How I design + sell cards on Etsy
I recently opened up the floor to my Instagram followers and asked them to send in their burning questions about lettering, running an Etsy store, and manufacturing paper goods.
I’m often asked how I make my greeting cards.
Do I get them professionally printed? Do I hand letter each one? What paper do I use? How do I take photos?
Well you’re in luck… Because I have no qualms about sharing my knowledge. I’m going to tell you all the nitty gritty details about how I design, sell, and manufacture my greeting cards.
Within a few short months of opening my Etsy store, I was gobsmacked to hit over 100 sales. The majority of those were cards, and I had quite a steep learning curve over the Valentine’s Rush of 2016.
But let’s take things back to the beginning...
My greeting card designs started with a simple sketch I made on my honeymoon for fun.
Little did I know, it would become one of my most popular greeting card designs! I’ve sold hundreds of this design (which I find hilarious because
a) so many people agree with it, and
b) it’s probably the simplest thing I’ve ever sketched, and even though my newer work is constantly improving, people still love this one.)
How did I take it from a random sketch, to an Etsy listing?
If you are not doing designs by hand (if they are just fonts you’ve put together in Canva, or if you're lettering on an iPad, for example), you can totally skip all this info about scanning.
I scanned the sketch on my home scanner / printer combo (a Canon Pixma MX925, if you’re wondering) at 600dpi resolution. DPI (or PPI) refers to dots per inch (or pixels per inch). They are the same thing.
Basically, all you need to know is that standard print resolution is 300dpi.
Lower than this, and images start to look blurry.
For a simple sketch like this, a 300dpi scan would usually suffice… But I’m an serial over-achiever, and I always scan my work in the highest resolution possible. This means I have more flexibility to enlarge sections of my work and ensure they still print nice and crisp.
If your scanner doesn’t do any higher than 300dpi, don’t stress. Greeting cards are a small printing area, and so long as your original is roughly the size of the greeting card (or bigger), you shouldn’t have any problems.
Next, I edit the design.
Editing is mostly tidying up scans, like removing the paper background and fixing any imperfections in the original.
Back before I learned how to use Photoshop in course, I used a combination of basic picture editing and zooming WAAAY in on MS Paint to edit my scans (I know, RIGHT? Someone should have shot me.)
There are two things you can learn from this.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I had no idea what I was doing and I just figured out a work around with the tools available to me.
… There is literally no excuse to do it this way when there are so many amazing tutorials out there to teach you how to edit artwork for this type of thing.
Some courses I would recommend* :
1. Becoming An Online Artist by Think Creative Collective
2. Lettery Business by Liss Letters
3. … Or I’ve heard that Lynda is amazing.
*N.B. I am not an affiliate for these, but I either know + trust the creators or have heard very good things about the courses.
Now the pretty part
Who doesn’t love pretty product photos? ... MEEEEE!
Well, I love them, but I loathe taking them. My photography skills are very limited. I own a cheap smart phone with a camera, and that’s it. I bought a light box on eBay, let it sit for 6 months, tried it for a few weeks and then gave up. #truestory
If photography is your thing, GREAT! Use those skills and take awesome photos!
If not, let me introduce you to the wonderful world of Mock Ups:
All these images: Mock Ups. I did not take a single one of them.
Someone else took a fabulous photo with a blank piece of paper and I photoshopped my design on top. My favourite places to find mock ups:
Haute Chocolate (paid membership)
Ivorymix (paid + free options)
Mock Up World (free mock ups for everything imaginable)
Creative Market (a treasure trove of mock ups, graphics, fonts, etc).
If you don’t have the photoshop skills, never fear… you can always DIY it in Canva (which is FREE).
FINALLY, the question you’ve been asking me for ages: Do I print my own cards?
The answer is yes. At the moment, I can handle producing the cards myself at home.
I print my cards from MS Word (although you could also do it in Adobe InDesign - I just get frustrated with how long it takes to open and find Word a bit faster) onto A5 sized paper, which I then manually fold, and put in a plastic sleeve with a matching envelope.
I use linen-textured paper (because I like to touch it) that’s 300gsm thick. I found my supplier on eBay and re-order from them as needed. I usually order quantities of 100+, but plenty of eBay sellers will send you 10 or 20 sheets at a time. That’s how I started.
What paper should you use?
Standard copy paper is 80gsm thick. You’ll want to print a greeting card on 200gsm thickness as a BARE MINIMUM. Any lighter will feel cheap and yucky.
Trust me on this, I am a serious paper nerd.
Check what thickness your printer can handle. Mine can go up to 300gsm, so that’s what I print on. I looked up 300gsm card stock on eBay, and buy it in bulk from there.
What printer should you get? What printer do I have?
I regularly get emails asking me this question, so there's a whole other blog post here that will talk you through how to choose a printer and what printer I've used.
Please note there are some affiliate links in this post - But they are only ever for products I am happy to back and am sure will add value to my readers.