Send last-minute holiday photo cards right from your iPhone or iPad

ink cards example

Oh crap—it’s less than a week until Christmas. Seriously, when did that happen? I barely registered it was getting so late in December until the holiday cards started showing up in my mailbox. I love getting cards (especially photo cards), but the thought of sitting down and doing a mass mailing so the cards arrive before December 25 stresses me right out.

If you haven’t sent any cards yet this year either, follow my two-step plan. Step 1: Don’t panic. Step 2: Send on-demand “Happy New Year” postcards from your iPhone or iPad. Tons of apps can do this, and I’ve tried a few, but my personal favorite is Ink Cards, by Sincerely.

Why New Year’s cards?

I promise I am not fighting a War on Christmas. In fact, one advantage of doing on-demand cards via an app is that you could make a few different versions, say both Christmas and Hanukkah, and send them to the friends who celebrate those holidays.

But the thing is, those holidays happen on specific dates, you know? And while New Year’s Day obviously falls on January 1, “New Year” as a concept is a little more flexible. Getting a Christmas card on January 10 is late. Getting a New Year’s card on January 10 is fine! Deadlines are for work—not for holiday cards.

How to use Ink Cards

ink cards iphones

Free app Ink Cards (also on Android) lets you send large, quite sturdy, beautifully customized postcards. Yes, that means they don’t come in envelopes. But they’re printed on a thick, glossy card stock and all of mine (I’ve sent dozens and dozens) have always shown up looking great. Each card measures 4 by 6 inches, and the photos are printed at 300 dots per inch with great color reproduction. I’ve been very happy with the results, and if something goes wrong, Sincerely says they’ll send a new card or refund your money.

The cards are a snap to design, and you can send them to anyone in the United States for $2 a pop. That can add up when you’re sending a lot, but it’s a reasonable price when you consider the convenience. You can buy bulk credits to push the per-card fee down a little bit, but not a lot, and the app has sales from time to time.

To get started, launch the app, and peruse the designs until one speaks to you. Tap it, then you can add your own photo, either one that’s already on your device, or from an online account including Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr, Google Drive, and Gmail. You could also shoot a new picture right inside the app, but it makes more sense to shoot a bunch with the regular Camera app since that gives you better controls and faster performance.

ink cards 3up

Sometimes the cards go on sale (this one is over, sadly), and designing one with your photos is a piece of cake. (Click to enlarge.)

Once your photo is placed (and you can even use a collage photo you made with an app like Diptic or PicStitch), you can tap Edit Photo to slap on a filter, fix red-eye and blemishes, add meme-style text, play with stickers, or even do that cool color-splash effect where you make the whole photo black-and-white and then paint color back onto certain objects. These are all nice features to have, but I find the filters and effects aren’t as good-looking as the ones in apps like Instagram or Snapseed, so I tend to make my edits in one of those apps, export to my Camera Roll, and then use that version in Ink Cards.

ink cards typing

You get a ton of room for typing. 

Most card designs also let you tweak the color theme, and the Fullscreen button shows a larger preview of what the front of your postcard will look like. Tapping Continue takes you to a screen where you can type a message for the front of the card and the back. The back of the postcard gives you a pretty decent amount of space for composing a message, although I’d love it if the app could show you how many words or characters you have available. But I was able to get this entire paragraph in there with room to spare, so that’s pretty good. (Eventually I hit the limit at 115 words, 682 characters, including two paragraph breaks.)

Once you’re done writing text, all you have to do is decide who gets a card. You can type in names and addresses, or pull them in from your device’s contacts. Military and international addresses are supported (international is an extra dollar), and if you’ve used the app before, your previous recipients are already front and center. It’s just as easy to send to one person as to a hundred—I start with a big batch to a couple dozen relatives, and then as more holiday cards arrive at my house, I can quickly send the same, saved card back to anyone I forgot in the first pass.

All done? Happy holidays!

Once you’ve paid for your cards, you’ll get an email or a push notification to let you know when they’re shipped, and again when they’re delivered—Sincerely's site says three to seven days, but the in-app estimate on my last order was two to five.

Your design is stored in the Saved tab for easy resending, although you do have the options to recustomize the whole thing before sending it again. But if you want a straight re-do, you can get another one sent in as few as eight taps. Not bad. If you want, you can even have Ink Cards remind you of upcoming holidays—including birthdays—so you don’t get in this same position next year. Of course, now that you’ve seen how easy it is, maybe you won’t mind.

Do you send holiday cards from your iPhone or iPad? What are your favorite apps? Let us know in the comments, and have a wonderful—and hopefully stress-free—holiday season.

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