Begriddled Print-At-Home Cards Hints and Tips

My Etsy shop is now open at begriddled.etsy.com for print-at-home digital download puzzle greeting cards!

As I type (19 October 2020) I still have loads of work to do on it. But there are five cards there so far: You Are … AMAZING, You Are … The Best, You Are … An Angel, Mum You Are … The Best, and Mom You Are … The Best. The last two are of course the same thing for different audiences.

Send someone a hidden message with one of my print-at-home greeting cards!

Every card includes a selection of front design variations (colours/colors) and puzzle variations (difficulty level) so you can decide which you think is the best combination for whoever you’re sending it to once you’ve had a chance to see it properly.

Initially these are available only from Etsy at begriddled.etsy.com.

If you’d like a discount code (and why wouldn’t you?) simply join my mailing list and I’ll send you one! I NEED TO SORT THAT OUT, BUT I’LL BE SENDING EVERYONE ON THE MAILING LIST A CODE VERY SHORTLY NOW I’VE OPENED THE SHOP.

Read the below, and/or watch the video, for getting the best results printing out and folding (important!) your card, and choosing the puzzle variation to put in it.

Watch The Video Above

If you’ve got the patience, the video is probably the best thing to check out.

In it I demonstrate:

  • how to do a trial print using minimal ink on a cheap sheet of paper so you can be confident you’ve got things the right way around when you come to print in full colour on more expensive card stock;
  • the different levels of puzzle you can choose from, to suit the person you are sending to;
  • what to do if your printer insists on putting a bigger border at one end of the paper than the other;
  • how to score the card for a great pro-looking fold without buying one of those bone scorer things – you just need a ruler, paper, a bit of kitchen towel, and a ball point pen (a working one);
  • and more.

Or If You Prefer To Read …

You get five PDF files:

  • the card, ready for letter size paper / card stock (for North America and the Philippines in particular);
  • the card, ready for A4 size paper / card (for just about anywhere else in the world);
  • a minimal-ink practice card, letter size;
  • a minimal-ink practice card, A4 size;
  • a read-me-first file that essentially contains these instructions.

Step 1: Print the practice card (optional)

Open the practice card file for the size of paper you’ll be using: practice_card_letter.pdf for letter or practice_card_a4.pdf for A4.

The video shows me using a practice version of the card itself, but I’m now providing the same practice card with all the cards. There’s no benefit in providing different ones for different designs.

I recommend using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader from get.adobe.com/uk/reader/otherversions for that.

NB Adobe seem to be trying to herd people into going for a paid version that costs well into three figures (in both British pounds and US dollars) a year. You ABSOLUTELY DO NOT need a paid-for version for this, and they offer a perfectly good free version, even though that might not be obvious if you arrive at their download page via a search.

Print one of the pages onto one side of a sheet of paper. It doesn’t matter which but because the outside (front) of the card (though not this practice card) uses the most ink and you’re not going to want that to be smudged in any way, it might be best to print the inside of that first. So you might as well do the same with the practice card.

To print just the one page, go to it in your PDF reader, and be sure to check “current page” when you get to the print dialog.

You can print borderless (if your printer supports that – not all do) or not. The card is laid out for the design on the front and text on the back to be centred best when there’s a small border – small enough that nobody’s likely to notice the slight offset if you print borderless while at the same time compensating a little so any offset the other way is similarly unnoticeable if you print with a border.

Some older printers produce printouts with a wider border at one end of the paper compared with the other. If that is the case with yours, please watch the video above from 30:25. It is much easier to show the problem with this and how to work around it than it is to explain it in text!

Now put the sheet back into the printer feed ready to print on the other side. Put it in in such a way that both sides of the card will be the same way up. It’s easy to get this wrong – that’s one reason for doing the practice print, so you know you can get it right before doing it for real.

Fold it in half to check it would look OK as a card.

You can fold it as you would any sheet of paper. But I suggest scoring it in the same way you’ll be doing the card for real simply because running through the process will help you get that right first time when you do the actual card – see below.

Step 2: Choose which puzzle variation to use and print the inside of the card

Each card has at least two puzzle variations: one with a simple sequence that everybody knows without checking (0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0) and another with a scrambled sequence (for example 0-7-4-5-1-9-2-6-3-8-0) so that making the connections requires more time and concentration.

Puzzles with enough horizontal and vertical connections to make a difference have four versions:

  • One has the simple 0-1-2-etc sequence and a lot of pairs of identical adjacent horizontal and vertical numbers. This makes many of the connections stand out to the eye and demands the least time and concentration of the four.
  • The next also uses the simple sequence, but has fewer pairs of joining identical numbers. So instead of 3-3-3-3 it might have 3-4-3-2 which, while pretty obvious when presented in a sentence like this, doesn’t stand out to the eye so obviously when in the middle of a whole grid of numbers. But this second puzzle still has quite a few identical pairs.
  • The third has a similar (but not necessarily the same) number of identical pairs to the second, but uses a scrambled sequence and so requires more time and concentration.
  • The last version has very few identical pairs and requires the most time and concentration to complete.

You can see all the versions with the solutions drawn in at the end of the file. Simply choose the one you think most fitting for the person you’re going to give the card to. Probably best not patronize a bright teenager or adult with the first, or use the last for a younger child or someone who is likely to struggle or lose patience with it.

