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Critique Clinic – July 15-July 17, 2011

July 15, 2011

This week’s Critique Clinic is now closed – thanks to everyone who participated!

How does it work? For three days a week (Friday-Sunday midnight), I will open the clinic to any artist who wants an honest peer review and critique of a card which gets plenty of clicks but no sales, so something’s probably not quite right, or you’ve got a new design you want to test drive. Or perhaps you’re a newbie who isn’t sure if a recently submitted card is up to a marketable standard. Anyone is welcome to participate. In fact, I encourage everyone to at least look at the cards in question and read the critique comments – you may learn something. The purpose of the clinic is to help artists improve the commercial appeal and marketability of their cards.


  • ONE card per artist only.
  • Card must be for sale at Greeting Card Universe.
  • We will take an unlimited number of artists, including those who have submitted recently, HOWEVER I reserve the right to close a clinic for the day if the submissions become overwhelming. If the clinic has been closed, and you submit a card, your comment will be deleted.
  • To submit a card for critique,Β post a link to the card’s details page at GCUΒ in the comments section of this clinic post.
  • Any artist is free to comment and/or give a critique of a submitted card. HOWEVER, post-and-run comments like “great card” or “you suck” will not be tolerated, nor will abuse. Criticism should be constructive, not destructive. Play nice or you will be banned.
  • I also won’t tolerate temper tantrums if you decide your “artistic integrity” is being stepped on because you asked for a critique, and someone told you the photo you’re using isn’t in focus. If you can’t take honest criticism, don’t submit. Once gets you a warning; twice and you’re banned from submitting in the future.
  • Artists who critique may do so by giving their opinion, posting an example of another card, or pointing the submitter to a video, on-line article, or other helpful suggestion.
  • Don’t forget that artists giving you tips and helpful advice are volunteering their time and trouble. Be nice. A link back to their store on your website or blog is appreciated (but not mandatory).
  • You are free not to take any advice offered. There’s no guarantee any card will be a bestseller, so don’t come into the clinic with unrealistic expectations.
  • Rules may change as we go along and we see how things turn out, okay?

So without any further ado, I declare this week’s Critique Clinic open!

40 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2011 8:04 am,+hot+pepper-greeting+card-836731?pid=836731&ref=cb_card_title

    I sure hope I did this right..

    I’m still new at this…
    Donna Collins

    • July 15, 2011 8:13 am

      I think it’s the text letting this card down, not the image on the front (cute hot peppers, btw). Also, your Artist’s Notes are too rambling. Artist’s Notes should be used to give shoppers additional information about the card (such as where a photo was taken), but not to attempt a one-sided conversation with them. It’s just not professional.

      Re: the text… How about making a change – on the front of the card, “Even though you’re getting older…” and on the inside, “you spice up my life ’cause you’re still hot! Happy Birthday!”


      • July 15, 2011 8:39 am

        On the artist’s notes…I guess I’m not sure what to write. It’s not a photo so I’ll will go in and change the notes..and I’ll have to work on my other notes for the other cards also….
        That’s a great verse…Thank you….are you sure I can use it?

        Thank you so much for critiquing my card…it really does help.


      • July 15, 2011 9:06 am

        In this case, I don’t think you really need the Artist’s Notes. And yes, you can use the verse. That’s why I gave it to you. Good luck – hope you make some sales! πŸ™‚


    • July 15, 2011 3:05 pm

      I like where Corrie is leading you with the text. I’m leaning to outside “At any age” and inside “you are spicy HOT!” I’m not a fan of the “even though” wording (it feels more like a backhanded compliment with that to me – but I’m picky!) : )-

      Artists Notes: I’d still make use of them … something like: Your Hot Tamale is spicy at any age – let him know with this humorous birthday card from Designs by Donna Collins.

      With those notes you have subliminally cemented the fact that this is a “for him” birthday card. You have another chance to bring your store name into focus. And for the search engines, you are (relevant) text rich!

      Keywords: add fun, funny humor, humorous, spicy, chile, pepper

      Title: almost there – tho it still reads like a string of keywords. Birthday for him featuring Hot Chili Peppers.

      I hope this is helpful to you!

      • July 16, 2011 6:23 am

        Thank you Peggy, I like the key words you suggested..I’m really new at doing the key word part, but I’m learning more each day how to do it..
        I’m finding out these things are very important… even writing the artist notes.
        Donna Collins

    • July 15, 2011 12:19 pm

      Hi Mary, this is my first time jumping on the critique end of the clinic. I think your idea is a good one but all the elements don’t work together for me. Santa and the moon and stars seem out of place with the photo. It is the texture conflict that I see. Bright cartoon on top of photo.Also, the photo colors don’t work for me. It is dark as you suggest. Santa looks just put there, not on the rooftops. I think the background needs to be changed from the photo to a drawn one to match Santa. I think the red border is distracting as well. I would like to see Santa on the rooftop with the sky as the limit, not limited within a constrictive border. Thanks for listening.

