DIY: How to Make Handmade Postcards

header

Snail mail is one of my favorite things to receive. There’s nothing like opening your mailbox and (after sorting through all the junk catalogues and bills) finding a letter from one of your best friends, or even a Christmas card from distant relatives. There’s a quality to handwritten mail (and postcards, short as they may be) that just can’t be surpassed with smart phones, Facebook, and tweets.

As far as postcards are concerned, they’re super easy to send and require much less effort than letters, but are just as wonderful to receive! In my experience, the funnier and shorter the message the better — the dull (and jealousy-generating) “We’re in Ireland, it’s so beautiful here! Miss you!” will never beat something hilarious or an inside joke. I’ve gotten some pretty funny postcards from friends, and I’ve saved every one.

Postcards are not only a great way to catch up with faraway friends you haven’t seen in ages, they are also super easy (and economical) to make — chances are you can create an endless amount of original and beautiful postcards without spending a dime. They’re fast, too, which means you can mess up over and over without wasting time or money, and you can perfect your postcards to a design you love. So, without further ado, here’s my guide to building gorgeous do-it-yourself postcards for friends and family!

1-supplies

Supplies

With just a few simple ingredients, you’ll soon be on your way to creating your own snail mail confections!

Some basics you’ll need:

  • 4×6 inch blank flashcards or 4×6 inch template
  • Cardstock — white is preferable, but you can experiment!
  • Scissors
  • Colored pens, pencils & markers
  • Metallic Sharpies
  • Mod Podge/glue (Mod Podge is really preferable because it acts as a sealant)
  • Glue brushes
  • Food coloring
  • Plastic disposable cups
  • Old magazines & newspapers

Optional but fun:

  • Colored ribbons
  • Needle & thread
  • Metallic paints
  • Watercolors
  • Sequins
  • Artists’ paper with various designs
  • Old photos
  • Old film
  • Fortune cookie fortunes
  • Anything else you can think of that could theoretically be glued to a postcard

I’ve separated the remainder of this post into two parts: I’ll start with the basics, then go over some more detailed instructions for the example postcards I’ve used here.

The Basics

Step One: Prepare your work surface. Since you’ll be working with glue and sharpies it can get a little messy, so you’ll want to put down an old newspaper to prevent getting any glue on your desk or counter. You’ll also want a plastic disposable cup with a little whatever to store your brushes in between dipping them in glue. Additionally, a few paper towels isn’t a bad idea.

step2 {Tracing a 4×6 postcard onto cardstock}

Step Two: Cut out a 4×6 piece of white cardstock, or glue two 4×6 index cards together (they tend to be flimsy, so you’ll want to reinforce them for the mail). When you add layers to your postcards they will also become thicker. Make sure the glue is even and get the corners! Be careful not to drip too much glue on the back because you won’t be able to write over it.

step3

Step Three: Prepare the back of the postcard by drawing a line down the center as shown (I prefer to draw mine a little to the right so I have more writing space) and then by drawing 3-4 perpendicular lines on the right for the mailing address. I just eyeballed these and used a ruler for a straight edge — don’t worry if they’re not all perfectly in-line. You can also make little designs on the back around the edges or just leave it plain. (And yes, that is my super cool presidential ruler, circa second grade.)

step5

{An example background made of magazine text blocks}

Step Four: Decide what you’re going to put on the front and gather the necessary materials. You can do a simple design or you can make a postcard from a specific place (I promise this looks cool regardless of whether or not you’ve actually been to Paris, Italy, or wherever). You can cut out magazine ads or words, draw something and cut it out to use, color directly on the postcard, or create multiple layers to your postcard using more cardstock (more on this technique later). Either way, I recommend gluing down a basic background first — whether it’s colored newspaper, shimmery art paper, or a magazine ad — to serve as the canvas for your design.

Step Five: Finish adding layers to your postcard. Give the entire front a coat of Mod Podge — this will act as a sealant and waterproof your design for any tumultuous experiences in the U.S. postal system. Important: do not coat the back. This will back it impossible to write on. Also, be careful going over colored pens — they may run.

