Design a Fun & Festive Holiday Card
WHAT WE’RE CREATING:
Hello Design Cutters! Renee here with an early start to the holiday season. This week, we’ll be using the resources from our epic festive freebie bundle to create a Christmas card in Illustrator. We’ll be working with a fun snow pattern, hand drawn vector elements and our own custom dieline. Let’s get started!
I’ve also included a handy bonus video, showing exactly how to print your card template and turn it into a completed Christmas card!
Festive Freebie Bundle
This week’s freebies are taken from the massive festive freebies bundle that we’re currently running. You can download your festive freebies by following the link below:
In addition to the festive freebie pack, I’m using Thriftshop, a font from last week’s bundle. If you don’t have it, I recommend a tall, hand drawn font.
We’re going to create a square card that fits into a 6” x 6” envelope. For correct fitting, we’ll need to do a tiny bit of math.
When fitting an enclosure, you want to make sure to leave at least ⅛ of an inch clearance (or .125”) on each side so there’s room to hand insert the enclosure into the envelope. If it’s being machine inserted, like you might do for a large mailing project, you will generally need ¼” clearance on each side (or .25”).
Since our project is to create personal holiday cards, we’ll assume a hand insertion. If our final envelope size is 6” square, our final card size will need to be 5.75” square (leaving ⅛” on either side). Our card will have a fold that opens left to right, so it will need to be double the width. Therefore, our flat card measurements (and the size of our artboard) will be 11.5” wide x 5.75” high.
Open Illustrator and create a new file. As noted above, we’ll create our file at 11.5” x 5.75” with resolution at 300 ppi and Color Mode of CMYK. Since this will be a 2-sided piece, increase your number of artboards to 2. To give ourselves some wiggle room when we cut this out, add .125” bleed to all sides.
Save your newly created file.
Open the Layers palette (Window > Layers) and rename Layer 1 to Background by double clicking the layer name.
Next, click on the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Name this new layer Dieline.
We’ll start by drawing in our fold line so we know where to place our art. Select your Pen tool (p) and click once anywhere along the top bleed line on the first artboard to place a point. Then, hold down Shift and click again along the bottom bleed line to place a second point. Holding shift ensures that our points stay along the same vertical axis.
Open your Swatches palette (Window > Swatches) and change the fill color to None (the first white box with a red slash through it). Then click on your stroke color to activate it and change it to 100% magenta, which is the bright pink swatch on your palette by default.
Open your Stroke palette (Window > Stroke) and check the box next to Dashed Line. When creating die lines, dashed lines indicate folds and solid lines indicate cuts.
Now that we have our dashed line, we just need to center it. Open your Align palette and under Align Objects, click the second icon in, Horizontal Align Center.
At this point, we’ll go ahead and duplicate this line onto our second artboard. Switch to your Move tool (v) and select the line. Press cmd/ctrl + c to copy. Scroll down to your second artboard and click on it once to make it the active artboard. Press cmd/ctrl + shift + v to Paste in Place (or go to Edit > Paste in Place).
Sometimes when I’m figuring out how to translate a folded piece to a flat layout, I’ll make a quick mock-up using a scrap of paper. After folding it, write on it, then unfold to see how the flat layout looks.
Now we’ll add a circular cut-out to the front of our card. Scroll back up to the first artboard. Select the Ellipse tool (L). Click once on the artboard and in the pop-up dialog box, enter 3.2 inches for both width and height, then click OK.
Our circle will pick up our most recently used colors and attributes – so it will be a 100% magenta line (good) with dashes (not good). Open your Stroke palette and unclick the box next to Dashed Line so we have a solid line (which indicates a cut).
To align our circle horizontally on the front of the card, we’ll add a guide. As with most things in Adobe programs, there are several ways to make guides. For this one, we’ll create a guide from a line and use a little math to position it.
Copy the dashed fold line we already have in place. Paste in place using cmd/ctrl + shift + v. Now open your Transform palette (Window > Transform).
We’re going to adjust the X value which determines where the line will fall along the X or horizontal axis. We want to find the middle of the right half of the artboard because that will be the middle of the front of the card when we fold it. So, we’ll take our finished card size (5.75”) plus half that (5.75” / 2 = 2.875”) to get our X value of 8.625”.
To turn it into a guide, go to View > Guides > Make Guides. With our guide in place, select the circle and drag it until it’s centered on the guide.
