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Custom Illustration Prints as Gifts

Custom illustration prints - Eiffel Tower

As well as selling greeting cards and doing custom cartoon portrait cards, did you know I also do custom illustration prints that make great personalised gifts? You may already have seen some of the cartoon portrait prints I do, but enjoy doing other custom illustration too.

I was approached recently by someone who had seen this drawing of Tower Bridge that I did a while ago. She want a collection of specific landmarks and places in the same style to put in some new frames she and her husband had bought, including the Tower Bridge illustration.

Here’s what I came up with. She chose the subject of each custom illustration print and let me know what size they each needed to be to fit her frames.

Custom illustration prints - Lions at Trafalgar Square
Lions at Trafalgar Square
Little Mermaid Copenhagen
Little Mermaid Copenhagen
Lyme Park
Lyme Park
Stippy Stappy St Agnes
Stippy Stappy St Agnes
The Ritz
The Ritz
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

Each of those places was special to her and her husband in one way or another so now every time they look at their prints they’re reminded of the memories associated with each illustration.

I loved doing completely different illustrations to my usual for this order – I do enjoy doing the cartoon portraits, but it’s nice to have a change as well 🙂

A custom illustration of a place or topic that is special to the person you’re giving it to would make a really great personalised gift that you know they’ll love. And I’m happy to adapt to a variety of different styles to suit your tastes, from the detailed monochrome drawings above to my usual cartoonish style, or perhaps something in-between.
Here’s an example of a custom cartoon family portrait I did earlier this year for a wonderfully loyal customer – this would be ideal as a Christmas or birthday gift for parents or grandparents. If you’re interested in the process behind this particular portrait then I wrote about it here: My custom cartoon portrait process.

Custom illustration prints
So if there’s anything particular you have in mind then please feel free to get in touch. My cartoon portraits are all available to order in my shop, but if you’d like something more customised or even completely different, like the landmark illustrations, then I’m always happy to quote based on the time it will take to complete.

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Wedding Anniversary Gifts by Year

Wedding Anniversary Gifts by Year

I’ve been selling a lot of unique wedding anniversary cards with my cartoon portraits on recently – I guess it’s that time of year 😍. I know about paper, silver, ruby and gold anniversaries but I started wondering, what are the traditional wedding anniversary gifts year by year in the UK? It turns out there are both traditional and modern anniversary milestone gifts.

Lists of traditional and modern wedding anniversary gifts (UK)

These are list of both traditional and modern anniversary gifts by year for the UK – it may vary in the US and around the rest of the world. Can you believe they have milestone gifts all the way up to a 90th wedding anniversary?!


Traditional wedding anniversary gifts by year

1st – Paper or cotton
2nd – Cotton or paper
3rd – Leather
4th – Linen, silk
5th – Wood
6th – Sugar
7th – Woollen
8th – Salt
9th – Copper
10th – Tin
12th – Silk and fine linens
15th – Crystal
20th – Porcelain
25th – Silver
30th – Pearl
35th – Coral
40th – Ruby
45th – Sapphire
50th – Gold
55th – Emerald
60th – Diamond
65th – Blue sapphire
70th – Platinum
75th – Diamond, gold
80th – Oak
85th – Wine
90th – Granite

Modern wedding anniversary gifts by year

1st – Clock
2nd – China
3rd – Crystal, glass
4th – Electrical appliance
5th – Silverware
6th – Wooden objects
7th – Desk sets, pen & pencil sets
8th – Linens, lace
9th – Leather goods
10th – Diamond jewellery
11th – Fashion jewellery, accessories
12th – Pearls, coloured gems
13th – Textiles, furs
14th – Gold jewellery
15th – Watches
16th – Silver hollowware
17th – Furniture
18th – Porcelain
19th – Bronze
20th – Platinum
21st – Brass, nickel
22nd – Copper
23rd – Silver plate
24th – Musical instrument
25th – Silver
30th – Diamond
35th – Jade
40th – Ruby
45th – Saphire
50th – Gold
55th – Emerald
60th – Diamond
80th – Diamond, pearl
85th – Wife’s birthstone
90th – Diamond, emerald

Of course there are no set rules when it comes to romance, so you can interpret them however you like, put your own original twist on them or ignore them altogether! Every couple will have their own original way of celebrating a milestone anniversary…


Special milestone anniversary messages

Did you know that in the UK you can get a message from the king or queen for 60th, 65th and 70th wedding anniversaries? You do need to apply to Buckingham Palace for this (other Commonwealth realms can also apply, via the Governor-general’s office).