Step Six: Write and address your postcard, pop a fun stamp on it, and send it in the mail!

designs

Specific Designs & Techniques

Here I’ll provide examples of some of the cards I’ve made and details as to how you can achieve the same result.

poetryne

Postcards from Magazines

One of the easiest ways to create postcards is to grab a stack of fashion or travel magazines, cut out one (or a few) of your favorite pictures and words and layer them — you can make a detailed collage or keep it simple, as I’ve done here.

For the New England postcard, I used a Ralph Lauren add and cut my own strips of cardstock to glue on top. This is an easy way to add text to your postcards without writing directly on the background. Finished with sparkly Mod Podge.

For the shoes postcard, I used metallic paint and a thin brush to paint over a Calvin Klein ad. If you find a simple image from a magazine, it is fun to add details to it using this method. I would recommend a metallic Sharpie for this — it is much more precise and easy to work with than metallic paint. Finished with a cut-out word and sparkly Mod Podge. Also: this postcard doesn’t make much sense, but I still like it. Point is — yours don’t have to make sense either. Just let your creativity lead you where it will.

butterfly

Incorporating Your Drawings

It is also possible to create your own drawings or designs (I recommend doing this on pieces of 4×6 paper or index cards so you have a rough idea of how they’ll look once transferred to the postcard) and make them part of your postcard. Colored pencil is also great because the colors won’t run, even if you liberally apply Mod Podge.

butterfly-process

For this butterfly postcard, I drew this butterfly freehand and colored it in with some pencils. Then, I cut it out with scissors, leaving a white border — you don’t have to leave a border, but it’s all about how you want your final postcard to look. I had already prepared a piece of 4×6 cardstock with colorful yellow and gold artist paper glued down as a background, and I simply glued the butterfly design on top. Finished with a thin metallic paint coat around the butterfly and a sparkly Mod Podge sealant.

fortune

Using Dyes

The main technique this particular postcard makes use of is the application of food coloring. You can get the same effect with pricey artist inks, but for the purpose of making basic postcards you really don’t need to be spending that kind of money. Food coloring is also great because it doesn’t dry out over night. I used neon food coloring to achieve the colors on my postcards; I imagine regular food coloring will come out slightly different.

dye1

For this design, I used an index card to paint the background before gluing it to another index card to form the whole postcard. You will want to make the painted part separately and let it dry first, because the food coloring will soak through. To make the inks, use a plastic disposable cup for each color of food coloring. Put in 10-15 drops and add very small amounts of water slowly. Use a brush and a spare index card to test the color — you may want it darker and thicker (less water), or lighter and more watery (more water). You can see the amounts I used for about 15 drops/cup above.

Next, simply use a brush to add color — don’t be afraid to let it get messy! I only used one brush, and I just dipped it in water before switching colors. Once the dye dried, I added a few splashes of gold paint and finished off the postcard with an old fortune cookie and matte Mod Podge.

fortune-back

As you can see, I added some details to the back of this card. In this case, I had gotten some splotches of paint on the back and didn’t want to glue a second backing on (although that is always an option, so don’t worry!). I just dabbed some gold paint over the mistakes and drew some swirly flowers over it with a thin Sharpie. Problem solved!

ny

Using Newspaper

The same food coloring method used for the previous postcard can also be applied to newspaper — simply open to a sheet of paper (preferably one with a lot of small print) and swipe on the dye. Let dry before cutting out and gluing on to your postcard.

newspaper

To complete this card, I colored over the newspaper with black Sharpie and did a more graphic design. This is a really easy method — you don’t have to make a “New York” postcard, but you can just doodle over the newspaper with Sharpie! To give the card a polished finish, I used the matte Mod Podge.

cairo

Postcards with Multiple Layers

Using multiple layers of cut out cardstock is a really easy way to add dimension and depth to your postcard and also maintain clean lines.

