Raising kids is fun. It helps you to see all the things you are doing wrong! Okay, maybe not wrong, but I have noticed as we are trying to teach our kids to be grateful and say “Thank you” whenever someone does something for them, that adults don’t say “Thank you” very much. My mommy-radar is so honed in on asking “Please” and saying “Thank you” that I actually find myself correcting other grown ups! Ha ha. My husband is sick of me saying “You forgot to say Please!”
Last month, my sister’s new mother-in-law and her son were traveling through Utah and needed a place to crash for a night. I had only recently met my sister’s mother-in-law at the wedding because they live a couple states away, but I have an open door policy when it comes to guests. I’ve set my house up so we can easily have people stay a night or two. So of course we welcomed them to stay with us. It was so much fun to be able to spend time getting to know her and her son. Then, last week I received a thank you card in the mail from her. It really put a smile on my face.
Why do people not send thank you cards anymore? It is so easy to send a beautiful note, and postage for a card really isn’t that much. I was so touched by the simple note I received, that I am pledging to bring back thank you cards! I will try my hardest to remember to send a thank you card whenever someone does something for me. Who’s with me? And what better way to say “Thank you” then with a card you made yourself!
Recently I’ve been using my newly learned Illustrator skills to make fun cards. I made cards to use for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. And now I have cards to just say “Thanks”.
I love watercolors, I actually considered myself a watercolor artist way back when I was in high school. I even won an award for a painting. Then life happened… and I hadn’t done any painting in a long time, but I keep seeing all the beautiful watercolor decor and designs on the web and it has inspired me to get my paints out again. I used a couple simple techniques to make some printable thank you cards. But I wanted to show you how I did it, so you can make some yourself! (Don’t worry, I am going to include a free printable PDF of the ones I made in case you don’t want to make your own.)
Before starting to watercolor, it is a good idea to stretch your paper. The reason you stretch your paper is so that it doesn’t buckle up when it gets wet, or at least it dries nice and flat instead of staying buckled. For these cards, I used a 90lb mixed media paper from a sketch book. It works nice for simple watercolor painting and the entire sketch book of 40 sheets only cost me $6. Win!
I stretch my paper for little projects like this on a piece of foam board. It is cheap, can be reused, and I always have a piece in my stash. It also means I can stretch my paper with a stapler instead of buying special tape. The foam board may curl up a little bit but the paper will be straight and stretched. All you need to do to stretch you paper is to wet both sides with a spray bottle (I like the ones that have a fine mist spray), use a sponge or large paint brush to remove the excess water and make sure it’s evenly wet. Then staple it down on the foam board on all sides.
Let the paper dry overnight and then it will be nice and flat. Time to paint! I used 3 different techniques for 3 different looks for my cards.
For the first one I used a color wash. Start by using a large flat brush and get a lot of water and paint, I chose a royal blue. Then paint a square with it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, that is the beauty of watercolors. Then add in some purple in a couple spots, do it randomly for a not-to-planned out look. You can stop here, but I love the look a sprinkle of salt gives it, so sprinkle a little salt over the top of the wet watercolors and set it aside to dry. When fully dry, brush the salt off with your fingers.
For the second one I chose yellow and orange paint and used circular strokes with the watercolor. Start with a large round brush and get it full of water and paint. Paint a few circles. Then switch colors, paint more circular strokes. Make sure you keep a wet brush and switch back and forth making circles of paint till you have a cloud of paint. I had a couple drips so I went with it and added more for a really fun look.
The third one I decided to use a drier brush to see the brush strokes on the edges. So instead of using a lot of water like in the first two, use just enough water to get paint on your brush. Then quickly swipe it back and forth leaving the brushy look at the edges. I had to fill up my brush a second time to finish the second half of the paper. It looked a little flat so I added some more paint and added some darker strokes to a few places in the middle.
These three simple watercolor swatches took me about 10 minutes total to paint. Make sure to let them dry fully, overnight is perfect. When they are all dry, it’s time to scan your images into the computer to add as artwork to your printable thank you cards!
To scan them in, open your scanning program on your computer and scan each watercolor swatch in as a photo at 300 dpi. My scanner allows me to adjust the brightness, tint, temperature and saturations so you can play with that a little if you want. Then scan it in and save it to a place you can find it later (this is always a step I seem to forget, I save it, but can never find where).
I am using Adobe Illustrator to put together my cards, but we are doing simple stuff that can be done in any photo editing software. Open a letter sized document. I use a letter size document so that I can create a card to print on a sheet of paper, then I cut it to size. Since I am making 3 cards, I opened a new file in Illustrator with 3 artboards (which is basically 3 document in one). Make sure your document is letter size, portrait orientation, and 300 ppi or dpi.
Now we are going to create a template for your card. I like to make 5×7 cards. They are a standard size for envelopes. To make my template, I make a square that is 7 inches wide by 5 inches tall. I like to make this rectangle so it has no fill and a very light gray outline so that it is just visible enough for me to cut out my card. Then I make a second rectangle just like the first and line them up so that they are touching along the long edge.
Next open your scanned picture of your watercolor painting in Illustrator and drag it into your document. If you need to, rotate and resize so it fits in the bottom rectangle. This will be the front of your card.
Now is the fun part, adding text. I want to keep these simple so the watercolor pictures I made are the focus of the card. I made my sayings “Thank You!” and “thanks” in white using fonts I liked. Rotate the text if you like, resize how you want and position it over the top of the watercolor image.
Once you have the cards how you like you can print from Illustrator, or even better, save them as PDFs so you can easily pull it up to print out whenever you need to say “Thank You”. To save as a PDF select File-Save As then when the box opens, type in what you want it saved as, change the format to Adobe PDF, and select the artboards you want saved. I selected all since I wanted to save all three.
Then when the PDF dialog box opens, I like to select High Quality print for the best print quality. Now you have a PDF of some cute, handmade, printable watercolor Thank You cards. Whenever you need to show your appreciation, a beautiful card is only a print and fold away!
If you would like to download the cards that I made, you can download the file of 3 cards here. Please only use these cards for personal use. You can share them with others, just send them here to download the file! If you make your own cards, you can do whatever you want with them 🙂
I just love how the texture of the watercolor really shows through in all the cards. It looks like a hand painted card every time I hit print!
Want more fun printables? Check out my Kitchen Conversion Chart, I have 4 fun colors to choose from.
I hope you can do better at saying “Thank you” now that you have beautiful new cards. I know I’m trying to 🙂