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Photoshop Your Own E-Cards

All of us have probably sent or received something called an e-card. An e-card takes two forms. One, like Hallmark’s e-cards, send you an email with a web link that you click on to go to a web page to see the card. The other, like Apple’s iCards, is an email with the card graphic embedded in the body of the email. This month we’ll take a look at using Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to create your own custom e-card. 

For this example I set up a photograph using some sidewalk chalk and an internationally renowned supermodel (Fig. 1). Open the digital photograph in your handy image editor (Photoshop or Elements) and save it with a new file name in the Photoshop format (.PSD). The Photoshop format preserves the image’s layers for later use. It’s always a good idea to work on a copy so you don’t completely lose the original.

The Graphics Guy | Photoshop Your Own E-Cards
Fig. 1

For an email card we only need an image that is about 600 pixels wide, preferably in landscape mode. Pull up the Image Size dialog box (Image > Image Size in Photoshop, Image > Resize > Image Size in Elements). Make sure the Resample Image box is checked and then set the Resolution to 72 pixels/inch and the Width in the Pixel Dimensions field to 600 pixels (Fig. 2).

Image Size
Fig. 2
Unsharp Mask
Fig. 3

This gets out image the correct size to fit in the body of an email message, but when you do this sort of resizing the image tends to look a little softer. Now’s the time to pull out the Unsharp Mask filter (Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask). Don’t go overboard; for this image I used an Amount of 300, Radius 0.3 and Theshold 2 (Fig. 3). The good thing about sharpening an image for the screen is that what you see is truly what you get.

Next add some text using the Type tool. Clicking on the image to add some text will let you type in a line of text that breaks only when you hit the Return/Enter key. If you click and drag a box with the Type tool, your text will flow inside, wrapping automatically. You can change the font, size and color in the Options Bar when you have the Type tool selected or you can use the Characters palette (Photoshop only). When you are satisfied with the text, click the Commit Edits checkmark in the Options Bar or simply select a different layer in the Layers palette.

A nice drop shadow effect will make the text stand out from the background. To add this, select Layer > Layer Style > Drop Shadow in Photoshop (Fig. 4) or choose the Low Drop Shadow style in the Layer Styles palette in Elements. In either program you will now see the Layer Style icon next to the layer name in the Layers palette. You can go back and change the Layer Style settings by double-clicking this icon.

Layer Style
Fig. 4

For an extra twist you can add a little warp effect to the text. With your Text layer and the Type tool selected, click the Create Warped Text button on the Options Bar. It’s on the far right and looks like a lazy ‘T’ on a hump. In the Warp Text dialog I picked Arc from the pop-up menu and then tweaked the settings to my taste (Fig. 5). You can do some pretty groovy effects with this feature so you should experiment around with it.

Photoshop Warp Text
Fig. 5

Add more text as needed. Reposition it with the Move tool as needed and then save the document. Now we need to save a version for inclusion in the email. Select Save for Web from the File menu (Fig. 6). Choose JPEG Medium from the uppermost pop-up menu and click Save.

The Graphics Guy | Photoshop Your Own E-Cards
Fig. 6

Time to move to your email program and create a new message. The message must be HTML or Rich Text formatted, this is no problem for modern email applications. Different email clients will import the image in different ways. In Microsoft Outlook Express, choose Picture from the Insert menu. Microsoft Outlook has you select Insert > Picture > From File, while its Message > Insert > Picture in Microsoft Entourage. In Apple’s Mac OS X Mail you have to drag the JPG file into the message window, this method works with some of the other programs as well. You can use the text alignment tools to center the image if you like and then you’re ready to send the card to everyone you know.

Sending an e-card is a great idea. And just like in the non-virtual world, you can easily get a ready-made card expressing practically every sentiment possible, but for greater impact you can create your own personal custom card. In the real world you would have to make a card for each person, but thanks to the magic of email and Adobe Photoshop you can create one card and send it to everyone on your list.

Paul Vaughn is a freelance graphic artist, writer and web designer. You can see color examples at Go ahead…send your momma a card! If you would like to see the Graphics Guy address a specific topic email Paul Vaughn at


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