First, decide on the design you want and sketch out your layers on a 4×6 card (I’ve only used one extra layer here, but you could probably make something really awesome with a bunch). Skyline silhouettes often make good layers. Cut out your layer carefully and arrange over a second 4×6 index card — this will form your postcard. Color both the layers separately — for this design, I used a dark blue marker for the background and then colored in the top layer a light pink. I detailed both with blue ink and gold paint after gluing the layers together. Finished with a heavy coat of matte Mod Podge to keep the layers together and waterproof the design.

paris

Adding Embellishments

This multi-layer postcard uses the food coloring dye technique and is tied up with a pretty ribbon.

parisprocess

To create this postcard, I drew on a blank card with pencil and then black Sharpie/colored pens, and used a light coat of the dye over the drawing. I glued an extra layer above the drawing to frame it. To add a bow like the one here, first tie it from ribbon and then secure with a needle and thread. I know, I know…it’s a pain. But glue — even hot glue — is NOT going to hold up in the mail. after sewing the ribbon on, you can glue a new back onto your postcard to hide the knot from the thread.

paris-back

…Now all that’s left is to write a short message on your card and pop it in the mail! Your friends will appreciate it, especially now that you have a stack of gorgeous homemade postcards to send them. You can also try making more by printing out your favorite photos and gluing them to an index card — whatever you choose to do, the combinations for these are endless. So get writing!

writing

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post — please let me know your thoughts by dropping me a comment below!

Advertisements

2012: One Year, Ten Photos

In keeping with the WordPress Daily Post‘s weekly photo challenge, I present to you my 2012 in photos. Originally I wanted to do one for every month but, you see, my life is not exciting enough for that to make an interesting blog post. And since I tend to take photos in bursts at various unpredictable points around the year, it would also be unrealistic. But anyway, here the top ten highlights of my photographic wanderings this year:

0IMG_8712

Sheep | Okay, so I technically took this picture on December 31, 2011. Close enough, right? And practically one of the first shots of the new year. This sheep belongs to one of our family friends — they have a beautiful home tucked away in the woods, and lots of animals. I really tried to capture this little guy’s facial expression here.

0IMG_9093ec

0IMG_9345ec

Abu Dhabi | If you’ve been following this blog for a decent length of time, you’ll have seen these images — from my January trip to Abu Dhabi — already. (And if you want more, you can view all my photos here and here.) The first is a sunset above the desert, and the second is a image from the exterior of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The columns are decorated with gold leaf and precious stones from around the world, and border the entire structure. It is truly breathtaking, and the beauty — of both and mosque and the desert — is just overwhelming.

0IMG_0267

Washington, DC | A capture from the White House lawn during the annual White House Garden Tour — it’s a fun experience for the public, although the gardens themselves are not too exciting. The view is spectacular, though, and you can see clear through the Jefferson Memorial if you zoom in enough. It was a bit overcast; sorry about the exposure.

0IMG_1939

0IMG_2267

0IMG_1880

Morocco | These are just a few of many shots from my trip to Morocco this past summer, where I studied Arabic. It was a fantastic experience and by the end of it I barely felt like a tourist. (It’s especially rewarding when you can bargain in Arabic and avoid tourist pricing in the souks.) The first image is from the city of Meknes, the second is a beautiful riad in Fes, and the third is of Arabic writing on a souk wall — I thought the colors here were especially beautiful. Anyway, I’m planning on doing a big photo and culture post of my trip in the near future, so this is just a small sneak peek!

0IMG_0068

Plant | Just a random shot of a plant in our dining room. Not sure why I took this in the first place, but I think it’s really simple and refreshing.

0xmas

Christmas Desserts | Just a sampling of all the baking I did for our Christmas dessert party. Clockwise, from upper right: lemon cherry tea cookies, candied orange peels, baklava, and a chocolate orange tart with toasted almonds. All very delicious — the baklava and chocolate tart were especially popular. Hopefully I’ll have some recipes up soon!

0IMG_3406

The Puppy | Here’s your daily dose of cute. And proof that I have the cutest golden retriever in the world. He’s actually getting a bit old, but he still thinks he’s a puppy. Or a person — we haven’t really figured that one out.

These images, I think, adequately wrap up much of my 2012 in photography — of course there are many images I didn’t include, but I hope these photos paint a more varied picture. Here’s to a happy 2013 and a another year of photos.

Book Review: “The Family Fang” by Kevin Wilson

I was required to read The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson for college, and finished in just two days. Equal parts hilarious and touching, this novel has a great amount of depth and soul, with fully developed characters and an incredibly original plot line. Although a bit offbeat, I would highly recommend this book to anyone — it’s easy to read, but the prose is excellent and the story not one to be missed.

