We are hosting Thanksgiving this year in our home and I love to decorate for Fall. That includes setting a festive table. I made some quick place cards from standard designs. It’s not hard to do, as long as you know a few principles. Once you learn those, you can make your own place card design anytime.
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- Cardstock — plain or patterned, depending on your vision
- Sketch pen, your own pen in the pen holder, or a foil quill (all optional — you can handwrite the names if you like)
- Adhesive — if using 2 or more papers. I like this glue (paid link).
Step 1: Pick a simple shape
We’re going to start by picking a simple shape. I’ll use a turkey. You’ll need a shape that is either primarily solid, like this one…
…or all a single piece, like this one…
Step 2: Make compound paths
If I fill my turkeys with color, you’ll notice that I don’t see holes as I would expect.
This tells me that they are independent pieces, not compound paths. (To learn all about compound paths and how important it is to know why it’s important, see this post). Because we are going to use some Modify options, that’s going to be important. So I need to select all the pieces and make them a compound path. You can do that in the right click menu, in the Modify panel, in the Object drop down menu, or with the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CME+e. You can see the difference here.
Step 3: Draw a rectangle
Now I need to add the card portion. I want a rectangle the width I want the place cards to be and twice as tall. That’s because we’re going to fold them along the horizontal middle. I’m going to make mine 3.5″ wide x 2.5″ tall, so my rectangle is 3.5 x 5.
Step 4: Draw a score line
As I said, we’re going to fold place cards in half lengthwise. A score line will really help with this.
To draw the line, select the draw a line tool in the left side icon bar.
Move your cursor to approximately the middle of the left side of your rectangle. Hold the SHIFT key down so that you get a perfectly horizontal line, then click and drag a line across the rectangle.
I like to use a dotted line for a score fold, as I find it works better than a Score action (same solid line, but with less force and/or blade number). So, select your line and in the Quick Access Toolbar, select a perforated line for just that piece.
Select both the rectangle and the line and use the Centralize option in the Quick Access Toolbar to align them both horizontally and vertically in one step.
Step 5: Resize and position the shape
Now we need to make the shape the right size and put it right where it needs to go. Where you put it will depend somewhat on what your shape looks like. When we combine it with the card, we’re going to eventually see only part of the shape. It should sit in the middle of the score line with as much of it above that line as possible. The top of the shape has to be below the top of the card.
Don’t worry if your shape doesn’t lend itself well to that. I’ll give you some additional options later.
Use your align option again with all your parts, but this time align only along the central vertical axis.
Make a copy of everything and pull it off to the side in case you need to start over later.
Step 6: Modify the line
We only want the score line to come right to the edge of the shape but not cut into it. So, we need to get rid of some of that line.
First, bring your shape to the front of the order. You can tell mine is because you can’t see the part of the line behind the turkey.
I’m going to select both the turkey and the line. Make sure you don’t select the rectangle at this point. Then, in my Modify panel I’ll select Subtract All. What that will do is remove the parts of the line that are behind the turkey. It will keep the full turkey and the portions of the line to the left and right of the turkey. I’ve raised the transparency on my turkey, which allows me to see through it to what’s behind it. I recommend you ALWAYS do that when working with any of the Modify tools.
Step 7: Edit the shape
Here’s the general idea of making place cards — you want the shape to extend above the fold.
That means it needs to be free above your score line, but connected below it. We are going to use open paths for that. An open path is one that does not close to cut out a shape from the background. It remains partially attached. To learn more about open paths, see this post.
Remove the lower portion
First, we’ll remove the bottom of the shape. I draw a rectangle (the yellow) that is wider than my place card (the pink) and covers the bottom of the turkey shape. I’ll put it for now slightly below the score line.
To make sure that I’m cutting off right at the score line, I’m going to select the score line and my new rectangle and align them along their tops.
Now I’ll select just the turkey and the new rectangle and use Subtract. This time, the front shape (the rectangle) will still remove the part of the shape (the turkey) that’s behind it. But, unlike Subtract All, when I use just Subtract the front shape will go away afterwards.
Double check your shape to make sure you can still recognize it. If not, undo until you are back before Step 5 and start again.
Edit points for open paths
We’re almost done, but there’s just one more thing we need to do. We don’t want that bottom edge of the turkey to cut. This is where we’re going to use some quick point editing to create some open paths.
I select the turkey and double click quickly on it to get into point editing mode.
You’ll notice a TON of dots, so I’m going to use Simplify to eliminate some.
I select the point that’s at the left side of the lower edge.
Then I choose Break Path. You’ll see that I now have a red dot down there. What has happened is that that point was actually split into 2. There’s 2 red dots sitting on top of one another. I can tell the path is now broken (open) because my turkey is no longer filled with color.
I repeat that with the point on the lower right.
This is going to help me get rid of that line along the bottom of the turkey. I’ll go up to my Object drop down menu and choose Release Compound Path. What that does is separate the pieces that aren’t connected any longer.
I can then delete that bottom line segment.
This is not essential, but I remade the compound path with the place card rectangle and the hole between the turkey’s wattle and neck. That just helps me visualize how it will cut.
This one took a little more tweaking, as I needed to edit the line a bit so that it’s only on the left and right of the turkey.
Step 8: Cut your place cards
I can then group everything together and am ready to cut. The top of the turkey will cut out from the part of the place card that folds to the back. The turkey pops up above the fold. You can write your names on the card yourself, but my handwriting is not great so I chose to use sketch pens.
HINT: The sturdier your cardstock, the more easily your place card will stand up.
Ideas for more place cards
Let’s say you want to get a little more fancy with your place cards. Here are some variations.
For this one, I made an offset of the turkey and used that to Subtract and point edit. Then, I cut the original shape and glued it on.
You can do that if you have a shape with multiple parts as well.
With this design, I first created an offset as above. Then, for a more elegant design I used my Foil Quill to draw the turkey and name.
There are many, many other ways you can use this same principle to make place cards. What I like about it is that you can take one concept and use it with almost any design. What can you think of?