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Critique Clinic – July 29-July 31, 2011

July 29, 2011

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 you’re unsure about the marketability of a card. 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 who are 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!

77 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2011 12:58 pm

    Just wondering if I am being too specific with green eyes in this card and if it’s just a little too boring? Only 3 clicks and no sales.

    • July 29, 2011 1:26 pm

      Sorry, Jane. You need to give us the link to the card’s page at GCU, not your admin page.


    • July 29, 2011 3:01 pm

      I found the card – here’s the right link:,+Green-Eyed+Cat-greeting+card-825008

      Jane, I’m sort of struggling to make a real connection between a snapshot of a kitty and a birthday. “Green eyed girl” does make the connection, however it does, indeed, limit the market. If the cat’s eyes popped a little more (like a much greener green), and you moved the text away from the middle of the cat’s face where it’s taking away from the image… maybe a slightly more visible font, too. Or since it’s a very specific card, leave the text off the front altogether, and put it on the inside.


      • July 30, 2011 1:22 am

        Thank you for the link, Corrie. Jane, a curves or levels adjustment might brighten this photo up a bit. Very cute cat! The bright green of the font in the middle of the cats face kind of takes your eyes away from the cat, so if it was moved down, perhaps in the lower right-hand corner on the white of the cat? Just a thought . . .

    • July 29, 2011 3:37 pm

      Hi Jane,

      In general this is a good shot! However, it lacks punch in its tonal values…i.e., a bit muddy. Work on the giving this nice photograph the ‘pop’ it deserves and in my opinion, never put text on the face of any creature. This photo has tremendous potential with a little extra digital darkroom processing and fixing the text.

    • July 30, 2011 3:07 am

      I like this one better.

      • July 30, 2011 3:45 am

        OUTSTANDING Jane!! PURRRFECT! Now that image has punch and wham and pow! Great job! It’s a winner in my book!

    • July 30, 2011 3:05 pm

      Hi Jane – seeing the newer revision … I love your photograph … crisp, clear and I just want to pet the kitty! But to be REALLY nitpicky … what does a photo of a cat have to do with achieving your hearts desires? This is one of those rare instances where I think cartoons and photos can go together … if some of a kitties true hearts desires were floating around her head (with or without “thought bubbles”) – a fish bone skeleton, a ball of yarn, a cat tree scratch post, for example) (these could even be very basic black/white line drawings, a nice contrast to the real life color of the kitty) – I think it would tie the front of card into the inside of the card quite nicely! I would also have the card as-is in my gallery, with a blank inside. Now – where are your Artist Notes? Make use of that important field! Two different artist notes would be appropriate – one for the birthday image and one for the all occasion image …

  2. July 29, 2011 2:52 pm,+Tropical+Vacation-greeting+card-226359?aid=134287

    What’s wrong here? Me thinks it’s too much and no specifics. too much picture, not enough for a specific use? help 144 clicks, one buy

    • July 29, 2011 2:57 pm

      There’s an Impressionistic vibe here, the colors are okay – though if I was making something tropical, I’d have used a hotter color palette, but that’s just me. Perhaps the message on the inside needs tweaking, considering it’s just a repeat of the cover text.


    • July 29, 2011 3:41 pm

      I like your watercolor very much, what I don’t like is the text choice on the front. I have no problem with having text on the front, in fact I think it makes it more likely to sell, but your choice of font and font effects is not pleasing to me. I also agree with Corrie, it’s never a good idea to repeat the message that’s on the front of the card on the inside of the card.

      • July 29, 2011 4:12 pm

        See for me…I can work with this painting as is and in the category you’ve placed it. Vacations can be sweet and relaxing which this painting exudes for me.

        On the front I would say something like… The sweet smell of vacation is on the horizon and then on the inside Bon Voyage.

    • July 30, 2011 1:28 am

      I think it is a lovely image, Michelle. I agree with the others, it would capture more attention if the verse on the inside were different from the front. And perhaps a different font on the front (as Doreen mentioned) That one seems to me a bit more business than pleasure.

  3. July 29, 2011 3:08 pm

    Yes, Corrie, I agree. Do you think this card could have another future? Instead of Bon Voyage? I’m stuck,but I guess I like the image so I don’t want to give up on it. I’ll try to change the colors to hot tropics as you suggest and shoot it back here, along with a new inside verse.

    • July 29, 2011 4:00 pm

      Hi Michele – the colours you’ve used immediately put me in mind of ‘feeling blue’ so maybe you could try using the image as it stands for some sort of ‘missing you’ card?

      • July 29, 2011 4:37 pm

        Another little thought that you’re, of course, free to ignore if you wish!

