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  1. Design & Illustration
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How to Create a Festive Greetings Card in Adobe InDesign

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

With the holiday season fast approaching, it’s time to start sending out your annual greeting cards to family and friends. This year, why not go the extra mile and design your own cards? These rustic cards are quick to make, they look fantastic, and you can customize them with your own greeting inside. 

On the hunt for the perfect greeting card design? Discover a wide range of card templates over on GraphicRiver.

For this tutorial we’ll be using Adobe InDesign to map out the card layout and Adobe Illustrator to bring in the graphics. Suitable for beginners, this is a great introductory tutorial to creating InDesign artwork for print. Ready to spread some festive cheer? Awesome! Let’s get started...

1. What You’ll Need to Create Your Card

I’ll walk you through the steps of creating a single card design complete with typography, color, graphics, and texture. By the end of the tutorial, you’ll have a ready-to-print 5 by 7 inch greeting card, which will fit into a standard A7 (5 1/4 by 7 1/4 inch) envelope which you can find in any good stationery store.

Aside from having access to Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator, you’ll also need to download the following graphics and font to create the design pictured here:

  1. Fox with Winter Flowers
  2. Adorabelle Script
  3. Paper Texture
  4. Handmade Textures

Save the graphics to an easy-to-find folder and install the font. Now we’re ready to start designing.

2. How to Set Up the Layout of the Card in InDesign

Step 1

Open up Adobe InDesign and go to File > New > Document.

Keep the Intent set to Print and the Number of Pages to 1, and deselect Facing Pages. 

From the Page Size drop-down menu, choose US Postcard (or manually set the Width to 177.8 mm and Height to 127 mm). 

us postcard

Set the Margins to 12 mm and add a Bleed of 3 mm. 

create new document

Click OK to create the new document.

new document

Step 2

Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click on Layer 1 to open the Layer Options window. Rename the layer Paper and click OK.

paper layer

Click on the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the panel and double-click on the layer to rename it Background

background layer

Create a further three new layers, naming them Typography, Graphics, and finally Texture at the top of the pile.

texture layer

Lock all the layers except the bottom layer Paper. Click on it to activate it.

layers paper

Step 3

Take the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) and drag onto the page, extending the image frame up to the edges of the bleed. Go to File > Place, choose the Paper Texture image, and click Open

Click on the Fill Frame Proportionally button on the Controls panel at the top of the workspace to fill the image frame completely. 


Step 4

Lock the Paper layer and unlock the layer above, Background.

Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and click on the New Swatch button at the bottom of the panel. Double-click on the new swatch to open the Swatch Options window.

Name the swatch Navy and set the levels to C=73 M=60 Y=23 K=48. Click OK.

swatch options

Create a rectangle using the Rectangle Tool (M), extending it up to the bleed on all sides except the top—simply extend it to the trim edge of the page.

From the Swatches panel, set the Fill of the rectangle to Navy.


Step 5

Select the rectangle and go to Object > Effects > Transparency. Reduce the Opacity to 90% and click OK. This will bring through some of the paper texture sitting on the layer below.


3. How to Create the Card’s Typography 

Step 1

Return to the Layers panel and lock the Background layer. Unlock the next layer up, Typography.

Take the Type Tool (T) and drag onto the page to create a text frame. Type in ‘Tis’.

From either the Character panel (Window > Type & Tables > Character) or the Character Formatting Controls panel at the top of the workspace, highlight the text, and set the Font to Adorabelle.

character panel

Copy and Paste the text frame, positioning it below ‘Tis’, and adjust the text to read ‘the’. Try to position the ‘t’ of ‘the’ just below the ‘s’ of ‘tis’.

Paste the text frame again, position it below ‘the’, and edit the text to read ‘Season’. Allow the ‘S’ to fit snugly into the gap to the left of ‘the’.


Step 2

Once you’re happy with how the type is arranged, select all three text frames, and then head up to Type > Create Outlines. 

create outlines
outlined text

Then Right-Click (Windows) or Control-Click (Mac) > Group. Now you can scale the text as a whole unit with more flexibility. Enlarge the text so that the text extends up to the margin on the top and bottom of the page.


