Another Christmas is almost here. I know some people are already buying presents to stash away. So I jumped on it to show you how to make FREE Christmas Cards! Free to make, free to email. About $1.00 to print plus postage to snail mail.
So How is This Story Told?
Gutsy in this sense that Oh ! I’ve got a great idea.
With this blog post, I hope to spend time sharing Duluth with the world.
Duluth is The Christmas Town.
I envy those parents that have young children in tow.
I was looking online at all of the local calendars of events.
They never end.
When we moved to Duluth, my bride and I, we had a one-year-old son.
I think we probably took him to the Christmas City of the North Parade that first year.
I remember spending each Christmas bundling the kids up, and trekking downtown, searching for a parking spot.
We looked for one where we could leave early if necessary or more important, get the heck out of town as fast as possible.
We had one of the pack style frames to load a son into and carry on with the adventure.
Boy, that frame got a lot of use.
If a young family doesn’t have one, I heartily recommend it.
Dad or Mom can carry a child and have some use of your hands.
You can stuff the carrier with towels or small blankets.
We were always concerned about the legs and feet getting cold.
But we must have left the parade before the cold set in.
The most endearing memory of those early parades, besides no parking at all, were the snowplow mounds to climb over.
So How Well Do You Know Duluth?
Flat out, gee this is the best place to live.
Especially around Christmas time.
Duluth is ‘The Christmas City of the North’ after all.
Looks like Duluth? 5th Ave W? But I think this image is in France. But you can snazz it up and your receiver will never notice it.
A Major Change of Plan
I started on my own Christmas project tonight, and I thought “this might be a Christmas post all on its own.”
At one time I tried selling Christmas images I had made into cards.
Sell? Not so much.
The reason being, premade cards of anything have fallen by the wayside and run over by the internet engine.
I do not know you but just think — how different the world of your children will be from the world that was when you were growing up.
There is a very strong line drawn in the sands of history.
This is a time mass upheavals.
My Soapbox and Deep Mind
I am not talking about the major generational things that the pundits put out (Generation X et al).
They have some value, but some of the changes are not readily apparent during the generation’s change and have to be seen in hindsight.
Some things, like this Christmas, are wide open for everyone to see. I can definitely say there will not be a Christmas like this one ever again. Ever!
Go see Bentleyville. Take the kids sledding down the hill at the Proctor Golf Course — by the locomotive.
Everything comes so much faster now.
There is so much that is changing.
Folks, the world of Artificial Intelligence is here.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution.
It will be as painful, if not more so, like the Coal Industry and the massive loss of jobs around the turn of the century.
That sure has to be figured out and soon. I’ve seen the pictures of all the snowmelt in the Arctic. Scary!
But this is Christmas sneaking upon us and there is so much good to look forward to.
Let’s Make Something
Let’s make some Christmas cards.
These will be digital cards that you can take to OfficeMax and get printed for about $1.00 each or you can email for a much smaller cost.
They can be printed as one-sided (actually two-sided — the front and then the back is plain so you can write on it).
They can be printed as four-sided.
Take a piece of copy paper and fold it in half — top to bottom.
It is not any more difficult than one-sided you just have to be able to think upside down.
The last page of the four-part sheet has to be upside down to the other three sides or it will be upside down to the rest of the card. Make sense?
Email me at craig8131christmas and I will walk you thru it.
I recommend a few things:
First: make sure the cards get printed on heavy stock, not the heaviest available but 100# weight or so.
Then you will have to choose a finish.
There are so many these days. I usually use mount matte so the color ‘stands up’ on top rather than soaking in.
Other papers help make the colors more vibrant. The staff at Officemax/Office Depot are very conversant.
They want images in a pdf file by the way.
Second: do not worry about the images I am going to show you to use.
They are all under the Common Commerical License.
Simply means that users are free to use the images — free even for commercial use.
If they are CCL licenses you don’t even have to attribute them to anyone. But I try to write the photographer’s name in the corner so they can get the ooh’s and aah’s they deserve. I will put one at the bottom of this post as an example.
Now that drones are in the picture, the images are just breathtaking.
Three: I use Microsoft Publisher to assemble all of the pieces.
The background, the typed message, the smaller ‘elements’ as I call them.
I am used to Publisher but also because it comes free with Office 365.
I’m sure people that are good with Microsoft Word can achieve the same results.
PowerPoint is another good tool.
I also use Adobe Acrobat Pro. But again I am sure any PDF app will work.
You have to submit your work to the print shop in pdf format.
Image files like jpg, png, tiff are too large.
Four: You submit your finished work to the print shop, whoever you decide to use, in a digital format.
You can email it to them or bring it to them on a flash drive and while there you can decide on the paperweight, purchase envelopes, etc.
If you are making a four-sided card which is an 8×10 inch sheet of paper folded in half from top to bottom.
OfficeMax/Office Depot doesn’t or didn’t not that size at one time.
You can go next door and purchase them at the craft store if necessary.
If you are using your favorite print shop you can make similar arrangements that may be closer to your home.
I keep thinking of Duluth but that’s kind of ingrained in me after forty-some years.
Come to think of some of you may have excellent laser printers that will save you time and money.