        But there’s been something about the horizon that’s been bothering me and I’ve worked out what it is;

        1. It’s not horizontal
        2. If the viewer is as high above the palm trees in the foreground as it seems, the horizon would be a lot lower.(that’s one of the few things I remember from Art lessons at school!)
        3. It’s cutting the image in half.

        If you truly agree and you were able to just ‘wash’ the horizon out a bit and blend it into the clouds – and suggest a lower horizon, just beyond the bar/sandbank, I think it would improve the balance a lot.

        (Try it first on a sketch and see what you think!)

  4. July 29, 2011 3:40 pm

    Okay, this was my 3rd card made at GCU. It is UGLY. It’s supposed to be tacky but I want it to be a good card and it’s not. How do I fix it? Or is it one that should just be trashed?!

    • July 29, 2011 3:49 pm

      Tracie, I can see where you’re trying to go with this, and it’s a clever concept. Unfortunately, I don’t find the execution all that attractive. For one thing… COMIC SANS! Which is a terrible font. Too bad you don’t have some little cartoon woman with a speech bubble you can fill up with the “yadda yadda” text because that would be brilliant. As for how to fix the card as it stands, I’m not sure. Change the font on the front, certainly. But I’m not wild about the photo. Any photographers got suggestions?


  5. July 29, 2011 3:47 pm

    I think your idea is funny. There are two conflicts with this card for me…1) I don’t get the image at all. Having an image that is not humorous with a humorous message doesn’t work for me. 2) The text on the front is also a conflict. Casual funny font with elegant font are not good compliments to each other. If it were me, I’d start over with this idea and use a better image to represent the feel of the card.

    • July 29, 2011 4:01 pm

      Yes, I’ve come close to deleting this card so many times! The reason I designed it was because no matter how lovely a card is or how dear the sentiment, my husband NEVER looks at the front of the card. When I showed him this one he looked at it, said, “Nice card.” He didn’t even notice that it was all a bunch of gibberish! When he read the inner-verse he actually had to go back and read it.

      Question: Is it okay to change the style of the image on the front of the card as an edit, or do you have to start completely over and resubmit?

  6. July 29, 2011 3:53 pm

    Hi Doreen,
    Yes, completely agree. This is a very old card and I’ve learned a thing or two since it was done. I really struggle with fonts, which to use, how to use them, where to place or not place them. I’m working hard on this issue. I even bought “font-dna” but still struggling to figure out how to use it. ggrrrrrr What is strange is that I love fonts. I just draw a blank with them. With my new waiting for approval cards I’m simply using arial with no effects and the simpler the better. Do you have a suggested font for this image? I would love to try something with a little heads up from you.

    • July 29, 2011 4:00 pm

      Go to – you’ll find lots of casual fonts, including handwriting fonts, many of which are free to use (just make sure it doesn’t say “free for personal use only” but just “free.” It might also be worthwhile investing in some good, basic fonts like Copperplate Gothic (which I personally adore) or Caslon. You can also get Scriptina Pro (includes all diacritical marks for foreign languages) and some other basic fonts for free (or at a very low price) at I’ve downloaded fronts from them before; they’re cool.


  7. July 29, 2011 4:04 pm

    Ooohhhh. Thanks Corrie, much appreciated.

  8. July 29, 2011 4:30 pm

    Yes, I will enjoy and get back to you. Question, when I revise this card, I’d like to offer it up for another critique…like next week, since I’m swamped right now. Next week, I will have put up the new version. How can we access the present card on this link for a comparison? I don’t have an outside server to post it on.

  9. July 29, 2011 4:49 pm

    You can open a free Flickr account, upload the existing card image there and when you are ready just give us the URL to the flickr link along with your new card link. That’s how I do offsite server. Though I have a website with one, my hubby is the one that does all that and I got tired of bothering him, so I’ve been using Flickr for my purposes and its great for that.

  10. July 29, 2011 5:02 pm

    OK, will do, thank you once again.

  11. July 29, 2011 6:09 pm

    Doreen and Judy, I am taking your suggestions. They are great. Suddenly I see a lot of potential for this card and I think I have it now under control. Can’t wait to get started.

  12. July 29, 2011 6:53 pm

    Here is another one with lots of clicks and no sales:

    Thanks, John

    • July 29, 2011 7:38 pm

      I’m just wondering whether the ‘lots of clicks’ could be because, at the smaller size, it’s not all that certain what we’re looking at because the antlers aren’t the usual antler shape and they get a bit lost against the sky – not enough contrast.

      I also think it would work better ‘portrait’ rather than ‘landscape’.

