I’ve been making greetings cards from my watercolours for about 10 years now. A few people have asked how I make them so professional-looking.
- Original artwork: Watercolours are ideal because in watercolours there is a lot of light and not solid pigment. Think of how printing paper absorbs ink when you print photographs and how the colours look dull. With less pigment there is more light refraction.
- I scan my pictures rather than photographing them as this is more likely to give a true white. In photographs the white is often a greyish or blueish colour.
- The colour on the screen is often inaccurate. I do trials of printing until I get the colour balance right – in Photoshop the easiest is ‘brightness and contrast’ and you change it incrementally and print, until it looks right. Don’t get be tempted to over-saturate.
- Yellow is the most difficult colour although when surrounded by other colours as in the image above, it is easier.
- The best thing is to google printers and read the reports. Some use more ink, some are faster, some can take heavier paper etc.
Mine is a Canon iP4500; but it was already ‘outdated’ when I bought it.
- The newer models use a self-cleaning system between print runs and this really chews ink, so I found this one on ebay!
- I like the five cartridges C,M,Y,K and a second, different black. I only use manufacturer’s cartridges even though they are almost double the price.
Paper and envelopes
- I buy my paper in 1000’s and use a slightly textured 270gsm. A good substitute paper for small runs is the Winsor and Newton 220 gsm medium surfaced cartridge pads. It feels nice and takes ink well. Some other makes are much smoother and whiter and look more commercial. In pads, the grain is usually parallel to the length of the pad, so consider this for folding. If, however, it will be wasteful to fold on the grain, I fold against the grain.
- I like coloured envelopes to enhance the cards, and you can get these and cello bags at Regent’s. These days they are happy to sell them in 100’s rather than only in 1000’s.
- If you do postcard sized cards, you’ll get 2 cards per sheet, whereas square ones look too tiny at 10.5cm. Mine are 14.8cm squuare (only one per A4 sheet), but my square ones are more popular than the postcard-sized ones.
- You can buy a scoring mat and bone folder from Blade Rubber Stamps and this will give your cards a professional fold.
- After folding them trim them if necessary. Often the folded edges don’t quite meet and the card needs about 1mm trimmed off.
- The printer is not designed for mass production of printing on heavyish card. Often there is slippage – i.e. the image gets printed in the wrong place. Sometimes, you can sort this out by trimming, but if you are doing double-sided printing this is a real problem.
- Sometimes you need to coax the printer to take the card by standing over the printer and giving the paper a gentle push as the printer grabs the paper.
- If the printer ends up printing without the card, run a few sheets through doing almost blank printing to pick up the excess ink, or your cards will get black lines running across them.
- If the printer persists in being mucky, Google ‘cleaning cartridge heads’. I was so amazed that my cleaning instructions were to run it under warm water!
Lastly, all of this is quite an effort, but the rewards of being able to send lovely Christmas cards or your own thank you cards is worthwhile. Just remember, though, that nothing quite beats a card that you made from absolute scratch specially for your friend.
And I often upcycle bits of artwork. It’s quick, fun and definitely the sort of card I’d enjoy getting.