Most calligraphers eventually decide to take on an envelope addressing project, usually at the request of friends or family. When that day comes for you, look no further than this article! In it, we’ll talk about ten steps you can take to ensure a smooth and streamlined envelope calligraphy process.
There is one fundamental truth about learning calligraphy. That truth is this: at some time, you will find yourself addressing envelopes for an event, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. When people find out you can create calligraphy, they’ll want you to help them out for weddings, parties, and more — and I hope you’ll oblige because it’s great practice! Today, we’ll talk about how to address envelopes that are consistent, eye-catching, and enjoyable to create.
1. Give Yourself Plenty of Time to Write the Addresses
Addressing envelopes will always take longer than you think. In theory, the task of writing out addresses doesn’t sound too time-consuming, but snafus invariably happen. Be prepared to re-write addresses because of misspellings, ink spills, or wonky spacing! Remember, too, that sitting and writing for long periods of time is tough on your body. Take breaks, keep an eye on your posture, and go slow to ensure that you don’t end the day with sore shoulders and crampy hands.
2. Choose High Quality Envelopes
Good paper is vital to successful calligraphy, so it’s important to ensure that your envelopes can handle a pointed pen and ink. If you can, order samples of the envelopes that you’re thinking about using. That way, you can get an accurate idea of how the ink reacts to the paper. If you don’t have time to order a sample, you should be safe buying from one of these merchants.
3. Order Extra Envelopes
When you’re addressing envelopes by hand, mistakes are a given. Make sure you have at least 25% more envelopes than you actually need because those extra envelopes are imperative! Similarly, it’s important to have extra nibs on hand just in case yours wears down.
4. Show Your Classy Side When Addressing Envelopes
If you’re addressing envelopes for a formal event, add titles to your guests’ names. Titles can get a little murky, so if in doubt, you can reference etiquette expert Emily Post.
5. Choose a Calligraphy Style That Reflects the Occasion
The envelopes that you address will set the tone for the event. For that reason, it’s important to choose a calligraphy style that properly communicates that tone. For formal events, I almost always go with Janet Style calligraphy. For bohemian/whimsical events (think weddings with an Anthropologie vibe), I use Kaitlin Style. For playful events, I generally prefer Amy Style calligraphy. Keeping an alphabet exemplar of your chosen style at hand will ensure consistent, confident calligraphy!
6. Know Your Ink
It’s okay to use ink that isn’t 100% waterproof when you’re addressing envelopes for an event. The prettiest inks aren’t necessarily waterproof or even water-resistant! Just be sure you “know your ink” before you commit to it for addressing. Write calligraphy on a piece of scrap paper. Then, after the ink dries, run your hand over it to check that it’s smudge-proof. If it is, spritz water droplets on it to see how the envelope will react to light rain. Knowing those two things will help you to choose your ink wisely!
Here are some inks that I love using for events:
Ziller – This is an excellent ink if you want waterproof results.
Iron gall – This ink is water-resistant and makes gorgeous hairline upstrokes. (I usually default to iron gall ink for addressing envelopes because it’s so easy to write with.)
Finetec Arabic Gold – Finetec is a watercolor, so it’s not water-resistant. Still, I’ve used it to address event envelopes without issue (because, really, if the calligraphy gets wet enough to run, your biggest problem is probably the ruined contents). If you’re nervous, though, waterproof your calligraphy.
Turquoise Bombay Ink – Turquoise Bombay ink has a lovely color and interesting gradation. It’s both waterproof and smudge-proof, as are most of Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay inks.
7. Make a Calligraphy Guidelines Template
You’ll need guidelines to write most calligraphy styles in an orderly, visually pleasing way. To this end, a guidelines template will come in handy! You can DIY a template (learn how in this article), find a free template here, or use the templates in the Marvelous Mail eBook.
8. Choose Your Justification
Traditionally, event envelopes have a center justification. Centering your calligraphy takes extra time, but it is a surefire way to give your envelopes an elegant look! You can learn how to center calligraphy in this article. If you’re short on time, consider addressing your calligraphy to the left. It might not look as polished, but calligraphy in any form is lovely, right? You can see examples of left, center, and right calligraphy justifications in this article (scroll down to subheading two).
9. Keep Yourself Entertained
Addressing envelopes for an event involves sitting still for a long time. While some people might prefer to address envelopes in silence, many of us need to “set the mood” in order to enjoy the envelope addressing process. For me, that means putting on a good podcast or audiobook, making myself a cup of tea, and stealing a square of chocolate now and then! All of those things combine to make addressing envelopes something that I look forward to as a relaxing activity.
10. Add Elegant Postage
Once you finish addressing your envelopes, you should add postage. Remember that a tacky postage stamp can detract from even the most stunning envelope calligraphy! Try to source tasteful postage stamps either from your local post office, your postal service’s website, or even eBay (for vintage stamps). You can click here for an article detailing where to find stamps and how to arrange them on envelopes.
After you’ve calligraphed all of your envelopes, triple-check that the addresses are correct. If possible, wait an hour or more after finishing your envelope addressing so you can look over all the envelopes with fresh eyes. Then, take them to the post office to send!
For more information about addressing envelopes, see:
An article with this title was published on May 12, 2015. The article was rewritten on August 10, 2021, to better reflect what I’ve learned about addressing envelopes since the original article came out!