10 Tips for Illustrating Marketable Greeting Cards

By heather at 11:06 pm on Thursday, September 21, 2006

Greeting cards are a lot of fun to design & illustrate… each individual card is your opportunity to tell a short story. It’s like illustrating for a poem within a larger book…you get ONE chance to sell that story. Here are some tips to make your greeting card designs more marketable.

1) Don’t be scared to illustrate the obvious subject matter : Just because you think there are tons of Santa cards out there, doesn’t mean it can’t be revamped. There is always a market for the big icons of the greeting card season… designs are cycled out once the sales start to go down, and often need to be replaced by the same subject matter, just with a modern kick.

2) Design for a Vertical layout : Vertical layouts are hands down the most popular layout for greeting cards for two reasons, 1) they are easier to view in racks, and 2) they don’t fall down like horizontal cards do.

3) Top Third Rule : Cards displayed in racks are often overlapping, so the top 1/3 of the card is often all that you have to grab the attention of a shopper. So make that top 1/3 of the card count, keep it mostly free for typography, or make sure characters are easily seen . Use your hand to cover up the bottom of your card. If the message still comes across, well done! If not, revisit the design.

4) Avoid illustrating people : The moment you illustrate a person on the front of your card, you may exclude certain markets. There are markets for ethnicity specific cards, but you will increase the marketability of your card by avoiding illustrating people altogether. Try substituting people for animals, or give the people non-skin-tone colors like blue or purple for humorous cards.

5) Leave space for type : Illustrations that do not take into consideration space for the caption heading and / or a little bit of verse on the front can often be passed up by publishers. Make sure you leave some areas of your illustration free of strong texture / illustrated elements so that type can be clearly and easily read. Use a piece of acetate with black and white lettering on it to test legibility, or scan your illustration and place type on it with InDesign.

6) Consider Recipient Gender Balance : Cards are typically broken up into three groups…masculine, feminine, and general. Feminine cards are typically easier to design, as there is a plethora of cute fuzzy fluffy flowery imagery out there to play with. Masculine cards are much more difficult, and can unfortunately tend to be stuck in the rut of being more serious and heavy looking. General cards are those that can be given to either male / female recipients.

7) Make your illustrations easy for designers to work : with by Including 0.25 inch bleed around your illustrations.

8) Don’t mix religious iconography : A big faux pas in the card industry is to introducing non-religious icons in your religious designs. Take Christmas for example…if you are designing a religious greeting card, you should avoid all references to Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, etc.

9) Keep in mind Your Target Audience : is not only the person receiving the card. You also have to consider who is buying the card. Often times, it is a lady buying the card, be it some one’s grandmother, mother, auntie, daughter, friend, colleague…women make up about 80% of the greeting card target buying audience. So when designing cards, keep in mind who will be picking up the cards and appealing to how THEY feel about the person they are sending the card to. If you can’t picture any of your female friends picking up the card, you might miss the mark on that design.

10) Ask for feedback on your designs : An easy way to know if your design is hitting the mark is to ask your friends and family. Make sure to not explain what the card is about, just hand them a mock up of the design. If they don’t “get it” then you should reconsider.

Filed under: business of illustration

22 Comments »

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Comment by Noresa Staph

April 10, 2007 @ 6:52 am

I found the information very useful and it has caused me to reconsider how I market my products. Thank ou very much.

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Comment by Sudeshna Chattopadhyay

June 16, 2007 @ 5:29 am

Thank you for the tips. Iam aspiring to try the greeting card illustration market soon and Iam glad to get any help
and advice on this. I had worked in a e-card company for a year and now I plan to start working from home on my own.
Your effort to help is very much appreciated.

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Comment by greetings cards

January 30, 2008 @ 2:48 am

Just wanted to leave little comment to say I found your website to be great and helpful will defo add to my favourites for future referance

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Comment by Printing Perth

February 3, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

Yes,

Ignoring environmental issues does not make the dissappear.

I’m in the printing industry which collectively wastes huge amounts of water each year.

I refer mainly to the offset printing process which the most used process in the world and the biggesr culprit.