Step 3

Return to the Swatches panel and create a new CMYK swatch. Name it Ice and set the levels to C=12 M=9 Y=4 K=0. Click OK.

ice swatch

Change the Fill Color of the type to Ice.

final type

4. How to Prepare a Festive Color Palette in InDesign

Step 1

Return to the Swatches panel and create a new CMYK swatch. Name it Red Berry and set the levels to C=0 M=86 Y=72 K=0. Click OK.

berry red

Step 2

Create a second new swatch, called Mint, and set it to C=51 M=0 Y=21 K=0.

mint swatch

Create a further two new swatches:

  • Forest Green - C=79 M=43 Y=53 K=8
  • Amber - C=15 M=47 Y=76 K=4
forest green
amber swatch

5. How to Add Foliage Graphics to Your Layout

Step 1

Open up the Fox with Winter Flowers EPS file in Adobe Illustrator.

Right-Click (Windows) or Control-Click (Mac) > Ungroup to be able to access individual elements of the vector.

Isolate a simple silhouette of foliage, such as a branch (Ungroup elements further if you need to isolate a single silhouette), and Edit > Copy.


Return to your InDesign document and lock the Typography layer. Unlock the next layer up, Graphics.

Edit > Paste the vector onto the card layout. Adjust the size and rotation of the vector (hold Shift while you resize to retain proportions), and position in a blank area of the card. Adjust the Fill of the vector from the Swatches panel to one of your new swatches, such as Berry Red.

berries branch

Step 2

Head back to the Illustrator vector and continue to Copy > Paste individual foliage silhouettes. Return to the InDesign document and Edit > Paste, adjusting the color of individual images as you go.


Try to fill up gaps in the design, adjusting the scale and position of individual elements, until the design is completely filled up. 


Try to spread the colors around evenly too.

pasted snowflake
final artwork

6. How to Add Texture to Your Card

Step 1

We need to match the color of the overlay texture to the navy background of the card to make it appear seamless. To do this, we can easily save the colors used in the InDesign document as an Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) file, and transfer this over to Illustrator, ready to use on the texture graphic.

Remaining in InDesign for now, go to the Swatches panel and select all the default swatches towards the top of the panel. Click on the trash icon or choose Delete Swatch from the panel’s drop-down menu.

delete swatch

Step 2

Select all the named swatches in the panel and choose Save Swatches from the panel menu.

save swatches

Give the ASE file a name like ‘Tis the Season Swatches’ and save into the same folder as your InDesign document.

save as ASE

Step 3

Save and minimize the InDesign document for now; we’ll come back to it again soon.

Open up the Handmade Texture PNG image pictured below in Adobe Illustrator.

texture file

Select the image, and then open the Image Trace window (Window > Image Trace). Set the Mode to Black and White, and click the arrow next to Advanced to view more options. Check the Preview button at the bottom to generate a traced version of the image.

Adjust the result using the sliders and ensure that Ignore White is checked and only Fills, not Strokes, is checked too. You want the result to look as close as possible to the original image so move the sliders around until you’re happy with the result.

image trace

Exit the Image Trace window, and then head up to Object > Image Trace > Expand.

image trace expand

Right-Click (Windows) or Control-Click (Mac) > Ungroup, and then delete any remaining background from the vector, so that only the black sections remain.


Step 4

Expand the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches), and from the panel’s drop-down menu select > Open Swatch Library > Other Library.

other library

Browse for your ‘Tis the Season Swatches’ ASE file and click Open.

Click on one black section of texture, and then go to Select > Same > Fill Color.

fill color select

Then click on the Navy swatch in the ‘Tis the Season Swatches’ window to apply the Fill to the texture.


File > Save As the vector as an Adobe Illustrator (AI) file.

save as ai file

Step 5

Return to your InDesign document and lock the Graphics layer. Unlock the top layer, Texture

Use the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) to create a new image frame that extends across the whole navy area of the card. File > Place, select your saved AI texture image, and Open. Allow the texture to fill the whole frame, and double-click inside the frame to directly select it and scale it until you’re satisfied with the result. 

rectangle frame tool

With the image frame selected, go to Object > Effects > Transparency and reduce the Opacity to 50%. Click OK.


And there we have it! The front of your card is finished, and it’s looking great—awesome work.

final card front

Now we need to set up the card ready for printing and folding. This means we need to adjust the page size so that the card has a complete front and reverse side, and add another page for the inside of the card too.

7. How to Expand the Card Into a Foldable Design

Step 1

Select the Page Tool (Shift-P), and click onto the page to select it. 

We want to double the height of the card to allow it to fold along the top edge. To do this, type in 254 mm into the Height text box at the top left of the workspace.

page tool

Unlock all the layers and select everything on the page. Move all the elements down until the bottom of the navy background meets the bottom bleed edge.

bottom bleed edge

Step 2

Ensuring the rulers are visible (View > Show Rulers), pull down a guide from the top ruler to Y point 127 mm. This should hit the top of the navy background.

y point guide

Extend the paper image’s frame up to the edge of the top bleed, and resize the paper image to fill the larger frame.


