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Make Your Own Holiday Cards with GIMP

Using Your Own Photos

  • December 10, 2009
  • By Akkana Peck
It's the holiday season! And regardless of which holidays you celebrate, it's a good time to connect with relatives and absent friends.

Maybe you can send them some cards! But those packaged cards ... so drab, so dull. Wouldn't it be more fun to make your own? GIMP is a great tool for that.

Start With a High-resolution Photo

Pick a photo you like. It's important to have enough resolution, and that's an easy place to go wrong. People show up all the time on GIMP channels saying "I created my image as 5" by 7", but when I printed it out, it looks really fuzzy. What's wrong?"

What's wrong is that digital images aren't measured in inches -- they're made up of tiny dots called pixels. The number of pixels in an image controls how much detail you'll get when you print it. A common rule of thumb: if you want a good looking photo, try for at least 300 pixels per inch (PPI).

I print my cards on US-Letter sized paper (8.5" x 11"), folded over, with the card taking up half the page (Figure 1).

figure 1
figure 1

That means one dimension of the photo has to be 8.5", while the other will be half of 11", or 5.5". Outside the US, you may prefer A4 paper, but the size is similar. At 300 PPI, that means the image will be 8.5*300=2550 x 5*300=1650 pixels. Multiply those together to see that means about 4 megapixels.

Most cameras can do that these days, but if you have a favorite image that's not quite that big, don't despair. I've made decent-looking cards with images much smaller than that. Try scaling the image bigger (Image->Scale), View->Zoom to 100% and see how it looks to you. If it's just not sharp enough, maybe one of the filters in Filters->Artistic, like Oilify or Clothify, will turn it into a nice piece of art.

Once you've chosen an image, crop it so its width to height ratio will be right for your card. Use the Crop tool in the Toolbox with Aspect ratio checked and an aspect of 8.5:5.5 (Figure 2).

figure 2
figure 2

This step will save you a lot of confusion later when you print it.

Add some text

Click on the Text tool in GIMP's Toolbox (Figure 3).

figure 3
figure 3

Choose a foreground color you like by clicking on one of the foreground buttons, which will change to show the new color: in Figure 3 they're yellow. Then click in the image and start typing your text.

What about fonts? Plain old Times might be fine for text documents, but you want something more festive for a card. Windows->Dockableļæ½Dialogs->Fonts (Figure 4)

figure 4
figure 4

is great for exploring fonts. If you have a text layer active in GIMP, clicking on a font will update the font in the image window, so you can see exactly how your text will look

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