    • July 15, 2011 1:18 pm

      I agree with Betsy… the pairing of the drawn Santa with what appears to be an underexposed photo doesn’t really work for me, nor does the red border. Also, the Santa himself seems kind of off kilter. I’d take this one back to the drawing board. Betsy’s got some good ideas.


    • July 15, 2011 3:18 pm

      Hi Mary –

      I like what your concept is/was when creating the card. The border is a little too “in your face” with the sprawling rooftops – and Santa has a lot of traveling to do, not just this neighborhood (grin)! I LOVE your Santa and unlike Corrie, I like that he’s leaning into the image. The moon and stars are distracting – they pull my eyes away from your darling Santa. Can you make them a bit more subdued? Maybe make the stars more of just twinkles in the sky rather than obvious star shapes? For the photo, I’d play with it. Just play with various settings – turn it into a digital pencil sketch? Put a snowfall overlay on it? Paint daub it and put it on canvas (but don’t canvas Santa). Something to make it just a hint of a neighborhood to keep the focus on Santa. I don’t know WHAT effect would work, but I’d start playing with settings and seeing what works for me (that’s usually how I learn new things in Photoshop …)

      Title: I’d change it from a string of keywords to an actual title: Santa on the rooftops.
      Keywords: don’t forget to add: Christmas, Season’s Greetings, seasons greetings, Holiday, digital artwork
      Artists notes: They don’t do it for me … something along these lines would be more appealing to shoppers: This card is a combination of photograph and artwork (both originals created by artist Mary Taylor). I love the idea of Santa visiting the rooftops each Christmas Eve and was inspired to create this card for your enjoyment. Season’s Greetings!

      I hope this inspires you, Mary – thanks for allowing me to critique!

      • July 15, 2011 3:21 pm

        PS- I just noticed you have both Season’s Greetings and Merry Christmas, so I’m changing my Title suggestion to ” Seasons Greetings from Santa on the Rooftops …

    • July 15, 2011 3:23 pm

      Hi Mary…I’m in agreement with the ladies. I have never been a fan of combining ‘clip art’ with a photograph. In most cases it just looks amateurish to my eyes. Try some of Betsy’s ideas and I think you’ll have better luck with this card.

  2. July 15, 2011 2:15 pm

    I know I read somewhere how to find a URL link for a specific card, but don’t remember how to do it. Can someone fill me in again? Thanks.

    • July 15, 2011 3:20 pm

      Hi Lloyd!

      Visit your GCU store. Click on a card. The page that comes up: copy the URL (web address) in your browser bar and paste it here. Have fun with the Clinic!

  3. July 15, 2011 4:54 pm

    Hello everyone!
    Here is a Christmas card that I kind of like but have had no sales yet.

    Thanks, John

    • July 15, 2011 5:00 pm

      You do know your text is in danger of being cut off by the margins, yes? Okay…for the rest, I think the colors of the background are kind of muddy. The text seems to be blending almost into the background. I’m not sure if you can brighten it up at this point, but that might help.


      • July 16, 2011 2:28 pm

        Hi Corrie, I did want some of the copy to cut off the edge but your right it’s all a bit close to the edge! I also wanted they type to blend in areas with the background and not in others, but I may have gone to far with that also. The colors are a bit dark, I wanted it to be like it was in a darkish room so the tree would pop out, again I probably made the colors to dark. Thanks for the great advice! I played around with it some, not sure if it’s lots better but I do think it’s a good start. I put a copy up on my facebook page:

        Thanks, john

      • July 16, 2011 2:41 pm

        Not sure if every one will be able to see this on facebook. This link is supposed to be a public link that anyone can see. I hop it works!

    • July 16, 2011 2:39 pm

      Hi John, I couldn’t see your facebook link. Just though I’d add that if you can bring this up in Photoshop and use a Hue/Saturation map it really brightens up if you increase the saturation in your reds and greens. Just a thought.
      Doreen Erhardt

    • July 16, 2011 2:44 pm

      Your second facebook link works.

    • July 16, 2011 6:27 pm

      Hi John,
      Your brightened version strikes me as almost too bright (although it could just be my monitor). Maybe a happy medium between the two? πŸ™‚ I like that you added a new border.


      • July 16, 2011 8:19 pm

        Thanks Cindy, I was wondering if I went too bright with it. See what you think of this:

        Thanks, John

      • July 16, 2011 8:59 pm

        Yes, I like that better, John. πŸ™‚ The purple still seems a little too prominent, but that’s probably a personal taste thing on my part. All in all, nice. πŸ™‚

  4. July 15, 2011 11:29 pm

    Thanks everyone forthe tips, even if I do feel abit depressed !Can’t wait to fiddle with Photoshop background …accidents often turn up wonderful things ! Mary.

  5. July 16, 2011 12:09 am

    Have fiddled with it ..not sure if I like it better ?

