How to Design & Make Greetings, Birthday & Christmas Cards: 7 Golden Rules

How to Design & Make Greetings, Birthday & Christmas Cards: 7 Golden Rules

Read Time: 4 Minutes


31 Oct 2019

Updated: 17th May 2023

Think greetings cards are a thing of the past? Think again. Think again. With the UK spending as much as £1.4 billion a year on greetings cards, it’s a huge, booming industry with scope for even more growth in the future. But in such a saturated market, how do you create fresh card designs that sit a cut above the rest? 

Whether you decide to sell them or send them, we’ve gathered our ultimate tips to creating unbeatable greetings card designs your customers won’t be able to resist.


  1. Research, Research, Research

    Before you even put pen to paper, the very first thing you’ll need to do is figure out what kinds of cards your customers want. Look at the latest graphic design trends and figure out how you can create a card design that reflects these but has your own spin, or look at what isn’t being done yet. Is there a popular TV show with quotes that’d make pun-filled cards? Or maybe something is happening in the news that would make a relatable design? 

    Finding your niche and the direction you want to go in will help in creating a strong brand for your birthday card, stationery or gift-selling business.

    Graphic design trends we’re starting to see rising in popularity right now include minimalism (think stark cards with one or two graphic elements like the card below), asymmetric layouts and bold colours.

    happy birthday card

    (Fragola Designs)

  2. Choose Your Card

    With online greetings card printing,

    there are so many customisation options to choose from, and the type you choose will determine certain aspects of your greetings card’s design.

    First, you need to choose your size. A5 is the standard greetings card size, but smaller cards like A6 are another popular option. For something a little bit different, square cards are great for modern designs. DL size is standard envelope shape, meaning these cards are specially designed for sending in the post.

    random axe of kindness card

    (Ohh Deer)

    Once you’ve chosen your perfect size, it’s time to choose a stock – that’s the material a card is printed on. Premium silks are always a good option, but limit writing to just ball point pens. If you want customers to be able to write with anything, uncoated writable stocks are your best bet. 
    with deepest sympathy card

    (Rifle Paper Co.)

    Or do you want to create something that’s in a league of its own? (We already know the answer: of course you do!) Ice Gold stock shimmers in the light to create a pearlescent glow – great for Christmas cards. Kraft is a brown stock, which is best if you want to make a handmade, DIY kind of style – this looks best with dark, block colours that really show off the texture of the card.
    at least they work happy holidays card

    (Hen Pen Paper Co.)


    Environmentally friendly card designs are also seeing a massive upward trend. Recycled cards are uncoated, meaning once the occasion is over, they can be recycled again!

    You know exactly what your brand is and what customers want and expect from your card design, so we’ll leave you to do the choosing.

  3. Pick Complementary Colours

    Not only do the colours you choose need to be complementary, but they also need to match the greetings card occasion. Here are a few colour suggestions for different types of cards.

    Christmas Card Colours
    There are the obvious reds and greens we all know and associate with Christmas, but we think there’s plenty of room for icy blues too! This Christmas card design uses jewel tones with ruby, emerald and gold to create a wintery northern lights vibe that is a whole world away from the Father Christmases and candy canes we’re so used to.
    the world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing card

    (Samantha’s Creative Cards)

    Birthday Card Colours
    You’ve got a lot more room to play with colours when it comes to birthday cards, as pretty much anything goes! Since it’s such a happy occasion, bright shades are always a popular option, like this rainbow sprinkles birthday card design.
    happy birthday card

    (Jen Shults)

    Wedding Card Colours
    For wedding cards – either as invites or to send your congratulations to the happy couple – anything floral and watercolour (like the example below) is extremely popular. However, we have also seen a recent rise in rich jewel tones, marble backgrounds and geometric shapes. 
    happily ever after wedding card

    (Down in the Boon Docks)

  4. Find a Font

    Your font choice is really important for defining the character of your card design – is it quirky? Is it bold? Is it elegant? Certain fonts connote certain things, and it’s important to find the right one for your greetings card design.

    Cursive fonts, like the one below, are popular for wedding, sympathy and any other cards that need a personal, handwritten look. They give cards a polished, elegant appearance with a more serious tone.

    best wishes wedding invite

    (Rifle Paper Co.)

    Comedic or quirky cards will normally go one of two ways: simple capital letters.
    so many candels so little cake card


    Or newspaper-style fonts like a Helvetica or Times New Roman.
    birthday girl hits town card


    For children’s birthday cards, make the fonts bold and clear, especially if they’re targeted at those just learning to read!
    happy birthday childrens card


  5. Write the Perfect Message

    The message is the whole point of your card, whether it’s a heartfelt Mother’s Day message or the punchline of the joke you started on the cover. Trying to find the perfect words can be tricky, especially if it’s not your strong suit. Not to fear – we’ve thought up 43 things to write in a greetings card; there’s a message for every tone of voice and occasion, so you’re sure to find the perfect message for your greetings card.
    wish you well card

    (Endless Creations & Everyday Cards)

  6. Personalise It!

    Creating your own personalised greetings card design is a great way to stand out from the competition, especially if you’re designing cards for special celebrations like weddings. There are loads of little extras you can add to your card design once you’ve printed them to personalise them, like writing names in a calligraphy-style font. Here are just a few ideas to spark your creativity.

    Embellish with Decorations
    Adding ribbons and sticking other decorations on is a fantastic way to personalise your printed greetings card. This sunflower card example uses this technique brilliantly! Top tip: when you create your design, keep in mind where you’re going to add embellishments after your cards have been printed.
    happy birthday to a special friend card


    Stamp a Pattern
    You can use all kinds of things to add a beautiful, stamped pattern to your card design. One of our favourite techniques is to dip flowers in paint and create a stamp out of them! This gives such an effective DIY look and it lets you add a 3D element to your birthday or Christmas cards.
    stamp a pattern card

    (Nurture Store)

    Draw Personalised Illustrations
    Especially popular for wedding save the dates and invitations, leaving space for personalised illustrations is another great way to give your card design a unique edge and could be a definite winning factor for a greetings card business. This example features the happy couple front and centre as illustrated versions of themselves; a perfect keepsake for their guests.
    wedding day card

    (Wedding Manage)

  7. Choose Your Envelopes

    Now you’ve created the perfect card design for your business, it’s time to choose your envelopes – AKA the all-important first impression. For an affordable, plain white envelope with a short tab, standard envelopes are your best choice. These envelopes are best for bulk buying or cheaper brands. 

    Luxury envelopes are a crisp white just like standard ones, but they’re a thicker, more impressive paper stock with a longer tab, making them the supreme choice for a quality greetings card. 

    If you want something a little brighter and more festive for a Christmas card, red is the only way to go!

Seeking Guidance?

We hope our tips have turned your creative brain on and that you’re raring to go! You can print your own greetings cards with instantprint. Or, if you still need some more inspiration, check out our top 14 free greetings card design templates.

To speak to a member of our team, contact us here. Our friendly experts are on hand to answer any questions you may have regarding greetings card design and more.


About the Author

Hi, I’m Beth, an Artworker on the instantprint Studio team. I combine my passion for graphic design with my love of print to create useful content to help you achieve perfect print results!