Simplifying Holiday Cards (and 4 Free Overlays)

simplifying holiday cards

Don't holiday cards just feel like one more obligation getting in the way of a peace-filled holiday season? I can't be the only that feels felt that way. Until a couple years ago, that's exactly what I thought about holiday cards.

Then, I wrote this >> post on how to make your own holiday cards and sent out some of our first. I may have been converted. Here are some ideas to keep it simple with more joy and less obligation...

1 | Skip the holiday photo shoot.

Who says you need a holiday photo shoot, anyway? Seriously, I'm sure you've taken at least one snapshot of your family this year. Cut the photo shoot chaos just this once (save it for the warmer weather), and use a photo you already have. It may not be perfect and it may not be the most up-to-date (that's what Facebook is for, right?). It can still be edited into a fun representation of your family. Or, skip the photo altogether and just buy some adorable cards in Target's $1 section.

2 | Less you, more them.

The art of the yearly holiday-time update letter is being replaced with online year-round in-the-moment updates. I'm actually thankful for that. Now, instead of the awkward "pay attention to us" letter, the holiday card can simply be "we are thankful for you." On the back of the photo or in the card, write a more specific reason you're thankful or a specific reason you cherish the people you're sending it to.

3 | Holiday your way.

Decorative tape on the photo, card, or envelope; a cute card with your photo inside; an e-version instead of mailed; a handwritten Bible text; fun colorful pens; stickers and artwork by the kids... The ways to personalize are endless. Don't worry about Pinterest-ing this one. Just go with what you like and what comes natural to you. Giving a little piece of yourself is as simple and special as it gets.

free holiday card overlays

Your Free Holiday Card Overlays

clockwise from top left // click to download

for you we are thankful
winter wishes for a blessed 2015
love. joy. peace.
happy holidays from our family to yours

How-to Use Your Holiday Overlays in PicMonkey

the simple steps to add a holiday overlay to your family photo(s)

how to add holiday card overlays in picmonkey
*PicMonkey affiliate links used // see full note below

1 | Download overlay.

Click on and download your favorite holiday card overlay(s) from above to your computer. Save only as a .png file (NOT .jpg) in order to keep the background transparent for placing over your photo.

2 | Edit family photo.

Go to and open your family photo. Crop and edit. I use the 4x6 crop since that's the size I print our photos for holiday cards. When cropping, be sure to leave space without people at top, bottom, OR one of the sides of your photo.

3 | Add saved overlay.

Click "Overlays" from the left sidebar, and select the "Your Own" box at the top. Select your saved overlay image and add. (Overlay must remain a .png file in order to have a transparent background.)

4 | Place + adjust overlay.

Adjust overlay's size and placement over your photo. Be sure not to cover anyone's face. If you wish, you can even add your own text with your family's name or other details that you wish to add. (I filled in the Winter Wishes photo with extra snowflakes.) Or, just leave it plain and simple.

5 | Save + share holiday card.

Save your new photo image. (You can save it as a .jpg at this point.) Print or share online.

Happy holidays!


more simple holidays:

small space tree ideas
advent calendar round-up
simplifying gifts
holiday date night

*Note: PicMonkey affiliate links used in this post. Any purchases made through one of these links can earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Mantras for Moms + Lines of Grace Giveaway

mantras for moms + Lines of Grace giveaway

*Note: The following mantras first appeared on Prefolds Love.
The giveaway is provided by Melissa Lyon West of Lines of Grace.

Last week I had an Instagram fail. I tried posting the above picture of my fussy baby with a little explanation of the tension I felt in that moment. The tension between seeing a little bit of "perfect motherhood" online while my boy's tantrum wakes his little brother and they both take turns crying at me instead of napping.

Yeah, that kind of tension. The kind where I see a professional-esque photo of a mom's best moments hashtagged #everydaylife, while my everyday life looks messy and loud and stressful.

Of course, there's plenty of moments where my kids and I smile lovingly at each other. Of course there are times that I slow to memorize their sweet little features and enjoy their joyful sounds. Of course I love being a mom.

Also, it's hard. And I go about it very imperfectly. And my kids are crazy. And there is tension, because I want to remember all the innocence, but denying the present chaos and struggle would be untrue of my experience.

So, I posted it, and then took it down when I realized I wasn't getting the words out right. When my attempt at encouragement sounded more like a mean girl trashing moms who seem to have it easy. Definitely not the point or my intentions.