Go to the page that has the puzzle you have chosen and print it onto a sheet of card stock. Remember to choose “current page” (or specify the page number) in the print dialog, and print at the maximum quality setting available. If you are printing onto pre-scored card stock, print onto the side where that score is raised. You fold away from the indented score – so use that side for the outside of the card.

Step 3: Choose the front design variation and print the outside of the card

Immediately before the page with all the puzzle variations is a page with all the front design variations. If you print that out you can see what each looks like on paper, which won’t be exactly like the on-screen colour – it can’t be.

Although it will use the most ink, it’s best to print that page out at high quality. There can be quite a difference between the effect in draft / lower quality printouts and high quality ones. I recently printed a card for someone and was disappointed until I realized I’d used the wrong setting. The paper quality can also make a difference.

Allow time for the ink to dry on the inside of the card just printed (probably about no time at all, but it depends on your printer and paper / card stock) and then print the design variation of your choice on the other side, orientating the paper in the same way as you did with the practice card.

Step 4: Fold the card

Folding the card like a thin sheet of paper is unlikely to produce a satisfactory result.

As it’s much easier to show the procedure than explain it, I suggest you watch the above video from 14:50.

In the video and here, I’m assuming you don’t have any tools specifically for helping with this. If you do then you use them in the usual way. If you don’t, you really don’t need anything special other than a pencil, a ruler (most any straight edge to draw against will do), and a ball point pen.

It’s best to use a working pen because the ball will roll freely. Although an empty pen could be used directly on the card itself, I prefer a working one used with a thin piece of paper to protect the card from the ink.

These are the steps that I use myself:

  • With the card face up, so that the front design is showing, measure about half way along the long edge, making a light pencil mark on it near the edge. You can try to make the mark exactly in the middle, but that’s fiddly and I find it not very reliable.
  • Repeat, measure the same distance along the the same edge but from the other side so that you have two light pencil marks quite close together. The middle of the card is halfway between these two marks.
  • Repeat the procedure on the opposite long side of the card.
  • Put several layers of paper kitchen towel (roll) on a board, with a sheet of paper on top. Place the card face up on top of that. The purpose of the kitchen towel is to provide a little, but not too much, “give” so that when we come to use the ball point pen in a moment, it will push down into it in a consistent and controlled way without breaking through the paper.
  • Hold the card down securely – from this point on you don’t want it to move relative to the piece of paper under it.
  • On the piece of paper under the card, make a dark mark both sides against the centre of the card, using the pencil marks as a guide.
  • Still keeping the card securely in place, place another thin piece of paper on top. You should be able to make out the dark marks through the paper.
  • Using the rule as a guide, heavily draw a line along the width of the card between the two marks. You can go back and forth several times, pressing quite hard. The idea is to crush the card stock down along this line. The kitchen towel will allow it to press in a little while the solid board behind will prevent it from doing so further than the thickness of the towel.
  • The end result should be an indented straight line across the middle of the outside of the card, and the same line raised on the other side (inside).
  • Gently bend the card away from the indentation until it starts to give along the line.
  • Once it starts to bend at the line itself, you can fold it more firmly.
  • Finally, put a piece of paper on top (to protect the card) and use the ruler, fingernail, or back of a spoon, for example, to press the fold down firmly.
  • Your card is now ready to write in, stick in an envelope, and send off.

Questions and Answers

How thick/heavy should the card stock be?

It needs to be firm enough to stand on its own (when folded, of course) and for the print on one side not to noticeably show through to the other. Thicker and sturdier tends to give a sense of better quality, but you should stay within what your printer can handle.

In Europe the recommended weight is around 160 to 220 gsm as being suitable for “most home printers.” In the video, I used 110 gsm card stock which was just about adequate. But if your printer is happy with heavier than 220 gsm, you’ll probably be happier with the result.

In the US the most popular card stock for print-at-home cards is 80 Lb cover.

What size envelopes are best?

If you are printing onto A4, the card size will be A5. Nearly everyone seems to advise a C5 envelope for a card that size, and that’s fine, especially for a one-off card. But there’s a better size, as I show in the video at 26:05. When you buy a card in a shop, it nearly always fits quite snugly into the envelope it comes with. A5 is 148 mm x 210 mm and a C5 envelope is 162 mm x 229 mm, leaving quite a lot of space around the outside. You can get envelopes that are 152 mm x  216 mm, sometimes referred to as a small C5. They are ideal, giving a fit that is just like you get with a shop-bought card. I could only find expensive envelopes of this size on Amazon, but was able to get basic white ones at a reasonable price on eBay and, as I say in the video, I’m glad I got them.

Printing on letter size paper, use A9 envelopes. I don’t know what the fit is like, or if there is a better alternative, like the “small C5” in Europe. (If someone lets me know, I’ll update this!)

Can I get my local print shop to print the cards?

You can only print the cards for personal use so getting a print shop to print them in the numbers that would make that cost effective while in itself not a problem, you can’t then sell those on or give them away for others to use.

But there’s another reason why it might not work anyway. Home printers are designed and set up to print the types of things people print at home, such as images from the Internet, etc. Most print shops are more geared up for printing documents set up for professional printers. They probably won’t be happy with the PDF version and colour I’ve used, which is more aimed at home inkjet printers.