To vertically align our circle, open your Align palette and under Align Objects, choose Vertical Align Center.
Lastly for our dieline layer, we’ll duplicate the circle to the second artboard. Select the circle and copy it. Scroll down to the second artboard and click once to activate it. Press cmd/ctrl + shift + v to Paste in Place.
We’ll need to reposition it to the center of the left side (think of picking up your quick mock-up from above and flipping it over – anything cut out of the right side of the cover will be on the left of the inside). In your Transform palette, change the X Value to 2.875” (half of our finished size).
And that’s our dieline done. Lock the Dieline layer and we’ll move on to our cover!
Open the vector freebie file and copy the wood texture on the top left.
In our layout file, scroll up to the first artboard and click on the Background layer. Paste in the wood texture and drag the handles out to all four edges of the bleed. Normally, we wouldn’t want to disproportionately stretch any elements, but it works quite nicely with this wood texture.
Click the Create New Layer icon on the Layers palette. Name the new layer Artwork.
Copy the wreath from the freebies file and paste it onto the cover. It’s important that we size the wreath proportionally, so hold down shift while dragging the handles out until the wreath fits comfortably around the circle dieline we made earlier.
Next, we’ll work on the inside of our card.
In the freebies file, copy the rectangle with the teal snow pattern.
Scroll down to the second artboard. Click on the Background layer in your Layers palette. Paste the patterned rectangle and drag the handles out to fill the background.
Next, copy the bear from the freebies file. To position the bear so that it peeks through the hole on the cover correctly, paste it onto the first artboard. Position him in the middle of the circle and enlarge until his feet are just shy of the bottom of the card.
Now we’ll move him to the inside. Press cmd/ctrl + x to cut the bear from the cover. Scroll down to the second artboard and click once to activate it. Press cmd/ctrl + shift + v to Paste in Place.
Now that we have our bear in place, we can draw some snow for him to stand on.
Select the Rectangle tool (m) and draw a rectangle along the bottom of the card, stretching the full width of the card with a height of about .75”.
Now we’ll add a couple of points to make some rolling hills. Select your Pen tool (p) and click once on the top line of the rectangle, not quite in the middle of the right side.
With your Pen tool still selected, hold opt/alt while clicking on the point we just made and dragging to create a curve.
Click once more on the top line of the rectangle toward the left side to add another point. Adding a point to a curved line will automatically create curves. So for this one, instead of switching tools and drawing curves, we’ll just move the point. With the point still selected, hold shift and arrow up a few times to move the point up.
Select the snowy hills we just made and open your Color palette. Change the color to 5/0/2/0 – a very faint teal color.
Use your Rectangle tool (m) to draw another rectangle along the full width of the bottom of the card. Change the color to white.
Repeat the same technique we used on the other rectangle to create a slightly different shape of hills.
Send the new white hill behind the first one by pressing cmd/ctrl + [ or go to Object > Arrange > Send Backward. Use your Direct Select tool (a) to select individual anchor points to adjust until you’re happy with the shapes.
In the freebies file, copy the reindeer and paste it into the layout file. Reduce the size by holding shift and dragging any of the handles in towards the center. Position the deer on white hill between the circle dieline and the fold.
Copy the three trees from the freebie file and position them throughout the hills, scaling and duplicating as needed.
Next, we’ll add our message.
Select your Ellipse tool (L) and click on the inside right artboard once to bring up the dialog box. Enter a width and height of 3.3 inches. Center horizontally with the middle of the bear and vertically on the artboard by clicking the Vertical Align Center icon in the Align palette.
In your tool panel, click and hold on the Type icon until the flyout menu appears. Select the Type on a Path tool. Click on the bottom middle of the circle to create a type path. Type “Merry Christmas”.
Open your Swatch palette and change the color to white.
Open your Character palette (Window > Type > Character) and change the font to Thriftshop Brush Serif Shadow at 26 pt. Then open your Paragraph palette (Window > Type > Paragraph) and change the alignment to Align Center.
Use the Ellipse tool and click to create a second circle, this time with a width and height of 4.2 inches. Position so that its centered vertically and horizontally with the first circular type path.
Repeat the previous process by using the Type on a Path tool to click on the bottom middle of the circle. Type “Wishing you a bear-y”. Change the color to white and the font to Thriftshop Brush Serif Shadow at 26 pt. Then change the paragraph settings to Align Center.