There are lots of sweet moments in motherhood. And we'd do well to embrace them and cherish them, because we'll long for them for years to come. For all of the other moments? The ones that make us hold our breath or tense up? Well, there can be peace in those moments, too. It just takes a little (or a lot) more effort.

It takes some redirecting our focus and intentionally putting it on encouraging words. That's what I hope this post is for you. Ideas of encouraging words you can repeat to yourself, and an introduction of a shop that focuses on offering that to you. Encouragement for the tense moments. Either through choosing your own print, or signing up for monthly "happy mail." More on that below. First, a few mantras.

positive thoughts for motherhood

Mantras for Tense Mom Moments

I experience tensions in motherhood when I'm not meeting my own high standards of "good mothering," when I feel inferior to other "good mothers" around me, and when my kids' various phases add a kink to our routine. Following are three mantras I have used to get me through these moments of struggle as a mom.

I am doing my best with what I'm given.

I only have my unique brand of strengths and weaknesses and my kids' unique brand of sweetness and crazy. No one else can do what I do because they're not me and my kids aren't theirs.

My best will look different than other moms' best.

What I consider essential as a mother will inevitably be different from what other moms consider essential. Different doesn't mean better or worse, it just means different. No reason to judge or feel inferior when we're all just doing our best.

Good enough is always good enough.

Even when I think I'm doing pretty good, I'll likely disappoint my kids in some way I didn't even consider. And even when I think I'm failing miserably, I'll likely still come through for them (or Jesus in me will) in the important ways. I need to give myself a break and accept my best effort as good enough, because I can't perfect every scenario.

They will survive the tense moments and so will we.

Now on to the giveaway!

a Lines of Grace giveaway

Lines of Grace + Giveaway

Here >> Melissa shares some of her fears revolving around a diagnosis that led to her tensest moments. Focusing on uplifting words is what pulled her through a dark time, and that is where Lines of Grace came from. Melissa offers visual reminders of God's goodness and truth, even if your tense moments look different than hers.

Beyond a shop of inspiring prints, Melissa also offers The Happy Mail Society. For a small monthly price, she sends out a bundle of encouragement to refresh and refocus. You can sign up for her free newsletter to receive a free month of The Happy Mail Society (use Rafflecopter below).

She is also giving away THREE free months of The Happy Mail Society to one of you! Use the following Rafflecopter form to enter. Do all three for more chances to win.

Winner announced below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For those who didn't win, sign-up for The Happy Mail Society on your own and choose a print of choice from the shop. Just mention Beginner Beans and which print you want when you checkout.

Thank you, Melissa, for offering this generous + uplifting gift!

Word Art in PicMonkey + Design 101

*PicMonkey affiliate links used in this post. See full note below.

This post has been a long time coming, but I've been hesitant to write it. Partly because I feel like word art is a no-brainer (jump on PicMonkey to play around and you can likely figure it out), and partly because I wanted this tutorial to be more than about how to add text to an image.

Anybody can add text or clipart to an image. But it seems that not everybody is putting too much thought into their work as art. Because it is. And as I browse Pinterest or am plagued with all of this "art" on Facebook, I'm getting a little bit overwhelmed with the lack of art-quality.

I know, all of this coming from a beginner. But we can all see it, can't we? There's gorgeous word art that I want to pin or maybe even print for my home, then there's obnoxious word art that may get the point across but looks more tacky than tasteful. Unfortunatley, some of my own creations fit the tacky category.

So, I got help from my graphic designer friend, Alysa, who designs over at Passage Hill Studio. She's my go-to when I need honest feedback to give my work more of a professional edge. In the bottom of this post, she'll share some Design 101 tips for us beginners. Then, if you're a blogger or other creative, she has an awesome invitation to get one-on-one help with your visuals and brand.

This post is a long one, but it's worth it! First, I'll share a short tutorial on how to create word art in PicMonkey. Then, Alysa will share a few tips to make it worth your while and help you create something you can be proud of.


Let's get started.

How to Create Pinnable Word Art in PicMonkey

1 | Start with inspiration.

If you've read other of my tutorials, you're probably tired of seeing this step included. But my blog is for beginners, so I can't say it enough. Us beginners need inspiration. We're not pros, but we wouldn't mind results that are a little pro-like. And that is done with lots of inspiration. Not flat-out copying or plagiarizing. But simply taking notes of how the pros pair fonts, colors, photos, and such into a single image that makes us say "yes," leads us to Pin it for later, or causes us to share it with others. We may not be able to do everything they do. But we can certainly learn a few tricks through observation.

