OK, so you want to replace those old QSL cards. The old stack of cards that is sitting in the draw is an embarrassment. They have your old call (that you now have to cross out and replace with a hand-written mess) and they have a generic black and white cachet that looks like it was hijacked from an original 1954 card (it probably was). Where do you go from here?
You could submit a color photograph to a number of online services and do the online design thing. You will likely end up with a very nice color photograph card. Of course the 200 card minimum and the one design at a time process (no mixing and matching of photographs) guarantees that the card is likely to be outdated and not representative of your current shack in less time than it takes to say ‘new equipment purchase’.
A more attractive alternative is to make your own. I like this one and have had very good success with it. I usually create a two-sided design. One side consists of a photograph with a call sign overlay and the opposite side gives all the QSO details.
My first design goes back about 19 years or so. I drew and printed out the current station (a Heathkit HW-101 transceiver) onto a stack of post cards that were separated from one another by tearing along the perforated margin of a folded deck designed to go in an impact printer. After they came out I used watercolors to add in the traditional Heathkit green. The only computer program that I recall using was PC Paint.
It took quite a while to make a card that way so I just ordered up some generic cards with a cute design and wrote in QSO details. I ordered 200 and have not used them up to this day (that shows you how often I send out cards.
The stock design cards filled a need; if anyone requested a card I could comply immediately. They did not quite meet my requirements for something that was personal and colorful, though.
Then along came digital cameras and the darkroom in a box (Photoshop and others). How could you avoid making a nice card? I at first tried the Microsoft Paint program for adding titles to my photographs. These would then be printed with a color inkjet printer. That was more costly (as in ink) than ordering them all done. All my cards are now printed at the local pharmacy kiosk for pennies. I also avoid having to keep around a large stockpile that is bound to go stale. I did attempt to create the QSO record portion of the card with a freeware program called QSL Maker (ver. 2.4) by WB8RCR. I was able to make some very nice cards with QSL Maker. Unfortunately the program, for me anyways, was very quirky. I actually had to write out my own set of instructions and follow them to the letter so as to add repeatability to my QSL-printing efforts. Even that technique only succeeded once in a while. Usually I would have to print five failures for each success. It also wasted a great deal of time. Below is a card created with QSL Maker.
Recently I was lucky enough to come across what I believe is the ultimate QSL printing and creation program. It is a freeware product called Qsl Design And Print by VA3HJ. This one works like a charm. I was able to learn how to use it rather quickly and am now able to design pharmacy-printer-ready copy in very short order. This is the program that I recommend. Try it out and see if you don’t agree. Some samples are below. (Please note that the original download site no longer works. I have linked the QSL Design And Print title (see above) with a place called Software Informer. They are also hosting a newer program called HamQSLer. I have not attempted a download at the site. Be cautious if you do download the program. Please let me know if you are successful.)
The above picture represents what the back side of the card would look like. All of the QSO (contact) information goes on this side. This is what I used Qsl Design And Print to create. I still use Photoshop to make the front / photograph side. The reverse side of the above card would actually be the front of the card. It would have just a photograph (as in the previous one) with minimal information about the station. Designers will note that I used the Comic Sans MS font. My son tells me that this font is universally abhorred by graphics professionals. All I can say in my defense it that I use it because it makes me happy.
My present goal is to create some new cards using current photographs. The cards displayed above feature photos that were taken at our former home in Coventry. Now that I have a new station in a new shack (room) it is time for a fresh series of photographs. This task will be all the more enjoyable since I have a new camera, a Nikon S6300. This camera is so cool (they even call it a Coolpix) that it may rate an entire blog post for itself.