Lock all layers except Background, and select and Edit > Copy the navy background. Edit > Paste the colored rectangle, and maneuver it to the top of the page, with the bottom edge meeting the top edge of the navy background, at the halfway point of the card. Adjust the Fill to Berry Red.

berry red

This will be the outside of your card, with the red as the reverse side. Now all we need to do is create the inside page. 

Step 3

Go to the Pages panel (Window > Pages) and drag down the Page 1 icon onto the Create New Page button at the bottom of the panel. This creates a duplicate of the page, now Page 2 of your document. Double-click on the Page 2 icon to bring up the page on screen.

Unlock the Texture, Graphics and Typography layers. Lock the Background layer. Select everything on the page and delete it. 

delete all

Then unlock the Background layer and delete the navy rectangle.

delete navy rectangle

Step 4

Select the red rectangle and adjust the Fill to Ice.

fill to ice

Then extend the pale grey rectangle down until it meets the edge of the bottom bleed.

grey rectangle

Step 5

Zoom into the lower half of the page. You can judge where the card will be folded from the guide sitting in the center of the page.

Take the Type Tool (T) and drag onto the center of the lower half of the page to create a small text frame. Type in ‘Merry’ and set the Font to Adorabelle, Size 43 pt, Font Color to Navy.

Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste the text frame, editing the text to read ‘Christmas’, and increasing the Font Size to 50 pt.

christmas type

Edit > Paste further text frames, setting each word, ‘&’, ‘Best’, ‘Wishes’, ‘for’ and ‘2017’, in its own text frame. Adjust the Font Size and position of each frame to create a nice calligraphy effect.

typography complete

Step 6

Head back over to the texture vector you have open in Adobe Illustrator. Minimize the InDesign window for a moment.

Select a section of navy on the image, and then go to Select > Same > Fill Color.

fill color select

Then adjust the Fill Color of the selection from Navy to Ice. File > Save As the image as a new AI file.

ice swatch
grey texture

Step 7

Return to your InDesign document and lock the Typography layer. Unlock the top layer, Texture.

Create a new image frame using the Rectangle Frame Tool (F) that covers the bottom half of the page. Then File > Place, choose the new grey texture image, and Open

texture placed

With the image frame selected, go to Object > Effects > Transparency, and reduce the Opacity to about 85%. Click OK

final texture

8. How to Export Your Artwork, Ready for Printing

If you’re simply printing your cards from home, you can head up to File > Print in InDesign and print the design directly from there, making sure to print the card on both sides.

If you’re sending your cards off to be professionally printed, you’ll have to export your artwork as a print-ready PDF file first. Here’s how...

Step 1

First, File > Save your InDesign artwork. Then go to File > Export. 

Choose Adobe PDF (Print) from the Format drop-down menu, name the file, and click Save.

In the Export to Adobe PDF window that opens, choose [Press Quality] from the Adobe PDF Preset menu at the top. 

press quality

Step 2

Click on the Marks and Bleeds menu option from the left side of the window.

Check All Printer’s Marks and Use Document Bleed Settings. Then click Export to create your print-ready file.

marks and bleed
pdf exported

You can send this straight off to the printers, and choose whether you’d like your design printed on matte or gloss-coated card. Your printer can provide advice and pre-press proofs before committing to the final print job. 

Your Finished Greeting Card

Congratulations! You’ve finished your holiday cards, and now it’s time to pop them in the post! 

final card

In this tutorial we’ve covered a broad range of skills relating to preparing InDesign documents for print, and editing artwork to achieve a professional-standard design. You can now feel more confident with:

  • Designing a greeting card layout in Adobe InDesign, complete with background texture and color.
  • Creating print-ready CMYK color swatches and saving them as ASE files for use in other Adobe programs.
  • Formatting lettering typography and importing vector graphics to create a beautiful design.
  • Adding a texture overlay for an on-trend, vintage-style effect on your print designs.
  • Expanding the layout into a foldable, two-sided design, ready for printing and scoring.

I hope you’ll find these print design skills transferrable to other projects, or why not have a go at creating your own unique festive card design using the same process?

If you need a greeting card design right now, why not browse the full range of card templates over on GraphicRiver? You’ll find a huge selection of styles to suit any purpose.

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