The white snow interferes with the ability to easily read the white text, so let’s add a little teal behind our words.
Copy both paths of copy. With both still selected, change the foreground color to the same teal used in the background pattern. When we added the pattern swatch earlier, the teal color was automatically added to your swatch palette.
Now click on the stroke and make it the same teal color. Open your Stroke palette and change the weight to 14 pt. Change the Cap to Round Cap and the Corner to Round Join. This gives us a great teal base behind our letters that will cover up the snow directly below our words.
Finally for the words, press cmd/ctrl + shift + v to Paste in Place.
Lock the Artwork layer.
Next up, we’ll add a border to bring in some of our cover texture and color.
In your Layers palette, click on the Create New Layer icon. Drag this layer above the Artwork layer and rename it Border.
Select your Rectangle tool (m) and draw a rectangle covering the entire artboard out to all four edges of the bleed.
With your Rectangle tool still selected, click once on the artboard to create a second rectangle. In the dialog box, enter a width of 11 inches and a height of 5.25 inches.
In your Align palette under Align Objects, click on the icons for Vertical Align Center and Horizontal Align Center.
With the smaller rectangle selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. We’re going to create an irregular edge that compliments the hand drawn style of our card.
In the dialog box, enter a size of 1% and detail of 1 with corner points.
Go to Object > Expand Appearance to create our revised path.
Using your Move tool (v), select both rectangles. Open your Pathfinder palette and under Shape Modes, choose Minus Front.
Now we’ll add the wood texture to our border. Scroll up to the first artboard and copy the wood patterned rectangle. Then scroll down to the second artboard and click on it to activate it. Paste in place by pressing cmd/ctrl + shift + v.
We’re going to use the border to mask the wood pattern. Whatever element is on top will be the mask, so we need to send our wood pattern behind the border by pressing cmd/ctrl + [ (or Object > Arrange > Send Backward).
When we create our mask, the mask shape will lose its background color, so we’ll start by copying the white border. We’ll paste in a copy after we make our mask.
With your second artboard active, press cmd/ctrl + a to Select All. This will select both our wood texture and our border. To create the mask, press cmd/ctrl + 7 (or go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make).
Now press cmd/ctrl + shift + v to paste a copy of the border in place, then press cmd/ctrl + shift + [ to send it to the back (or go to Object > Arrange > Send to Back).
Let’s add a couple of rough white lines around the edge. Select your Rectangle tool and click on the artboard. We’ll use the same measurements as our last rectangle – 11 inches wide and 5.25 inches high. Click Ok.
Use the Align tools to Vertical and Horizontal Align Center.
Click the double headed arrow next to your fill and stroke on the Tool bar to change the white fill to a white stroke.
We’ll duplicate our previous roughen technique to create an irregular line. Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Use the same settings as earlier – size of 1% and detail of 1.
With the rectangle still selected, go to Object > Transform > Reflect. Select Horizontal and press Copy. This will give us a second rectangle with a slightly different look. For a bit of additional difference, go to your Stroke palette and increase the weight to 2 pt.
For the final piece of our border, we’ll add a little color to the corners.
Copy the holly berry with leaves from the freebie file. Paste it onto the artboard and position it in the top left corner without overlapping the edges of the artboard.
With the holly selected, go to Object > Transform > Reflect. Select Horizontal Axis and click Copy. Drag this copy to the top right corner.
Now select both pieces of holly. Go to Object > Transform > Reflect and choose Vertical axis. Click Copy. Drag the copies down to the bottom corners.
And that’s our card!
We could stop there and have a nice card that would go fine in a plain white envelope, but we’re obsessive designers – you know we want a matching envelope!
If we were creating this envelope for a large print run of thousands of envelopes, we might want to consider creating a flat piece that has to be converted (cut, glued and folded into the envelope shape). The advantage is being able to print all the way out to the edges on both sides and fully customize every inch of the envelope. The downside is that it’s usually too expensive for small quantities and tends to add at least a week to your production time.
As we noted earlier, we’ll plan this as a smaller run of cards and envelopes. Consequently, we’ll create our envelope design to fit on a pre-converted envelope. This means we can’t print all the way to the edge and will only print on one side.
Create a new file in Illustrator at 6” x 6” with resolution at 300 ppi and Color Mode of CMYK. Set your Bleed to 0.
