Printables are very useful when it comes to planning and organizing, you can find them online for free or buy from designers selling on Etsy and similar platforms. Sometimes, though, when you need a completely custom printable template or a stencil, it is easier to try to make your own.
The best thing? You will only need some time to learn how to find resources and work in Photoshop and other software. Assuming you already have a laptop and Internet connection, there is nothing else you need.
In this guide, the creative process will be explained in stages, from inspiration to the final product. Before diving into design, let’s take a look at a few examples of digital templates. Keep in mind that digital here refers to products you will make (almost) entirely on your computer. If you want to, you can print, laser cut or turn the template into a physical product in any other way.
Digital templates and stencils include:
- planner stationery printables (stickers, pages, dividers, calendars….)
- project plans (woodworking, 3D printing, jewelry beading pattern…)
- clip art/design templates (paper cutting template, book folding pattern, 3D paper art…)
- stationery (invitation templates, place cards, seating plan…)
The five stages of making templates
Example: printable wedding invitation
Inspiration & Resources
Developing your ideas is perhaps the most difficult part of designing products. Visual content can help you define what you want the final product to look like. For inspiration, take a look at Pinterest. If you have an account, create boards and save interesting photos and articles. Make sure to browse the ”Design” category full of useful tips.
Once you get the concept of what the invitation should look like, search for color palettes to determine all the colors and shades you would like to use. If you have already planned other wedding decor, such as colors of the wedding bouquet, reception flowers, napkins and else, use those colors.
Even if you’re not planning on making invitations, you will still need to decide about color choice as well as fonts. One of my favorite font resources is Font Squirrel. You can filter your search if you already have something in mind. For beginners, they have a free guide to fonts.
Keep in mind that you do not need to limit yourself to using only one font. Feel free to experiment and see which ones work well together and what message you are trying to convey.
Image source: Designmantic
The last resource I recommend is valuable both for printables like invitations and also for making stencils for laser cutting, hand cutting or stickers. On Pixabay, you can find public domain photos, illustrations, images and vector graphics. This feature makes it one of the easiest to use design resources as you can both refine your search and have a good amount of graphics to choose from.
Now when you have all materials ready, we can start working. For easier access, organize all downloaded content in a folder on desktop or somewhere you prefer.
As we are working with digital files, JPG and PNG are the most common file types. You can make invitations in MS Office Word or Adobe Acrobat if you wish to sell the template and allow the customers to fill in the details themselves.
If you have any experience with Photoshop, it is definitely one of the best software choices. But, if you do not need many options and advanced settings, I recommend using PicMonkey. It’s free, online and extremely easy to use. Another alternative is Inkscape, a free graphics software you can download and use. It does have a steep learning curve so be prepared.
Whichever software you choose, you can always head to Youtube and search for tutorials. Watching videos and listening to experienced users is in my opinion the best way to learn.
For those who would like to try PicMonkey, here is a useful chart for standard print sizes. You can click on the canvas size you want (written in blue) and it will automatically open it in PicMonkey so you can start editing.
If you think sketching the outline on paper first would help, go ahead and do that. It doesn’t have to be perfect, focus only on the placement of the wording, perhaps also the font and decoration placement.
This is the fun part. Try different options, overlays, textures and effects. Two features I use often with PicMonkey is uploading my own overlay and using fonts installed on my computer. As you might notice, a lot of things are available only for Royale users (for a fee) but you can still make a template using the free account. Here is my invitation in progress.
To learn all tips and tricks for this online editing software, visit PicMonkey’s Facebook page and blog.
Before printing the template, make sure to check if everything is just the way it is supposed to be. Double check spelling, alignment, color code, size and all other aspects that are crucial for your project.
If you’re working with graphics or black&white vector templates, zoom in to see any imperfections, fix uneven lines, configure transparency settings… pay attention to details and it is always a good idea to test your template.
Print at home or at local copy center to check the quality. If you spot mistakes, blurry spots or the printed color is different from the one you see on the screen, take notes and go back to editing.
For those making wall stickers, vinyl stickers or stencils, test it out. See if the laser cutter will have problems cutting the design. Also check if there are mistakes after you paint over the stencil.
Once you’re satisfied with your product, you can finally use it. For those who would like to sell templates they make, please take extra measures to make sure your customers will receive a good quality digital template or printable. If it is a customized template, make sure to communicate with the customer to find out their wishes and send photos in progress (watermarks are recommended to prevent stealing).
Another step you will need to take is making sure everything you used that you hadn’t created yourself is either in public domain or you have permission to use it. Copyrighted photos, vectors, designs, quotes, characters (books, movies, cartoons, fonts…) cannot be used for commercial purposes. Please contact the copyright holder first to gain permission to use their content, some might ask for a licensing fee. If you sell without permission, you are infringing copyright (or intellectual property) which is punishable by law.
Now you are ready to start making your own printables, stencils and templates. All three are very similar and there is no secret of making a successful product. If you have any questions, you are welcome to leave them in the comments.