If you are like me, you probably spend way too much time agonizing at the greeting card racks, trying to find the best Valentine's Day card for your sweetheart. This year, put that time toward making something really special—a photo Valentine's Day card.

Learn how to create this Valentine's Day card, customized with your own photo and text.

Learn how to create this Valentine's Day card, customized with your own photo and text.

In this article I show you how to create a photo Valentine's Day card like the one to the right. I provide step-by-step instructions for Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 and the older 3.0 and 2.0 versions. However, if you are familiar with another editing software, you may be able to follow the steps and translate them to commands in your own software.

For those with limited time on their hands, I have a free template offer at the end of this article with two Valentine photo card designs.

When this project is finished, it can be printed at home on 4x6" photo paper, uploaded to an online photo developing service, or developed at your favorite local retailer.

The steps in this article use the "layers" and "selection" features in Photoshop Elements. Step-by-step instructions are provided; however, if you are unfamiliar with these features, you may wish to start by reading Editing Photos with Layers and Selecting Objects with the Magic Wand.

Selecting the Photos

We need two photos to create the Valentine. One photo will be the background and the other photo will be of you and/or your sweetheart.

Start by downloading the cloudy sky high resolution image for the background. Save the image to your hard disk in a place where you can find it and then return to this page.

Then, select a photo that you wish to place in the middle of the heart. This can be an image from a digital camera or a scanned photo.

Making the Valentine's Day Card

Now that you have downloaded the cloudy sky image for the background and selected a photo for the heart, we are ready to create the card image.

All steps apply to Photoshop Elements 2.0 - 4.0, unless indicated otherwise as v2, v3, and v4.

  1. Create a blank image in Photoshop Elements to match the photo paper dimensions. In this example I am using 4x6" paper. We'll call this the "Valentine image".

    Commands:
    • v3 & v4 File > New > Blank File
    • v2 File > New
    • In the New dialog box enter the following settings and click OK:
      • Width: 6 inches
      • Height: 4 inches
      • Resolution: 300 pixels/inch
      • Background Contents: Transparent

  2. Place the cloudy sky background into the the new image, taking up the entire canvas area.

    Commands v4:
    • File > Place
    • Locate the cloudy-sky.jpg file on your hard disk and select it by clicking on it once (this file was downloaded in previous section)
    • Click the Place button
    • Click the checkmark button on the toolbar to accept placement and size

    Commands v2 & v3:
    • File > Open
    • Locate the cloudy-sky.jpg file on your hard disk and select it by clicking on it once (this file was downloaded in previous section)
    • Click the Open button
    • Right-mouse click on the image name in the Layers palette and choose Duplicate Layer
    • In the Document drop-down list select the name of the Valentine image (at this point it should be called "Untitled-1")
    • Click OK
    • File > Close
    • Click the Move Tool Move Tool
    • Drag inside the image to move the top left corner to the canvas' top left corner
    • Drag the bottom right corner of the image while holding the Shift key, until it fits the canvas
    • Click the checkmark button on the toolbar to accept placement and size.

  3. Re-name the new layer created by the sky image to sky.

    Command: Double-click the current image name in the Layers palette and type new name, then hit Enter

  4. Save the Valentine image to your hard drive in a place where you can find it.

    Commands:
    • File > Save As
    • Change the Format to Photoshop
    • Enter photo-valentine.psd as the file name
    • Click Save

  5. Draw a red heart shape in the middle of the image.
    The heart shape has been created in its own layer.

    The heart shape has been created in its own layer.



    Commands:
    • Click the Custom Shape Tool Custom Shape Tool.
      This tool may be hidden by one of the following tools: Rectangle Tool, Rounded Rectangle Tool, Ellipse Tool, Polygon Tool, Line Tool, or Shape Selection Tool. Hold your mouse down on the visible tool to reveal the other tools.
    • On the top toolbar select the heart shape
    • On the top toolbar set the Color to red (R:255, G:0, B:0)
    • Drag your mouse over the background to draw the heart shape. Use the Move Tool Move Tool to adjust the heart position, size, and shape.