      Just a couple of thoughts ‘off the top of my head’!

  13. July 29, 2011 7:22 pm

    Hi John…very cute! I have a few minor comments which may improve your sales. I don’t care for the texture on the card or the beveling on the image. Both appear to me to have been added in Photoshop, but I could be wrong. I think if you can simplify the image by removing the texture and bevel, change the red border to white so that adorable reindeer really pops you’ll have a better visual. Also if you are going to have text on the front I would stay away from the slant and try to make it more legible. I also think this card needs a humorous message rather than a general holiday greeting.

  14. July 29, 2011 11:09 pm

    Hi there,

    I do have the following card for different ages,…20th, 30th,.. and so on….,+Flying+with+Balloons+Elephant-greeting+card-802831
    I did the design in watercolor a long time ago. I personally like it a lot, but I looks like I’m the only one. so I guess it’s time for some critique! Thank you for your time.


    • July 30, 2011 6:59 am

      I love the image, Gerda. And I love the inside text that ties everything together. The thing I think is holding this card back is the text on the front. It seems like an afterthought, and doesn’t really go with the lighthearted image.

      If you can still do some editing on the image, what if you took out the text on the front, and made two number-shaped balloons, adding them to the rest tied to the elephant’s tail? You don’t really need the word “birthday” since you’re saying happy birthday in the inside.

      OR because the composition really doesn’t gel, make the elephant with his balloons and sky background somewhat smaller, put it in a box, center the box on a white background, and add “it’s your 40th birthday” or similar on the front under the box. Use a darker blue or black color on the font, and don’t make it too heavy. I’d use a casual handwriting font.


      • July 30, 2011 9:46 pm

        Thank you Corrie!,..I’ll try to rescue this card with your 2nd idea,…since it’s from an original watercolor I’m not comfortable to add something in photoshop,..might look not right. But maybe I’ll try to play out your number-balloon idea with another image. I would be happy if somewhat finally likes this card, was one of my first watercolor images, which took me forever ( I know, it doesn’t look like that)Thank you so much for your time.


      • July 30, 2011 11:02 pm

        Now I changed the design,.. hopefully in the suggested way.,+Flying+with+Balloons+Elephant-greeting+card-802831
        I like it better now,..hope someone else does, too!
        Thanks again.


      • July 31, 2011 6:08 am

        I totally love the image now – it’s so cute! One thing you should change, and it’ll be perfect…it’s “Yippee” without any h’s. Good job, Gerda!


  15. July 29, 2011 11:16 pm

    First impression, Gerda – the elephant looks as if s/he’s falling which isn’t really a very ‘happy’ situation! It would have looked a lot more cheerful if it had been swinging or sailing upwards with the balloons. I don’t know if that makes any sense or if anyone else had the same first impression. It’s a shame because I love it otherwise – elephants are one of my favourites and yours is beautifully drawn!

  16. July 30, 2011 1:38 am

    Thanks Judy,

    I guess I was so stuck with my idea,…. I had no idea someone might get that impression.
    But it makes total sense….maybe I have to create a new illustration with that idea.
    Thanks so much.

  17. July 30, 2011 6:07 am

    Like some of the others this weekend, I have an older card (not in YEARS, Corrie, just months! lol!) that I can’t decide whether to remake or toss. It doesn’t have much oomph…so maybe it’s a lost cause.

    (By the way, my son–who I haven’t seen in a month–came home today from his gramps’ house, so I might not be popping in here at GCU much this weekend because I want to catch up with him.)


    • July 30, 2011 7:03 am

      Hmmm… to be honest, if this were my card, I’d scrap it. The colors are kind of old fashioned and washed out, and as a whole, the card doesn’t really excite interest. If you decide to re-do this card, update the colors. Make your layout a little more interesting.


      • July 30, 2011 2:38 pm

        I’m afraid I have to agree with Corrie. Nothing exciting about the design. The colors do nothing for me. I vote for a do-over…hahaha!

      • July 30, 2011 2:57 pm

        Yes, confirmation–of my own thoughts–that this one can be scrapped is a good thing for me. It means I’m *beginning* to see my work a little bit more like you pros see it (at least in some cases). πŸ™‚

        However, since I still haven’t quite hit 100 in this store (between my two stores I’m well over 100 – but this one only has 96), I will probably wait till I’m over 101 to do the actual excision. πŸ˜‰


      • July 31, 2011 9:40 pm

        Hi Corrie. I said I’d delete this card (after I get over 101 approved cards), but I was wondering what you think if I change the image with one of these instead? I didn’t really remake the image…but either one of these two is kind of along the same lines (sentiment-wise) as the original.

        thinkingofyou blue huesJPG

        thinkingofyou blue pinkhues2JPG

        Thanks! πŸ™‚

      • August 1, 2011 6:24 am

        I think the first example is cleaner, but you should know those curly, pseudo-botanical graphics are going out of style. I hardly see them used in design anymore. I think that style used to be very fresh five years ago, but it was overused.