  6. July 16, 2011 10:35 am

    Oh Mary… don’t feel depressed but rather inspired! You may even come away with two separate wonderful cards from this clinic. You may want to look at each of your design elements separately and focus on two new creations. When something isn’t working, it’s time to take a fresh new perspective and start over. Many times I will start a new piece of art and then leave it for a day or two and come back to it with fresh eyes. I did that last year with a drawing that I simply was ready to scrap. I worked on it and it ended up being featured on Zazzle. Take this opportunity to embrace a fresh new beginning from wonderfully supportive people! πŸ™‚

    • July 16, 2011 2:52 pm

      @Mary – Don’t think I like the changes any better. I noticed that you have this Santa on several other cards with a slight variety and in portrait mode…I like those much better! Laura has good input here too. I occasionally abandon a design and shove it into an ‘in-process’ folder. Sometimes I don’t go back at all and sometimes I stumble on that design months later and it just all comes together…LOL!

  7. July 16, 2011 1:25 pm

    I wasn’t going to be a little critique clinic piggy and add a card this week, but since there aren’t too many submissions I changed my mind. This card has over 100 clicks on it, but no sales. Now that I’ve been to the clinic a few times I think I know what’s wrong, but I could sure use some advice:

    • CindyJ permalink
      July 18, 2011 7:26 pm

      Hi Tracie,
      I don’t want to see anybody’s submission to the Clinic go without a critique, so I’ll put my two cents in (although, keep in mind that I don’t have your eye for a good shot, so my opinion might not mean much – lol).

      My first impression is that the pink grassy stuff and the hat and diploma all look staged for the picture–with the kitten added after the fact. It just doesn’t look like a natural shot to me. And even then, I don’t really think of that as a problem (just my first impression), because I like the card, in general. And maybe if the pink grass could be lightened a little or something, then it wouldn’t stand out so much (it seems like it’s taking the focus away from the adorable kitten). I love the font you used and the kind of bordering you have that makes it look like a matted picture. πŸ™‚

  8. July 16, 2011 6:36 pm

    Here’s my card to critique with a little info…I’m trying to expand my portfolio of cards to include cartoons. I’m never going to become competitive with photos (I don’t have the money for the good equipment or the eye for the good shot), so I want to get better at cartoons (that seems like something I could *develop* …lol).

    This was my very first attempt at making a cartoon card and I know it’s rather lame… hopefully I’ll improve with time and practice (but be gentle). I would especially appreciate tips from cartoonists. πŸ˜€


    • July 17, 2011 4:49 am

      Hi Cindy, I like your idea for this card! I think the little boy cartoon characters pose is a little awkward. I hope you don’t mind, but, I did a quick window capture of your cartoon card design and made some quick changes to the pose of the boy. I used the same basic kind of cartoon style but changed the way the feet and arms are positioned. Also, the plain oval shapes for the mouth on the boy bothered me so I added a more traditional mouth shape. I added a few details like pockets on the pants and shoe lace’s to add more interest. I showed both arms because I thought it added to the awkwardness of the pose to have his other arm hidden behind him…..:

      I like the door face and the overall idea of the card. I hope that helps you a little! πŸ™‚


      • July 17, 2011 12:56 pm

        OMG, John!!! That’s amazing! I don’t know how you did it, but I want you for my mentor!! When I start using this new cartoon style that you introduced me to, I hope it doesn’t look like I’m copying you. lol. I LOVE this! Thank you so much!! I will rework my own card later today. THANK YOU again!!! πŸ˜€

      • July 17, 2011 10:13 pm

        Okay…I made a lot of changes to it–obviously the main one was to make it look more like yours, John…lol! But I also changed the text style/color, and added a few more darker lines to make some other things stand out, and I fixed the doorknob so it looks more like a doorknob. lol.

      • July 17, 2011 10:15 pm

        P.S. Thank you again, sooooo much, John! I will be posting a public “thanks” on my blog with links back to some of your cards, within a few days. πŸ™‚

    • July 17, 2011 2:07 pm

      Wow. How do either of you do drawings on the computer so neatly?! Are you using a mouse–or do you both have one of those tablet things I can’t remember the name of…?

      • July 17, 2011 4:21 pm

        I’m still stuck with the mouse, for the most part (although I have one of those tiny Wacom tablets, but it’s so small that it’s actually a bit of a challenge to work with). Alas, I’m also using an old version of PaintShop Pro, so my drawing toolbox likely isn’t as expansive as John’s. I actually use the circle tool alot (lol), and some other basic shapes that I rework into desired cartoon pieces. I need to get more comfortable with the bezier pen. I’m not there yet, but I’m definitely working on it. πŸ™‚

  9. July 18, 2011 12:26 am

    Your very welcome Cindy! I like the changes you made, and thanks for the links to my cards on your blog, that’s very nice of you! I wanted to tell you I took your advice and took the darker purple/ blue areas out of the background on my Christmas design and I think I’m finally happy enough to put it on my card in my GCU shop again. What do you think?

    Thanks again, John

  10. July 18, 2011 12:34 am

    Tracie, I’m guest blogging on Michele Naquaiya’s blog about how I work digitally on my art so watch for it in the guest blog challenge here on GCU Community blog.

  11. July 18, 2011 3:45 am

    Yes! I like it a LOT now! πŸ™‚ It’s cheerful and bright for the holidays. πŸ™‚

    And I, too, am very eager to read your guest blog post with Michele. πŸ™‚

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