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How to make an awesome pop up birthday card with stock art

from this to this pop up cardSurprise! It’s your boss’ birthday and you don’t have a card. Don’t worry – no need to run to a store. You can make a really cool card right in your office if you have access to a color printer.

Maybe it’s me, but I always seemed to forget a coworker’s or cube-mate’s birthday. That common oversight lead to some pretty creative, last-minute card making on my part – some wisdom I’m happy to impart to you, fellow birthday-card-challenged, daytime cubicle dweller.

With the help of and a few office supplies at your desk (a printer, glue stick, scissors, and tape), you can quickly and discretely create a really fun and awesome card that stands out from the crowd – and makes it look like you spent hours on it. has tons of artwork you can use for any occasion, so this basic concept will work for any holiday or occasion. (Let’s hope you don’t forget Valentine’s Day too!) I selected “happy birthday” stock art, but if you prefer a different look, be sure to select artwork that can be turned into layers. Here are some examples of possible art great for pop-up card making:

These images will make nice pop-up cards because there are foreground, middle-ground, and background elements, such as with landscapes. Or, you can select stock artwork with a lot of elements and create your own cut out layers for a pop-up card.

1 other art for popupHow to make a pop up birthday card.

NOTE: I included a link to a PDF template so you don’t have to hassle with measuring for this homemade pop up card. This is a great way to learn how to make pop up cards. In fact, once you get the basic idea, you’ll probably no longer need the pattern.

The stock artwork I selected for my pop-up birthday card is image 1245976. This art is perfect for creating a pop-up card, plus it’s free!

2Here’s how you edit it to create your pop-up graphics:

1. Open the file in Adobe Illustrator

2. Release the Clipping Path of the illustration (Object – Clipping Path – Release)

3. Ungroup the Illustration and separate the basic elements (yellow background, balloons, birthday cake, and presents so only the yellow starburst background remains in place. You may want to group these individual elements so you can move or enlarge them easily.

4. Download and open my (free) PDF Pop-Up card PDF template in Adobe Illustrator.

4A5. Show the rulers in the layout (Command “R”) and drag a guideline on the new letter-sized page so it’s in half (5.5 x 11). This will note where the card will be folded in half.

6. Place the yellow starburst background PDF Pop-Up card PDF template.

37. Enlarge the background so it fills the letter size inside of the card. (This will be the inside background of your card)

8. Copy and paste the yellow starburst background onto page three of the Pop-Up Card Template PDF. Send it to the back ( Shift+Command+[ ). You’ll see the numbers and rectangles appear. These are guides to show you where to paste the pop-up card layers. (No need to delete these, as they will be covered up as you glue the paper down.)

49. Next, position the balloons so they fit into the template area marked “#3”. In this case I had to reduce the size, so I stretched the balloon art to fit the width of the card. You can stretch these as necessary. Remember, these items will be cut out with scissors, so it’s not necessary to make room for the strings on the balloons – just the balloons only. So enlarge them so the bottom balloons touch both top and bottom of the allotted size on the template, as this screen capture shows.

510. Place the cake on the space for #2.

1011. Take the artwork of the presents and place it on page 1 of the template. Ungroup the presents art. Regroup so they are in pairs (not a group of four), and straighten as you like.

1112. Place two of the presents on the left, and the other two on the right within template #1. You may have to reduce or stretch the size a bit, but since this is a cartoon, it should be fine.

13. Finally, create a plain, yellow rectangle (you can use your eyedropper to get one of the colors from the yellow starburst artwork in the background). This will serve as a source for cutting paper strips to help hold up the paper architecture in the same color as the background.

1314. Your final pre-printed artwork using the pop-up card template should look like this:

14These will be the “pop-up” portion of the card.

15. Copy the “Happy Birthday” text from the top of the cake, and place it on the area marked “Front of Card” on the template.

15A16. Print all 4 sheets out on cardstock. (I also took the “Happy Birthday” text from the top of the cake and the yellow starburst background to create something for the front of the card.) Your final artwork should look something like this before printing:


Assembling your card:

1. Fold the inside in half (with art inside) and fold the outside in half (with art on the outside)2-12. Apply glue stick to glue the two sides together.2-23. Press front and back together and fold, so card looks like this.



4. Cut out balloons, which should be on your #3 section of the template.


5. Fold the portion marked “#3” on the template back, and glue it to the corresponding area on the card.




6. Do the same thing with the birthday cake section, and presents as shown here:


7. Creating paper braces for your card. Cut five thin strips of paper measuring about .25” wide x 2.5” long (I just used some extra space on one of the sheets I printed and made a large, yellow rectangle, but plain paper is fine.) These will be used to tape or glue each pop-up section to each other and the back of the card, so when the card opens, each will stand straight.


2-7c8. Tape each tier to another, leaving about a quarter inch taped to each section. Work your way forward, beginning with the back and portion #3. Each section is about an inch apart, but it’s best to make each tier stand straight, then tape it in place with the paper braces.


2-8b9. And there you have your final, hand-crafted pop-up card!



Now you have an unforgettable card!

With vector graphics, you’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to making 3D pop-up cards. Now you can make your own custom books, creative scrapbooks, invitations and more!

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