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Easy and Cheap Handcrafted Holiday Gifts

Father and son making easy and cheap handcrafted holiday gifts

Whether creativity is natural or something that can be learned is a debate not likely to be resolved any time soon. Meanwhile, however, holidays, birthdays and other causes for celebration continue to challenge everyone to find inexpensive, unique and personal ways of expressing their love to family and friends.

If you’re drawn to the idea of saving money by giving creative, handmade gifts but you can barely draw a stick figure, digital downloads from the internet may be your savior. Thanks to growing e-commerce businesses and DIY design sites, you need nothing more than a computer, an internet connection and a printer to generate professional-grade designs for DIY gifts. If you don’t have your own computer, go to the library. If you don’t have a printer, you can always send your project to a place like FedEx, Walgreens or Vistaprint for fancier paper stock options or to print on a variety of customized products.

Glance through the seven ideas below for creative holiday gifts for non-creative types.

1. Monogramed…anything

Many sites allow you to purchase a loved-one’s names or initials as decals or decorative stencils. If you’re feeling ambitious, visit a free stencil maker site or a design site such as canva.com to design the personalized letters yourself to then print, cut out and trace. With a stencil and a permanent marker or fabric paint, you’re ready to personalize anything from a dishtowel to a doormat. Even easier, you can purchase a digital file of their monogram or name in elaborate calligraphy for less than $10 and print on paper or other products.

2. Framed art

Many sites offer printable art with inspiring sayings or appealing designs with just enough uniqueness to say “handmade.” Browse phrases like “downloadable abstract art” or “printable calligraphy” and find the perfectly unique piece for everyone on your list. Print on quality paper and slip into a frame. If you know the brand and dimensions of their cell phone, consider purchasing a clear case and cut out and insert a favorite image or two. Who says art has to hang on walls?

3. Paper toy cut-outs

Part origami, part paper doll, handmade paper toy cut-outs can be as simple or elaborate as you like—and plenty of sites offer free templates for download. Just print, cut, fold and tape or glue! Better yet, give the gift of time to busy parents and package the printed-out patterns with all the needed supplies for little ones to assemble themselves.

4. Paper flowers or plants

From Birds of Paradise to stunning succulents, paper flowers have the benefit of matching any décor and lasting long after their genuine models expire. Sites such as DreamPosy.com offer dozens of templates and tutorials and Instagram accounts offer endless inspiration. Do you fear paper flowers might be too complicated for the likes of you?  This Malawi-born artist offers free PDF templates for flowers, leaves, and beautiful succulents with the encouraging tag line “Anyone Can Craft with a Little Inspiration.”

5. Coloring books

While coloring books are staples in kids’ lives, more recently adults have come to appreciate their benefits. Appropriately, art supply companies like Crayola and Faber-Castell offer free downloads of adult coloring pages so you may use and enjoy their products. Plenty of other sites offer downloadable templates for all ages. Search for particular patterns, like mandalas or dinosaurs. Print off the pages, staple or sew them together and wrap with a new box of crayons or colored pencils. Or color the page yourself and frame it for your loved one.

6. Personalized embroidery patterns

Whether you’re wielding a fancy embroidery machine or just a needle and thread, plenty of sites offer digital downloads of just-right patterns for any recipient. Etsy artists’ machine embroidery patterns can cost less than $2 each while many of Brother’s designs, for example, are downloadable for free. For hand stitching, plenty of cross-stich and needlework patterns avail themselves through a simple search. After downloading the images, transfer the patterns onto your fabric with printer ink, transfer paper or special pencils and pens.

7. Holiday décor

Take your creative gift to the next level by searching for digital downloads that contribute to festive holiday décor. Paper poinsettias can add cheer to a table while paper ornaments and holiday origami projects add a personal touch to any tree. To get kids in on the project, consider this paper toy Santa or colorful menorah.

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Gone are the days when you had to hone your own creative chops to come up with creative gifts with a handmade feel. When it comes to art, the internet may well be the great equalizer. Spend a lazy morning browsing sites like Etsy, Café Press, Canva and smartvectorpics.com and think up your own search terms like “personalized stationary patterns” or “downloadable stickers” to get your creative juices flowing.

Just remember: intellectual property law protects designers and artists from people looking to “pirate” or download and use images without paying for them. Take care to make sure a free image is truly owned by the source or, if for sale, read and abide by the licensing agreement. It’s not just an issue of respecting the creatives among us. It’s also the law.