I love sending mail ???? LOVE IT. In fact I was just joking with one of my friends this week that a stranger could smile in my general direction on the street and I’d think “ooh I should send them a card..”. I love the feel of a little envelope all packaged up and ready to go, I love buying stamps, the short drive to the post office…are you rolling your eyes yet? Well even if you don’t love sending mail as much as I do, my guess is that you’ll at least at some point in your future buy a card and give it to someone. Either way, why not spruce up the outside and make it more special for the recipient? The best part? I didn’t spend many many hours studying letter shapes to create these. If you’ve got paper and a pencil you’re pretty much ready to go.
Here are the basic materials I used to style my envelopes.
- A template: this is a great chance to explore all those fonts you haven’t found a use for before. Or in my case, fonts that I don’t get to play with in my everyday design life. Simply type out your friend’s name or family name in a font of your choosing (favorite font sites: creative market, lost type, graphic river, dafont). For this process, using a larger size font is much easier and will produce a better end result. Print it out on a piece of normal printer paper and cut around the text. Printing in a bold color makes it easier to see where you’ve traced already.
- “Transfer Paper”: You could go out and buy some type of carbon transfer paper, or you can do what I did and make your own by heavily shading a scrap piece of paper that’s a little larger than your template. This worked for me every time, even on dark envelopes.
- Pencil, sharpener, and eraser: Mechanical pencils will mostly work fine for this, but I preferred using a classic No.2 because I was able to make my transfer paper more quickly and was able to push down harder when tracing over my template without worrying about breaking lead. The eraser is to remove pencil marks at the end, but beware that erasing over the paint markers (mentioned below) can be a little iffy. I found that the metallic markers covered nicely enough that I didn’t even worry about erasing pencil marks.
- Ink Pen: For finalizing your beautiful letters.
- Extra paper: For protecting your envelope from smudges and oils from your hands.
- An Envelope
If you find yourself going absolutely nuts over this process (like meeeee????) then it can be fun to invest in some different types of pens and markers to further decorate your envelopes. Starting from the left I have two gel pens (gold one here, white one here), two Ticonderoga No.2 pencils, my favorite black pens (here), various acrylic paint pens (set of metallics can be purchased here), and of course, the classic sharpies (here). Don’t run out and buy these specific pens, there are lots of similar ones on the market, and a craft store near you may have ones better suited to you. The best way to find out is to buy a few and play around with them. In the long run they’re inexpensive investments.
When you’ve got all your materials gathered, start by laying your transfer paper face down on the envelope you’ll be decorating (tip: open the envelope flap so it doesn’t create ridges while you’re trying to trace).
Place your template on top of your face-down transfer paper and use a hand to anchor everything down. Using a sharp pencil begin tracing over your template, pressing down to ensure the graphite is transferring to the envelope. I used two pieces of scrap paper to guard my envelope; this helped keep my left hand from smudging my work and my right hand from leaving oils on the envelope from holding down my template and transfer paper.
When you’re all done tracing you’ll be able to see your transferred letters on the front of the envelope. From there it’s just a matter of inking over it with your pen! Again, use scrap paper to protect your work.
You could stop here and have a really special envelope to send some love to your friend in, orrr you could let your imagination wander and add some more pizazz.
Guys, it only gets better from here. Bring in paint markers, metallic pens, gel pens, and a little creativity, and before you know it your mail will be the hippest in the mailbox. I definitely didn’t think I’d ever be typing that sentence. Here’s some more inspiration:
Aren’t you just dying to up your envelope game now? I know I’ve already thought of about 50 more ideas I want to try…happy snail mailing!
P.S. If you’re interested in learning how to do actual hand lettering (an incredible art that I’m continually in awe of), there are plenty of classes offered on Skillshare, and if you’re really serious about it Sean Wes (hand letterer extraordinaire) offers an unbelievable course for digging deep into lettering (here).