How to Set Up a Handmade Card Factory

It may seem unbelievable that I serviced over 2,000 stores for about 15 years making cards this way, but it worked great. Of course, after awhile I paid other people to make the cards.

Here is an example of a manufacturing process for a card business.


In this task, I need to glue two items on a card, and put them in a bag with an envelope.

This picture is an example of probably the worst way to set up for this task, and will probably take 3 times longer because you will do all the steps at once.

Here are better ways to do it:


Lay cards in a row and start adding glue.

Overlap the cards in areas that are not going to be glued. You can get more cards on the table that way.


Notice I added glue on the cards, but I didn't glue anything on it yet.

Since the glue takes awhile to dry, I know I will have time to lay down the pieces before it dries.

Partially dried glue is ideal, because when you place something on it, it has more "stick" to it than fresh runny glue. Runny glue tends to let things slide around too much.


The pieces are placed down starting with the top row. Note the order and direction of both gluing and placing the pieces.

Drawing a circle of glue is a whole lot faster than a square shape, and it sticks just the same. Note also the card has a pre-printed black frame, to help the cardmaker guide where the glue should be placed.


Is it time to remove the cards from the table to glue another set?

Don't remove anything. Put a second stack on top. I can make this stack go about 10 levels high.


This picture is an example of how NOT to set up your workspace for bagging.
Put the cards and envelopes in locations on your work table so that you never cross one arm over another. This is very inefficient.
Also, if you are throwing away paper scraps every minute, make sure the garbage can is on the same side of the table as the hand that is throwing the scrap away.


The picture shows the pieces near the hand that will them up.

Break up card production into segments.

Do all of your gluing at once, then all your bagging, etc. This not only gives the cards time to dry before they are packaged, but you will develop a faster rhythm. Also, you avoid losing time when going from one type of task to another.

Bagging cards is a great thing to do while watching a movie. Card gluing is a great thing to do while listening to music or talking on a hand-free phone.


The most efficient way to store cards is in long envelope boxes, which resemble shoe boxes. Allot an entire box per card style (see photo on right). You might notice the blue paper clips and the red post it's. I used the paper clip to warn me the card style is running low, and the red post it's to remind me I am going to drop this card, and to not remake anymore.

Group cards into 6's or 12 when putting them in the box, (that's the way card are usually sold). You can do this by rotating every 6 cards.

Don't store cards in damp areas. Dampness can cause the envelopes flaps to stick to themselves. Also, don't pack cards too tight if you use cellophane. It has a tendency to stick to itself since it is biodegradable. Bags need to "breath."

Here's a book I found helpful in learning how to manufacture a handmade item. See my book review here with photos and more information.

By the Batch Innovative new ideas for creating fabulous cards (and envelopes, tags, and bookmarks) in batches, with impressive results. The wide range of techniques presented includes everything from the tried and true (rubber stamping) to the unexpected (polymer clay), from the spontaneous (smudge-and-smear) to the whimsical (shaped cards). And author Judi Kauffman shows precisely how to put pedal to the metal and create whole batches of cards in just one sitting. 

Articles on the Handmade Card Business

The Greeting Card Business

Get Your Greeting Cards Into Stores: How to Find and Work With Sales Reps (Updated 2017 paperback) If you like to make greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them nationwide.  Learn about changing trends in the indie card market and niche opportunities available for artists. Book includes detailed guidelines on pricing cards for a profit, getting professional feedback on your designs, finding sales representatives, pitching your card line to them, approaching stores, and the industry standards you should follow. Information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals and calendars.

Start and Run a Greeting Card Business From a British author, whose country has a long history of greeting card design, she takes you step-by-step through the process of starting and running your business with lots of useful practical advice to help you, including: - Deciding what type of cards to produce - Finding your market - Dealing with printers - Copyright and licensing - Pricing and profit. Kate's note: Some specs are different (card sizes) since it is UK standards.

Greeting Card Design This volume features a vast array of fun, elegant, simple and imaginative greeting cards designed by internationally-known artists, illustrators and calligraphers. With over 300 full-color photographs of creative, popular, and inspiring greeting card designs, this invaluable sourcebook showcases the very best of what is happening in the industry today. Accompanying text explores the history of the greeting card industry and examines the major contributions from the leading innovative companies.

Card Making Ideas

 The Complete Photo Guide to Cardmaking This book includes step-by-step photographed instructions for a wide range of techniques, as well as projects to accompany each area of card making. All paper-crafting techniques that can be employed for card making are thoroughly covered, including a comprehensive description of paper types available, folding options and techniques, coloring and image transfer methods, and adding embellishments. Inside, you'll also find methods for using a computer to design and print cards. More than 80 projects give you lots of ideas and inspiration to create cards of your own, using the techniques you've learned. Unique envelope templates and a helpful source list are included.

 The Encyclopedia of Greeting Card Tools & Techniques Featuring hundreds of handmade cards from leading artists, plus step-by-step photographs of key skills.Sidebars on today's most creative card makers showcase their areas of expertise, from Dee Gruenig's rubber-stamp designs to Alli Bartkowski's quilling.

