Sunday, January 15, 2006

How to Print Your Own Greeting Cards and Envelopes on Apple's iPhoto and OpenOffice

Here is how I figured out how to print your own greeting cards on Apple's new iPhoto (part of iLife '06 - just released). This won't work with earlier versions of iPhoto, only version 6.

I got my cards from Desktop Publishing Supplies on the Internet. They were one of the few who offered print-to-the-edge greeting cards on 8.5 X 11 sheets. Basically, the way you get print-to-the-edge cards is that there is a perforation on each of the four sides of the piece of paper.

Make sure you also buy the envelopes. These cards are a weird size and you have to get the special envelopes.

To get started, start up iPhoto 6 on your Mac. Choose the photo you want as your front cover, then click on the "Cards" icon on the bottom of the screen. Choose a photo you've taken or get one here royalty free.

Choose your themes. These themes kind of all look the same, but, trust me, once you add a special photo into the middle of it, you can reuse these themes over and over without people realizing that it's the same thing.

You'll see the layout of your card, and the photo will get plunked onto the front cover. Change the words to what you want and your card is ready to print.

Apple wants you to click the "Buy Card" button at the bottom, but I don't see doing that. It costs $1.99 to buy the card, then it has to get shipped to you by Apple, so there's extra time and money involved. I'd rather print it myself.

Okay, so you can choose Print from the File menu. But, now the fun starts.

The card will not automatically print to the layout of the cards you bought from Desktop Publishing Supplies. It will be way off alignment.

But, I can save you that work! Set it up like this:

Page Size: 8.5" W X 11" H

Top: 0.75"
Left: 0.63"
Right: 0.75"
Bottom: 0.75"

Then go to the Page Setup and change the Scale factor to 125%.

This will fit the card exactly into the boundaries of your perforated paper. It might leave a tiny border around the edges, but it's liveable (wasn't that the whole reason I bought print-to-the-edge??? Argh!).

Now you can print the card.

In the Print dialog (after you click Print and it assembles the card), you need to set the Paper Size AGAIN. This is a pain, but it's the only way to do it as far as I know. When you get the Print dialog box, choose Advanced, then Paper Handling from the drop-down list, then I click Scale to Fit Paper Size, then I choose my special paper size that I set up previously (I call it Print to the Edge Greeting Card). Then you can friggin' print.

My printer (HP DeskJet 952C) prints the first page out into the paper tray, then I pull it out and place it as is (printed side up) right back in the input tray and do the second side.

Next we tackle the envelope.

I use OpenOffice Writer for this job.

I open a blank text document. I go to Format...Styles and Formatting and choose Page Style (of the icons across the top of the box).

I double-click Envelope, which is, of course, a regular legal-size envelope (which we don't want).

Then I change the size in the Styles dialog to 7.25" W and 5.25" H.

Then I go to Format and Page. I choose Background and I click Browse to get a photo into the Background of the envelope. This is a background for the front of your envelope, where the person's address will go.

Choose a photo and click OK.

Now you have a nice photo in the background.

Now go to the Drawing toolbar (go to View - Toolbars - Drawing - if it's not already visible) and put a colored box in the middle of the envelope where you are going to put the person's address. Double-click in the middle of the box and you can put text in the box. Center the text.

You can put another box in the top left for your return address if you want, or just use a label later on.

Now, choose Print within OpenOffice and then choose a different paper size - 5x8 index card. This is the closest I could find to the 5.25 x 7.25 envelope, and I couldn't find a way to create a custom paper size that the printer dialog box would recognize (this is different than the custom Page Style from before).

Make sure the envelope is pushed all the way inside and to the right. Put the flap up and the open side to the right.

Double check that the printer setting is still 5x8 index card and that the color is on (not "from driver").

Now the envelope should print pretty nicely. Attach your return address label and a stamp, and you're set!

I just went through this whole hassle today, so I thought I'd document it for all of you, plus also for myself so I have a place where I can remember all these steps.

I think Apple should give us choices of custom print-it-yourself greeting card paper in iPhoto.

I also think OpenOffice should give us the ability to customize the paper sizes that the printer dialog will recognize, or even better, match those to the Page Styles within OpenOffice Writer.

Was this helpful? It was cathartic for me, anyway.


Anonymous said...

thanks for this post. it was intersting to read. I am planning to upgrade to iLife 06 and I was wondering, do I really need to use apple online photo service? at least you told I can print at home. I would still like to know whether I can use some other online printing service for the cards I make with iPhoto...

Holistic Economy said...

You're welcome! I'm glad you got something good from this post.

As far as I know, you cannot use any other online printing service (yet).

You can't save the card onto your disk (except as a PDF with Preview) and you can't specify a different online service in the ordering service.

I'm sure someone will hack the process someday, but right now it's not possible. Apple has it locked down pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I set up the Page Setup as you had suggested, and even saved it in a custom setting, but when I go to Print when the card is selected, it goe right back to the "Other" page setup size, which is iPhoto's preset 7x10 paper size. Is there some trick to get your custom page setup to stick?

Holistic Economy said...

Ah, great question!

Yes, iPhoto switches me back to the stupid 7x10 size every time too.

What I do is set it twice, once in Page Setup and once in the Print dialog box.

In the Print dialog, I go to Advanced. Then I choose Paper Handling from the drop-down list. Then I click on Scale to Fit Paper Size. Then I choose my special paper size (I call it Print to the Edge Greeting Card).

That does it. I've already forgotten to do it twice and then end up swearing a blue streak because I've wasted an expensive sheet of greeting card paper.

That's the best I can do. Anyone else have a better way to make the paper size stick??

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