  6. Re-name the new layer created by the heart shape to heart.

    Command: Double-click the current image name in the Layers palette and type new name, then hit Enter

  7. Once you are satisfied with the shape, size, and position of the heart within the image, select its outline and save it. We will use the outline to cut a heart-shaped hole in the sky and to cut a smaller hole within the heart itself. The photo will show through these two holes.

    Commands:
    • Layer > Simplify Layer
    • Click the Magic Wand Tool Magic Wand Tool
    • On the top toolbar, configure the settings as follows:
      • Click the New selection mode button New selection
      • Set Tolerance to 100
      • Remove the checkmark from Anti-alias
      • Set the checkmark on Contiguous
      • v3 & v4 Remove the checkmark from Sample All Layers
      • v2 Remove the checkmark from Use All Layers

    • Click in the middle of the heart to select it.
    • Select > Save Selection
    • In the Name box enter heart
    • Click OK
    • Select > Deselect

  8. Hide the heart layer so that only the sky is visible.

    Command: In the Layers palette click the small eye Layer visibility indicator to the left of the layer to hide it

  9. Select the sky layer.

    Command: Click on the layer in the Layers palette to select it

  10. Cut a hole in the sky the shape of the heart.
    The checkered pattern of the canvas is visible through the heart-shaped hole in the sky image.

    The checkered pattern of the canvas is visible through the heart-shaped hole in the sky image.



    Commands:
    • Select > Load Selection
    • In the Selection box choose heart
    • Click OK
    • Hit the Delete key on the keyboard
    • Select > Deselect

  11. Make the heart layer visible.

    Command: In the Layers palette click the location where the small eye Layer visibility indicator should be to the left of the layer to make it visible

  12. Select the heart layer.

    Command: Click on the layer in the Layers palette to select it

  13. Make sure that the Styles and Effects palette is visible.

    Command v3 & v4: Window > Styles and Effects

    Command v2: Window > Layer Styles

  14. Apply the Wow Plastic layer style to the heart layer.

    Commands:
    • v3 & v4 In the Styles and Effects palette select Layer Styles and Wow Plastic
    • v2 In the Layer Styles palette select Wow Plastic
    • Click on the Wow-Plastic Red style box. Now the heart has a beveled plastic appearance.
    • In the Layers palette double-click on the heart layer style indicator Layer Style Indicator to bring up the properties dialog box
    • Adjust style settings as desired and click OK when finished

  15. Cut a hole in the heart through which the photo will show.
    The canvas is visible once more through the holes in the heart and the sky. Our picture will show through these two openings which make up the heart frame.

    The canvas is visible once more through the holes in the heart and the sky. Our picture will show through these two openings which make up the heart frame.



    Commands:
    • Select > Load Selection
    • In the Selection box choose heart
    • Click OK
    • Select > Modify > Contract
    • In the Contract By box enter 100 pixels and click OK
    • Select > Feather
    • In the Feather Radius box enter 30 pixels and click OK
    • Hit the Delete key on the keyboard
    • Select > Deselect

  16. Add the text banner to the lower end of the heart.
    Shape selection drop-down list with the banner shape circled in red.

    Shape selection drop-down list with the banner shape circled in red.



    Commands:
    • Click the Custom Shape Tool Custom Shape Tool
    • On the top toolbar select the banner 2 shape (second box on second row in the "Default" shape list)
    • On the top toolbar set the Color to red (R:255, G:0, B:0)
    • Drag your mouse over the background to draw the banner shape. Use the Move Tool Move Tool to adjust the banner position, size, and shape.

  17. Re-name the new layer created by the banner shape to banner.

    Command: Double-click the current image name in the Layers palette and type new name, then hit Enter

  18. Apply the Wow Plastic layer style to the banner layer.

    Commands:
    • v3 & v4 In the Styles and Effects palette select Layer Styles and Wow Plastic
    • v2 In the Layer Styles palette select Wow Plastic
    • Click on the Wow-Plastic Red style box. Now the banner has a beveled plastic appearance.
    • In the Layers palette double-click on the banner layer style indicator Layer Style Indicator to bring up the properties dialog box
    • Adjust style settings as desired and click OK when finished

  19. Add text to the banner. Don't be too concerned about making your text fit the banner on the first pass—we will adjust the size later.

