Last-minute Photo Cards

Where did the time go? One minute you're enjoying your Thanksgiving turkey and thinking about how this year you're going to stay on top of the holiday rush. And the next thing you know, there's less than a week to Christmas and you're still trying to pick out a photo for your Christmas cards. Ah well, there's always New Year's.

But if you're determined to get those cards out in time for Santa's big arrival, there's still hope. You may not be able to order cards online anymore--most shipping deadlines were yesterday--but you can still print your own greeting cards. Just be sure to get them in the mail on Monday, December 21st.

Unfortunately, not all of us come blessed with design skills. Rather than starting from scratch, take advantage of free card templates that let you pop in your own photo, customize the greeting, and then press Print. (To give your cards a more substantial feel, buy a pack of photo-quality card-stock.)

Here are two ways to get last-minute photo cards that don't look like they were pulled together at the last minute.

HP Creative Studio

The HP Creative Studio Website offers free holiday card templates and a simple interface for adding your photos.

Select the template you like, import photos from your hard drive or from Shutterfly, and drag the photo to an empty space on the card. You can customize the signature and then click the Print button. The site will produce a high-resolution graphic that you can print at home.

iPhoto

If you use iPhoto to organize your photos, you can build a holiday card right from iPhoto's interface. Then, instead of sending them off the iPhoto's printing service, save the cards and print them yourself.

Select the photo (or photos) you'd like to use for your greeting, and then choose the Card button at the bottom of the window. Select a card from the resulting pane and use the options at the bottom of the window to customize it with your own text, a new background color, or additional images.

When you're done, don't click the Buy Card button. Instead, press Command-P to open the Print dialog box. (If you only want the front of your card--the simplest option when printing at home--select the From 1 To 1 option in the Pages section.) Then choose Save As PDF from the PDF pop-up menu. You should get a PDF file of your card that you can print yourself.

Smart printing

To save paper when printing a 5-by-7-inch or similar card, print two cards per letter-sized sheet of paper. Use the Print dialog box to save the HP card image as a PDF (click on the PDF button and choose Save As PDF). Open the resulting file in Preview, select File->Print, set Image Per Page pull-down menu to 2, and then turn on the Print 2 Copies Per Page option.

You can use a paper cutter to trim the cards, but don't try to save time by cutting them all at once. Trust me, that never turns out well.

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