      • August 1, 2011 5:26 pm

        Ouch! Bludgeoned with my own obsolescence. 😦

      • August 1, 2011 8:05 pm

        Other than (sort of) beginning to learn which of my cards to scrap, I was also somewhat inspired to look at the humorous side of being very old and out-dated… lol …and it led me to create this card (using some of the trendy Rainbow Connection colors from earlier this week).

        Here it is. I’m not asking for a critique… just wanted to share what I came away with from this week’s clinic:

        Unfortunately, I was going for a sort of urban grunge design (with very little grunge)… but my son said it just reminded him of designs from ancient civilizations (talk about out-dated!). lol. I’m feeling older by the second. πŸ˜‰

    • July 30, 2011 2:57 pm

      I’ve been starring at and pondering this card for a while. I see potential somewhere. The first thing that jumped out to me was the font was too big…it was hard to focus on the words. Perhaps if the square frame was smaller too? It also seems very flat…wish I had the expertise to offer advice on how to give it dimension….But I must say, it is 100% better than the card I submitted for critique this week! LOL

      • July 30, 2011 3:20 pm

        I don’t think mine is better than yours at all, Tracie! I don’t have a lot of time for making suggestions today, but I did want to mention that I absolutely loved the words on your first card (humorous and to the point), but make them slightly smaller, maybe? (I’ll let the others here make design & font suggestions for you.) Anyhow, I “got” the humor (and laughed a LOT) with the first version… but the second version made me feel like I had to study it to understand it. 😦 But then again, I probably have marshmallow brains this morning. lol.


  18. July 30, 2011 7:46 am

    Hi Corrrie,
    Here’s one that I thought would do good but have had no sales yet. I’ve only been at this for a couple of months and maybe I’m just too eager…lol Maybe I just need to promote more. Let me know if you see anything I can improve on this image. Thanks,

    • July 30, 2011 9:37 am

      What may be holding this card back is two-fold: 1) the category – if you’ve created this as a “save the date” card for weddings, it needs to be in the Save the Date – Weddings instead of Save the Date – General, and 2) there’s a lot of competition in wedding categories with other cards that have flowers on them, and very little to differentiate one from the other. I’m also not wild about the font. It’s barely visible. And don’t forget it can take up to 6 months for search engines to index your cards.


    • July 30, 2011 2:45 pm

      Hi Joann…In order for floral photography to do well in any category it has to have a wow factor. You are up against the most popular photographic subject at GCU and weeding of these photo cards is going on as we speak I imagine. I agree with Corrie that the text needs work on this card.

      If you are interested, here is a Flower Photography 101 article:

    • July 30, 2011 3:06 pm

      Beautiful rose, Joann. I do notice when I look at it though, that my eyes go to the white spots on the leaves. I know they are from the raindrops, but they detract from the rose. if they were cloned out, as well as the scuffs on the rose it might give a more pleasing effect to the eye (in my opinion). The pink text on the dark green seems a bit flat as well. Maybe a different color, like white…not sure…

    • July 30, 2011 2:29 pm

      One of the main problems with your card, Suzan, is the text on the front – the font is completely illegible. Remember that special effects may look cool on your computer monitor, they very rarely print well. In addition, you’ve got a gradient background + gradient colors in your text, which compounds the illegibility. If you want to keep the gradient color in the background, don’t use it on the text. Keep the font solid, especially when you’re using a decorative font like this one.


    • July 30, 2011 3:14 pm

      I think a more simple font would make this card look more “regal” Something flowing but young–and a solid color. Like Corrie said, it is difficult to read with the gradient on gradient…

    • July 30, 2011 3:24 pm

      Hi Suzanne –

      Excellent suggestions from Corrie. To build on that: If you are going to use “texter” shorthand on the first word, that should (in my opinion) be carried through – but I don’t think it works with this message – I’d change the first word to You’re or You are. Inside text: Why is US capitalized? It doesn’t add emphasis to the party to me, it makes me think the sender is a bit narcisstic : )- I think you used pink lettering on the inside because of the pink princess color theme, but it is too light for my liking – hard to read on screen. Artists Notes: you have a field just waiting for Search Engine catching text! Make use of it! Use your personality/words and go with something along the lines of: Every little girl deserves to be treated like the Princess she is – don’t wait for a birthday … ANY day can be the perfect time for a Princess Party! This colorful invitation will be sure to catch the eye of your friends and have them excited to attend. Throw your party today!