In the US couples can receiver a wedding anniversary card from the President for their 50th anniversary and beyond. In Canada they can receive a message from the Governor-General for their 50th anniversary and every fifth anniversary following it.

And in Australia couples can also receive a letter of congratulations from the Governor-General for their 50th wedding anniversary and all subsequent anniversaries. They may even get messages from the Prime Minister, the federal Opposition leader, their local state and federal parliament members and state Governors for the same anniversaries.

Anniversary milestone cards

Would you like to give a wedding anniversary card for a milestone year that is extra special and more like a gift? My custom cartoon portrait anniversary cards are each hand drawn by me based on photos you supply so are completely unique. I can draw from the original wedding photos or as you and your other half look today. The text is also customisable so works for any milestone from the 1st anniversary to forever.They’re also great to give to other (very special) couples and you could even give a frame at the same time, making it easy to display and treasure forever. You’ll get extra credit if you match the frame material to the traditional anniversary gift by year!

Click on any of the images below to go straight to that item in my greeting card shop.

Custom Cartoon Portrait Ruby Wedding Anniversary Card
Ruby Wedding Anniversary Card
Custom Cartoon Portrait Silver Wedding Anniversary Card
Silver Wedding Anniversary Card
Custom Cartoon Portrait Golden Wedding Anniversary Card
Golden Wedding Anniversary Card
Custom Cartoon Portrait Anniversary Card
Anniversary Card
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My greeting cards confession

simply the best greeting card

Okay, it’s confession time… I have to admit that I don’t send all that many greeting cards. Yep, you heard right. You might think this makes me a terrible hypocrite, being a designer and seller of my own range of greeting cards. But (a) I’m rubbish at pretending so I might as well get it out there. And (b) I can explain why I don’t send a lot of cards as well as why I send those few that I do… so read on if you’re curious to find out more…

Firstly, let me be clear, I DO think that sending someone a greeting card can be a wonderful thing. BUT I only do it if it’s for the right reasons.

Reasons not to send a card

One thing I really hate is feeling like I have to do something that I don’t really want to do… obligation and duty are not words I have a lot of positive associations with.

I also don’t like to make other people feel this way – that I expect them to do something they really don’t want to do. Even with my kids I very seldom demand that they do stuff – I tend to go the persuasive route and convince them that it’s a good idea rather than make them feel obliged to do it out of guilt or fear (some might call this brainwashing, I suppose… )

It also makes me feel weird if I get a card from someone that I’m not particularly close to, especially if it professes more friendship or emotion that we’ve ever actually shared…


So I’d rather not give a card than give one insincerely or out of a sense of duty. Because I think that person will know!
I remember being in a relationship where we always seemed to have an argument the day before his birthday or  Valentine’s Day and I’d grit my teeth as I’d try to write something nice in his card. That was crappy. My current other half and I usually don’t give each other cards for birthdays or on Valentine’s Day but every now and then we’ll surprise each other for no reason at all – this makes me much happier 🥰

I also don’t see the point in sending a card that doesn’t really say anything to the person you’re giving it to. If I’m going to send a generic card with a generic message inside and just sign my name at the end, I might as well just go onto Facebook and write “Happy Birthday” on their timeline. Yes I showed them I remembered, but I put no effort in – it was more to make me feel like I’m a good person than to make that person’s day…

Now I’m definitely not saying I’ve never done this type of thing before. I am sometimes a bit of a wimp and really hate conflict so I do sometimes do stuff out of obligation or fear despite my aversion to it… But I mostly try not to. And I don’t think you should have to either.

Good reasons to send greeting cards

Having said all that, I do sometimes send greeting cards to friends and family anyway. And here’s why…
I love that feeling when you see a card and straight away think “Yesssss! I’ve GOT to give this card to [insert best friend here]”. Either it refers to a private joke between you, or perfectly sums up your friendship or an opinion you both have. I’ll always buy cards like this – sometimes I’ll send them straight away and sometimes (if they’re not time sensitive) I’ll keep them for the next time that person has a birthday. Cards like this make both of us feel good and that’s a terrific reason to send one.

