How to Make a Holiday Card with Acrylic Paint: A Vintage Inspired Art Project

Our hand-painted holiday card, pen, and envelopes on a white wood background. Text overlay reads: Paint a Vintage Holiday Carl

Nothing Beats a Handmade Christmas Card that Can Double as a Gift!

Today, I’m going to show you how to make a holiday card with acrylic paint that’s totally customizable, easy, and will make a great little gift that can be framed!

This is a fabulous way to take time out from the Christmas chaos while also painting a beautiful handmade card that’s unique and means so much more than a generic boxed card. Let’s dive right in!

Supplies Needed for These Festive Art Cards

The best part about this art project is that you can switch it up in any way you want. Design, paint colors, whatever you want! If you’d like to follow along and make a Christmas card like mine, here’s the list of materials I used:

  • Paint:
    • Phthalo Turquoise
    • Titanium White
    • Azo Pink
    • Viridian Green
    • Light Sap Green
    • Cad. Yellow Medium Hue
    • Metallic Gold Paint Pen
    • Champaign Gold Metallic Paint
    • Mink Pearl Metallic Paint
    • Rich Espresso Metallic Paint
  • Brushes:
    • 5/8” flat
    • Extra small round
    • 1/4” flat
    • Large round
  • Cardstock (8.5 x 11″)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pencil/watercolor pencil
  • Paper towel
  • Jar of clean water
  • Rag for cleaning brushes
  • Something small and round that you can use as a template for your ornament (jar lid, small bowl, etc) Psssst! I’ve got a neat little hack to show you in just a bit
  • Extra fine iridescent glitter

Before We Start Our Holiday Card Art Project

There are just a few things that should be decided, and done, beforehand that will help you to make a holiday card with acrylic paint so much easier.

Choosing the Size

One of the things that you need to consider is how big you want your card to be. You can either buy envelops first or you can wait and get envelopes later.

Just keep in mind that envelopes only come in so many sizes so you’ll want to make sure that you find some that will work with the finished size of your card.

Also, if you want to make a holiday card with acrylic paint that the recipient can frame later, you’ll have to take that into account. You’ll want to try to find an envelope that will fit a 4 x 6 or a 5 x7″ so that it’s easy for the person to find a suitable frame.

To help you out, here is a list of popular envelope sizes so you can plan out your art card.

Working with Acrylic Paint on Paper

I work with acrylics on paper all the time. In fact, I use paper more than any other surface.

I typically will use either a mixed media paper or plain ol’ cardstock and both work really well. However, there are some things to keep in mind so here are some troubleshooting suggestions to help you be successful when using paper to make a holiday card with acrylic paint:

Q: I have to load my paintbrush more often. Is this normal?

A: Yes! Paper is absorbent so the paint soaks into the fibers. There are a couple of things you can do to remedy this problem:

  1. You can gesso the paper
  2. You can keep your brush damper than you would normally (NOT dripping wet but definitely more than just slightly damp)

Q: My paper is warping after I put paint on it. Is it ruined?!

A: Not at all! The amount of time it takes for paint to dry can vary which can cause warping. Here’s what you can do once the entire piece is completely dry:

  1. Lay your paper, with the painted side down on a piece of parchment/baking paper and stack heavy objects on top of it. Leave it alone for 24 hours
  2. If your paper is still warped after that, use the same process except give the back of the painted paper a good spritz of water and spread the water evenly with a paintbrush. Then, lay another piece of parchment/baking paper on top, followed by your heavy objects and, again, wait at least 24 hours

If you’d like more information about how to paint on paper, check out my article that talks all about what to expect when using acrylics on paper.

Should You Varnish Your Hand-Painted Christmas Card?

If you make a holiday card with acrylic paint and are hoping to also give it as a gift, you may be wondering if you should varnish it or if you even can put varnish on paper.

The answer is yes, you can absolutely varnish your finished art card but you don’t have to. If you do want to varnish your card, my suggestion is that you use an acrylic spray varnish so that nothing smears or gets brush marks.

