bind. Finding the right card from the store can be a real challenge, especially in a time crunch. You want it to be personal, you want it to match your personality and style, and you want it to look good. You may get a faster and better result designing your own card. Using Photoshop, and a little creativity, you can create a wonderful, personalized Christmas card that your friends and family will love in just a few minutes.

Before you start designing your card, you need to consider what type of card that you are going to create in the first place. You can create a simple one-page, front and back card, or you could create a bi-fold card. If you create a bi-fold card, you are still essentially creating a front and back card, but it will be divided along the center, with one side being the outside of the card and the other side being the inside of the card. Typical sizes for Christmas cards are 4″ x 8″ flat, which are long and thin, 5″ x 7″ flat, or 5″ x 7″ folded, meaning that the paper you start with should be 10″ x 14″.  We will cover how to make a 5″ x 7″ folded Christmas card.

size - Christmas card

Create a new Photoshop Document, making the size 14″ tall by 10″ wide. We will fold this along the center of its height, giving us a landscape Christmas card that folds at the top. Set the resolution to 300ppi, because we will be printing the card, so the images need to be crisp for printing purposes. If we design our card at 72ppi, then our image will look pixelated or blurry when printed. You can start your design in RGB color mode, but remember to change it to CMYK when you are finished editing your card.

You may want to lay out some guides, just to help you remember the boundaries of the card and where you can place images and text. For printing purposes, it is a good rule to leave a 1/8 of an inch of space around the edge of any printed surface. This will ensure that you leave enough room for all of your printed areas to show up without any content being cut off. Below, you can see how I set up my guides. You can hit Command + “R” to show or hide your rulers, and you can right-click on the ruler lines themselves, which will bring up a menu where you can choose your unit of measure. I changed mine from pixels to inches. I set up the guides at 1/8 of an inch around the border, and set a guide in the center to mark the fold line of the card.

layout Christmas card

Looking at the example above, the bottom half will be the front of the card, and the top half will be the back side. Now we can start bringing in our images and building our Christmas card design. For an image, you can take your own family photo, or you can find a nice stock photo from the web. I found the image below, which you can download from here. Place this image into your Christmas card working file.

Image for Christmas card

When placing the image in your file, you can scale the image up or down. Make it fit closely to the edges of the card. It is okay if it overlaps or isn’t a perfect fit, because we will be adding a layer mask to the the image.

Place Image on Christmas card

Click the layer mask icon in the layers panel, and add a border around our image via our layer mask. This is a much nicer look than just a straight edge photo. On the mask, select the brush tool and under the default brush settings select the round blunt medium stiff brush set to 100px in size. Place your cursor over the top left corner of the image and while holding shift, click the top-right, the bottom-right, the bottom-left, and the top-left corner to create a striped mask border around the image. Since ribbon goes with the theme of Christmas, this effect will work nicely.

Brush For Christmas card

Border For Christmas card

Next, we will create a background behind our card. Select a rich red, which you can sample from the ornament. The red that I chose was #c20000. Select the background layer and hit Alt/Option + Delete to fill it with the deep red color that we selected. Next, we will create a pattern for our background. Create a new document roughly 300px wide and tall. Select the Custom Shape Tool and choose the “Floral Ornament 2” shape. Hold shift so that it maintains its proportions when you drag it out. Make sure to fill the whole canvas.

Pattern For Christmas card

Right-click on the shape layer and choose “Rasterize Layer.” Then, go to “Edit” > “Define pattern.” Name the pattern something that you will recognize. Close this document and go back to your card document. Create a new layer above the red background layer, hit Shift + Delete, and choose “Pattern” as your fill option. Select the ornament pattern that you just created. The pattern will fill the entire layer. Set the opacity to 30%.

Bringing back the red layer underneath, change the blend mode of the pattern layer to “subtract.” next we will type our message on the front of the card. A nice script typeface is a good choice for your card. I chose Scriptina Pro and set it to 104pt. Set the color to white, then double-click the type layer to bring up the layer styles. Choose “Drop Shadow,” and set the distance to 0px, the spread to 36px, and the size to 50px. This will create a subtle shadow area behind the type, giving the background additional contrast against the type, making it easier to read.

Next, we will create the inside of our card. Keeping with the same orientation, create a new document that is the same size — 10 inches by 14 inches at 300ppi. Lay out the same guides as before, so you will know where the margins and the fold areas are located. The inside of the card will be fairly simple. We will use a simple shape, a short message, and plenty of space to write your own personal message to your card recipients.

Select the custom shape tool and select the holly shape. Drag the holly shape onto the top half of the card. fill the shape with a rich red like the one found on the cover. Center the shape horizontally.

Next, we will type a short message, such as “Happy Holidays.” I am still using the Scriptina Pro typeface. Center it under the holly and make it a dark green (#032e00). Make sure it stays in the top half of the card.

Next, we will add an element to the bottom half of the card. We will make it subtle, so that there is plenty of room to write a personal message by hand. Choose the custom shape tool and select “Snowflake 1.” Set the color to the same red as the holly. Drag out a snowflake shape that is a little less than two inches. Then hit Command/Ctrl + “J” to duplicate the layer. Hit Command/Ctrl + “T” to transform the snowflake and while holding shift, scale the snowflake down to roughly 1/3 of the size of the larger one. Select the original snowflake layer and set the opacity to 30%.


With your own photo (or a stock image) and a few custom shapes, you can create a classy Christmas card just in time for the holidays. Creating your own Christmas card will add a personal touch to the holiday festivities. You can create a set of cards for a large group of people, or you can create personalized cards for each friend and family member. Happy Holidays!