Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Thank You Cards for the Hardest Goodbye

Hello stencil friends! Nicole here, sharing a project that has been a bit difficult to create, because it’s so close to my heart. We said goodbye to our sweet kitty Grayson at the beginning of March. He was our buddy for almost 19 years. My husband found him at work, belly exposed basking in the sunshine at about six weeks old. It took a live trap and some hot dogs to catch him, and he never ate a hot dog again. 


Grayson was a legend. He played fetch, chirped at birds, kept us entertained, often sleeping with his belly up, and was the softest gray fluff ball with the cutest bean toes. He was never a lap kitty until the last year or so of his time here, and then he became my buddy. I spent hours each day just holding him. He is truly missed.

Since sending art in the mail is a gift I love giving others, I wanted to create special thank you cards for several people including his vets, friends who brought us much needed chocolate cake, sent flowers, and cared for us (and him) in his passing and over the years. 


Honoring him through my artwork brings tears to my eyes even as I write this. Honestly, this was my third attempt to figure out just what to do. I think (I hope) I got it right this time.


After all my other attempts, I decided to just keep it simple. My idea was to use his photo collaged onto some stenciled gel prints. As I began to plan and think about my concept, I decided to create papers in rainbow colors as a metaphor to the rainbow bridge poem about losing a pet. This metaphor soon reminded me how much Gray was our own rainbow, an unexpected gift that we never planned for.

Wiping away tears, I began to make the gel prints. I grabbed my 6x6 gel plate and cut white copy paper down to fit it. I also grabbed six different 6x6 stencils, one for each color. In the end, I added a seventh one as I needed to make some more red prints.

I set out a rainbow of my favorite paint to gel print with, Golden’s Open line, because it stays wet just a bit longer. The down side is that the prints take a little longer to dry (In other words, you need some extra table and floor space!).

I printed each color with the same simple process:

1. Brayer some paint onto the gel plate, sometimes mixing a couple different hues of the color

2. Place the stencil on top of the plate

3. Pull one print

4. Remove the stencil (place the wet side up off to the side)

5. Pull another print

I repeated the process using different hues or combos with the wet stencil face up for contrasting color. I also cleaned the plate and the stencil on papers for additional layering.


For each color, I switched to a different stencil. I also kept in mind the color order of the rainbow when choosing the stencil so I didn’t have two circle designs next to each other.


It's always hard for me to write out the gel printing steps and details, so I also added some commentary to the video tutorial. Check it out below:


While my papers were drying I picked out some photos and sent them off to the printers. I used a photo editing program to put 2-each of the same photo together on the 4x6 photo surface. This way my prints of Gray would be about 3x4 inches to fit on my 4x6 card front.


When all the papers were dry, I made rainbow stacks and picked out the right color values that went best together. 

This is when I discovered I was short a few red pages. So, I printed a few more reds with another stencil that I wanted to use anyway!

With all the rainbows complete and the photos picked up, I began to create the cards.


For the base of each card I used a 4x6 heavy index card. I ended up having five photos that I felt worked best for the cards, so I created five different rainbow patterns to fit each photo.


Since I wanted them to be whimsical and fun, I mostly used scissors to cut the papers and a paper trimmer when I wanted strips. Then, I used matte medium on the front and back of each paper to secure them to the index card. When the matte medium was dry, I trimmed off any excess paper.


Design One: rays cut from the paper

Design Two: a rainbow-like shape

Design Three: long stripes

Design Four: I used the triangles left over from the long stripes to make a pinwheel

Design Five: short stripes

I counted the cards and realized I needed a couple more. So, instead of tossing all the scraps into a bin to use later, I used them to create unique patterns on the cards. It was a puzzle to figure out.

My final steps were to cut out my Gray-kitty photos and attach them to the cards with matte medium. I used matte medium on the top of the photos as well to take away their glossy finish and secure them to the background.

Next, I used a tape runner to stick my card fronts to my gray cardstock bases. I also printed a little quote for the inside of my cards and lined the card with white paper to write on.


You can watch the cards come together in the video below!


I wasn’t so sure in the beginning, but I really love how these cards turned out and cannot wait for Grayson’s special friends to receive them in the mail.  


While I’m using these backgrounds to honor Gray, I think they’d be super cute without a photo, too. I could also see them with cut out kids photos, a stamped image, or bright summer florals. The possibilities are definitely endless.

I hope this inspires you to dust off your gel plate and create some simple prints, make some backgrounds and get your hands messy.


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  • 6x6 gel plate
  • White paper
  • Acrylic Paint (I prefer Golden’s Open line of paint.)
  • Brayer (or two!)
  • Photographs
  • Cardstock (for the card base)
  • Matte medium
  • Scissors
  • 4x6 Index Cards
  • Paper Trimmer


  1. What a wonderful way to memorialize your sweet companion. I sympathize and feel your loss. And these delightful cards are a good idea for any occasion. Thanks for sharing!

  2. thank you you so much! and, such a hard loss, thank you for the sympathy. - Nicole


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