2 | Jump in with a blank canvas or an image.

On the main page of you'll find options to load your own image, or to design a blank canvas set to your preferred dimensions.

On stock photos + copyright:

When using a photo to design over, remember to check copyright! It matters, it truly does. My favorite sources for free stock photos without restrictions are: Death to the Stock Photo, Unsplash, and Morguefile. Of course, you can skip the copyright issue by using the photos you personally take with your own camera. This >> post is a good thing to keep in mind on the issue of copyright. Even if a photo is free or belongs to you, if it has a person in it or even a private building, then be sure how you share it would not offend the person or owners of the property. Or just opt for something without people or private property.

On sizing:

I personally design images that I plan to print at 200 pixels per inch. This seems to be a decent sweet spot for printing decent without being too large. For an 8x10 inch image this would be 1600x2000 pixels. If it's just to fit on my blog, I usually do horizontal images 640x420 or vertical images somewhere around 640x900 to fit my post width.

You can use Crop or Resize to get the size you want. I use the Crop feature, enter my desired dimensions, check the "scale photo" box, then use my mouse to drag the corner of the crop box to crop the image how I want.

3 | Add text.

Click on a font you'd like to try, type in your quote, phrase, blog post title, meme text, or whatever. Then click through a few fonts until you find one that works for the majority of the text. Also adjust color and size for readability. You can right click on the text and "Duplicate" to keep the text size and color. Then click through to another font if you're giving part of the text a fun or eye-catching font.

On choosing font, size, and color:

{a} Keep it simple: Choose only 2 fonts or 3 at the most, and pair a scripty or handwritten font with a serif (has edges) or san serif (doesn't have edges). {b} Keep it readable: Make most of the text in a simple serif or san serif font and leave the scripty or scribbly for accent words or phrases, make the text contrasting from the background (more on that below), and make it large enough for your image size. {c} Keep it easy on the eyes: In addition to a + b, group text together to make it easier to read in a traditional line. Go ahead and break up the text into separate lines if you want, but stack them up and size them so the right and left edges of all the lines are even. Or you can simply right align or left align.

4 | Add overlays (optional).

If you are using a photo as your background, then overlays aren't necessary. When put in the background (see below) they can help readability or add a little visual appeal. If you chose the design option and currently have a white image with text, then a strategic overlay (i.e., clipart) or a few can help add some interest.

On choosing overlays:

You can choose one simple overlay with the text to add a little interest. You can duplicate overlays to make a sort of pattern. You can pair overlays together to create a simple picture. Really, there are so many things you can do with overlays. But always, always, ALWAYS keep it simple if you're just starting out. Going too crazy with all the options is a sure sign of a beginner, and we're trying our best to hide that and make an appealing piece of word art. If you're not sure, opt for less.

On sizing + placing overlays:

Play around with different sizes and placements for the overlay. Right click and "move back a layer" if you want it behind text, then fade the image.

On colors for overlays:

Refer to your inspiration and choose the best color for the overlay. Use this tutorial >> to learn how to color match and make your own color palette.

5 | Edit background.

Sometimes, the background makes it hard to read the text. And that's not what we want. If the background photo is too busy, you can add an overlay sized just behind the text or covering the whole photo. Make it white or black (depending on your font color), then fade it anywhere between 20-80% until the text is easier to read.

If you started with a white background and added color, you can experiment with fading the color out (but be careful because that will change the color of the background).

6 | Add textures (optional).

Textures can add a little extra interest to word art, especially if you're working with a blank background and no photo. If you want the texture to cover the text and overlays too, then click the "Combine all image elements" icon (it's above the photo you're working on sandwiched between the "redo" arrow and the "settings" icon). Only do this after you're done editing, because this prevents being able to change your fonts and overlays. Otherwise, if you want the texture to only be over the background and behind your text and overlays, then add the texture without combing the layers of the image. Select the different options in the texture (screen, overlay, etc.) to see which effect you like best, and try fading it for it to not be too overwhelming.

8 | Watermark... or not...

