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Human Alphabet Homemade Birthday Card

If you’re looking for a fun and cheesy homemade birthday card idea, look no further! This human alphabet card is one that I designed in 2004 when the kids were little. I’ve recreated it using the original photographs so that you can see how I put it together.

Originally I created two copies of this homemade birthday card – one to send to my grandma and one to Shawn’s great-aunt. I was often looking for a way to involve the kids in gifts to the relatives. And this idea was a way to make the card into a gift as well since it was a keepsake collage.

The design is an accordian-folded card with human lettering spelling out “Happy Birthday”.

accordian birthday card opened to show pages opposite a center page which is sticking straight up.

To make this card all you need is a bunch of kids (at least two, more is better), a camera, a printer and cardstock. For this 2023 version I also used the free version of Canva, an online graphic design tool.

I would also like it to be noted that this card was made from some rather low-resolution images. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to locate the original digital files and these have been downloaded from Shutterfly.

All printed pages of project laid out in two stacked rows. Four pages total.

Tips for photography

  • Choose your kids and poses. My images show how the kids created each letter to spell “Happy Birthday” in capital letters.
  • Choose one background. I realize that not everyone has a flower wall mural as a backdrop, but a long wall will help the kids stand out better than visual clutter.
  • Set up your camera location. A tripod will add great consistency to the height and distance of your photos.
  • Choose sufficient lighting. An overhead light may produce glare. Use natural light if available. If you’re stuck with indoor lighting, play with the positions of your light sources to achieve the best balance.
  • Kids tire quickly of your best ideas. Don’t test their patience by expecting perfection. Nobody appreciates a drill sergeant, especially when your arms are tired of holding a pose. The more you can map out before involving them the better. To speed things along, consider photos that include as many of your letters at once as possible. Take a couple shots of each pose, but don’t be such a perfectionist that you end up with grumpy participants. You want the “DAY” to look as cheerful as the “HAPPY”.
The last few pages of the Human Alphabet homemade birthday card, showing "hday".

Cut and paste images with Canva

This is where it helps to head over to a graphic design platform like Canva. In 2004, I probably just printed the images from my printer onto cardstock and then pieced them together as I’ll show you in later steps. But using Canva allowed me to do some placement as well as cutting and pasting before I ever printed the images. Also, using graphic design tools allows you to add text across the bottom. My original card only showed the human lettering where as my 2023 version interprets the human lettering with text.

Custom Sizing
  • On the home page, select “Custom Size”. I wanted my finished card to fit an A7 (5×7″) envelope. Since I was planning to use standard printing and lose part of my design in printing, I went ahead and made my design 10×7″. If you would can use a “print to edge” function on your computer, you’ll want to make your design smaller than the full 10×7″ so that it slides easily into your envelope. See notes on envelopes below.1
  • By printing a 10×7″ image onto an 8 1/2 x 11″ standard piece of paper, I will allow for an extra 1 inch of width that I can use as a flap for gluing.
screenshot of Canva's homepage with custom size selected.
The end of one page showing a one inch strip that can glue to the second page.
Upload images
  • Upload your images using the menu selection on the left.
  • Click or drag images onto your page. Position them how you like. From the page, you can click on an image to crop it or position it forward or backward.
Add a border
  • Use that extra space above and below to add a colorful border. This also can hide height discrepancies between images. I selected a square from “elements” in the left-hand menu. Next, position the square at the top or bottom. Adjust size and color. Duplicate. And then add your new shape to the other end, top or bottom, and adjust the size as needed. To bring each rectangle image forward, click on the rectangle, select “position” from the above menu, and then select “forward”. Keep clicking “forward” until your border is the top layer.
Canva screenshot. Project with page duplicate indicated.
Duplicate page
  • See image above for the “Duplicate Page” button. Duplicating the page enables you to maintain the same sizing for your border that is above and below the photos. This step could follow the lettering step instead of preceding it.
  • Create your remaining pages by dragging out old images and dragging in the new, leaving the borders in tact. Occasionally I used half an image on one page, and half on the next. Duplicating pages made this easy to navigate.
Canva screenshot of project with left menu showing text options.
Add text
  • The left-hand menu allows you to add text. The top “Add a heading” gives you Canva Sans bold which is the font I used. Type the letter “H”.
  • Click on the “H” you’ve typed and select “Duplicate”. Then drag the duplicate to the proper position for your next letter. Click on the newly positioned “H” to duplicate again, and you will find that the newest “H” has been added with proper spacing. Continue adding all the letter positions and then go back to change each one to the proper letter.
Download completed images
Screenshot of project in Canva. "PDF Standard" is highlighted in the drop-down menu under "Share".
  • When you’re done with your design, it’s time to download the pages to your computer. Select “Share” from the upper left-hand corner. From the drop-down menu, choose “PDF Standard”. Check the tickbox to flatten your image.
  • Downloading multiple pages at once will require you to unzip the files. Instead, I opt to download the pages one at a time.

Print your images

After you’ve downloaded your images, it is time to print them. You can send these in to a professional printer or print them yourself at home.

Print Preview page for project.
  • Open your downloaded image and select “Print”. You will be able to see how the image will fill your page.
  • If you are using “Photo Printing” or “Print to Edge”, your entire pdf will print like you see here.
  • If you use standard printing like I did, you will have a forced margin. This will trim off part of the top and left edge of your image. Totally fine for me, because I had planned for that. I had allowed space for my pictures that carried from one page to another. In some cases, I added maybe a little too much space.

Trim your cardstock to size

  • Cut the extra paper off below your photos, and any white space above and to the left.
  • Be sure to leave that extra 1″ to the right of your photos for attaching the pages of your homemade birthday card together.

Fold and Glue

Printed page being glued to folded tab.
  • Fold down that exta 1″ into a tab. Apply glue stick adhesive and attach pages together.
card being folded outwards
  • Fold the card inward at the tabbed seams (reversing your previous tab fold). Fold the card in half outwards on each page.
  • If you want, add another piece of cardstock to the end of your human alphabet as a blank page for additional birthday wishes and signing.
Last page of project with additional blank page added.
Homemade birthday card being removed from turquoise envelope.

About Envelopes

5×7 inch cards fit into an envelope size called A7. The A7 envelope measures 7 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches to accomodate the card. I used just a regular leftover envelope that I had hanging around. Birthday cards from the store come in a variety of sizes and so do their envelopes. For standard envelope sizes, you can view this handy guide at PaperPapers.

Is this the cutest card ever?

looking from the front and left at opened accordian card

This may be the cutest homemade birthday card you’ll ever see. There are definitely some adorable hand-crafted cards out there, but it’s hard to beat the intrinsic charm of wee little munchkins! I’ve no doubt your relatives and birthday recipients will agree! Will you be using this idea with photos of your kids? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

last three pages of the homemade birthday card laid open
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