However, over recent years there has been a revolutionary printing process developed called waterless printing or dry offset as it’s sometimes referred to.

This process does not use any water or alcohol and uses vegetable based inks.

Additionally, the paper that’s wasted setting up the press is around 40% less than conventional offset.

Printing companies that offer this technology are few and far between and the cost of printing from a waterless press costs more.

If it means that much, many people will gladly pay the extra.

Cheers,
Peter

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Comment by art greetings

March 14, 2008 @ 3:58 am

hey there stumblled across your site and its really interesting some good ideas xx

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Comment by Rajita - Ad Design

July 2, 2008 @ 2:26 am

These are very useful suggestions for marketing and promotion of products

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Pingback by Greeting Card Design Tips from Heather Castles

October 31, 2008 @ 10:39 am

[…] Tips for Designing Marketable Greeting Cards Tips for Submitting Samples to Greeting Card Publishers Open your own POD card shop at Greeting Card Universe […]

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Comment by sarah

September 18, 2009 @ 3:11 am

It was very good of you to share your experience….

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Comment by Justin

January 12, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

We are Envelope Converters and suppliers at www.apecenvelopes.com and one tip I might add, based on what my customers are requesting and purchasing, is that a bit of color can go a long way. As far as Envelopes go, we have found that Card Manufacturers were generally happy to pay an extra penny per envelope in order to get a nice color envelope instead of white. It is easier to consider it a “value-add” so they can charge more for them.

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Comment by Judy Adamson

January 25, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

This blog is packed so full of useful information, it’s the one I keep coming back to time and time again! Thank you, Heather!

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Pingback by What Makes a Good Greeting Card Image? | Jodi Cox

July 1, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

[…] Below is what Heather Castles wrote on her blog at www.IllustrationCastle.com. […]

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Comment by ecards for men

November 25, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

I really appreciate your effort of sharing such useful useful tips for illustrating marketable greetings cards, in fact I already BM this page.

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Comment by Shannon

November 26, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

Thank you very much for your generosity sharing these tips and other ones, I will also book mark this page.

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Comment by Melinda

November 27, 2010 @ 10:29 am

I am very new at all of this. I have illustrated two children’s books alrady,and it was all done by hand.I just want to learn to use computerized sketches which would bring out the color more. Thanks for all the information you have in here. I am finding it useful.
Melinda Francis
PS. maybe you can sow us how to use the Corel system.

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Comment by Karin

January 25, 2011 @ 6:49 am

Many greeting cards need die cut edges, windows or cut out designs. If you need your cards cut, consider laser cutting
rather than traditional die cutting. You won’t need to pay for a die, and you can easily make design changes. Check out www.LaserLogik.com for information on laser cutting for designers.

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Comment by Cards

April 4, 2011 @ 10:48 am

Thank you so much for sharing this article! I find it more interesting because I am in business related to cards. This is very useful to me. I am looking also for Graduation card pictures. Can you show me other greeting card pictures? :)

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Comment by Michigander

April 21, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

Nice website! Can you tell me where the best bargain is for buying UPC bar codes for greeting cards? The best I found surfing was 100- (UPC w/supplemental 5 digit code) bar codes for $175. No renewal fee.
Thanks

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Comment by heather

April 21, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

Hi Michigander,
I don’t have any experience with purchasing barcodes, I used to use a barcode software and just generate the barcodes according to my publishers specifications. Sorry couldn’t be more help.
Cheers,
Heather

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Comment by Michigander

April 23, 2011 @ 10:11 am

Thanks for your feedback Heather.
If you or anyone else knows of a card company person who would be willing to share their bar code knowledge, I’d appreciate the lead.

Have a nice Easter weekend,
Michigander

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Comment by David Waumsley

June 12, 2011 @ 4:36 am

Thank you for this. Useful stuff, but I also can’t help thinking that too many follow all these too much.

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Comment by P.L. Frederick

August 11, 2011 @ 9:36 am

This is very helpful, thank you, Heather!

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Comment by christmasphotogreetingcards

January 6, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

Thank you for posting in this site I will bookmark this site and tell my friend about this nice site to blog…

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