Introduction and Workspace
Hello everyone, welcome to this tutorial, my name is Ed and I am going to show you how to prepare a Christmas card for print. Also, you will see how to create a decorative brush for the holiday seasons and how to use a foil-stamping effect for the front of your card. You can also use these tips for New Year invitations or similar.
NOTE: This tutorial was originally written in English for the version 1.9.7 of Clip Studio Paint.
▼ You can download the Workspace I am going to use in this tutorial from the links below.
Let's get started!
1. Contact the printing company or provider
Whenever you are going to send an artwork to print you need to contact the printing company first.
■ Please review the important points that I listed here before continue:
Now consider two options. First, if you want to print a small amount of cards from 10 to 20 in your own printer or with a small provider such as Computer Center, Internet/Cyber Cafe, etc. Second, if you choose a professional printing company to print 100 cards or more. The minimum amount that you can order from printing companies is usually 100 units and the delivery takes around 2 or 3 days.
 Material. For a greeting card you can use a white cardboard from 250-350 g/m² gloss or matte.
If you are planning to use an office ink printer (for few cards) you can buy gloss paper for better results. You can ask in the place where you bought the printer or other similar stores for recommended materials for print.
 Color Profile. Remember that you need to use the CMYK profile indicated by the printing company.
In case that you are printing a small amount of cards for the holidays you can do it with an office ink printer or a laser printer in a Computer Center, Internet/Cyber Cafe or similar. Usually these printers do not need the image to be converted to CMYK. If you choose this option I strongly recommend you to use a gloss paper/cardboard for better results.
 Delivery. Again remember to ask to the printing company or small provider (Computer Center) how you should delivery the print work.
a) In case you are sending the file to a printing company is more likely you will need to delivery the file in TIF or PSD.
b) And for a small provider such as Computer Center, Internet/Cyber Cafe or similar probably a JPG or flat PSD will be good enough.
c) If you are using your own home/office printer it will be the same that the previous one.
2. Explore and sketch your idea
Once you have decide how you are going to print your card you can start to explore ideas for your design or illustration.
If you have the time I recommend you to read and get documented about history, tales, legends and so on about the holiday seasons. This will help you to understand the symbols and their meanings.
■ Remember that you can explore and collect examples and ideas in a digital or printed “Moodboard”.
Since I cannot show you my Moodboard due to copyright reasons. Here is a list of ideas that you can found in greetings cards for Christmas and New year in the holiday seasons.
 For Christmas.
a) Christmas Images. One big star surrounded for other small ones. Trees, usually evergreen such as a spruce or pine. Winter represented by snowflakes or snowballs. The birth of baby Jesus. Santa Claus with gifts, angels, candles, ribbons, candies, decorations, lights and much more.
b) Christmas Colors. Green, red and gold are strongly associated with the season. Also, white and silver usually with different shades of blue that may be a reminder of the winter.
c) Christmas Text Style. Here there is a lot of different styles that change depending of the culture and time. Nevertheless, it seems hand writing fonts are popular these days.
 For New Year
a) New Year Images. Fireworks, decorations and lights of different colors. Glasses, bottles and ribbons. And of course the numbers of the new year.
b) New Year Colors. Gold with dark background and silver sometimes with white or light background colors.
c) New Year Text Style. Again this change depending of the time and place but handwriting seems very popular. You can also find elegant fonts/typography both with serif and sans-serif designed for print.
Based on your Moodboard you can make a quick sketch-drawing-collage to visualize where you are going to place the elements in the greeting card. You can do it with paper and pencil, digitally or making a collage with the material you collected.
I am planning to add this photograph to the front background of my card ▼
3. Setting Display Resolution for Canvas
▼ If you are planning to send your greeting card to a printing company please review the Step 3 in this tutorial:
Now for any print artwork I strongly recommend you to adjust the Display resolution before start making the design or illustration. From [File > Preferences] select [Canvas] and click on Display resolution [Settings] and with a small ruler try to match it with the one you see on screen and press OK.
Now from [View > Print size] you can see the greeting card in the size is going to be printing. Using this view you can avoid to overwork details and effects that will not be visible in its final size.
4. Create a document for horizontal greeting card
The most common size for greeting cards and the one I am going to use is 7x10” that folds to 7x5 inches. This is 17,78 cm x 25,40 cm unfolded that folds to 17,78x12,7 centimeters. Nevertheless, you are free to explore more sizes.
