How to Make a Sympathy Card for Free: Step-By-Step


While a quick trip to the store will reveal endless sympathy cards, these can often feel sterile or like the wrong fit. Making something yourself truly comes from the heart. This shows you’re thinking of someone in his or her time of need. Better yet, making your own sympathy card allows you to put your own special touch into your design and message. 

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However, what do you do if you’re not artistically inclined? Thanks to today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to make a sympathy card no matter your skill level or tools. Not only is this affordable (or free), but it’s a special tribute to someone you care about. We all need sympathy messages from time to time, whether we’re experiencing heartbreak, grief, or loss. 

With that in mind, how do you make a sympathy card that really stands out? The reality is easier than you might think. In this guide, we share why you should make a handmade sympathy card as well as how to begin on your own. 

Why Create a Handmade Sympathy Card?

First, why should you make a handmade sympathy card? It’s sometimes easier to buy a pre-made card at a store, but these might not be right for you. There are a lot of valid reasons to consider a handmade sympathy card versus another option from the store. For example:

  • Convenience: There are some items when you don’t have access to card stores or retailers that provide sympathy cards. This means you have to get creative to get your message across. 
  • Time: Similarly, you might be in a time crunch. If someone experiences a sudden loss, it’s important to deliver your message in a timely manner. 
  • Compassion: Sympathy cards should come from the heart. When you take the time to create something yourself, it makes a huge difference. 
  • Messaging: Sometimes the store-bought cards simply don’t have the right visual or message. If you have something specific you want to share, you might have more luck making the card yourself. 
  • Affordable: Lastly, making a sympathy card is affordable. With store-bought cards ranging anywhere from $1 to $9, you could easily spend more than you wish to on a pre-made card. On the other hand, you likely already have all the supplies you need at home to make your own card from scratch. 

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a professional crafter to make a stand-out card. While you can find amazing inspirational designs online, you can also create something entirely unique. When you put the time into crafting a meaningful message, your recipient takes notice. 

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What Do You Need to Make a Sympathy Card?

Now that you know why people choose to make their own sympathy cards, how do you get started? What supplies do you need? As mentioned above, you likely have most things already in your home. There are two main ways to create sympathy cards yourself. You can either create one with physical supplies or build one on your computer with a digital tool. 

Physical card:

  • Card stock: First, you need some form of card stock. This should be a thicker, high-quality paper so it holds up. 
  • Scrapbook paper: Though optional, scrapbook paper is a colorful, patterned way to add some design to your card without having to freehand any artwork. 
  • Scissors: Depending on your design, you might need to cut different pieces of paper, messages, or the card stock itself. 
  • Pen: A pen or some type of stationary is needed to write your message, sign the card, or add any finishing touches. 
  • Envelope: You might also need an envelope to mail your card. The exception is if you’re dropping it off to your recipient in person or sharing a sympathy gift

Digital card:

  • Digital graphic design tool: You will need some form of design tool or template. This can be a free platform like Canva or a paid software like Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop. 
  • Card stock: Again, you will need cardstock to print your card. You’ll want this sized appropriately for your template or design. 
  • Pen: Even if you print your design on card stock, it’s still considered proper etiquette to sign your card by hand. This adds a personal touch. 

No matter which method you choose, it’s easy to get started. If you have a few pre-made sympathy cards in advance, you’ll always have something personal to choose from when the time does come. We can’t predict emergencies, but we can choose how we respond to them. 

Create a Sympathy Card Step-by-Step

Now, you’re ready to start making your own sympathy card. Take your time with this process to make sure your card looks great. You want it to look thoughtful and put together. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s always the thought that counts. 

Step 1. Plan your design

Before you begin, it’s a good idea to plan your design. You can do this digitally, on paper, or however it makes sense to you. However, you don’t want to rush into your design right away. Looking at sympathy cards online is a great way to find inspiration, but don’t be afraid to try something entirely new. 

Step 2. Create the background

Next, build the background for your card. This can either be a piece of cardstock around 5” by 4.25” or a digital design. You’ll want to consider how your on-page elements will fit within this background. Use a ruler to size it carefully, making sure there are no misshapen edges. 

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Step 3. Add design details

After you're satisfied with the background, it’s time to add additional elements. These other elements should help communicate a message of peace and compassion. You can choose anything you want, but most sympathy cards have some combination of the following:

  • Flowers
  • Birds
  • Family photos
  • Hearts
  • Inspirational quotes 
  • Nature images

Having a theme for your sympathy card is the best way to keep everything looking cohesive. You don’t want your design to be too cluttered, but you also want to make it clear that this is a sympathy card. 

Step 4. Leave a message

Once you’re ready, include a message on your card. There are a number of messages to choose from. While “I’m sorry” is the most common, don’t feel limited to this. Try to take the time to express how you feel in your own words. Some examples for a sympathy card include:

  • “I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. My thoughts are with you during this time.” 
  • “Dearest friend, I am sending you endless compassion and sympathy. You will get through this.” 
  • “Though I know challenges are ahead, remember I am always with you in spirit. Let me know if you need anything.” 

You can write your message by hand or type it using a computer. No matter what option you choose, make sure your writing is free of spelling and grammar errors. From there, sign your card and seal it in an envelope. 

Step 5. Deliver your card

Last but not least, deliver your card to the recipient. This is the most special part of the process. It’s when you finally show off your hard work. You can mail your card through the post, or you can attach it to one of these condolence gift ideas. 

Remember, it’s always the thought that counts most of all. While having a thoughtful, beautiful design is always a meaningful gesture, your card will be special because it comes from you. Messages from the heart are always worth holding onto. 

Free Sympathy Card Templates

With that in mind, let’s explore some of the best sympathy card templates that you can use for free. These are a source of inspiration, and you can even download them to use yourself. In today’s world, you shouldn’t have to worry about paying an arm and a leg for sympathy cards. Luckily, you don’t have to. 

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The free design platform Canva has a wide range of sympathy cards. You can create a free account to save your designs, and you’re welcome to use any of their templates. These are easy to customize no matter your comfort level with graphic design, so they’re a great option. 

Adobe Creative Cloud

If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud membership, you can use their free templates to design cards of your own. These are designed with the latest graphic design trends in mind, so you always get something amazing. While you’ll need a paid membership to download your card without a watermark, this is still a free tool for all. 

Microsoft Office

Next, you can always use Microsoft Office or Publisher to design cards. Though this is a simpler program, it’s something most people are already familiar with. These designs are simple enough that you can replicate them on your own if you wish. Soon, you’ll be a digital design pro. 

The Spruce Crafts

Lastly, the digital magazine The Spruce Crafts has a number of free sympathy cards. Anyone can download and print these, and you’re free to update or customize them as you wish. Designed for a number of different sympathy topics, the Spruce has a variety of downloadable cards for everyone. 

Say ‘I’m Sorry for Your Loss’ with a Custom Card

Ultimately, there’s something special about taking the time to create something by hand for someone else. No matter your skill level, it’s never been easier to make a card that’s meaningful and important. Though you’re always free to purchase a card, it’s good to know all of your options. 

Whether someone is facing a recent loss or a sudden illness, let them know you’re thinking of them. Dealing with a new challenge is often isolating. You want your loved ones to know you’re always thinking of them, especially in their moments of need. How do you take the time to honor those you love? Even small acts of kindness make all the difference.

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