 Start with a Scan A guide on how to transform raw, scanned images into attractive, finished illustrations. Filled with hundreds of illustrations, it starts by covering the technical basics of scanning, and provides the information needed to get images out of the computer and onto the printed page. The rest of the book shows how to scan almost anything (burlap, clip art, family photographs, found objects) to create a quality piece of artwork. Learn how to create textures and backgrounds, transform photos into graphics, and work with type. Two chapters discuss scanning images for the Web and using scanned images in arts and crafts projects. Book is a resource for scanner users who want to focus on illustrative techniques rather than technical issues.

Creative Lettering: Techniques and Tips from Top Artists

Sixteen calligraphers, painters, collagists, card makers, fiber artists, and graphic designers—give their personal perspectives on lettering. They all offer their favorite tools, how they use them, their signature technique with step-by-step instructions and photos, and an alphabet sampler of their own font.

Uncommon Cards: Stationery Made with Found Treasures, Recycled Objects, and a Little Imagination

This DIY guide contains eight sheets of cardstock and basic stitch patterns that can be completed with nothing more than a needle and thread, either by hand or machine, transforming a blank card into a whimsical, inspired, one-of-a-kind design. The perfect expression for birthdays, graduations, or a simple thinking- of-you note, each design incorporates inexpensive and easy to find household items such as strips of fabric, brightly colored plastics, handmade stamps, and more.

The Print Making Book: Projects and Techniques in the Art of Hand-Printing

Techniques include relief-, screen- and mono- printing – all using tools and materials that are easy to source and use at home in your kitchen, bathroom, or garden. There are easy-to-use templates, step-by-step illustrations, and full-color photography throughout.

 Clean and Simple Cards: Celebrate the Basics of Design Theory

More than 45 card designs are provided, with full instructions and close-ups that display card details, and the book includes source lists for recommended supplies to replicate the designs at home. The uncomplicated projects make the book suitable for beginners, and more advanced crafters will appreciate the outline of design theory that enriches their existing card-making experience. The basic tools and techniques of card creation are also covered, from stamping to hand-coloring.


Gillian McMurray said...

This is amazing information. Thank you very much. Clear instructions on how to be logical with a card making setup. I have never seen this in any of the books I have read on the subject. I'm now inspired to create my own card factory ;o)

SignsofVintage said...

I don't make cards, but you've got some great posts for those that do.

Linda Fulghum said...

Thanks for sharing your expertise! I am now at the stage to expand my market. I keep second guessing myself on designs. This is sooooo informative!

delightfuldaisy said...

I sell cards locally and at craft fairs. An assembly line would certainly save time! Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to reading your other posts about card making. Have to stop now and get supper going!

PrittieHartPress said...

Wow, Kate...I was just under the impression that you had your cards printed professionally and was responsible for selling them. I had no idea that you meant you actually handmade all of them! That is simply incredible and I loved this article because you really have the whole thing boiled down to a science in terms of time-saving maneuvers. Thanks!

papermusings said...

Great tips for saving time. The pictures really make your point. Nice storage system. Thank you for sharing all this information. I'm looking forward to the next post!

Kate Harper said...

Yes I made (rather, other people made) all my cards. I actually found it less risky financially and it was completely worth all the work.

Hand assembled cards also jump out on the shelf. It may have something to do with why I got a national account with Barnes and Noble in the early days of the business.

Competing with printed cards is hard, whereas setting up a good handmade manufacturing system seemed to be the "key" the growing as an independent artist.

Deb Gallagher said...

Very helpful information. Though I am not making cards by hand, I can apply some of your tips to other hand-processes I'm doing. This is a great series of posts - I've passed these on to a couple of artist friends. Kate, you are very generous to share such valuable info. Thank you!

eileen hull said...

Loved your most recent blog post about mass producing/making your own cards. I recently did a custom job a client who orders 1800 cards at Christmas I could really relate to a lot of what you said. Thanks for always giving such great info...


Toni said...

This was a tremendous help to our women's ministry! Thank you Kate for allowing me to post it on my blog!

Jan Hennings said...

Great information and wonderful that you share your knowledge with others! Thanks :)

Unknown said...

Hello, This was a great article. Very informative. Thank you.
If you don't mind, I have a question: How many different card designs do you usually make/advise people to make at one time?

Thanks again.

Kate Harper said...

Alexandria -- I think a good card line should start with about 50 different designs, although having a few dozen is better than nothing. In terms of making the cards, I believe it is most efficient to make at least 100 per batch to start out with.

Unknown said...

Hi Kate,

What a great blog!! You are so generous with your advice. I have been creating all sorts of card designs using mixed media and hand painting techniques for years now. I have only ever given them away to friends and family. However a recent trip overseas has inspired me to design a small range to sell for profit. I have no idea how to get them printed. I am looking for a quality finish but economically viable. Can you give any advice? Cheers and smiles Jadah