(as tested by Annie Beth Ericsson in Christmas 2010)
Prologue: Just Paint ’em Something!
I’m sure every illustrator, when asking what to get their family for Christmas, gets the response, “Just paint me something!” It’s great that an artist can make their own gifts, but with a blended “modern family” like mine, there are just too many relatives… you’d be painting Christmas gifts all year! A few special folks got real-deal paintings (shown above), but in case you’re not watercolor-inclined, here are a few creative alternatives I tried:
1. 4 Over 4 Cards
I have to give my shout-out to Queens… ever since my pre-graduation scramble for business cards and promos, 4 Over 4 has been, hands down, my favorite printer. To prove my point, this Christmas, they had an amazing special on greeting cards — I got 75 full-color cards with free shipping, envelopes, the works… for only about $50! Using the polar bear image I created, I gave little sets of 6 blank notecards to family and friends. They were so well received, I think they’ll become an annual tradition!
2. A Personal Subway Map
One of my dearest friends, bless her, has absolutely no sense of direction, and is often calling me to ask, “Where am I?” So I decided she needed a NYC subway map of her own, complete with favorite landmarks and frequent haunts. It may not be the best thing I’ve ever drawn, but it’s a fun idea for an urban explorer. On the other hand, she also got a smartphone for Christmas. Let’s see which helps more.
3. Digitally Colored Photos
I stole this idea from my coworker, who was using this handy tutorial to enhance black and white family photos with a vibrant, hand-colored look. For those who are better with the paintbrush tool than a paintbrush, this is a simple way to put a personal touch on old portraits, and all you need to know are quick masks and color balance in Photoshop. I tried a few and framed them, but I’d love to see a whole album of updated photos!
4. Faux Quote Hoops
I’m constantly “starring” Design*Sponge’s DIY projects in my Google Reader for later, but this was one that I just HAD to try! I love the idea of taking something vintage-inspired, and making it a little irreverent or clever. In practice, though, this craft project has one fatal flaw — iron-on transfers. Yes, downloading an embroidery font is much more appealing to me than actually sewing, but the transfer paper leaves a strange residue on the fabric, even where you didn’t print anything. Maybe there’ s a trick to get this out, but I’m not trying this one again unless I can get a clean image!