Let’s Make a Holiday Card with Acrylic Paint!

Okay, now that we’ve gone through our “behind the scenes” stuff, let’s start on making our festive homemade card. Let’s go!

Cutting the Card to the Right Size

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your card will fit into your envelope. You want to make sure that your card is slightly smaller than the envelope size so that you won’t have an issue when it’s time to get ready to send.

For reference, I used an invitation envelop that measured 4 3/8” x 5 3/4” so I cut my card to be 8 1/2” x 5 1/2” and I scored it, for the fold, at 4 1/4”.

How to Make a Sharp Border (Optional)

This step is completely optional but I wanted the edges of my painting to be nice and crisp. However, you could just freehand it and it would look very painterly and cute.

I like to use a low-tack painter’s tape when I’m trying to make defined edges around a painting so I just made sure to measure how far in from the edge I wanted to make my border and did the same for all sides, including where the fold is.

Painting in the Background

I wanted to make a holiday card with acrylic paint colors that would give it a vintage vibe from the 1950s. Back then, pastels were in vogue but especially pink and turquoise.

A palette with two shades of turquoise paint, and a piece of white cardstock, taped off with dark blue painter's tape, and the right hand side of the paper is painted with very thin turquoise paint
  • Mix a small amount of Phthalo Turquoise with Titanium White until you get a very pastel shade (remember that some acrylic paints dry darker than what they appear on the palette)
  • Spritz some water on the card and spread it evenly with a paintbrush
  • Using your large flat brush, paint a very small amount horizontally across the front of your card (Be painterly to get a watercolor effect. Let your paint go on uneven and completely miss some sections of your background)
  • Allow to dry thoroughly (you can use a hairdryer for this, on the lowest setting, and sweeping back and forth continuously)

Sketch in Your Branch

A green watercolor pencil and two black arrows pointing to the lightly sketched branch on the white cardstock paper

Once your background is dry, use a pencil, or even a watercolor pencil, to lightly sketch in where you want your branch to be.

At this point, you’re basically sketching in lines. It will all get covered up by the needles anyway so don’t get too picky about it.

Also, don’t forget to think about how big, and where, your ornament will be so you have enough room to paint in the string that the ornament hangs from.

Paint A Vintage Ornament

Side by side photos showing how to easily paint a round ornament using a Mason Jar lid ring
  • Decide where you want to hang your ornament and grab whatever you chose to use as a template (jar lid, a small condiment bowl, a measuring cup, or just about anything that’s the right size)
  • Trace your template, using a pencil/watercolor pencil
  • Mix a small amount of Azo Pink with Titanium White and paint in your circle
  • Let dry

HACK ALERT: If you have a mason jar lid ring that is the right size for your ornament, flip it upside down so it is flush with the paper. Grab some paint on a large brush and, holding the lid ring down tightly, paint the opening inside the ring. Lift the ring straight up and off. Voila! A perfectly round circle with no effort!

Add the Ornament String

A pale pink round ornament hanging from a string that was painted with a gold paint pen and a ruler
  • Find the exact center of your round ornament using your ruler
  • Line up your ruler vertically with the center of your ornament all the way up to the sketched in branch
  • Grab some gold paint on a small round brush or you can use a gold paint pen or even a marker
  • Draw a line from the top of your ornament up to the branch
  • Lift your ruler straight up and off so that paint doesn’t smear
  • You can wipe off your ruler and use it again to make the string as thick as you want
  • Let dry

Paint Fir Needles Onto the Branch

A small round detail paint brush, that was used to paint the fir needles on our branch, laying on top of the Christmas card art project

Don’t fuss with this part of the holiday card painting. Most of it will be covered with big dollops of snow later on.

