Tutorial: How to Create a Dazzling Holiday Card with Your Annual Family Photo

by Caroline Mercurio on November 1, 2016 9 comments

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, temperatures are dropping, and pretty soon Christmas music will start streaming in through your radio. Every holiday season, we decorate our refrigerators and mantles with cards from family and friends wishing us health and happiness through the cold winter months. This year, stand out from the crowd with a beautiful, one-of-a-kind holiday card that you can personalize to exactly your taste.

We’ve created this quick tutorial for designing a custom photo card that will dazzle everyone on your mailing list. All you need are a few easy-to-edit graphics and you best family pics, and you’re ready to get started. Here’s what we used:

And here’s a preview of our final product:

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial


Let’s Get Started

Step One: Create a Canvas

First, we need to create our canvas. Start by opening a new document, and set the dimensions to 5”x7”, with 300 px/inch.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Step Two: Build your Border

Now that you have your canvas, select the shape tool and set it to the rectangle shape. Draw a rectangular fill shape ½ inch in from all sides.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Once you have your shape, select the “Paint Bucket” tool to fill the square with an ivory color.

A popup will ask you to rasterize the shape, click “okay” and then click inside the shape with your paint bucket.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Step Three: Add Some Sparkle

The holidays are a festive time of year, and how often do you have free reign to add some gold glitter to your life? We decided to use a gold glitter background for the border, and that’s just what you’re going to do next.

We used this gold glitter background. Simply go to File>Open, then select your image. Once it is open in a new Photoshop screen, select the “Move Tool” and drag it into the canvas. From there you can resize the image as you see fit.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

You will notice that it is currently in front of that pretty ivory rectangle we made. To fix this, go to your layers panel, and pull the layer labeled “Rectangle” above “Layer 1.”

Step Four: Add the Banner

For our banner, we started with this red satin image. Open and drag it into your canvas the same way you did for the gold background.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Next you will need to crop out a long rectangle. To do this, you first need to set your primary color to black. Then, Using your marquee tool, draw a rectangle over the area you want to save. With this selected, go to the layers panel and select the “add vector mask” button at the bottom of the panel.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Now you should have a long, thin red banner. Move the banner to the center of the canvas.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

We added an additional satin effect by going to the “fx” button at the bottom of the layers panel and selecting “satin.” Make sure the color is set to a burgundy red and adjust the settings as you see fit. You can see here the settings we used to give the banner a rich, velvety texture.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Step Five: Add Your Family Photo

For our “family photo,” we used this stock image.

Insert your photo into your canvas as you did the other images, and crop as necessary using the vector mask and marquee tool like you did with the red satin banner. Move your image into place.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

We didn’t want to crop off the top of the frame any further, so we let the image stay a slightly larger than the frame and moved the banner in front of the image to cover the extra. We did this by dragging the layer above the photo in the layers panel.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Step Six: Edit Your Photo

Go ahead and apply any edits you would like to your photo. We chose to desaturate this image so that it wouldn’t compete with the bright gold and red in the design. You can do this by selecting Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Step Seven: Start Adding Text

Let’s start by adding text to the lower portion of the canvas, just to get the words in there and figure out what and how much we want to say.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

To make the card look really beautiful, we need to lay out our text in an interesting way and add exciting fonts. Play around with this and let your creativity really shine.

Don’t be afraid to rotate the text and use a couple of sizes and fonts. We also chose to move the “sentiment” up into the ribbon banner for better balance.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Finally, to help the text really pop, we added drop shadows to some of the text layers. With the text layer you want to edit selected in the layers panel, click the “fx” button at the bottom of layers panel, and select “Drop Shadow.”

Here you can see the settings we used for the banner text.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

Step Eight: Send it to the printer

We recommend using a professional printer with a high quality cardstock to really make your card stand out. Or if email is more your pace than snail mail, save your cards as high quality PNGs or PDFs to share virtually with all of your loved ones.

Holiday Card Photoshop Tutorial

That’s it! This beautiful card is simple, elegant, and entirely yours. Customize this design however you like–or if you are feeling inspired, you can start your own from scratch. With thousands of photos, vectors, and graphics, your options are endless.

What will you design? Share your finished project with us on Instagram, (simply tag @graphicstock_), and let us know how it goes in the comments section below.


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Caroline MercurioTutorial: How to Create a Dazzling Holiday Card with Your Annual Family Photo

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  • larry - November 2, 2016 reply

    Great tutorial BUT if you are going to have the cards professionally printed, you need to make your canvas size 5.25″ x 7.25″ to allow 1/8″ Bleed on all 4 sides. Pull out Guides an 1/8″ from the Top/Bottom/Left/Right sides so you can “see” the trimmed out Card area. Make sure your background image extends al the way to the complete Canvas edge. Also a good idea to keep critical image & text at least 3/16″ to a 1/4″ from the Trim Edge/Guides,

    Caroline Mercurio - November 4, 2016 reply

    Hi Larry,

    Thank you so much for adding this information! I am sure our readers (and all of us at GraphicStock) appreciate it!



  • Michelle Splonskowski - November 9, 2016 reply

    If this is meant to be a printed card – you should also explain about bleeds which would mean that this would need to be a 5.25×7.25 card keeping all text .25 away from all edges. I see to much stuff come into print without bleeds

  • Trish - November 11, 2016 reply

    Thanks for this tutorial. I don’t know Photoshop at all, but have the Adobe Creative Cloud so am trying to learn. I’d love to see this as a video. I got as far as adding the vector mask to get the long thin rectangle of “satin” but I can’t move it, I get an error message “Could not select a layer because the point you clicked on is not inside the vector mask of a visible layer.” No matter where I click in the image I get the same message. I’ve been going through the free Adobe EdX classes and learning Illustrator fairly quickly, I may have to come back to this after I go through their Photoshop one. But thank you for the inspiration and showing how to use GraphicStock inside Photoshop.

    Caroline Mercurio - November 11, 2016 reply

    Hi Trish,

    I am so glad you enjoyed the tutorial, and am sorry you came across this issue! Did you check that the correct layer was selected in the layers panel on the right? If so, you may also need to make sure that the little vector icon inside that layer is selected as well. I hope this helps and wish you the best of luck on your journey!



    Trish - November 13, 2016 reply

    Looks like I can’t add a screen shot in the comments but it looks to be selected in both places (correct layer, highlight around icon in the layer.) I may end up trying the project over in case I made some misstep along the way. Thank you for responding!

  • Kristin - December 22, 2016 reply

    For a photoshop novice this was as clear as mud…Many of the detail steps were omittied so I could not follow along…

  • Yusuf - December 30, 2016 reply

    Hi Caroline, I wish I would send you a New Year wish card. You’ve made it so easy to make a card. From now on, I’ll be able to create a new card for any occasion in any time throughout the year. I hope you would also come up with some new ways/techniques/suggestions on color/object choice for specific occasion. And one more thing, which size should I chose if I want to print the card? Thanks for such a nice post

    Caroline Mercurio - January 3, 2017 reply

    Thank you so much Yusuf! It is always so nice to hear such kind feedback. Cards come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but a common size is 5″ x 7.”

    Happy New Year!


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