…for panicking about paper goods!!
Here is a not very secret secret: I looooove paper. Stationery, greeting cards, invitations, fancy envelopes with liners. You name it, I have spent a stupid amount of money on it at some point.
I’ve spent a stupid amount amount of money on paper because good paper costs a stupid amount of money!
I first realized this when I went to find a stationery suite for our wedding. Champagne taste, meet champagne of beers budget. This was back before the DIY wedding thing really took off, so there weren’t too many resources out there for someone looking to tackle this on their own.
I started with our save the dates, although I had no idea what I was doing. I pulled a random antique map image from a google search, slapped some text over the top, and hoped for the best in terms of color matching with our peach and sea foam green theme. Then I sent it off to Vistaprint and waited with baited breath.
Spoiler alert: these were a hilarious disaster with bad margins, poor paper quality, pixelated text, and a pumpkin/olive color combo that actually turned my stomach a little. But, because of aforementioned champagne of beers budget, those vibrantly awful postcards are what went in the mail.
I learned some good lessons from that little adventure. So when it came time to do my actual wedding invites, I got serious about quality. I still did the design myself, but I worked with a local nonprofit letterpress studio that focused primarily on teaching printing. They were a) absurdly inexpensive for letterpress, and b) infinitely patient with me, helping me discover and fix design issues, choose a quality but affordable stock, and adjust my expectations about color.
Since then I fancy I’ve become a better than average amateur designer, despite having no particular talent for anything visual and no access to fancy design programs.
In short: I am a real graphic designer’s worst nightmare, as a number of colleagues from my professional career can attest. (Sorry, Jess and Cathy!! I love you!)
I’ve designed wedding suites for friends’ nuptials, baby shower invites, and numerous birthday party invitations for my daughter.
So this holiday card season, when my champagne of beers budget is actually more of a “hey can I have a sip of YOUR beer?” budget, it seemed like designing my own was an obvious solution.
I’ve been down this road before though – the “I don’t want to pay full price for this so let me spend four times as much to buy all the stuff to do it myself from scratch” road – so this time I did the responsible thing and priced out the graphics and fonts I’d buy, the printing costs, the cost for buying envelopes separately, etc.
And hey, what do you know, even when I factored in the specials some of my favorite paper goods vendors (Minted, Shutterfly) were running, it was still going to cost me less than half to design and print my own.
SO, here’s what I did.
I chose four of my favorite photos from our family photo minishoot this fall (done by Liz Oberacker at Pure Style Photography – she is awesome!). And then I poked around online to get some ideas for elements I liked on other cards that could fit four photos.
Once I had a general idea of what I was going for, I went onto Creative Market and favorited about 200 graphic sets I could use to piece together something myself. See, I don’t have Photoshop or anything fancy right now, so I need little graphic files I can paste together to make something pretty.
Let me just say that if Creative Market existed when I first got engaged, that save-the-date fiasco would never have happened. There are so many people hawking so many awesome, easy to use design options. No one from Creative Market is paying me to say this, I just love that site.
I narrowed my choices down and picked one graphic suite (this one!) plus one package of rustic backgrounds (this one!). It took a long time because I wanted to buy All The Things, but I am a grownup and I am being financially responsible, so I did it.
I will be accepting medals for this later, just FYI.
Then I did some Googling to get some ideas about free font pairings that look good together. This was overwhelming and unproductive.
Seriously, try it. Click here and see what happens.
In the end, I landed at a font site I’ve used before and picked a script and a not-script (see? Not a real designer! What do you call something that isn’t a script?!) that were free for personal use.
Then I put them together. And actually hated them.
I finally went with a script that was already on my computer, plus the not-script font I’d found online.
And then I played around in Publisher for about a million hours, moving bits and pieces of graphics around, supplementing some of the already assembled graphic pieces with some of the individual files the package I’d purchased included, messing around with colors and switching up fonts.
I used the specs provided by Vistaprint to build a double sided postcard. Yes, I know, Vistaprint is where I printed those pumpkin/olive Save the Dates and it was a horrible mistake. But Vistaprint has actually gotten a lot better in the last few years, and they have a great matte recycled stock I’ve used for some birthday invites recently that looked downright high end. SO that’s what I went with!
I also ordered these envelopes in Botanic green from Cards and Pockets, which is a great resource for DIY paper goods. I heard a rumor it was founded by a woman from my high school, which makes it even greater.
I did, in the name of financial responsibility, opt to skip the custom return address stamp I’d planned on ordering. I have the handwriting of a serial killer, but since I’m only sending 50 or so of these, I should be able to scratch out our address carefully without getting carpal tunnel.
And here’s the big reveal!
I’m not sure I didn’t go overboard with the wreaths on the back, but I’ve already ordered these so please don’t tell me if I’ve made a huge mistake! I may not be a real designer, but I saved us a good chunk of change and still get to send out holiday cards with our favorite family photos.
It’s a particularly special year for our little family, so I’m pretty happy I was able to find a way to afford this, even though we’re down an income, house poor from our move, and trying to scrape together a nest egg in time for this baby to get here. Plus, it’s always fun to have a creative project to work on to kick off the holidays.
Thank you, God, for the wonders of the internet, where you can learn to do just about anything and find just about any resources you need to do it. Thank you for giving me the time to dive this far down the rabbit hole on something creative I enjoy doing. And thank you giving us a year worth sharing with our family and friends via holiday card. It’s been a great one.