The novel, which alternates between past and present, centers around the Fang family — parents Camille and Caleb, and their two children, Annie (Child “A”) and Buster (Child “B”). Camille and Caleb are performance artists who seek to create chaos and, in effect, something that they call beauty. At one point in the novel, Caleb muses to himself:

“The act is not the art,” he told himself. “The reaction is the art.” (page 166)

Many of the public acts they commit are incredibly bizarre, only stirring up trouble and undoubtedly disturbing the people around them, whose spontaneous reactions the Fang art depends on (one such example: the book opens with a scene in which Camille attempts to steal a ludicrous amount of jelly beans from a candy store, with the intent of getting caught). In the flashbacks throughout the book, Caleb and Camille use their children as props in their pieces, often forcing them into strange and often dangerous situations all in the name of art.

The present-day plot focuses on Annie and Buster who, now adults, have to deal with the irreparable consequences of a childhood of forced participation in their parents’ art projects. Annie is a fairly established actress with a bad publicity streak and Buster, a struggling writer. After several unfortunate turns of events, Annie and Buster find themselves living again with the parents they haven’t spoken to in years. At this point, the novel changes pace — losing some of its earlier hilarity as the reader becomes more invested in the lives of its characters. Annie and Buster must confront their past again, and observe how their parents’ art has evolved since losing “A and B.”

There are many unexpected twists and turns in this novel, all of which reveal something deeper about the characters. Wilson has deftly crafted a story that is truly brought to life by its protagonists — a story which is entertaining and engaging on the surface, but also one which delves into moral issues underneath. It is soulful, witty, and packed with originality, while at the same time managing to be incredibly thought-provoking. This is a can’t-miss novel with a lot of heart, and I would recommend it to anyone.

{Source: Image from wilsonkevin.com.}

Abu Dhabi, Take Two

Sunset in the desert.

I just posted some photos from my visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque during my recent trip to Abu Dhabi, and am humbled and honored that my post was chosen for WordPress’s “Freshly Pressed” feature page. It has been such a whirlwind, and I want to thank everyone for taking the time to visit my blog and leave such wonderful comments. I read every last one, and they all make me so happy.

I also promised that I would post more pictures from my trip. These ones aren’t as organized, they are simply snapshots of some of the highlights/best photos I came out with.

On the first day we took a walk along the Corniche, a relatively new stretch of beachfront running along Corniche road. It was absolutely beautiful. Because it was winter in Abu Dhabi, the weather was quite temperate, in the high 70s (F), making it perfect for a quick trip to the beach.

Above is the view of the rising Abu Dhabi skyline from the Corniche. It was really interesting to see all the construction going on at the same time (if you look closely you can see the rightmost two skyscrapers are under construction). Also, sorry about the over-exposure on these; it was super bright out.

Good morning! The sun rises and sunsets in Abu Dhabi were so brilliant.

Just a few snapshots from the city…

I really like the detailing you can see in this shot.

The juxtaposition between the skyscraper and the minaret here really caught my eye.

Above is the Emirates Palace Hotel at night. This place is crazy — apparently, there’s a gold vending machine in the lobby. (There are actual videos of this on YouTube, I kid you not.)

Some more shots from the desert. This was my first time ever setting foot in a desert, and it was an unbelievable experience. I was simply blown away by it, and it’s difficult to put it all into words. It’s incredibly vast and expansive, and you can really feel that when you’re standing on top of a dune, soaking it all in. It is also a very peaceful experience. (Side note: climbing sand dunes is quite the workout.)

The sunset in the desert was stunning. That shade of pink is totally unedited. A closer look…

Beautiful.

You can see my first photo post about the trip here.

Photos taken by me, please request permission before use.

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

This is a photo set from Watch Hill, RI, taken last summer. I’m usually not a fan of oceans, sunsets, and beach shots, because they risk being terribly clichéd, but I thought these images fit in well with WordPress’s weekly photo challenge this week — “Peaceful.” Enjoy!

{Images copyright; please request permission before use.}