I have a tutorial on creating and adding your own watermark image >> here. You can also simply add your desired text in white then fade it to 30-70%. Think about the purpose of your photo before jumping into watermarking. If you're wanting to make an image that people could print for their homes, then consider leaving your watermark off. If you want to be sure your image can be linked back to you even if the link gets messed up when shared, then put your full web address (not just your blog name) on the image so they can type it in their web browser. If you're wanting people to use a certain hashtag in reference to your post or a series you're doing, then consider choosing a hashtag and typing that somewhere on the image.

9 | Save. And share.

Finally, save it and share it! PicMonkey has an easy share option above the photo. Or load it online yourself. When saving the image, use something that's SEO friendly. All that means is put relevant key words in your image file name. You can save it with the words on the image like "LifeIsAnAdventure," or you can use broader keywords like "life-word-art." Use those keywords when you post it online too, so that people can find your lovely creation.

Design 101: Tips for Beginners

by Alysa Passage

I’m a graphic designer with business savvy in my back pocket. For the past 8 years my passion and expertise as a college educated designer has been helping entrepreneurs and non-profits communicate their awesome stories, dreams, and unwavering messages through a visually consistent appearance. I design clear branding, engaging websites, and focused print media that reflects passion, purpose, and personality. Below are a few tips to get you started in making designs you can be proud of.


Graphic design is all about communicating thoughts and ideas through carefully placed words and/or pictures. Consider what you want to convey before you create your graphic. What mood do you want to set? Font, color, and image choice all play into the mood and message you communicate, so choose with purpose.


If you want a beautiful looking graphic, embrace space! Don’t fill up every inch of your graphic with text, icons, pictures, etc. Give your images and text some breathing room.

Clarity & Readability 

When you’re creating a graphic it is important to notice if it’s readable, understandable, and clear. Are you using a dark font on a darker background? Oops! That might blend together causing it to be unreadable. Is your photograph so busy that it’s had to read the text you place over top of it? Could you blur the image so the text stands out more? Does the color of the font clash with the icons you’ve put in the graphic? Try a different color!


If you’re developing graphics for your blog or business it’s important that they’re consistent if you want to convey a memorable look. Are you using the same few fonts, colors, similar layouts, and photos with the same feel (bright and bold and crisp, or dark and moody, or soft and pastel)?

Font Rules 

There are a plenty of awesome fonts to choose from when creating graphics! 3 fonts or less is a great target to aim for when you’re creating a graphic. If you include more than that it decreases the cohesiveness of the image. Remember, less is more! Simply using one or two fonts is great! For pairing fonts consider using a simple and plain font with one that’s a bit more decorative. Or a bold font with an italic font, or uppercase and lowercase.

Admire, Study, Implement 

Whenever you come across a graphic that is visually pleasing, admire and study it. Pin it to a Pinterest board so you can reference it later. Incorporate some of the same techniques in your own graphics. Never steal someone else’s work but let good design inspire you. Is it the bold photograph that you enjoy? Find a bold snapshot of your own that you can use. Is it the color scheme? Tweak the colors so that they’re a bit different, more suited to you, and implement them in your graphic. Have they used great fonts? Dig up some that are alike and arrange them in a similar way.

Design Resources


Font Squirrel // Lost Type // Da Font


Lost and Taken // Subtle Patterns


Paletton // Colour Lovers // Color Wheel


Free Image Sources List // Unsplash // Morguefile

​Golden Ratio: 

Golden Ratio // Typography
*After you enter a font size and then hit the ‘Set My Type’ button you can click on the words ‘Font Size’ and it will show you the font size chart for that type size. For instance, these sizes calculated with the Golden Ratio would work well together in a graphic or on a website: 13px, 16px, 20px, 26px, 42px. That’s not to say you need each size in every graphic by pairing two or three that are close in size works well. 13px, 16px, and 20px for instance. Or 42px and 26px.*

Consultation + Equipping Session

If you’re a blogger or solopreneur with awesome ideas and unending passion but are feeling stuck when it comes to your brand and visuals, and are ready for a fresh round of ideas, I’m here to help you clear the fog! Ready for an awesome DIY empowerment session with tips from my design/business brain? Check out my → Consultation + Equipping Session.


Happy word art-ing + designing!

More Designing with PicMonkey...

Beginner Photo Editing
How to Color Match
Make Your Own Watermark
DIY Christmas Cards
DIY Birth Announcements
DIY Blog Design - a series

*Note: PicMonkey affiliate links used in this post. If you find this or my other tutorials helpful and upgrade to Royale, please consider using one of the links above to do so. Any purchases made through one of these links can earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

life is an adventure // word art print made in picmonkey

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