■ Create a new document. If you are going to print in your own printer or with a small provider (Computer Center, Cyber Cafe, etc.) select Illustration [Canvas] B5 -width 7.17 in × 10.12 height in- [resolution] 300 with a white paper. This is pretty close to the standard card size. You can change the canvas size later or let the extra space as bleed to cut the borders. ▼
If you are sending your artwork to a printing company for 100 units or more. Please ask to your provider all the details on how to prepare the file document.
You can select [Comic] or [Show all Comic Settings] to create a new document and add bleed, margins and borders according to the printing company requirements. ▼
▼ To learn more about the subject please check:
■ Now I am going to draw a line to visualize where the card will be fold.
From [View > Grid Settings] you can change the grid and place the Origin of grid/ruler to the Center. You can also choose the Number of divisions and Gap that you like. Make sure you click over the [Snap to Grid] icon or press the shortcut CTRL+3 to draw using the grid.
You can visualize the Grid and Ruler from [View] > [Grid] and [Ruler] to start drawing.
(a) In a new vector layer with the Straight line tool (shortcut U) draw a horizontal line in the center from one side to the other.
(b) And from the [Tool property] change the Brush shape to Dashed line. ▼
■ Now let's organize our layers before add the elements to our greeting card.
(a) The complete size unfolded of the document is the standard 7x10 inches (more if you added bleed). ▼
▲  And the dashed line in the middle indicates the fold. You can delete the line later in the process but for now it will be helpful to understand the layout and place your design or illustration.
(b) The folded size of the card is around 7x5 inches. ▼
 This is the front cover of your card in horizontal orientation. You can see a Balloon indicating the orientation of the text. This face is part of the outside of the card.
 This will be the inside where you usually place your text about the seasons and warm wishes to your friends, acquaintances, relatives and family.
 This is the back of your card. You can place a logo, the year or a small quote or phrase. This is also part of the outside of the card.
(c) Let's create two folders to place our elements in an organize way. ▼
 Draw a white background for the front cover (7x5”) using the [Rectangle] selection (shortcut M), snap to Grid and the fold line as guide. The grid needs to be visible. Then fill the selection with white and name your layer “Front”. Then you can repeat the process for the “Back” face.
 Select both layers and from [Layer > Create folder insert layer] and name the folder “Outside”. If you are using my workspace you can press CTRL+G to group layers inside a folder.
 Now duplicate the folder and change the name to “Inside”. You can also rename the copies “Front” to “Blank Space” and “Back” to “Message” or something similar.
▲ IMPORTANT: You can use a rasterize Balloon in a different layer to remember the orientation of the area. That way you can make (1) your design or illustration in the normal orientation and (2) rotate it once you have finish and it is ready to print.
NOTE: If you are following this tutorial step by step this will apply to the “Message” and “Back” layers. If you are following the guidelines of a printing company this may be different.
5. Draw shapes for brush tip
Now I am going to draw shapes to create tip(s) for brushes based on the images from the Moodboard. I recommend you to create a square document and set your Grid to drawing the shapes.
▼ You can learn more about how to set your Grid in the Step 5 on this tutorial:
■ Create a new document. Select Illustration [Canvas] width 2000px x 2000 height pixels [resolution] 300 with a white paper. This is the maximum size for brushes.
I am going to show you how to draw a very simple snowflake shape using the Grid and a special ruler. Make sure Snap to both Special Ruler and Grid are active.
(a) Create a Symmetrical ruler (shortcut U three times) at the center of the document. Then press CTRL+2 to use Snap to Special Ruler. You can move the ruler with the [Object] tool (shortcut O) selected and enter the exact values in the [Tool property] palette.
(b) Select the Straight line (shortcut U) tool and on the [Tool property] palette change the Brush Size to 120 or 160. In a new vector layer click on the canvas close to the border and draw a line to the center.
(c) Then with the same tool draw two lines  for the snowflake shape. You can use a small Brush Size for this. Then select the lines and from [Edit] Copy and Paste and with the [Object] tool (shortcut O) rotate  them holding SHIFT to get a straight angle.
(d) Finally you can draw some circles with the [Ellipse] tool (shortcut U) with the ruler active. Then you can fill the circles in another layer.
