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Print Greeting and Note Cards for Profit. Part 2

by Christine Pentecost—

 Receiving a card in the mail will always eclipse one sent electronically—not only because it shows the recipient you really spent some time picking it out just for them, but also that you wanted to write a personal note of your own and not rely on some clever or flowery language that was written to cover all bases. Your thoughts really do count. Now let’s go into what customers like to buy when it comes to note cards.

What Sells and What Doesn’t

 How do I pick out my most popular cards? Well, that’s a little bit like the Magic 8 ball. It’s anybody’s guess. It starts out as trial and error. Eventually, you’ll start seeing a pattern of what your top sellers are. Images that make people laugh are always big sellers. Images that evoke emotion are also popular. I don’t do a lot of landscape note cards, but found that if I take a photo with a bright blue sky, even though “pretty”, it won’t sell as much as a landscape images with captivating clouds.

About 10 years ago, I photographed a squirrel that kept raiding my “squirrel-proof” bird feeder, and then dressed him up in some sporty attire via Photoshop. Images © Christine Pentecost.

My best selling note cards are my whimsical squirrels. I’m now up to 27 different whimsical squirrels and everyone laughs when they see them. Another is my image of Forget-Me-Not flowers in the shape of a heart. This has become the perfect image for weddings, funerals, Valentine’s Day, and more. My still-life flower photos have also sold well, as people comment to me on how pretty and unique they are. While these are the images that sell well for me, top sellers will be different for every artist.

Printing Your Cards

 When I print my cards, I use the templates provided by Red River. For most of my images, I like to create a softer edge around them, or even a fine black or white line. I use OnOne Effects for a lot of my creative borders, but you can also create your own in Photoshop or any other imaging program.

I use information on the back of each card to promote my work and also provide a point of contact for retailers and others who might want to order cards and/or a larger print of the image.

On the back side of the card, I put the name of the image in the middle. At the bottom, I place my name with the copyright symbol, website address, where I’m located (Bozeman), my email and my phone number. This provides a way for people to contact me if they want to purchase cards from me, or even buy a large print of the image on the card! I also have my “Made in Montana” logo, and a UPC bar code.

While not every retailer who carries my cards relies on bar codes for their pricing and inventory, it’s a valuable feature to have and there’s a place for it on the printing template if it’s needed. There are many online resources where you can purchase bar codes and I usually buy  100 of them for about $8 and then assign a bar code to each different card title.

When it comes time to print my cards, I use a Canon Pixma Pro 100, which has been a fantastic printer. The current version of this printer is the Pixma Pro 200. I had previously used an Epson printer for my cards, which also did a great job. I’ll put in 5-6 cards at a time and hit the print button and let the printer do its job. The cards come out of the printer dry; there’s no need to let them sit overnight. Red River has thorough reviews on many different printers, to help you make your decision on what best fits your needs.

The best printer to start out with is the printer you already have. When your volume of sales starts to rise, it may be time to buy a better one. But you don’t need a wide-carriage printer unless you’re going to use it for big prints. A good (and less expensive) desktop printer will do just as well.

Pricing Your Cards

Wondering how to price the cards was a big question for me when I got started in the note card world. Red River provides information on what the average cost of a printed note card is. With the average price per greeting card (paper, envelope and ink) at 78 cents per card, I wholesale my cards at $2/each. Most of my retailers sell the cards for $4.00 each, but I leave the pricing decision up to them. When I do art shows, I sell my cards at $4/each, or 10 for $35. The special pricing encourages people to buy more cards.

I’ve noticed a significant increase in greeting card prices lately, so how you determine your wholesale price is entirely up to you. However, I suggest you do your homework to see how other local cards are priced, to make sure you are able to be competitive within your market. I sometimes place my note cards in plastic sleeves, depending on the request of the retailer. Red River sells the plastic sleeves for cards, which helps keep the cards clean and free from sticky fingerprints.

A USPS Flat Rate Box is economical, trackable and will offer your cards  protection. Don’t forget to bill the retailer for shipping costs.