Five: Where to get the images.
It’s a secret and I’m not going to tell you.
It’s like getting a fisherman where he/she caught all those fish.
First, go to the internet and type into your browser: bing.com, when that pops open enter “Christmas images 2016” and images will pop up.
And not only thousands of Christmas but all other major events during the year.
If can’t find the ones that suit your ideas try Bing: Christmas 2014.
I grabbed most of my supply from the Christmas 2014 site.
If you still want something a bit more grand and something that no one else has, go to Unsplash.com.
Set up an account for free and type in the search bar: Christmas images.
There are only 17,400 or so there.
You can also try Pixabay and Pexels or a few other ones. But my preference is Unsplash. You also have to watch for ones that cost money. There is nothing worse than finding the perfect image and then finding you have to lay out some money.
On any of the other sites, you have to be mindful that some images are from Shutterstock etc and are not free.
Not expensive but I like free.
If you sign up for Unsplash’s monthly email, I hope you get as hooked as I am.
When you have an account you can set up your own ‘collections’.
I must have about twenty from seashores, to lighthouses, to landscapes, to mountains.
Another great hiding place is Senator Amy Klobuchar’s annual photo contest. Awesome pictures but please make sure to attribute them to the photographer.
However many you need.
As you view an image you can decide to ‘keep’ it in one of your collections.
If you want to download an image you go to the image, either from the site or your personal collection and click on the image. In the upper right-hand corner, you just click on “download”.
A great thing about these images is that they are usually a large size 1200 pixels by 1200 or so.
In which case you may want to think about saving them as .png files rather than .jpg. I have read that png files give better results if used for important work, which your cards are.
Six: I just thought of this.
If you are just starting to work with pictures (I separate between photos [photos are pictures or ‘pix and images but that’s just the way I try to keep that I take] things straight) and you don’t have a favorite app for working with images I recommend three: the all-around best is paint.net.
I was introduced to it a few years ago and it really works well. It is so sophisticated that I can’t figure out most of it.
My needs are simple though so I have my old standbys.
Pixlr On-Line which is a product of AutoDesk.
These are all free by the way just sign up for an account.
Another is called Irfanview. It is free just Google it and download.
It is designed by a guy in India I think and it is awesome.
With this app, you really don’t need anything else. I use Pixlr On-Line primarily for cropping images because it pops up in the standard 3/4 format and you move two lines, save it as a jpg or png and move one.
A photo app that is phenomenal if you like to sent photos digitally or write a blog etc. is an ‘image resizer’ or Image Optimizer.
It is also free.
What it does, for me, is to optimize images (it makes images smaller without distorting them). When you try to email images or use them on a website, you want to decrease their size so that Google doesn’t frown and tell you that you have gone over the 25 mg limit and you will have to use GDrive to get those all-important Christmas pictures to Grandma.
With Image Optimizer, you can optimize an image or a folder full at one time. You decide the quality of output. It stays in your context function (right-click on a Window company). You just have to remember to put pictures in a folder in order for the context label to come up.
The other day I confirmed the functionality of Image Optimizer. An image that was about 300 Mb was 30 or so kb after it was optimized. Don’t hold me to the exact sizes, I wasn’t planning on using that as an example in a blog.
If you play a lot with images check out IrfanView aka IrfanView. It can translate so many many different kinds of images. It also has plugins for almost any task. The new image standard is WebM. It used to be that I would have to use Chrome to open those files. Now I use IrfanView. When you try to open a file it says ‘can’t be done, sir’. Just close the error message and the image will be there.
So lets put a card together. I will upload a pix of mine to Blogger (the site I am using) as just the background.
Pretty red yes?
Now a few trimmings
After adding some text and arranging the image part in Publisher we are finished.
Not too bad for about 5 to 10 minutes work.
Hopefully enough to give you an idea of what is possible. Really everything is possible.
With the applications available now, shoot for the moon.
An example, the white background. You can obviously pick a white background for the card, or use paint.net and erase the background. I use an app, the only one I have bought. It is from SoftOrbits called, wait for it….. background remover.
Another app is InPixio. Both seem to be about the same level of difficulty. But it costs $50 or so.
It is a lot harder than the demo video makes it look but my hands are 69-year-old-hands and not very steady. I have been working on a piece for a granddaughter for a year.
I get it so close and zip my hand moves and it is a do-over. But that is the great thing about digital, if you find an image you want, save it, and then save it under a new name ‘test’ and then don’t lose the original file.
I found another app that does a great job of removing backgrounds if you are using a product remove.bg and it is FREE.
You can’t hurt anything because you remember to name all of your files as test files (Christmas Tree.test1 or test 6). I usually end up with numerous files, test 1,2 or100, test resized, test with white typeface and so on. Then I have to remember which is what.
Someday, I promise myself I will get organized. Yeah right. Some know of my desk at work or at home. There is no hope for me.
Some other examples of cards:
I add borders using Irfanviewer 32 or 64. This is a free app with extensive professional functions.
Just give a holler if you need me.
Now some treats of excellent amateur photographers. Two are from Senator Amy Klobuchar files. Rick Rice is a local Duluth man with great talent.