▼ Now you can create more shapes that later can be use for a decoration brush. Here you can see the ones I made:
6. Create a decoration brush with different tip shapes
Now make sure your shapes are black and the [Expression Color] of the layers are set to Gray in the [Layer Property] palette. This will allow you to use different colors with your brush. You can also organize each shape in one layer. ▼
Select the visible layer with the shape you want to use for tip and from [Edit > Register Material > Image] choose (1) the folder where you want to save the material. Add different tags (2) to the material such as “Christmas”, “Greetings”, “Tip”, etc. This will help you to find your material later. Please make sure (3) to check [Use for brush tip shape] to use the material in brushes. Then you can change the (4) Material name and press (5) OK to save the tip shape. ▼
You can repeat the process for the other shapes. Try to save them in the same folder and use common tags to find the tip shapes later.
■ Now it is time to create the Brush. Select any brush and from the [Sub tool] palette:
(a) Click over the expand menu in the left upper corner.
(b) Select [Create custom sub tool]
(c) Name your brush.
(d) Choose an icon. I am going to choose Decoration.
(e) You can pick a color for the background of your brush icon (or not) and click OK.
Once you have created a new brush you will see that the [Sub Tool Detail] palette shows up. Now let's change the Settings to start using our Decoration Brush.
 Select Brush tip.
 Change the Tip Shape to Material.
 Click over the Add brush tip shape icon.
On the Select brush tip shape palette:
 Type one of the tag you used when creating the tip shape. Without tags this will consume a lot of time.
 And select the tip shape you want to add and click OK.
 Repeat the process to add the other tip shapes.
 Increase the Brush density to 100 for a solid shape when using the brush.
 Select Stroke.
 Change the Gap to Fixed and enter a large value number such as 160.
 Finally you can go back to Brush Tip and select Angle to add some randomness to the brush. I am going to use 24 but you are free to try different values.
Now you can use your own Decoration brush like any other brush. You can select any color and start drawing on your canvas.
▼ If you want to Mastering the sub tool details palette please check:
▼ If you want to learn about Hand-drawn digital brushes please check:
7. Adding your greeting message
The messages for greetings cards usually are related to joy, peace, warm wishes and so on. I am going to use the well known “Merry Christmas” for the front and “Happy New Year” for the inside. Also I am going to place the translated text “Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo” in Spanish.
I am going to use a handwriting font use in combination with a sans serif for small texts but you are free to choose any type of font that you want. With the [Text] tool (shortcut T) select the font from the [Tool Property] palette. Then click on the canvas and type your message. ▼
▲ Make sure the fonts you are using are not too light or thin. If you want to see the foil-stamping effect a Medium or Bold font will work better. You can also use a Border Effect from the [Layer Property] palette if necessary. I am using gray or black around 80% for the text inside. And black for the front but this is going to be replace it later with the foil-stamping effect.
▼ If you are not familiar with the text tool you can check the Step 7 on this tutorial:
You can also draw your own hand lettering design. I am not going to show you that process but you can check some tutorials about it here ▼
8. Using you decoration brush in the greeting card
You can use the decoration brush to start adding holiday imagery to the greeting card. Select your brush and draw in a New Vector Layer.
▲You can use rulers or the grid to draw straight lines. You can also move or edit the lines with the [Object] tool (shortcut O).
■ Now for the background of the front of the card I am going to use a close-up photo that I took to a Christmas tree. You can open the image from [File > Import > Image].
▲ Depending of the resolution you may need to scale the image. I am going to use  for the Scale ratio in the [Tool property] palette. Make sure [Keep aspect ratio] is check.
It is possible that right now you cannot see the fonts and imagery that is in black. Let's use the decoration brush to fix that.
(a) Create a New Layer mask from the icon in the [Layer] palette.
(b) With the mask selected (thumbnail with frame) use your decoration brush to start painting with transparency (shortcut C). This will hide the photo making the white background visible.
(c) Paint over all the area you want to be visible. If you use your mouse you will paint flat solid shapes but if you use a tablet you can use pressure to fade the shapes when you press lighter.
9. Adding quick Foil-stamping effect
Foil-stamping is a printing process that is commonly use in greetings cards, invitations, certificates and more. Basically, pigmented or metallic foils are transferred to paper surface using pressure and heat. Among the metallic foils gold and silver are very popular for cards. Foil-stamping tends to be more expensive that the CMYK printing process.
■ Now I am going to show how I made the gold foil stamping effect for the front of the Christmas Card. Make sure to use [Print size] from the [View] menu to check the final size and not overwork the effect. You can hide the background photograph if you like.
 First I duplicated the folder containing “Merry Christmas” and the decoration lines. You can do that from [Layer > Duplicate Layer] and then [Merge selected layers]. You can hide and left the original folder for backup. Now you have all the elements in one layer.
