You can make photo art notecards that won't be just good; they'll be professional too. And I'll show you how. This workflow uses Aperture software, an Epson printer, and Red River paper. It's fast, efficient, and archival. Once you're set up, you can print just a few cards whenever you need them, or for larger runs, spend a rainy afternoon creating entire sets of cards to sell or give as presents. Of course you can make substitutions to this workflow, but if you have the tools listed here, that's where I'd start.
- Quality ink jet printer. I'm using the Epson R2400 for this project.
- Red River notecard stock. For glossy surface, use 60lb. Pecos River Gloss (#8451) and for matt surface, I recommend Premium Matte C2S (#1567). Both stocks are 7" x 10" and fold down to a 7" x 5" note card.
- Photo software. I highly recommend Aperture 2 (or later) for this project. Why? Because I create the notecards using Aperture's book making tool. This allows me to design everything precisely as I like, and then it remembers all my settings so I can revisit the project at any time and print more cards that look *exactly* like the original set.
- Envelopes. You can use what ever you want here, I found Darice 5" x 7" envelopes at the craft store for about 10 cents each.
Designing Your Card
Since I'm using Aperture, all of my images were already organized. I decided to make a themed set of cards featuring my recent shoot at Bodie State Historical Park in Northern California. I highlighted half a dozen shots for this project, then clicked on File > New from Selection > Book. This is the first step to opening the layout tool. Next, in the following dialog box, choose "Custom" from the "Book Type" popup menu. We won't be using any predesigned templates for this project. Click the New Theme button, give it a name, such as "5 x 7 Notecard," and enter the following information:
Page Size - Width: 7", Height: 10", Margins - Top: 5.5", Bottom: 0.5", Inside: 0.5", Outside: 0.5". Then click OK.
The Aperture layout tool. It was originally designed for books, but it's great for notecards too. Click to enlarge image.
Your selected images will be added to the new project you just created, and you'll be greeted with the layout tool interface. Open up Master Pages (Gear icon > Show Master Pages), and click on the 1-up template. Go back to the Gear icon and choose "Show Layout Options." You'll see new dialog boxes appear above the Master pages that allow you to specify settings.
Go back to the Gear menu, choose Add > Photo Box. A placeholder box will appear on your 1-Up Master page. Click on it to select, then add these numbers to the Size & Position box that's above the Master Pages box:
X: 0.50, Y: 0.65, Width: 6.00", Height 4.00", Angle: 0°. You can adjust these settings later to your particular tastes, but this will get you started. Then right-click on the photo placeholder and choose from the popup menu: Photo Box Alignment > Scale to Fit Centered. You've now set up your template. You can add text by choosing Gear > Add > Text box. Type your text in it, then click on the "T" at the top of the interface to format it. You'll probably have to rotate it 180° if you want it to print correctly on the back of the card.
Now go to the Pages box (below Master Pages) click on the 1-Up thumbnail, and drag a photo from the Filmstrip to the empty placeholder in the big browser window. To make sure your Master Page settings are honored, I recommend going back to the Gear icon and choosing: Reapply Master. You've now designed your first notecard. You can add more notecards by going to the + icon and selecting "Add New Page" from its popup menu. I created eight of these 1-Up pages for my Bodie notecard set.
Get Ready to Print
As with any big printing project, make sure your screen is calibrated and your printer is full of ink and ready to go. I choose the R2400 for this project because it handles card stock easily, plus it seems to like Red River paper. To avoid paper feed problems however, I only load one sheet at a time for notecards.
For notecards using the 60lb. Pecos River Gloss, use the following settings in Aperture.
The Aperture Print Dialog. You can save your settings as presets so it's easy to print the job later on. Click to enlarge image.
Select the notecard you want to print, then click the "Print" button in the lower right corner of the Aperture interface. A dialog box will appear with "Custom Book Preset" selected in the left hand column. Make a test printing one card, so I recommend that you use the "From X to X" setting instead of Print All. Next, select your printer from the popup menu. And for paper size, I've had great luck with 8" x 10" sheet fed (even though the paper is really 7" x 10"). I set the ColorSync profile for Epson glossy paper (in this case, SPR2400 PremGlsy Photo.icc), then click the Save As button in the lower left corner to save this preset. Give the preset a descriptive name, such as "R2400 7x10 Notecard Glossy," click OK, then print. Aperture will remember this preset, and you can use over and over again.
Sample notecard before folding. Red River paper is scored in the middle so it's easy to fold and get a professional looking card. Click to enlarge image.
You have other options in this dialog box too, such as setting Black Point (which opens up the shadow areas) or increasing gamma (which brightens up midtones). The nice thing about these adjustments is that you can tweak your output without having to mess with the picture itself. If I do make print adjustments, I note those settings in the description area of the photo so I can use them again next time.
To print matte surfaced cards, I swap out the black cartridges in the R2400, then create a new preset in the Aperture Print dialog box that uses the Enhanced Matte Paper ICC profile. I then load up a sheet of Premium Matte C2S and make a test print. If I'm not satisfied with the initial output, such as the shadow areas rendering just a little too dark, I make a "New Version from Version" by right-clicking on the image. Now I can adjust the image for the matte surface and try another print.
Since all of my print settings are saved as presets, and my card layouts are saved as templates, I can come back to this project when ever I want to print additional cards. If you use Aperture's Vault, it will save your settings to a backup drive.
Once all the printing was done, it was fun to spread out the cards and choose my favorites. Some images looked better with the glossy surface while others were really nice on matte. I carefully folded the cards along the score, then bundled each one with its matching envelope. I even found 5" x 7" cardboard boxes at the craft store that I could use for packaging sets of notecards.
Obviously there are variations to just about every step in this process. You can use other photo applications or printers. The tools I chose were the result of testing, with these being the easiest and most efficient.
And I have to say, now that the project is over, making custom notecards from my own pictures is very satisfying.