How would I go about printing high-quality greeting cards at home?
March 22, 2008 9:18 PM   Subscribe

How would I go about printing high-quality greeting cards at home?

Lets say I wanted to do a 50 or 100 card run of a design I like. Can I just buy special paper and run it through a color laser printer? Will this look like a professional card? If so what kind of paper should I get?

Ideally the quality should be nice enough to sell, but it doesnt have to be as nice as the stuff in the stores. Alternatively, where can I do small runs of greeting cards by a pro? Say I wanted to do 10 different cards of 100 each. Do normal print shops do this kind of thing? Do I need a specialist?
posted by damn dirty ape to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: This might be for fun or this might even be for a small side business, so any information would be appreciated.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:25 PM on March 22, 2008

Where I work, we send out a fair amount of cards and broshures. For the cards, we print a lot on the HP photo-smart c5180 (~$150). It's not the most ink-efficient thing in the world, but the quality really is pretty good. We also use it for printing photos, and while they're not the same quality as what we'd get developed at the store, the results more than suffice for showing off pictures inside the school.

When we start doing larger quantities, we move up to the laser color printer. The thing you have to be wary of for LPs is that if you plan on using heavier paper (as I presume you would for cards), you start to run into issues with paper thickness (most LPs I've looked at max out around 160g/cm^2). We used an HP 2600n ($300), which was HP's cheapest color LP at the time. The quality is pretty good, but when you start doing bulk printing, particularly with cardstock, smearing and overall quality becomes a major issue. If you plan on trying to sell the cards, the results would have been unacceptable. At one point this year, we were printing a 7000-page project (uhg) and the printer sucked for it.

Recently, we purchased a Brother DCP-9045CDN ($600), mainly because of duplex features and a 30-day return policy so I could test for smearing optioned we've encountered previously. So far, it's worked very well without any of the smearing issues from the 2600n. In the past, we've always got HPs at school, but I was pretty disappointed with the 2600n so I looked elsewhere.

Whatever you decide on, I would check that the merchant has a good return policy so you can put the printer through the rigors to make sure it's quality is what you need. If you plan on using embossed paper for the cards, It's also important to note that printers can have major issues.

Regarding printing by a pro, look in the yellow pages under printers. They do exactly what you're asking. Locally, color prints costs ~$0.30/pg, YMMV. The upfront cost of using a local printer is very low, but in the long run, it's cheaper to use your own supplies if you plan on doing significant printing and have the time. For instance, that 7000-pg project would have been $25000ish to print locally, and came up somewhere around $1200-$1500 to print in-house for ink and paper, and our ink cover was >75% on each page (a lot).
There are cheaper alternatives online, but I've never tried them.
posted by jmd82 at 10:17 PM on March 22, 2008

I run a stationery and greeting card store at Etsy. This is absolutely something you can do at home. I have a HP inkjet printer that was under $300, and I print all my cards on 110 lb heavy cardstock that can be picked up at Staples. I have a card scorer that cost under $10, and made a lightbox to photograph my cards. Although i'm still working on improving my photos, in person there is no way you would be able to tell my cards from those from Hallmark.

Also there is a section of Etsy called Alchemy where you can do a custom request for cards. You can use your own design and just request that they print them, or have them do a design for you.

If you are looking for a professional, try to find a small mom-and-pop printer. They will normally give you great deals. If you don't have one of those in your area, again Staples or Kinko's can do it as well. If you have any questions, feel free to email.
posted by Ugh at 11:14 PM on March 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

My friend swears by Costco online. My friend also swears by Vista Print online. I have seen some of his cards and they are great.
posted by snowjoe at 12:02 AM on March 23, 2008

Photographer's Edge (link) sells very nice blanks into which you stick (they're self adhesive with peel of strips) your own photos. I've used these very successfully in the past.

Red River (link) sells a complete "roll your own" solution where you print the cards, not just the photos. The site has a bunch of information on what printers work best, and have paper to match any card you might want to make.
posted by devbrain at 5:23 AM on March 23, 2008

It isn't the cheapest option, but if you're anything at all like me and the *slightest* mis-cut of a larger sheet of paper drives you mad, you should look at pre-scored card stock from someplace like Paper Source. I've run many many sizes through an HP deskjet printer and have always been happy with the results (my own wedding invitations included, though they were not foldover cards).
posted by ersatzkat at 6:42 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've been very happy with Red River greeting card inkjet paper.
posted by SampleSize at 6:55 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

after you've got them printed, i suggest a bone folder for scoring and getting a nice clean fold.

also, if you're into typography, there are small tabletop letterpresses out there.
posted by kamelhoecker at 7:22 AM on March 23, 2008

I'm not a designer or a printing expert, but I can tell a color laser print from ten feet away and it just doesn't look very good to me (for photographic images). A good inkjet print looks much better, but ink is expensive and prone to smearing. So if you can commit to a large quantity, I'd say go for online printing services. The minimums aren't too bad - generally around the 50 or 100 you were considering. I'd second snow joe's recommendation of vistaprint and I've also used overnight prints with good results. Most online printing companies will mail you samples of their work if you ask customer service.

If you want to make small quantities of cards to test the market before you jump in to doing 100 at a time, even the cheapest inkjet printers do make beautiful prints these days. Look for a brand that claims water-resistant ink so it will be less likely to smear in a buyer's hands.

A lot of photo printing services will print greeting cards for a few dollars each; I don't have any experience with those. They're either postcard style flat cards or photos pasted onto folded cards.
posted by moonmilk at 8:42 AM on March 23, 2008

I do this occasionally for my wife using a standard bottom of the line, "free"-with-computer Epson inkjet (currently a Stylus C88+) and these precut/pre-scored cards, which very handily include envelopes. I don't print anything on the inside, tho...

I prep the artwork in PShop, then layout with back-matter and print the card in Illustrator; can't do bleeds. Can get at least 60 cards per $35 color-ink refill, often much more depending on the density of the design. They look great, but do take a while to dry; I have to individually remove them from the printed tray so that they don't stack and stick together, and then spread them out all over the room. She prefers the glossy stock; drying might not be such a problem with matte, but the ink usage might be higher. Probably not the best approach if you're anticipating regular runs of 100 and more.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:44 AM on March 23, 2008

Highly Highly Highly suggest designing at home, printing at WHCC

The quality of their press is superb, their cost is about the same as you'd pay shutterfly or a consumer-type site to print a greeting card, and they 2-day ship for free.

White House Custom Color is a professional photo lab, but they love all customers, big or small. just head on over to their site and signup. They have a free java client.

For consistancy, decent price, and not worrying about your colors, don't try and do it at home.

You are getting true ink printed cards for under $2.00 a piece. Less in greater quantity.
posted by johngalt at 2:07 PM on March 23, 2008

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