Chinese New Year is right around the corner and a great way to celebrate is with homemade greeting cards. You’re not Chinese? No problem! Learning about and appreciating other cultures is a lot of fun. So surprise your friends and family with some custom greeting cards for the Chinese New Year.
I’ll give you instructions for a couple of easy cards to get you started. Then I will give you some additional ideas for your own designs. Since Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, I chose branches from the Flowering Plum tree as my theme. Both of the card designs are fairly easy. Either design could be dressed up for a more sophisticated look or simplified for younger children. The first two images displayed with this article are of the finished designs.
Chinese New Year card – design #1 using watercolor paint and simple stamps made at home.
white card stock
watercolor paints and paint brush
fine point marker
a piece of scrap paper
Step 1. Chose the paper for your card.
I chose card stock for this design. You can use other types of paper as long as it isn’t too thin or absorbent.
Step 2. Draw the outline for the branches.
Use the third image as a guide. If you are uncomfortable drawing freehand, you are welcome to print the image. Draw (or trace) the branches very lightly with pencil. You don’t have to be exact – they are just to give you an idea of where the blossoms should go.
Step 3. Create the blossoms.
This is the fun part. I made “stamps” from stalks of broccoli and “ink” from beet juice. The stamps are easy to make. Look at image four for examples. Use several different thicknesses to make blossoms of varying sizes. To make the beet juice ink, I just cut a fresh beet into pieces and threw it in a mixer. I added enough water to make it the consistency of chunky applesauce. The chunks don’t matter as long as there’s enough liquid to dip the broccoli “stamps” into. (I tried the beet juice from canned beets but it doesn’t work. The color is just not dark enough.)
Stamp the blossoms along the previously drawn branch outline. Dip the stamps in the beet juice ink and then stamp onto the scrap paper until the stamp is no longer dripping. Make some of the blossoms very faint to make them look further away. Make some of the blossoms darker by using more ink. I also inked some of the broccoli crown and stamped it here and there for a more textured look. Look at image five to see this step completed. As you can see the blossoms are placed fairly randomly with the lightly drawn branches only used as a general guide.
You can draw a few thin lines in some of the blossoms to give the impression of petals. Draw the lines very lightly from the center of the blossom – like the rays of the sun. These should be very light and probably only on the darker blossoms.
Please note that beet juice stains. So cover your working surface well and wear appropriate clothing.
Step 4. Create the branches.
I used watercolor paint for this. First I laid down a brown color and then added some even darker brown (almost black) here and there to show the texture of the bark. When creating the branches I no longer cared about the original lines (that’s why I drew them very light). Instead I used the placement of the blossoms as my guide.
Step 5. Add a greeting.
Use your own skills as a guide for this. A hand printed calligraphy message would be perfect. I have no such talent, so I scanned my card onto my computer and added my message using a font I found free on the internet. The font I used is called “China Town” and I downloaded it free from this website.
Chinese New Year card – design #2 using child friendly markers and simple blossoms torn or cut from colored paper
white or light colored construction paper
pink or light purple construction paper or printer paper (or your child’s choice of colors)
brown and black markers
silver glitter (optional)
glue stick (make sure it’s the kind that dries clear)
Step 1. Chose the paper for your card.
I chose construction paper. Nearly any paper will do as long as it’s not too light weight.
Step 2. Draw the branches.
Use the third image as a guide. If you are uncomfortable drawing freehand, you are welcome to print the image and then trace onto your paper.
The branches are drawn with child friendly markers. Use a black marker to draw the outline of the thick branches and fill them in with brown marker. Draw the thin branches with brown marker.
Step 4. Create the blossoms.
The blossoms on the second design were created by tearing shapes from colored paper. The shapes should be roundish but do not have to be uniform at all. Make different sizes. For young children, draw the shapes on the paper as a guide. If tearing the blossoms is too difficult they can be cut with scissors.
What I did to make the tearing process easier was wet down my piece of paper. (I used computer printer paper. If you are using a different paper, test the process first.) Then I used a ball point pen to draw a bunch of blossoms on the wet paper. Sometimes the paper tore a bit but that’s ok. Then I dried the paper with a hair dryer. Now when I tore the pieces out, they tore more easily along the ink line – almost as if they were perforated.
Draw a few thin lines in each blossom to give the impression of petals. Draw the lines from the center of the blossom – like the rays of the sun. You can also put a small dot in the center of the blossom.
I added glitter to the blossoms for some pizazz. This is an optional step. You can skip it if you hate the mess of glitter, but kids love the stuff.
More ideas for your own homemade greeting cards for Chinese New Year
Your first task before you can make a card is to choose a theme. One obvious theme would be the animal representing the year you are celebrating. There are twelve such animals based on the Chinese Zodiac. For the twelve years from 2009 we have:
2009 Year of the Ox
2010 Year of the Tiger
2011 Year of the Rabbit
2012 Year of the Dragon
2013 Year of the Snake
2014 Year of the Horse
2015 Year of the Sheep
2016 Year of the Monkey
2017 Year of the Rooster
2018 Year of the Dog
2019 Year of the Pig
2020 Year of the Rat
Other common Chinese New Year themes include: firecrackers and fireworks; Chinese lanterns (the fifteenth day of Chinese New Year celebrates the Lantern Festival; dragons; prosperity and good fortune (often represented by gold coins); flowering branches (Chinese New Year is also called the spring festival).
You could also choose any theme that just has a basic Chinese “flavor” to it, like: pagodas; traditional costumes; Chinese fans; pandas; The Great Wall of China.
Some colors traditionally associated with Chinese New Year are red and gold and to a lesser extent, orange. Just using these colors will give nearly any theme a Chinese New Year feel to it.
If you want an informal look for your greeting cards, or if a child will be making them, then you can also use crayons, markers in a variety of widths and colors, construction paper, glitter, sequins, feathers, foam sheets, stickers, rubber stamps. Remember reds & golds are often used, but let the child’s imagination dictate the final choices. Be sure to use child safe scissors and non-toxic glue when working with small children.
If you are looking for a more sophisticated look, use calligraphy pens, metallic pens (especially gold), paint pens, or watercolor paint. Depending on your ink or paint choice you may also need special paper. Good quality card stock will work for most of your handmade greeting cards. You can also purchase beautiful handmade papers or look in the scrap booking aisle of your favorite craft and hobby store. Also look at origami papers as they will often have Chinese designs on them.
If you home school your children, you can make learn about the Chinese New Year as part of your study of Asia. It’s also a fun addition to a unit study of holidays around the world.
I hope you enjoy making these homemade Chinese New Year cards.