So you want to make a fake diploma eh?
There are many reasons why you may want to make a fake diploma for yourself or someone else. They can definitely be fun and unique gag gifts for a friend, family member or co-worker or just something fun to hang on the wall to make your friends do a double-take. Maybe you’re even an elementary school teacher just wanting to create some sharp award certificates for your students.
Whatever the reason is, this article will mainly focus on HOW it’s done and not why you might want to do so.
These days there are plenty of reputable websites (like this one) that sell extremely realistic looking, high quality novelty diplomas that can be delivered to your door in a matter of days for $100 or less. Should you not want to go that route though this article will explain how to make your own and the process involved.
Making your own diploma can range from moderately cheap and easy to extremely difficult and costly. This all depends on the design, how realistic you want it to be, how experienced you are with computers and graphic design software and what type of printing equipment you have access to.
First off, it probably goes without saying but you are going to need a good quality laptop or preferably desktop computer. If you are thinking you might be able to design a diploma on your mobile phone or tablet, just forget it.
Making the diploma template
The first thing you want to start with is designing the actual diploma template. This is the design, layout, wording, fonts, etc.
If you are new to this you might be thinking “I can just design this in Microsoft Word or Apple Pages right?”. The short answer is: “Good luck”.
There MAY be some pre-existing diploma templates for Word or Pages floating around out there on the Internet that you can even download for free but on the rare occasion we do see anything like this it just looks like blatant, generic junk (and I’m assuming that isn’t what you are going for if you are reading this article).
If you’re going to want your diploma to look even remotely realistic, we recommend first finding a good diploma design you like by maybe searching Google Images for “College Diploma” or for an image from a specific school, college or university you have in mind. At the very least, this will at least give you a good idea of the type of wording you’ll want to use as well as a general text structure and layout.
Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator can both be rather costly and intimidating if you have never used them before and you may find yourself spending a lot of time watching YouTube tutorials (here is a useful one for example) but with a bit of practice and perseverance it shouldn’t be TOO difficult to become proficient enough to create a decent diploma design in a fairly short amount of time… and as far as cost goes, you might even be able to find a free trial online as well.
Adobe Illustrator is actually best for the overall design, typography and layout but Adobe Photoshop can also be really useful depending on what type of seal design you want to use or create. Photoshop will also come in handy if there are any other graphics or images that you’ll be adding to the diploma, if you’ll be using signatures you found online or from an image or picture, etc, etc. More on that later though.
Most computers these days come loaded with hundreds or even thousands of fonts. Unfortunately, there usually aren’t too many diploma-style fonts you’ll be able to use though so you will most likely need to find and add some.
DaFont.com is actually a great resource for diploma-style fonts. Most are free and come with installation instructions as well.
Diploma seal design
Next up is the diploma seal design.
Recreating or creating a realistic looking diploma seal is most likely the most difficult part of this process. Depending on the type of diploma seal design you would like, this is where this can go from moderately cheap and easy to extremely difficult and costly.
Schools, Colleges and Universities use a wide variety and seal designs.
There are a few colleges and universities that still use seal designs that look and even feel like they were just printed on. Most however use embossed foil seals, flat hot foil stamped seals, embossed foil seals with an ink overlay or a combination of these.
Flat, Color, Printed Seals
If you are going the cheapest, easiest route you can probably get away with finding a high quality image of a specific seal on Google Images and simply pasting it on to the diploma you’ve created in Photoshop or Illustrator. If you are proficient enough with Photoshop or Illustrator though, you can also create one from scratch that may be convincing enough.
Embossed foil seals.
While there are some off-the-shelf options you can find, these generally all look extremely generic and are only fit for kindergarten “congratulations on learning how to spell your own name” gold star awards (one example).
The only real option is to have your own made.
This however generally requires creating a black and white design in Photoshop or Illustrator, converting it a .PDF, .JPEG or .BMP file and paying a company to either:
A) Craft custom embossing plates based on your design and send you the finished, embossed seals (most places like RubberDuckDesign.com have a 500 count minimum order for this and charge $300+ though) or
B) Craft custom embossing plates for you, mail you the embossing plates along with a hand embosser ($125+ from HittMarketing.com currently for one example) and you emboss the seals yourself using foil seals you purchase separately.
… just keep in mind of course that if you are trying to pay another company to create custom embossing plates for a seal you want to have created and it’s a seal design from a real school, college or university, unless you work for that specific school and can prove it, they are almost certainly going to laugh and reject the order.
Multi-colored, embossed foil seals
If you’re willing to pay the money and look around long enough, you may be able to find a company or two willing to produce custom, multi-colored embossed foil seals or foil seals with an ink overlay (both of which basically come as custom embossed stickers) but minimum order for something like this is usually 500 prints for around $400+
Flat-fused foil seals
There are some places where you can find hot foil that bonds to printer toner/ink with an everyday clothes iron or specialized heating tools but from our experience they just don’t work. Especially on thicker card stock / diploma quality parchment paper. Unless you are willing to invest in a commercial-grade hot foil stamping machine, I wouldn’t consider this a viable option.
Diploma parchment paper
The type of diploma paper you choose is a very important factor.
Most schools, colleges and universities use around a 65lb-80lb. parchment/card stock. Color however can vary quite a bit from bright white to natural tan and even shades of grey. You can find decent quality diploma paper at many local office supply stores but for the best selection one of our favorite sources for diploma paper is French Paper Co. Especially if you would like to create a diploma in a larger “tabloid” size (11″x 14″) or a foreign paper size (usually 8.5″x 14″ or 11″x 17″).
Pro tip: Ehhh… maybe avoid the Kinkos when it comes to actually printing your diploma. If you’ve done a good job so far, they might think you’re up to no good and not be very willing to help.
No problem though. Printer technology has advanced greatly over the past couple decades. These days most mid-range off-the-shelf color laser printers you can buy at a local electronics store (here is a good example) will get the job done if you are just making an 8.5″x 11″ diploma (the typical diploma size for most high school and Bachelor’s degrees).
For prints larger than 8.5″ x 11″ or if you need absolutely impeccable print quality you will need a more commercial-grade wide format color laser printer similar to the Ricoh IM C2500 we use to print a lot of our diplomas.
Either way, you definitely want a good quality laser printer. We highly recommend staying away from ink printers because they aren’t nearly as precise and the ink tends to bleed, especially when printing of heavy weight cardstock / diploma parchment paper.
The final step
Unless you decided to go with a flat, color seal that you already added to your diploma template and printed it along with the rest of the diploma, the last step is usually adding the embossed seal and possibly handwriting whatever signatures you would like on the diploma.
If you would like to add a couple extra finishing touches to it, you can usually also find security holograms online for around $50+ (they usually come in rolls of 100+). A good quality diploma cover or diploma frame can really be a nice touch as well.
Thanks for reading and remember… if you do use any of the information here to make your own diploma, it is strictly for fun, novelty uses only. Not for use on job applications or anything else deceiving or nefarious. Don’t get yourself in any trouble and enjoy. 😉