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Nate's Classmates


Open Source Valentines

Posted February 9 2007

When I was a kid, my Aunt Arlene used to make the most delectable (and beautiful) heart sugar cookies and personalize them for every kid in my class by writing their name in icing on each one. It was definitely different from the store-bought Valentines that most kids gave out, and it made me feel so cool. I don't quite have the culinary knack as my Aunt, but I do possess the desire to do something unique. So, my son, Nate, and I created our own Valentines using Avery sticker labels, the World Wide Web, and our imagination.

You will need:

  • A list of all the names of the kids in your childs class.
  • A computer and color printer
  • A link to the splendiferous Kid-Safe* Minimizer by Christopher Doyle. You will need to have the Macromedia Flash plug-in installed.
  • A page layout, illustration or image editing program
  • One pack of full sheet Avery labels
  • One pair of scissors (or X-acto knife)
* Please note that "Kid Safe" is a relative term. There may be some parts that people find objectional, despite the site disclaimer. You should screen it first and use at your discretion.

Step 1: The first step is the fun part. Have your child create all the kids in his or her class in the Kid-Safe* Minimizer. Nate had a blast doing this, and I was amazed at how creative he was! He reflected kids' interests in the clothes they wore, and many of the people bore quite a resemblance to their real-world counterparts.

Step 2: You will need to create a screen capture of each character after it is created. On a Macintosh, this is "Command-Shift-4" and on a Windows machine it is the "Print Screen" key. Save these screenshots in a directory as they are created. We'll get back to these in the next step.

Sticker Template Step 3: Now it is time for the production stage. You will need a page layout, illustration or image editing program to complete the next step. I used Adobe Illustrator, but any program that enables you to assemble multiple images on a page will work. I set our Valentines up 3-by-3 (known as 9-up in printer parlance) on an 8.5" x 11" sheet. Available for download are templates for both Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. I have also included a PDF template if you want to use it as a guide to set yours up in another program. You will need to include cutting guides on your template to separate the individual Valentines.

Once you get the layout template set up, you will need to import each screenshot that you took of the individual characters. You will need to downsize each character when you import it into the template. On average, I downsized the imported image 60% so each character was surrounded by the blue background (with the exception of some of the winged characters, which I had to crop to fit). Once you have filled the sticker template sheet, you are ready to output it to your color printer.

Step 4: The next part is best left to the supervising adult. You will need to carefully cut out the Valentines along the guidelines using a pair of scissors or an X-acto knife. I recommend an X-acto knife for the most precise cut, but be sure you have a good cutting surface to work on such as a self-healing mat. Smooth cardboard (such as stiffening sheets available at Staples or the USPS) works well in a pinch.

Congratulations! You now have a custom-designed set of Valentines that will delight children and make your creative talents the envy of other mothers. An optional flourish is including a packet of NECCO® Sweethearts® Conversation Hearts for that authentic Valentine touch (you can staple it to the sticker or put both in an envelope. I stapled mine). I also created a full sheet printout featuring the entire class to give to the teacher (BTW, she's the one in the Superwoman costume), or email to family and friends.

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