How to: Make an iPhoto greeting card

Matthew JC. Powell
30 October, 2008
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Since iPhoto’s printing services have been available in Australia, customers down under have had access to the same iPhoto products — books, calendars and cards — that our overseas neighbours have enjoyed for years. The great part about them is that they’re extremely easy to use. The bad part is they’re extremely easy to make badly. Here’s a few tips on getting an iPhoto card to print beautifully.

First, select your photos. You truly do not want to be setting up your cards with your entire iPhoto library to choose from, so pick the images you might want to use before you begin. Maybe there’s just one gem of a photo that you want to feature on its own — fine, just select that one. Of the many themes Apple provides, the most photos you can fit on a card is about 15, so no need to grab too many.

Before you begin making your card, make any adjustments you need to make to your photos. You can make adjustments after you’ve started, but it’s best if you’ve selected good photos to start with.

Also, remember that a greeting card is not backlit like your computer display, so if a photo looks a bit dark on screen, it’s going to look darker on paper. Either adjust the brightness using iPhoto’s tools, or pick a different photo.

Once you have your photos selected and ready, simply click on the Card button at the bottom of iPhoto’s main screen.

The next thing to do is to select a theme. There are many many many themes to choose from, each with a multitude of options for customisation. Unless you have a really clear idea what you’re setting out to do, just pick any theme to start with — you can change the theme at any stage, and experimentation is fun.

In each theme you’ve got three essential elements: the background colour, the text, and the grey boxes where you place photos. Adding photos to the grey boxes couldn’t be easier: just drag and drop. In a lot of cases, if the orientation of the photo (landscape or portrait) doesn’t match the orientation of the box, the box will adjust automatically. Not always. Again, experiment.

If you decide you don’t like where you’ve put a particular photo, just select it and hit delete. It will disappear from your card, but still be available in the photo bay at the top of the screen if you want to place it elsewhere.

You can adjust the exact positioning of the photo by clicking once on the image. Then you get an enlarging tool and a “hand” tool for moving the photo around.

You might like the photo, but find that it would look better facing the other way. No problem: control-click or right-click on the photo and a contextual menu appears. Click on the “Mirror Image” item, and your photo flips horizontally.

This contextual menu also affords other options, such as Edit Photo, which allows you to use iPhoto’s tools to fix problem photos. As I mentioned, it’s best if you’ve fixed these problems before you start, but sometimes a problem only becomes apparent when you see the picture alongside others.

To change the background colour, simply click on Colours, and a pop-up menu will appear. Different themes have different colours available. If you select a colour, the change will affect both the inside and the outside of the card. If you don’t want that to happen, select for example the inside of the card, and hold down the option key while you choose a colour — then the change only affects the part of the card you have selected.

Clicking on the Design button at the bottom of the screen gives you further options in terms of the layout of photo boxes on the page. It’s worth trying a few just to see how well they work.

Finally clicking on the Styles button allows you to decide on fonts and styles for the text in your card, in case you want to change them from the default for the Theme you’ve chosen. I recommend sticking to the defaults unless you’ve got a bit of typesetting nous, as the potential for disastrous results is high.

This is also where you decide whether or not to have the Apple logo printed on the back of your card — I’m guessing most will say no.

One important thing: iPhoto has pretty much no controls for alignment, spacing, tabs or whatever. If you want to have any kind of fancy formatting, you can’t do it in iPhoto. But you can do it in TextEdit, or most any text editor. Simply format your text, complete with alignments, tabs and whatever, then select it, copy it, and paste it into a text box on your greeting card. Presto.

But wait, there’s more. The font choices you make in the Styles menu don’t have to be binding on every single letter in your card. If you want to have one word bold, or in a different font or colour, that’s easy. Select the text you want to change, and control-click or right-click. You then get a list of options for fonts, styles and colours. Go wild.

Once you’ve got your card looking the way you want it to, it’s a good idea to just hover your mouse over each picture you’ve placed. If there’s a problem, such as low resolution, iPhoto will warn you that the photo might not p

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