If I really care A LOT about someone and I want to send them a birthday card (or other special occasion card) but don’t have one handy, I’ll go out of my way to find one I think they’ll really like. I guess I sort of see the cards and gifts in the same way – they should be suited to the person you’re giving them to. And if I can’t find the perfect card (or gift), I’ll quite often make one.

And that is kind of how I ended up creating greeting cards in the first place…
Getting a really great card from someone feels kind of like getting a lovely big hug out of nowhere. And I think if you’re going to go to the trouble of finding and sending a card then it might as well be one that makes them feel like this!


Terrific people deserve terrific cards. This is partly why I started creating custom cartoon portraits – they’re about as personal as you can get with a card and they can say exactly the right thing. And my range of music themed cards is another way of sharing something you have in common – music brings people together even better than a good greeting card can! I only create cards that I would be excited to give to someone myself – both quality and message-wise.

So does that make you think I’m a bit less of a hypocrite? I’m really quite the opposite – I only send a card if I really mean it. If you ever get a card from me (that you haven’t bought and paid for 😘) you’ll know that you’re one of those people I consider to be truly terrific!

simply the best greeting card
If you get this card from me you’ll know I really mean it!
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My custom cartoon portrait process

Custom cartoon portrait process

I’ve been doing a lot of custom cartoon portrait orders for cards and prints over the last few years. People just seem to love seeing themselves and others in cartoon form! Read on to find out how I go about creating my stick figure portraits step by step…

First steps

When I get an order for a cartoon portrait card or print the first thing I do is get in touch with the customer to ask them to send photos and find out if they have any preferences regarding outfits, etc. If the photos show anyone both with and without glasses or a beard then I’ll double check which version they want. (I did once get two photos of someone’s Dad for a personalised birthday card which both showed him with a beard, and I was only when I sent the first proof that she told me he no longer had a beard… in a tone that seemed surprised I didn’t know this…)

Once I have the photos and other information I need to get started I open up my sketchbook and get started.

Layout of each custom cartoon portrait

I begin by very roughly sketching stick figures on the page in the positions and poses I want them in. This is helpful for getting proportions right in even one person portraits but is especially important when I’m doing larger family portraits for making sure they’re balanced. Check out this example from a family cartoon portrait I worked on recently:

Custom cartoon portrait layout
This sketch shows roughly where each family member will be in relation to each other.

I sometimes send this to the customer to check they’re happy with the layout, but usually only if there are at least four people in a family portrait.

Filling in the detail

The next step is to start working on each person’s head, working from the photos. This is the most important bit to get right in order for the customer to recognise the real people from the cartoon versions.

Custom cartoon portrait heads sketch
Here I used pencil to draw the detail of each person’s head and try to capture their likeness

Once happy with that I’ll move on to the bodies and add in any props or pets. You can faintly see how I draw the bodies and clothes around the original stick figure sketches.

pencil sketch of family
This example shows the pencil sketch once finished

I try to make sure I’m completely happy with this step before I move on, as it’s much easier to draw with pencil than to edit digitally later on. When I’m content that I’ve captured each person’s likeness I’ll use my Tombow brush pens* to go over the pencil in black ink. If necessary I’ll use my Derwent Graphik line maker pens* for any very fine details before rubbing out the pencil marks.

Inked sketch
This shows the inked version in my sketchpad – ready to scan in

Digitising the sketch

The drawing is now ready to scan in. I use the ‘Text’ setting in black and white to get the sharpest outlines I can. I leave the image rasterised rather than converting it to a line drawing as otherwise some of the detail can be lost and it also looks less hand drawn.

Custom cartoon portrait scanned
Here’s what the digital image looked like once it was scanned in

At this point I leave my pens and pencils behind and do all the rest of the editing digitally. I sharpen up the contrast and remove any marks that have come through on the scan but shouldn’t be there. I also fix any slips or mistakes I may have made in the inking stage.

