Making holiday cards is easier than ever

HP Labs debuts an all-new version of

By Simon Firth

Call it a festive test bed, perhaps, or research project that’s also a gift to the rest of us.  But this holiday season, HP Labs is once again offering, a website that lets anyone create and print unique, customized holiday greetings cards.

The service will take any pictures you upload to it, automatically select and edit the best of them and then arrange them into a holiday card of your choice.  You can then print, download or electronically share the finished card with friends.

Working in the background is innovative HP technology that pretty much guarantees that every card design you’re presented with will look great.  But what makes truly unique is how it instantly changes your card’s design as you add or remove pictures, or as you change the message you’d like printed on your card. 

This year the site has added several new design styles, each available in nine new fixed variations, each of which can in turn be almost infinitely tweaked.

Also new this year is a technique the Labs team has dubbed ‘multipass layout.’ This adds to many designs a layer of graphic elements, such as gift tags or cookies, that will shift in size and location as you switch between different layout choices.

“The technology in here is very subtle,” notes researcher Xuemei Zang.  “It’s actually quite difficult to do. I don’t think you’ll see anything like this anywhere else.”

Thanks to a partnership with HP Services in Shanghai, China, the software running has been completely rewritten for the new holiday season.  It’s also now deployed as a fully cloud-based service, making the site both scalable and more robust. 

While it’s a lot of fun to help people make great holiday cards, the site’s ultimate purpose is to help HP’s Printing & Content Delivery Lab fulfill its mission of creating content experiences that are both compelling and highly relevant, notes research manager Qian Lin. 

“We’re looking to create experiences through context and preference modeling and through innovations in content semantics,” Lin explains, “all of which we’re employing here.” 

Try for yourself.  You’ll need to create a username and password for the site, just so that you can upload your pictures to it and save or share your card designs once you are done.

Click here for a more detailed look at the technical innovations behind