Thursday, July 25, 2024
block printcat merchandisegreeting cards

Two Hand-printed Holiday Card Designs

    Hand-printed linocut holiday cards.
Hand-printed linocut holiday cards.

Years before I really went into business at home and I’d just begun freelancing, I designed and printed my own cards each year. This initially meant in the 80s I created a design in black and white and copied it…then when I got a computer in the early 90s I printed them on my black and white laser printer, then my color printer as the years marched on, and then finally had them digitally printed as I do with most of my cards today.

But every so often I want to print a card by hand and I go back to my love of block prints—in fact, my first block print designs outside of classes in school were for holiday cards, not for wall art. One of these days I’ll pull out and reprint the half-dozen non-feline designs I have and still enjoy, but for the past few years I’ve printed a limited number of two designs featuring cats.

Meowy Cats’ Mess

Meowy Cats’ Mess red.

I designed this linoleum block print  for my holiday card in 1996. Back in the day, if you were a graphic designer using clip art, the “wood cut” look was really popular, and it also helped to really revive my need to create block prints. At first I was drawing illustrations that incorporated the signature patterns of long and short incised lines for both decorative pattern and dimension and shading, then decided to take it to the real thing.

Meowy Cats’ Mess green.

My hands have always had a little touch of arthritis and tendon issues, even before heavy computer use, and while I love wood blocks and the exceptionally fine details you can achieve, I decided to go with linoleum blocks since they were easier to cut and that put less stress on my hands.

I’ve earlier referenced losing two of my cats in 1996, Kublai and Allegro, and all the things I’d done to work my way through my grief that autumn. This was really my final big project in that process, and while I’d initially decided to try to avoid the subject of cats in my holiday cards, I could take joy in them again, watching them in their everyday play and activities, and thought I’d celebrate them instead, my whole household at once.

Meowy Cat's Mess in red on brown kraft.
Meowy Cat’s Mess in red on brown kraft.

In brainstorming a clever visual or verbal “headline”, I like to twist words and “Meowy Cat’s Mess” came up as I thought through all the phrases connected with Christmas and other winter holidays. I worked my way through a few sketches with the text and the cats and pretty quickly came to this, with all these happy busy kitties making a mess of my design!

I took the little feline silhouettes I’d designed years earlier, then stylized them for block printing in 1993 when I designed the “Tabbies” series. In this case, however, I wanted each of the cats to be a little different and more or less representative of the cats in my household at the time including a few prior fosters, so I designed them with stripes, spots, specks, white paws and solids dark and light.

The design is derived from playing around with fonts then hand-lettering. I liked the design, but it looked to be floating on the card so I added a border with a bow because I liked how the cut lines in the bow and ribbon used for shading looked.

Meowy Cat's Mess in green on brown kraft.
Meowy Cat’s Mess in green on brown kraft.

Just in case you haven’t read this in prior posts, block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper. Because of this process, each print is slightly different and therefore unique. You can see a little slideshow of the process in a recent post, “Featured Artwork: “Fawnball”.

I’ve also recently found an economical little Speedball printing press which enables me to print cards faster. I usually print only a dozen cards at a time because I have to have a place for them to dry for at least a day, out of the reach of curious paws…and that means hanging clotheslines in my studio and bathroom and clothes pinning them to hang to dry before I stamp my information on the back and fold them.

This card is 5″ x 7″ and is printed in water-based acrylic ink on card stock in four variations, with several choices of envelope:

  • cream card stock with red ink, cream or red envelope
  • cream card stock with green ink, cream or green envelope
  • kraft card stock with red ink, red or kraft envelope
  • kraft card stock with green ink, green or kraft envelope

Cards are blank inside and can also be framed. You can find all the cards here. In addition, this year I made a set of 5″ x 7″ wood-mount prints of just the prints.

Window Kitty, Snowy Night

cat themed holiday card
Window Kitty, Snowy Night

Kitty is waiting in the window for you to return home.

I designed this linoleum block print for my holiday card in 2001.The design is based on the actual scene that met me many snowy nights when I came home from my day job and seeing one of my kitties in silhouette, Sally for many years, then Sophie, sitting on the windowsill at the big casement window facing north, the light falling across the snow on the ground below.

It’s printed in cobalt blue ink on smooth yellow card stock, and the ink wraps completely around the back. It’s then lightly rolled with iridescent glitter in a clear base to simulate the sense of falling snow at night as you move the card. Unfortunately, it doesn’t scan or photograph well, you’ll just have to use a little visualization…

I had initially used all sorts of other glitter to achieve the effect, but it either obscured the design or just fell off in the envelope when it was mailed. Each year for four or five years I experimented with another type of glitter, unsuccessfully. I put it away for several years until 2012 and decided I’d revive the design somehow, even if it just meant printing the design on the paper, which is nice on its own, though I really felt the need for the extra dimension of glitter. So it took over a decade to achieve that final idea, but it was well worth it.

As with the “Meowy Cat’s Mess” card I print these cards one dozen at a time, let them dry, then roll on the iridescent finish and let that dry, add a little label to the back with my information, then finally fold it.

This card is also 5″ x 7″ and printed in water-based acrylic ink on yellow card stock, iridescent glitter finish hand-rolled onto the paper as described, and hand trimmed and folded. It includes a matching envelope in your choice of yellow or white. Card is blank inside and can also be framed, though I haven’t made any wood-mount versions of this, but only for lack of space!

Find this card in my Etsy shop.

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cat and art materials on table
All materials ready to start printing.

Take a look at other new merchandise and featured artwork.

Usually once a week on Thursday I feature something new in my “shop”, whether that’s here on The Creative Cat, in my Etsy shop, on my main website or even at one of the bricks and mortar shops that carry my work.

Read about creating custom items.

Find out more about creating custom items for your own home using the images you see here. Visit the “Ordering Custom Art” page to see samples and read bout how to order.

Mewsette may look like she’s sleeping, but she is ready to get up and give instructions or even a helping paw at any moment.


Subscribe to The Creative Cat e-newsletter for specials on exclusively feline-themed art and merchandise.


Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

© 2013 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski



From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

2 thoughts on “Two Hand-printed Holiday Card Designs

  • da tabbies o trout towne

    we loves window kitteh !!! de food serviss gurl says it ree minds oh “Charlie Brown’s Christmas “…sum how…..CB Christmas rocks!!!…

  • Every linoleum block print has its own heartbeat.


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