  • Take a small round brush and add some dark green paint to it
  • Starting at the sketched in branch, flick your small brush downward and at a slight angle making sure to add a bit of a bend to some of the brush strokes
  • Let some of your needles cross over each other to create thickness
  • Using the same method, add some needles that point upward and at an angle
  • Let dry and then we’ll add the highlights
A close-up of how we can make a holiday card with acrylic paint that has a dark green fir branch with lovely lime green highlights
  • Mix together the light green paint, a bit of yellow, and a titch of white for a highlight color
  • Use the same brush and technique as above but only paint a few highlights here and there (don’t cover up all of the darker green)
  • Let dry

Add Some Bling to the Ornament String (Optional)

Two different sized paint brush handles that were used to paint the gold "beads" that are stacked on the gold string near the top of the ornament

This is another part that is totally optional but it helps to add more interest to the Christmas ornament.

To paint the beads, you can use any color, add as many as you like, have them all the same size or different sizes, whatever you want!

Also, you can use the small round brush to make the beads or you can use the other end of a paintbrush, cotton buds, the eraser on the end of a pencil, etc.

I used the ends of two different brushes with some Champagne Gold metallic acrylic paint. And, I wanted to create some extra interest so I made one large bead and two small beads going up the string. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Dip the end of your paintbrush into the paint
  • Being careful to make sure that the bead will be centered on the string, dab the end of your paintbrush straight down and lift off
  • Make sure to dry this part well. It will take a bit longer because the paint goes on quite thick

Don’t worry if your beads aren’t exactly straight. Just let it dry completely and then go in with more paint on a small round brush and add a bit more paint to even it out.

Decorate Your Ornament

Time to decorate the ornament with all the pretties! This is another step where you could customize it however you like. But if you are struggling with ideas, I made sure that this design was super easy to do.

One thing to note, if you make a holiday card with acrylic paint that is metallic, you’ll probably have to go back in and do another layer or two. To get the right amount of coverage on my ornament, I had to do two coats.

A metallic brown stripe going from one side of the pink ornament to the other
  • Using a pencil/watercolor pencil, draw a slightly smiley curve, just up from the center, from one side of the ornament to the other
  • Draw another curved line just down from the center to complete the stripe
  • Fill in with your smaller flat brush using Mink Pearl metallic acrylic paint
  • Let dry
The next step is to paint large dark brown metallic "beads" to the center of the stripe, followed by smaller dark brown metallic "beads" just out from the stripe on both the top and the bottom
  • Now, take the same brush handle end that you used to make the largest bead on the ornament string (or whatever you used to make a large bead) and dip it into the Rich Espresso metallic paint
  • Dab three beads, evenly spaced, in the center of the stripe you just painted
  • Next, using your small round brush, paint half circle beads on either edge of the ornament, inside the stripe (this will help to make the ornament seem more like an orb and less like just a circle)
  • Using the same dark paint, add smaller beads, evenly spaced and following the stripe, on the top and the bottom, leaving a bit of space between the small beads and the stripe I used the handle end of my small round brush)
  • Allow everything to dry thoroughly
Black arrows pointing to tiny gold "beads" that are painted in the center of the large dark brown "beads"
  • Finally, using your small round brush and some gold paint, add a small dot to the center of each dark brown “bead” inside of the stripe
  • Let dry completely because, next up, snow and…..glitter!

Add Some Fluffy Snow and Sparkles (Optional)

At this point, you could call it done and have a fantastic handmade Christmas card to give to your friends and family. However, if you really want to have some fun, get ready to fire up the ol’ glitter cannon!

Turquoise paint, that is slightly darker than the turquoise background, very loosely painted on top of the branch and the very top of the ornament. This is the shadow color for the snow
  • Mix up a darker version of the turquoise that you used for your background (not too dark! Just a couple of shades darker should do it)
  • Using a large round brush, dab and plop the darker turquoise snow shadow color onto the branch, making sure to not cover all of the needles
  • Also, dab a bit of this color on the top of your ornament
  • Next, grab some white and do the same thing over the turquoise color but make sure to leave some of the shadow color showing
  • Add even more white, here and there, to the snow to create brightness
  • Now, before anything starts to dry, shake a bit of glitter onto the wet paint and knock the access off (you can add as much or as little as you like)
  • Let this completely dry and then spray varnish if you want (I didn’t bother varnishing)
Lots of iridescent glitter topping the white fluffy snow on the branch and the pink ornament

Even More Helpful Christmas Card Ideas and Tips

Turbo Boost Your DIY Christmas Card Process

To make a holiday card painting for multiple people just paint your card design on a full-sized piece of paper. Once you’re happy with it, you can either take a photo of it or scan it onto your computer.