    • July 30, 2011 2:33 pm

      Donna, if I were you I’d lose the frame if possible and make the pumpkins full bleed. The frame takes away from the central image. Also, you may want to consider a different category other than General Thanksgiving, such as Thanksgiving > Pumpkins/Gourds.


      • August 1, 2011 4:05 am

        Hi Corrie,
        Thank you. I will try and do a little changing. Everyone has given me some great changes.. Now to get to work and do them..

    • July 30, 2011 3:29 pm

      The trouble with losing the frame altogether is that the painting probably wouldn’t be the right dimensions/shape for the greeting card and some of the important elements would be too close to the edge – a problem I have ALL the time!

      But I agree that the frame doesn’t do anything for the rest of the painting which I think is great!

      Two suggestions:

      1. Crop off the frame and just have whitespace around the main image.
      2. Change the colour of the frame so that it really contrasts with the pumpkins – dark green or dark blue, for instance…or even a much darker brown?

      • August 1, 2011 4:09 am

        I can see that…I may be able to do it in Photoshop..Everyone has given me some great ideas..
        Thanks so much for taking the time to help me…

    • July 30, 2011 3:29 pm

      Hi Donna – Great start to your image! I’m with Corrie – go with full bleed for full, glorious harvest image.

      Title: be honest … if you were looking through ONLY a list of card titles for your Thanksgiving cards, would you even click on “Pumpkins in field with hay stalk” ? How about Thanksgiving Harvest Pumpkins? Something about Thanksgiving in the title. And no need for “with hay stalk” – that doesn’t add to the Thanksgiving feeling, and really sounds a bit more like trying to turn key words into a title.

      Artists Notes: I LOVE YOU! YOU USED THE ARTISTS NOTES! Opps, sorry for yelling, I’m just so excited to not be bopping you over the head to use them (grin)! Nice job.

      Keywords: use your Hay Stalk here …

      • July 30, 2011 4:07 pm

        I agree – full bleed would be best but not sure how Donna can go about making it the right shape to do that. What do you suggest?

        (I often have this problem with handpainted designs, so I’m interested to hear if there’s a way to get around it!)

      • July 30, 2011 4:17 pm

        Although I work with photographs, one thing you can do is extend the edges using the cloning tool, though it is a painstaking and slow process. Using the brush at a lower opacity and hardness blends the seems better too, I’ve discovered.

      • August 1, 2011 4:18 am

        Thank you Peggy.. I know… “Pumpkins in a field with a hay stalk”, ..What was I thinking? I’m just so new at this…I’ll change that… Thank you so much.

  19. July 30, 2011 4:27 pm

    Hi Tracie – I dearly wish I knew what you were talking about!

    I’ve gradually worked out a few photo-editing tricks to use with handpainted designs but if anyone knows of any articles or tutorials about non-photographers getting the most out of photo-editing programs, I’d love to see them.

    In fact I was thinking about doing a blog post on the few that I’ve picked up and hoping some photographers would add to them!

  20. July 30, 2011 9:25 pm

    Hi Tracie – that’s fantastic! Thank you so much – I’m really glad I asked!

    I thought I might not be able to do it as I’m using my laptop which has – I have photoshop on my pc in my attic studio but it’s sweltering up there at this time of year!
    But after watching the video and making a guess that I had to use Ctrl rather than Alt when I found Alt didn’t work, I actually managed to do it.

    I’ll need practice but isn’t it great when you succeed in learning a new trick! I was planning to take my first break since Christmas as I have a friend coming to stay this week, but you’ve got me wanting to perfect this technique and use it on a whole lot of my designs!!!

    • July 30, 2011 9:27 pm

      I’m so glad to hear it was helpful Judy…It takes a little practice, but sure comes in handy.

  21. July 30, 2011 9:36 pm

    I’ve just posted the link to your instructions on the two forum threads that were specifically for us ‘hand-painters’ and I hope it’ll be OK if I link to it when I get around to doing a blog post about photo-editing for painters? (It won’t be just yet)

  22. July 31, 2011 3:33 am

    Thanks Doreen and Judy. I tried the white border and I didn’t like it as well. I like the texture, but, it may be a little to much, I’ll play with it. I tried to make the copy a little more readable with a soft pillow of white around it, not sure if it helps enough. I came up with a humorous message for the inside. I think it goes better with the cartoon image, let me know what you all think.

    Thanks, John

  23. July 31, 2011 3:25 pm

    John – Your humorous message is much better suited for this card, well done.

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