 Then for the metallic gradient you can create a New Layer and make a selection with the [Selection] rectangle tool (shortcut M). And from [Filter > Render > Perlin Noise] choose a high number for the [Scale] value around 160 to 180 and click OK.
 On the [Layer] palette click over the [Clip to layer below] icon to mask the gradient we just created. You will see a red vertical line to the left of the layer icon when clipping.
4] You can add texture to the metallic gradient from [Material] and [Monochromatic pattern]. Place the layer above the gradient and click over the [Clip to layer below] icon. You can reduce the opacity or use [Overlay texture] in the [Layer Property] palette to blend the texture with the layer below. I am using 56 for the [Strength] value.
 Now to emulate the Gold tone you can use a gold material from assets and use the blending mode [Color] in the [Layer] palette. You can also apply Blur (strong) from the [Filter] menu to the asset image if you like.
▼ This is the asset I am using for the gold metallic foil-stamping effect.
 Then from [Layer > New correction layer] you can add different corrections to adjust the contrast and brightness and color. Make sure you use [Clip to layer below]. I am using Hue/Saturation/Luminosity and Tone Curve.
 Finally, I duplicated the base layer “Merry Christmas” where are the letters and brush decoration are in black. And I moved the layer around 3 to 5 times with the arrow keys with the Move layer tool selected (shortcut K). This will help to add that stamp look to the artwork. You can add a soft blur to this layer and change the blending mode to [Multiply] and decrease the opacity to around 64 to 80%.
Remember that you can use [Print size] to see the final size of the artwork. This will help you to prevent to spend too much time with details that may be not visible at the end.
IMPORTANT: Feel free to move the layers around to get the lights and shadow that you would like from the gradient. You can use printed reference to try to match the metallic effect better. You can also use extra layers, corrections, effects in order to to add more shadows, shinning areas, etc. Nevertheless, if you are in a hurry this steps will be enough to simulate the foil-stamping effect.
10. Exporting for Print
Remember that you should follow the print guides from the printing company that you are working with. This apply for material, color profile and file delivery. You can also use the Color Profile Preview from [View > Color profile > Preview] to see a representation of the colors that you are going to print with CMYK.
▼ To learn more about “Preview of color profile” you can check:
■ Now if you are printing your card in your own printer or with a small provider such as Computer Center, Cyber Cafe, etc. You will need to prepare two files in JPG. One file for the outside and one for the inside.
Make sure to change the orientation before export the files for print. You can review the point 4 “Create a document for horizontal greeting card” above.
If you want to add a crop mark to your greeting card you can draw thin lines in the white corners with the [Straight Line] tool (shortcut U) using the grid or rulers. ▼
You can also use the crop mark used by printing companies. If you are using (canvas) B5 without bleed you will need to increase the size of the canvas first. From [Edit > Change Canvas Size] and keep the Reference point to the center. Since I was using a B5 size I will increase the size to 8.26x11,69 inches or 21x29,7 centimeters. ▼
Then from [View > Crop mark/Default border settings…] click over the [Crop mark/Default border] check box and by default [Bleed width] is on 0.20 inches that is about 0,5 cm. if don't change the values and click OK. ▼
IMPORTANT: Make sure you hide or delete the red fold line created before to export the files for print. If you leave the red line it will be shown in the final artwork.
■ Now make one layer folder visible and hide the other and from [File > Export (Single Layer)] select JPG and save the file. Make sure (a) Text and (b) Crop mark are selected, (c)Expression color RGB color and (d) Scale ratio 100%. Then repeat the process with the other folder.
NOTE: If you are sending the file to a printing company you will need to save the file with Expression Color CMYK and following the print guides of the company.
▼ Here are the outside and inside of my greeting card.
▼ And here is a close up of the front of the card.
Before sending the greeting card to the printing company. You can print a sample to visualize the work on the material that is going to be printed (cardboard, paper). You can also give one printed sample to the designer in the printing company and talk about the details of the printing process. Usually, printing companies can delivery the cards in 2 or 3 days.
If you choose to print the card using an ink or laser printer in your office/home or with a small provider such as Computer Center, Cyber Cafe or similar. Make sure to send the file in the correct orientation to print. Then cut the design following the crop marks and fold the card from the middle.
Finally, remember that you can also use these tips for New Year invitations or similar.
▼ Then you can take a photo of the greeting cards next to some holiday decoration.
Thanks for following this tutorial! I hope you have found some useful tips here. Wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year wherever you are! Have a good time with your family, friends, co-workers, acquaintance, estrangers or by your self and enjoy the meals!