Time to add colour! All the colour is digitally added, to make it easier to make any colour changes if the customer asks for them. I send a first proof to the customer to get their feedback once I’m happy with the digital image and colours .

cartoon portrait sketch first proof
Here’s the first proof I sent to the customer with colour added

Final edits

A lot of the time the customer accepts the first proof. However it also often happens that they ask for colour changes or realise that the photo they sent showed an older hairstyle, facial hair or glasses.

In the example above I’d been given instructions for outfits of two of the family members but omitted to check what the others should wear and did my own thing. This was foolish of me… In this case the customer felt that the two figures in orange and blue were too casual looking in relation to the rest. As a result I needed to digitally redraw these two outfits. (She also asked for a few colour changes but these are very easily done.) I’m now trying to ask more questions and get as much detail as possible before starting. This is much easier than having to edit digitally later, and I’m hopefully getting better at remembering to do this!

The finished product – how this custom cartoon portrait turned out

Once I’d made these edits and send a second proof the customer was very happy with her family portrait. I’ll always keep going until the customer is completely satisfied with what I’ve created! Here’s the finished product:

The final cartoon family portrait as sent to the customer

She also asked me to sign the portrait as she said I should get credit for my artwork, which I thought was really lovely of her! I’ve also done quite a few other cartoon portraits for her, so despite my mistake she remained a very loyal customer 🙂

So that’s my process! I love doing custom cartoon portraits. They result in me having a lot more interaction with my customers than I do with ready to ship orders that are just printed and posted off. Some really terrific customers come back again and again and I’m always so pleased to hear from them when they ask for another custom cartoon portrait for a new occasion.

Take a look at the range in my shop to see examples of all the different custom cartoon portrait cards and prints that I offer.

* These are affiliate links, which means that if you click on them and buy I will get a tiny commission on that product – it doesn’t cost you anything though! And I only add affiliate links to products I actually like and use (of course).

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My greeting cards online shop has launched!

Greeting Cards Online Shop

I’m so excited to tell you that my new greeting cards online shop has now launched! It features my custom cartoon portrait collection and is also now the only place you can get your hands on my collection of music themed cards.
Some of my lovely VIP subscribers have already done some early bird discounted shopping to test the site, I’ve fixed a couple of typos and bugs and everything seems to be working as it should so I can’t wait for everyone else to see it now 🙂

If you can’t wait either you can go straight to or click on Shop in the menu to check it out right now.

So what can you expect?

Cartoon Portrait Collection

Custom Cartoon Portrait Cards
This includes custom cartoon prints as well as greeting cards for a wide range of occasions, from birthdays to anniversaries and for all the good people in your life – mums, dads, your special squeeze, friends and more. This range is all custom drawn from photos you supply so they are completely one of a kind and as personal as you can get. And who wouldn’t love to see themselves in cartoon form?

Check out the Cartoon Portrait Collection now…

Music Themed Collection

Music Themed Greeting Cards Online
These are an online exclusive in my greeting cards online shop. You can’t get them anywhere else unless you see me in person (and that’s not happening anytime soon in the current situation!) This is a range of stick figure cartoon portraits of bands and singers, with something for all sorts of music tastes – great for any music fans you need to get a card for! They cover a decent range of different celebrations too, and some are versatile enough to be used for more than one type of occasion.

Take a look at the Music Themed Collection now…

Greeting Cards for All Occasions

Fathers Day Cards
As well as particular collections you can also search by occasion – currently divided into Fathers Day CardsBirthdays, Wedding & Anniversary and Other Special Occasions. There are funny cards, soppy cards and of course custom cards that say exactly what you want them to.

Safe Shopping for Greeting Cards Online

You can pay securely by credit or debit card when buying from my online shop as is protected by an SSL certificate. (You can verify this as in your browser bar you can see that the website URL begins with https:// and has a small padlock next to it to show that it has been secured. SSL is used to secure credit card transactions, data transfer and logins, so that you know your information will be safe when shopping.) Transactions are processed by Create Payments via Worldpay, a well known payment provider.

Check it out now

If you haven’t taken a look yet, what are you waiting for? Head to to check it out, and I’d be thrilled if you’d let me know what you think – any feedback is very welcome.

And don’t forget – if you sign up as a VIP subscriber you will get great discounts off future collections as well as 15% off in my shop at any time. You’ll also get a cocktails printable completely free. Sign up now!