Then, you just need to edit the size and check for clarity, etc., save it and either print your cards at home or take it to a larger printer who should be able to easily turn your artwork into any card size you want.

What’s nice about this is that you’ll be able to keep, or gift, the original holiday artwork for your card and you’ll still be able to share it with all of your friends and family.

Sign It!

Even though you’ll be signing the card on the inside, make sure to sign it on the back with your name, date, and whether it’s an original or a print.

You might also want to say whether this was a work inspired by another artist (include the artist’s name) or whether it was all 100% you.

My signature, on the bottom center of the back of the DIY holiday card, signed in gold with a big gold heart included

Make The Ornament Extra Unique

Here is a really simple way to make a hand-painted holiday card that is so special and unique. Instead of using the design that I’ve created maybe try your hand at lettering and add the recipient’s monogram.

If you don’t know how to do a fancy monogram, no worries. All you have to do is find a font that you like and copy it as best you can.

You can use either a paint marker or a regular marker but, sketch it in with a pencil/watercolor pencil first so you can make sure that you like it.

EXTRA TIP: If you want to do a traditional monogram, that’s typically three letters, and where the middle letter is larger, here is the order that you would place the initials:

  • For an individual, you would make the large center initial their last name, with their first name initial on the left and their middle name initial on the right
  • For a couple, the large center initial is their shared last name, with the outer initials as both of their first names

If you’d like to add a monogram but you don’t seem to have just the right font, you can download free fonts from Google and here’s how:

  1. Go to Google fonts
  2. Under “Categories” uncheck all except for “handwriting”
  3. Scroll through all of the fonts available until you find one you love and click on it
  4. Now, near the top, you should see a section where you can add your own text so go ahead and add something in this field. This will allow you to see an example of what the font will look like and will also give you a better idea of whether it will work for your art project
  5. Make it a habit to click on the “License” tab and read what it says there. You want to make sure that the font you’re going to download is actually free to use!
  6. In the top right corner, you should see a button that says “download family”. Click that and it will instantly download the font to your computer
  7. Next, go to the download folder on your computer and make sure the zip file is highlighted. You should see something that says “Extract” at the top of the screen. You can either click on that and choose “extract all” or you can right mouse click on the font zip file and choose “extract all” in the menu options
  8. Partially minimize this window to fit half of your screen
  9. Open “System Settings” on your computer and then open “Font Settings”
  10. Make sure that this is partially minimized as well so that it covers the other half of your computer screen
  11. Open the new folder that was made when you “extracted all” and find the “True Type Font File”
  12. Click and drag the font file over to the area that says “drag and drop to install” on your font settings and let go of it once you see a popup that says “copy”
  13. Give it a few seconds and it should show up in your list of fonts on your computer

To give you a good starting point, here are links to some of my favorite Google fonts that would make fantastic monograms:

Final Thoughts on Our Painted Christmas Card

When you make a holiday card with acrylic paint on paper, you just need to keep in mind that you’ll need to keep your brush a bit more wet than you typically would or you can gesso the paper before getting started.

Once you get to the design stage, this holiday art project is totally customizable and would be great fun for the kids to get involved in (yay, for a few quiet moments!).

I hope you find the time to try this hand-painted Christmas greeting card and don’t be afraid to download a monogram font to make each card unique to the person you’re giving it to.

You never know, you may see your handmade holiday card framed and on display in someone’s home!

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