How Did You Make That Christmas Card?

Click on images to enlarge.

STEP 1: THE IDEA

The first step is probably the hardest. How do you come up with an idea that will be fun and fit on a card? There are thousands of Christmas cards out there already. After some random doodling, I got this idea.

STEP 2: THE SKETCH

Next came some sketches. There is a lot going on in this comic, so it was a challenge to figure out how to position the elements to make it clear. For example, I had to decide where to put the Customer Service attendant (or whether he was really needed for the image to make sense). You can see in this early sketch that things were initially turned around.

Once I had the basic layout figured out, I still needed to figure out how to draw some of the elements. What does a French hen look like anyway? Luckily, the Internet was nearby. I did a bunch of sketches of birds (there's a lot of birds!), and dancers, and milkers, and leapers just to get a sense of how to vary up the figures and create an interesting composition.

Next, I drew a rough sketch of the whole scene on 8.5" x 11" paper. Here's where I (mostly) worked out where everything would go in relation to one another.

I took this sketch and blew it up to 17" x 22" ---the size of my actual paper. Now I had a working model.

STEP 3: THE DRAWING

Using my mockup as a reference, I redrew the image on the actual paper. I go through all this initial work, because the more I can figure out beforehand, the fewer mistakes I make (usually), and the less erasing I have to do later (which is a pain and it's hard on the paper). I use Bristol paper; it's a heavier weight paper that is good for both pencil and ink.

STEP 4: INKING

With the pencils done, I next went over all of the pencils with ink. Some people think this means “tracing,” but it’s not. Inking adds a whole different character to the image. I used a brush to vary the line weights (for example, I put a thick line around the woman to make her stand out better). I used a pen on some of the smaller elements, like the people in the far background.

Inking helps make the image look more polished; and it makes it easier to reproduce. Unfortunately, it can also remove some of the "spontaneity" of the image.

Inked Version

Once all the ink was dry, I erased any left over pencil lines.

STEP 5: SCANNING

Next, I scanned the picture into my computer. This process turns the image into a digital computer file. The paper was so large I had to make four separate scans and then stitch them together.

STEP 6: USING PHOTOSHOP and ILLUSTRATOR

I took the scanned image and opened it in a software program called Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. These programs allow me to manipulate the image and make it ready for printing. With Photoshop I added the gray tones. With Illustrator I created the word balloons, the title, and the holly border. I also created the back of the card.

STEP 7: PRINTING

Then it was off to the copy store to print the card. I had them print 2 images on a page of card stock and then cut the page in half.

STEP 8: MAILING

Then JoAnn and I addressed, stamped, added something witty like “Merry Christmas,” and dropped the cards in the mail. See how easy it is! Anyone can do it!

If you didn’t get a card this year it probably means we don’t love you we don’t have your address. Send it to us!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!