Custom DIY Birthday Party Invitations for Pennies


Party planning is not what it used to be. Back in my own 1980s birthday party heyday we played games like Drop the Clothespin in the Jelly Jar and passed out home-popped popcorn in brown paper bags as favors. And we seriously loved it. Thirty years on, times have changed thanks to the unrealistic motivating expectations nurtured by the internet. Browse long enough and it is possible to find clever, economical party ideas. Invitations, though, can be a challenge. Unless you are a design whiz with access to a high-end printer, or prepared to part with a significant portion of your paycheck, custom-made personalized party invitations come with sticker shock and lengthy delivery times.

However, making professional-looking birthday party invitations by yourself is a piece of cake. Follow these simple steps for invitations that will be ready fast for only pennies each.

DIY Custom Birthday Party Invitations
Fast, easy, and budget-friendly party invitations.

Here’s what you’ll need to create a flat invitation:

  1. An online photo editing tool, such as PicMonkey or BeFunky
  2. A photo
  3. An account with an online, one-hour photo processor (such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens Photo, or CVS.Photo)

Step 1: Choose Your Photo

Upload the photo you want as the background of your invitation into the online photo editing tool. For my invitation, I’m using BeFunky. The best way to ensure you’re not infringing on any photo copyrights is to use one of your own photos. If you would prefer to use a more professional photo, pay attention to license requirements. There are plenty of sites that offer amazing stock photos for free personal use. Just look for the Creative Commons Zero license. For my arcade-themed invitation, I found a free stock photo on Gratisography.

arcade video game photo
Choose a fun image for your DIY party invitations.

Ultimately, you will be ordering your invitation from a one-hour photo processor with online ordering, so stick with the standard photo dimensions of 4 x 6 or 5 x 7. Check the website of your preferred photo processor for any restrictions. For example, my choice only allowed one-hour printing for 4 x 6s.

The photo editing tool may show your photo size in pixels. PicMonkey offers a handy cheat sheet for converting pixels to inches. I wanted my invitation to be a 4 x 6, so I re-sized it to 1200 x 800 pixels. Note that it can help to design your image bigger, as long as the proportions are the same as a 4 x 6 or 5 x 7. By going larger, the final print will be clearer.

Arcade Video Game Photo Size
Once you choose your fun photo, size it to standard photo proportions.

Step 2: Design Your Invitation

Next, add text with all your party details. One of the main advantages of an online photo editor is the large selection of different fonts. Choose one that fits the theme of your party, or play around with combining different styles. There is no shortage of online tutorials about combining fonts in cool ways. Even if your online editor doesn’t have these exact fonts, follow a few simple rules to find fonts for a fun effect.

If the font color you like isn’t working with the background photo, trying either outlining the font or — my preference — lightening/darkening the photo. Photo editors also offer some fun overlay effects. But don’t go crazy! Make sure the text is readable and not too busy.

Arcade Video Game Invitation
Help your text be more legible by outlining it or lightening/darkening the photo.

Step 3: Get Printing

Once you’re happy with your image, save it to your computer. Open your preferred online, one-hour photo processor and upload the photo. Add it to your cart, and order the number of prints you’ll need. Finally, choose the in-store pick-up option.

Step 4: Save Time and Money

Your invitations will be ready to mail out as soon as you’re able to go pick them up. Office supply and craft stores sell envelopes that fit both 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 prints, so if you don’t have any at home make a stop while you’re out. Not including envelopes, my invitation came to $0.29 each. Invite 10 kids to the party, and invitations come to only $2.90. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Arcade Video Game Invitation
Happy celebrating!


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