If you’re learning calligraphy, chances are you’re eventually going to use your skills on an envelope address. And why not? Envelopes showcase calligraphy in a gorgeous way! However, you might hit a snag with calligraphy spacing; it can be difficult to make sure your lines are consistently stacked and centered. It’s a common problem, which is why I’m addressing it (no pun intended) in this blog post. Today, you’ll learn how to calligraph envelopes traditionally, as well pick up as some creative shortcuts you can take to cut your spacing time in half!
Traditional Envelope Spacing
The conventional ideal of envelope address beauty is a perfectly centered address with lines of calligraphy that are evenly stacked. It makes for a lovely, tidy effect — but, trust me, it takes some work to achieve! First, you need to decide what calligraphy style you are going to use for your envelopes. (I have chosen to use Amy Style.) Once you’ve figured out which style of calligraphy you are using, it’s time to determine how tall the capital letters and lowercase letters are going to be. That job is made easier by using the Amy Style Envelope Helper, which is included in the Amy Video Course. (This template could also work for Beth Style and Flourish Formal Style). You can see that I lined up the bottom of the envelope with a dashed line; that’s because it’s my intention to have the bottom of the last address line extend to the second solid line above my fingers.
You could, of course, manually measure out guidelines with a ruler, but it’s easiest if you either print out or DIY a template like this. In this template, the top solid line signifies how tall an uppercase letter will be. The bottom solid line acts as the baseline for the calligraphy. The middle line tells you how far up lowercase letters should go. You can see that there is an even amount of distance between every trio of two solid lines/one dashed line; that consistent distance will be visually pleasing when the calligraphy is made using these guidelines. (On another note, a parallel glider/”rolling ruler” makes easier work of the task of drawing guidelines; it rolls downward like a dream!)
Use a ruler to identify the center of your envelope, and draw a faint pencil line there. You’ll be using this as a reference to center your calligraphy. (Note that the pencil guidelines in the photos below have been enhanced using Photoshop in order to help you see them. Your guidelines should not be nearly as dark in “real life”! Otherwise, you will have issues erasing.)
Once your guidelines are drawn, you’ll want to write the first line of the address in pencil. Is this a tedious bummer? Pretty much … but, it will ensure that your calligraphy is perfectly spaced. If you are writing a few envelopes using the same style, you’ll be able to use this first envelope as a reference, and you won’t need to write anything out in pencil after this envelope (I’ll explain more about that here in a sec).
Once your calligraphed first line has been written in pencil, measure its width. My first line, which reads “Carlos Hernán Sotomayor”, is 6.5″ long.
If my first line is 6.5″ long, that means that in order to center the “inked” calligraphy, I need to start 3.25″ in front of the center line, and end 3.25″ behind the center line. (I got 3.25″ by dividing 6.5″ in half.) So: whatever the length of your calligraphy, divide that by two, and you’ll know where to start and end. You can see that I’ve drawn pencil guidelines so I know where to start and end my inked calligraphy.
Once your start and finish guidelines are drawn, you can start writing with a dip pen!
It’s important that you draw both the start and finish guidelines so you know if you need to add a little tail at the end to extend the line. You can see in the photo below that the “r” on “Sotomayor” didn’t extend as far as I had expected based off of my pencil calligraphy. That’s no biggie; I drew in a tail so that the last word extends as far as I want it to.
At this point, I like to use a little electronic trick. I open my word processing program, and I type in the address, making sure the justification is set to “centered”. It will look something like this:
Carlos Hernán Sotomayor
1245 Sumac Drive
Boulder, Colorado 80301
If I spatially compare the letters in the top line of my typed address to the letters in the second line, I can pretty safely guess that the “1” in the second line will start under the “l” in “Carlos”; and the “e” of “Drive” will end under the “a” of “Sotomayor”.
So, that’s where my next duo of pencil guidelines go! (If you use this method, you should double-check that the guidelines are a matching distance from the side of the envelope that each respective guideline is closest to.) Note that computer fonts will vary slightly; the original font I used to determine this spacing placed the end of the word “Drive” under the beginning of the “y” in “Sotomayor”.
For the third line, you’ll once again want to consult your typed version of the address.
I can see that the “B” of “Boulder” starts just a hair after the “C” of “Carlos” in the first line. The “1” in the zip code is under the “r” of “Sotomayor”. Based on that, I know where to draw the pencil guidelines for the start and end of the third line.
Once you calligraph that third line, you’ll want to erase the pencil guidelines. Be sure to erase gently, otherwise you may accidentally wrinkle the envelope; when you’ve been this careful to evenly space it, that’s a real tragedy!
When you’re finished erasing, the envelope will look polished and refined!
You may wonder how to avoid writing out the first line in pencil on subsequent envelopes in this style. I have a whole system outlined in Amazing Envelopes for a Latté, which can apply to any calligraphy style, really — but basically: you base your spacing off of the length of previous words you have calligraphed. For example, let’s say I’m addressing an envelope to “Kari Jones”. “Kari Jones” has nine letters in her name, so I’m going to count nine letters into the name “Carlos Hernán Sotomayor”, which I’ve already calligraphed. Based on number of letters, I can guess that “Kari Jones” will be as long as “Carlos Her” is. It’s not a 100% foolproof system, but it does work a lot of the time! The only way to make absolutely sure your spacing is perfect is to write out the address first in pencil.