We’ll want to leave a white border of about ¼” around all the edges. If you’re printing at home, it can be difficult to get a consistent edge with borderless printing on envelopes. If you’re using a professional printer, they often need the white border so there’s space for grippers to grab the envelopes on the printer itself.
Instead of just making a plain white edge, let’s keep our design consistent and create an irregular edge like the border on the inside of our card.
Select your Rectangle tool and click on the artboard. In the dialog box, enter a width and height of 5.5 inches. Click Ok.
In your Align palette under Align Objects, select Horizontal Align Center and Vertical Align Center to center the square on our artboard.
Repeat to create a second square at 4.5” wide and 4.5” high.
Select both squares. Open your Pathfinder palette and under Shape Modes, choose Minus Front.
Now go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen. Enter the same parameters we’ve been using – size of 1% and detail of 1. Click Ok.
As we did before on our card, go to Object > Expand Appearance.
Copy the wood texture from the freebies file and paste it into the envelope layout file.
Press cmd/ctrl + shift + [ (or go to Object > Arrange > Send to Back) to send the wood texture behind the mask shape.
Press cmd/ctrl + a to Select All and then press cmd/ctrl + 7 to mask the wood texture.
Copy the reindeer and a couple of trees from the freebie file and paste onto the envelope. Place them towards the edges and use the Eyedropper tool (i) to sample the light brown color of the wood texture.
For a bit of color, add the holly element from the inside of the card. You can copy all 4 from the card layout and reposition on the edges of the envelope or place one in and repeat the Reflect/Copy process we used on the card.
For a final touch on the envelope, we’ll add a couple of irregular lines like we used inside the card.
Use the Rectangle tool and create a 5” x 5” square. Change the Fill to none and the Stroke to white. Center the square using the Align tools.
Go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen 1% size and 1 for detail. Alternatively, since we’ve been using the same settings over and over, you can go to Effect > Apply Roughen. Your most recent effect will always show up at the top of the menu to make it handy to repeat.
With the irregular line selected, go to Object > Transform > Reflect. Click Copy. In the Stroke palette, increase the weight of the second line to 2 pt.
To finish things off, select all four of the holly pieces and bring those to the front by pressing cmd/ctrl + shift + ] (or go to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front).
I’m going to add addresses for our final image, but it’s more likely these would be hand addressed.
Bonus Gift Tag
Let’s make a matching gift tag!
Create a new file in Illustrator at 2” x 3”.
Copy the gift tag shape from the freebie file and paste it into the new layout file. Change the fill color to None and the stroke color to 100% magenta.
In your Layers palette, change the name of the current layer to Dieline.
We’ll need to create a custom shape for bleed. With the tag outline selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path. In the dialog box, enter .125” for the Offset and click Ok.
Create a new layer and drag it below the Dieline layer. Name it Artwork. With the offset path selected, drag the little blue square to the right of the Dieline layer name down to the Artwork layer. This moves the art to the new layer.
Copy the rectangle with the snow pattern from the freebie file and paste it into the gift tag file. This immediately adds the pattern to our Swatch palette. Now we can delete the rectangle that we just pasted in.
Select the offset path and change the fill to the snow pattern with no stroke color.
Copy the bear from the freebies file and place on the tag. Reduce his size to about 1.75” high and center horizontally on the tag. Leave some room above him for us to add a little text.
Select your Type tool (t) and click once on the artboard. Type Bear-y Christmas in Thriftshop Brush Serif Shadow at 12 pt. Change the Paragraph alignment to Align Center and center the type at the top of the gift tag.
To create a slight curve to the text, go to Effect > Warp > Arc. In the dialog box, enter 40% for the Bend.
At this point, we’ll want to move the type down a bit since the arc effect moves it up considerably.
Now we’ll want to create the teal background behind the white text. Copy the text. Change the fill and stroke color of the currently selected text to teal. In your Stroke palette, increase the weight to 12 pt and change the Cap and Corners to Round.
Finally, press cmd/ctrl + shift + v to paste in the text we copied.
Tah dah! We’re done.
We’ve created a folded card with a custom die cut, an envelope and a matching gift tag. I hope this gives you a jump start on your holiday card making and giving! I can’t wait to see what you make! We’d love to see your designs on our Facebook page.
One last bonus! Video demonstration of building this festive card:
Check out the video below to see how I printed and constructed this card. I hope that you’re able to produce your own card and send it out to friends and family.
Please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions. We love hearing from you!
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