    Commands:
    • Click the Horizontal Type Tool Horizontal Type Tool.
      This tool may be hidden by one of the following tools: Vertical Type Tool, Horizontal Type Mask Tool, or Vertical Type Mask Tool. Hold your mouse down on the visible tool to reveal the other tools.

    • On the top toolbar select desired font. In the example I used Viner Hand ITC.
    • On the top toolbar set the font size to 22 pt
    • On the top toolbar click the Center text Center text button
    • On the top toolbar set desired text Color. In the example I used white.
    • Click approximately in the middle of the banner shape and type your text. In the example I entered "Be My Valentine".
    • When finished typing, click the Move Tool Move Tool.
      (If you need to change the text at any time, click on the text layer, click on the Horizontal Type Tool, and click your mouse on the text.)

  20. Move the text layer above all other layers. Skip if text is already the top layer.

    Command: Drag the layer in the Layers palette to its new position.

  21. Position and size text inside the banner.
    Text sized and positioned to appear inside the banner.

    Text sized and positioned to appear inside the banner.



    Commands:
    • Click the Move Tool Move Tool
    • Make sure that the text layer is still selected by clicking on the text layer in the Layers palette
    • While holding down the Shift key, drag one of the corners of the text box to size it
    • Drag inside the text box to move text to center of the banner
    • Repeat sizing and moving steps as necessary
    • Click the checkmark button on the toolbar to accept placement and size

  22. Now that we have a completed heart frame, we are ready to insert the photo under all of the layers.

    Commands v4:
    • File > Place
    • Select the photo file and click Place
    • Click the checkmark button on the toolbar to accept placement and size. Leave the photo size as placed—do not size or move yet—we will do that next.

    Commands v2 & v3:
    • File > Open
    • Select the photo file and click Open
    • Right-mouse click on the image name in the Layers palette and choose Duplicate Layer
    • In the Document drop-down list select photo-valentine.psd
    • Click OK
    • File > Close

  23. Re-name the new layer created by the photo to photo.

    Command: Double-click the current photo name in the Layers palette and type new name, then hit Enter

  24. Move the photo layer to the bottom.
    The Layers palette showing the final order of all layers, with the photo on the bottom.

    The Layers palette showing the final order of all layers, with the photo on the bottom.



    Command: In the Layers palette drag the photo layer with your mouse below all other layers

  25. Size and move the photo so that it fits the heart frame opening.
    Photo layer is in the process of being sized and positioned inside the heart frame.

    Photo layer is in the process of being sized and positioned inside the heart frame.



    Commands:
    • Click on the photo layer in the Layers palette to select it
    • Click the Move Tool Move Tool
    • While holding down the Shift key, drag one corner of the photo image to size it.

      Tip: Always remember to hold down the Shift key on your keyboard while sizing photos to prevent distortion.

    • Drag within the image to position it inside the heart frame
    • Repeat sizing and moving steps until the photo fits the frame opening to your satisfaction
    • Click the checkmark button on the toolbar to accept placement and size

  26. Save the completed Valentine's Day card image.
    Completed Valentine's Day photo card, ready to be printed or developed.

    Completed Valentine's Day photo card, ready to be printed or developed.



    Command: File > Save

  27. If you have a printer, print the finished image. You want this card looking its best, so be sure all cartridges have plenty of ink and use high quality photo paper.

    Command: File > Print

  28. If you do not have a printer, save the finished image as a JPEG file and upload to an online developer (see Online Digital Photo Developing).

    Commands:
    • File > Save As
    • Change the Format to JPEG
    • Accept the suggested name or enter another unique name for this file, ending with .jpg
    • Click Save
    • On the JPEG Options screen set Quality to 12 and Format Options to Baseline ("Standard")


I hope that this photo project will make your Valentine's Day even more memorable.

Free Template Offer

To save you steps while creating the photo Valentine, we have developed the following 4x6" Photoshop Elements templates into which you can insert your own photos and text:

Template with large heart frame opening.

Template with large heart frame opening.

Template with smaller heart frame opening and poem box on right side.

Template with smaller heart frame opening and poem box on right side.

To use the template, you will need the following:

  • Knowledge of how to download, save, and open ZIP files
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0, or the older 3.0 or 2.0 versions, installed on your machine
  • Basic knowledge of how to use Photoshop Elements

* Go to the Template Downloads page »