Alternative Envelope Spacing: Left-Justified
I don’t mind creating calligraphy on a straight line, really; what I do mind is that darn centering. It’s a lot of math and measurement! If you can get rid of the centering aspect, then the task of lettering becomes a lot more fun. You can absolutely make a plain left-justified envelope; but having a little graphic on the left gives the recipient a visual reason why the text is left-justified. In the Halloween-themed envelope pictured above, the letter spacing complements the skull graphic by giving it some space to stand out.
To make this kind of envelope, you’ll start by putting a graphic on the left. It doesn’t matter whether that graphic is an illustration, a stamp impression, or even a little painting; as long as it looks cool, you’re golden! I chose to calligraph a skull using the lyrics to “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell.
Once your graphic is in place, use a pencil to draw a vertical line that separates the graphic from the rest of the envelope.
Next, choose the style of calligraphy you are going to use, and draw a guideline based on that style. (*The guidelines in the following photos have been enhanced with Photoshop; do not make your guidelines this bold!)
I am using the Flytrap Style from Hand-Lettering for a Latté, which is why I only have a top and bottom guideline. (Flytrap requires no middle guideline because it is an all-caps style.)
Next, you’ll draw a pair of guidelines for the second line. I am planning on writing in a much smaller, different lettering style (Sans Serif), so I have made guidelines accordingly.
Once your second address line is written, you’ll add a third line. I have chosen to use Kaitlin Style calligraphy, which only requires a base guideline since it’s such a loose, carefree style.
Even though left-justified envelopes don’t require any tedious centering or pencil drafts, they turn out great! (By the way, if you’re wondering about the delightfully creepy Addams Family “Thing”-esque hand, it’s from Pam Ash Designs.)
If you’re pressed for time, it’s not necessary to illustrate anything on the left. Feel free to decoupage! I cut the stately-looking gent below out of a vintage magazine and drew a couple of swirls around him. Then I left-justified the Janet Style address — instant time-saver!
No matter how you choose to implement this concept, it will make for an unconventionally amazing envelope that doesn’t cause a math-induced headache due to address centering! It’s one of my favorite ways to sneak around having to center addresses. 🙂
Alternative Envelope Spacing: Diagonal
I am at that age where a lot of my good friends are getting married, and the wedding gift they ask from me is invitation design … and matching envelope calligraphy. I am happy to comply, but I ask that they let me calligraph using the diagonal method because it saves me a lot of time. This technique takes advantage of left justification, but it does so in a way that does not require any illustrations to supplement the calligraphy. To create it, you’ll rotate your envelope on a template (the template shown is from Amazing Envelopes for a Latté) and use the lines on the template to draw diagonal pencil guidelines.
The photo below offers a better visual explanation! There’s no exact angle measurement for rotating the envelope; you can rotate it to the angle that suits your personal preference.
Once the guidelines are drawn, you’ll use them to write your calligraphy. The first letter of every address line will start around 1/4″ (~1/2 cm) from the edge of the envelope.
Once you write the calligraphy and erase the pencil guidelines, you’re finished!
This concept is pretty simple; and though I like to use it for events, it’s just as fun to implement in casual mail art, like in the Janet Style envelope pictured below. Check out all that extra space that the calligraphy gives you for fun illustrations!
Alternative Envelope Spacing: Wavy
The wavy calligraphy technique is really only super-simple if you’re using Kaitlin Style calligraphy; otherwise, it requires a lot of guideline drawing! To make it, you’ll draw one wavy guideline, then draw another, parallel (you can eyeball it) line just shy of an inch (~2.5 cm) underneath it. Draw a third parallel guideline under the second guideline. If you’re working on a darker envelope like the one I’m using in the photo below, you may want to use a soapstone pencil (which makes an erasable white impression) to create your lines.
When I write using the Wavy technique, I generally put some “filler phrases” in there: “Please send to”, “At this house”, etc. I do that because it makes the lines longer and emphasizes the wavy script; however, it’s not necessary! You can make all the words longer by lengthening the connections between letters, like in the “Long” variation of Kaitlin Style calligraphy.
You can do the wavy style with calligraphy styles besides the Kaitlin; but it takes considerably longer. It’s time-consuming and tedious to draw 3-4 sets of three evenly-spaced guidelines. While a ruler helps, drawing these guidelines mostly requires a lot of guesswork!
However, once you start writing, you’ll be happy you put in the time to draw those guidelines. Janet Style calligraphy looks fresh and inviting when written on a wave!
The result is gorgeous, especially if you calligraph the “filler words” in a different color.
So — while I don’t recommend using the Wave technique using any calligraphy style other than Kaitlin if you’re looking to save time, it can lead to some exquisite envelopes if you want to put in the energy to draw guidelines.
I know that this blog post is jam-packed with information, so I want to leave you with two main points: first of all, envelope calligraphy spacing (and especially centering) can be tedious and boring. If you’re addressing envelopes, and you find yourself thinking, “Wow, I’d rather be doing XYZ right now instead of all this math and measuring,” know that you are not alone. The final, impressively polished-looking result makes it worth it! Secondly, vertical spacing (the distance between address lines) is pretty straight-forward. As long as you make sure the spaces between your lines of calligraphy are even, your creations are going to look fantastic!
If you have any questions or tips, please feel free to comment! I am happy to clarify anything, and I hope that this post benefited you!