Shipping Tips

When it comes time to ship my note cards, I tuck the envelope inside each card and place the card in a plastic sleeve if that’s what the retailer wants. Then, into a box or other packaging where they are well protected, so as not to get bent, or end up with bent corners. I learned this the hard way, “thinking” I was saving the retailer shipping charges by sending the cards in a box that was not quite big enough. I ended up having to replace, at my cost, about 50 cards that had bent corners.

I usually ship USPS, but on occasion use UPS. I recently started using Pirate Ship which saves my retailers a lot of money on shipping, even on flat rate shipping via the post office. I can get about 35 note cards and envelopes in a small USPS Flat Rate Box.

Some Business Nitty-Gritty

 And, as with every business, comes bookkeeping and taxes. I find it relatively easy to keep track of my business expenses (ink, paper, etc.) by having a folder for the cost of sales, as well as another separate folder for copies of my invoices. Retailers generally pay on a 30-day invoice schedule and some of them may require you to file a W-9 with them, which is easily downloadable from the IRS website.

If you are already operating as an art or photography business you just add what you make from card sales to your income. If not, you can  do business under your own name but be sure to get advice from an accountant as to what you need to file with the IRS and what deductions you can take to reduce your taxes.

From a modest beginning at local art fairs, my cards are now for sale  at many, major retail outlets.

More than ten years ago, I started with one very small retail account. Today, my card business has grown to where I print thousands of cards a year for many, exceptionally lucrative, retail accounts.

You can do the same. All it takes is time and a small investment in ink and paper to get up and running— you already have a printer and some good images.

Creating quality note cards  for sales at retail stores can pay off for you. Just follow my advice and you’ll be on the way  not only to generating another source of income, but also getting your name and images out there for people to enjoy.

Editor’s Note: Christine will be happy to answer  questions you may have if they are submitted  in the comments section below. This will allow them to be shared  by all readers.


Christine Pentecost is a Red River Pro who lives in Bozeman, Montana and specializes in nature and wildlife photography. Her work can been viewed at her web site and you may also read her Red River Pro profile


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Original Publication Date: January 29, 2022

Article Last updated: September 15, 2023


Brandy L Pettit   06/13/2022 11:31:46

Again, incredibly useful information! My husband has a show at a winery in a couple months and is thinking of having cards available as well as prints of the hanging originals. He will likely have ~40 pieces hanging. Do you have any advice for how many different styles of cards would be best to have available? Should he just pick out 6-8 of his favorites and have signage indicating that cards/prints can be made upon request?

Christine Pentecost   06/13/2022 12:37:31

A couple of things here. First, do you have a card rack or display? The may be a deciding factor on the number of cards you can have available. Secondly, selling note cards of the very images you have hanging on display may impact your sales. People tend to gravitate to something less expensive if it’s available. I used to have note cards of the same images I was selling, and as soon as they found they could buy a note card for $4, instead of a matted and framed print for $100, they almost always went with the note card. While I still sell note cards at some shows, I do not sell cards that have the same image as the larger prints. I’d rather make $100 than $4! I hope this helps!

Dorothyann Strange   09/07/2022 09:59:03

Question: Instead of printing my print on the card, I have a 4x6 print made then adhered to the Red River card. Somehow it feels more of an art piece to me than printed on the card itself, plus it stands out from other cards. The problem is that it is an added cost and labor in producing a card. I sell for $5 a card (the going rate for cards in the gallery I sell at) but realistically, I should be charging $6 for retail. I don't think my printer prints as well as a professional printer perhaps because it is an 11-year old Canon Pixma printer so I have someone else print them. I would appreciate any thoughts you have on my procedure on card-making. Who knows, maybe you'll convince me to print directly on my cards. Thanks!

BRUCE H DALZIEL   12/02/2022 12:22:46

Very useful information and thanks for the well thought out info format. I am printing my start-up cards on various Red River cardstock - which as you know are incredible, and your unified connection with Red River Paper Inc is useful to my endeavor.

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