Making your own postcards is an easy, creative way to keep in touch with friends and family. Make virtual postcards with family photos, or you can fashion a work of paper-craft art.
What Is a Postcard?
A postcard sent within the United States should be no lighter than 180 microns and no heavier than 400 microns. Usually, 200 microns is the lightest card that can be printed on a standard printer but some are capable of printing on heavier weights.
If you are sending a postcard from vacation, be aware that some countries might require multiple stamps to send mail to your home country. The stamps might also be an unfamiliar size or shape. It's a good idea to leave room for at least two stamps, if not more, on your template.
First, check local postcard regulations, either online or at the nearest post office. Qualifying postcards can often be sent for cheaper than a standard letter, but a postcard that is too flimsy may not be sent at all.
The USPS defines a postcard as: a card between 0.007 and 0.016 inches thick, with a rectangular shape. Its dimensions should be no less than 3.5 inches by 5 inches and no more than 4.5 inches by 6 inches.
If you absolutely must make something bigger or smaller than this, that's OK. But it will probably need to be sent in an envelope and may cost more than a standard postcard to send.
A postcard should usually be roughly rectangular and needs to be sturdy enough to pass through the postal system, but you can still play with the shape. Use paper-craft edging scissors to trim the sides of your postcard into zigzags, or make it look like a puffy cloud. Or, use a craft punch to cut out little hearts or stars, or make the edges of the postcard look like lace.
Using die cutting, punches, or edging scissors might remove more area than you expected. Planning the template first is a good idea. Always keep the final dimensions in mind.
Fabric can add an interesting texture to a postcard. If you are handy at sewing, make patchwork-style postcards. But even if you don't know your way around a needle, you can simply glue fabric onto a cardboard base and add "stitches" with a dark ink pen.
Postcards are already considered to be somewhat old-fashioned. If you want to play up this angle, consider using ink stamps and sepia colors, along with older calligraphy styles on your postcard.
There are many ways to make paper look older than it actually is, including burning the edges or soaking it in coffee or red wine. However, these methods can stress the card and make it weaker. If you use any of these methods for your postcard, it's probably better to use them on paper and then glue it to a cardboard base.
You have to work within the limits of time, space and postal regulations, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun. Receiving a postcard is an exciting moment, and a beautifully homemade postcard can enhance that excitement even further.
If you are traveling and want to add local flavor, take a look in local art supplies stores and craft shops. They often have stamps or craft punches with native plants, animals, or landscapes, or locally made paper and craft embellishments.
One classic postcard style includes multiple images of different sizes, fitted together in the same rectangular area. A variation of this can be a way to fit different embellishments onto the same postcard without making it too busy.
Cut out a sturdy, colored cardboard base for your postcard. Use cardboard slightly thinner than your intended final weight; the glue and embellishments will add bulk.
Figure out what you want to include on your postcard. You will need the majority of your embellishments to be either square or rectangular. Vintage postage stamps are an ideal shape. You might also use stickers, small printed photos, or ink stamps. Include some patterned sheets of paper or fabric in your supplies that can be cut into shape to fill any gaps. Don't use anything too bulky or anything that will protrude from the postcard.
Arrange your embellishments without securing them, so they fit together nicely on the postcard. Leave roughly the same amount of space around the edges of each embellishment. They shouldn't be touching each other, but they should look similar in design to stained-glass window panels. You might find that you need to add more items or remove some to make everything fit nicely. Once you are happy with your composition, lightly mark their positions with pencil.
Glue the embellishments into place. Erase any pencil marks. Allow your postcard to dry thoroughly before writing on it or sending it.
Don't get too crazy with your embellishments. Save the delicate paper art, dried flowers, loose glitter, or ribbons for greeting cards or parcels. A postcard needs to make it through the vagaries of different postal systems without the protection of an envelope. Anything that isn't securely fastened is going to be lost in transit.
Homemade Virtual Postcards
A good size for a postcard is around 4 by 6 inches. If you are using printed photos, most image-editing software should have an option to select an area with a particular aspect ratio.
Decide on and measure out the base of your postcard first to ensure that it won't need to be cropped later on. A postcard is defined by its size, so it's important to stick to this limitation.
A postcard doesn't need a formal template on the back, but it can be useful. It will ensure that you remember to include everything necessary to send the postcard through the mail. Templates are available online, or you can easily design your own. Include space for stamps, the destination address and your message to the recipient.
Remember that the space for the address should be on the right. Don't try to make it too fancy or complicated.
Make sure you mention in the email that you've attached a postcard. It can be easy for people to miss an email attachment if they aren't expecting one.
Some examples of free online image editors
Virtual postcards can be made for free online and sent by email without the need to visit a post office. This can be a good way to save time and money while on vacation, but still show the folks at home that you're thinking of them. You don't need any special software, as there are many free online image editors that you can use straight from a browser.
Pick a nice, clear photograph for your virtual postcard. If you can't find one you like among your own photos, look for public domain images.
One photograph can be enough, or you can play with several. Add your text and convert the image to a .jpg file. Your postcard is ready to be attached to an email.