My goal when calligraphing envelopes is to create a striking and original piece; something that is beautiful to behold. When I write on the front of an envelope and I believe I have achieved this goal, I groaningly remember: “I need to write a return address.” I then go through a little bit of hand-wringing as far as how I can possibly write a return address that measures up to the carefully crafted “send to” address. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a universal problem, so in today’s blog post, I thought we could go over a few ways to make the back of your envelope just as pretty as the front!
While the US post office encourages writing return addresses on the front of your envelopes, I haven’t done so in years, and have not encountered a problem. However, if you’d rather be on the safe side, you could adapt most of these return address design suggestions to look nice on the front of your envelope. (I know that in the EU, writing the return address on the back is standard … and I’m not sure about other countries. I’d love to hear what your country’s return address standard is in the Comments section of this blog post!)
1. Elegant Return Address
Believe it or not, this is a fantastic go-to when you want to write something elegantly yet efficiently. To make it, you will line up the top of your envelope (mine is “Chocolate” from envelopes.com) with the bottom line of the first trio of guidelines on the “One Name” envelope template from Amazing Envelopes for a Latté. If you don’t own AEfaL, you can, of course DIY some guidelines based on what you see in the photos in this post.
Use the first trio of small guidelines on the sheet (and a ruler!) to make guidelines on the back flap of your envelope. If you are using a dark envelope, you might consider investing in a soapstone pencil. Soapstone pencils are great for writing on dark envelopes because they make blissfully erasable white guidelines!
Once your guidelines are drawn, you may start calligraphing your address in Janet Style! You can use the centering technique from the Envelope Calligraphy Spacing blog post to ensure your address is centered; or you can just “wing it”. If your calligraphy ends up being left-justified, you could always draw a flower or a little flourish to fill in that extra space. If your address is too long to fit on one line, you may use the Amazing Envelopes template to make a second set of guidelines! You’ll just line up your first set of guidelines on the envelope with the first small set of guidelines on the template, then use your ruler and the second set of small guidelines on the template to prepare another address line.
Make sure your ink dries completely, then erase! Be especially careful if you are using white ink like I am here; white ink is kind of like nail polish … you think it’s dry, and then you find out in the worst possible way that it is definitely not. I recommend erasing one line at a time, and instead of rubbing in long horizontal strokes, rub in short vertical strokes. Don’t press too hard! I’m using a black eraser, which doesn’t leave marks on dark papers, but to be honest I think you would be fine using a white eraser if that’s what you have on hand.
Once your ink is dry, you might consider adding a little flair to the back of your envelope. I like to use washi tape if I’m sending out casual mail because it makes the envelope a little less formal. However, if formality is your goal, a wax seal (or nothing at all) would be equally fantastic!
Once you’ve put on your little bit of flair, your chic envelope is ready to go forth into the world … and it will be able to make its way back, if need be.
(As a side note: I think Paper Source stocks the best washi tape; if you’re in the mood for a shopping spree, Paper Source is a great place to buy both envelopes [I like the “PS Collection”] and washi!)
2. Look at My Address! Return Address
It’s hard to look away from a return address written in this way! This technique is particularly well-suited to envelopes with pointed flaps; it’s lovely when flourishy calligraphy comes together to emphasize the triangle shape. (The envelope pictured is “Pool” from Paper Source.) I have heard of post offices becoming confused when the return address is as prominent as the recipient’s address, so I recommend that you start out this envelope with a lovely “From” to emphasize that the envelope has come from you!
The goal of this return address is to fill up the envelope flap with a flowy, modern script like Kaitlin Style calligraphy. Effectively, you’ll want to stretch your address as long as possible; write out words you would normally abbreviate, and feel free to add filler words like “at” (“at 123 Spruce Street”), “in [adjective]” (“in lovely Akron, Ohio”) “zip[code]” (“zip 12345″), etc. If words cannot fill the envelope’s flap, you can add some neat little flourishes.
Be sure to cross your letters like “t” and “A” with long, sweeping strokes!
This technique doesn’t require a lot of fuss; once you’re finished, you don’t have any lines to erase! Instead, you can get right to adding a fun bit of embellishment like a wax seal. (If you’re in the market for a wax seal, Nostalgic Impressions has a wonderful selection.)
I love the way the wavy, modern calligraphy interacts with a traditionally serious seal! In this envelope, the wax seal perfectly fills in the space at the bottom of the flap under the zip code.
Remember, you can fill in the space any way you want if you’re using this return address technique. You could draw stars, flourishes, roses, arrows … whatever! Anything you illustrate will complement the calligraphy.
3. Diagonal Return Address
This is a bold and non-traditional way to write your return address. Again, because it is so bold and pretty, I recommend starting by writing “From:” to avoid confusion at the post office! To make this return address, start by printing out a copy of the “Amy Style Envelope Helper” (included in the Amy Style Calligraphy Video Course). Line up the top right and bottom left corners of your envelope with the third dashed line in the Helper; this will work on any size or shape of envelope, not just a square! (If you do not have an Envelope Helper, feel free to DIY guidelines based on the photos below.) Note that this is a 5″x5″ square envelope from envelopes.com in pink, but it appears they discontinued the color!
Use the third trio of guidelines in the helper to make lines on your envelope.
After you’ve drawn in your first trio of guidelines, go ahead and use the fourth trio of lines on the template to make yourself an additional set of guidelines as pictured below! You’ll need two pairs of guidelines on your envelope to write the city, state, and zip code.
Use the top set of guidelines to write your street address. Ideally, you want to fit it all in, so feel free to abbreviate if you need to!
Use the second set of guidelines to write your city, state, and zip code.
Erase your guidelines …
… And you will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind return address!
You may be wondering about the shiny black ink — it almost looks wet, right? That ink is a shimmery concoction that I have been loving lately: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Iridescent! (So far, the black is my favorite.) Look for it in this weekend’s TPK giveaway on Facebook and Instagram!
4. Unassuming Return Address
This return address style is appealing because it’s simple and understated. There’s also a time-saving trick to making it, which means that if you have a lot of envelopes to calligraph, this is a good choice! Begin by calligraphing the return address on a sticky/post-it note. Make sure you at least partially calligraph where the adhesive part on the back of the note is; you’ll want your post-it to stick.
Next, cut out the calligraphed part of the post-it.
If the second line of your address is not centered, draw guidelines to show yourself where the second line should start/end. You can see in the photo below that I need to scooch my return address over to the right a bit.
Now, center your newly-created return address template on the back of an envelope. This technique will work for envelopes with pointed flaps and square flaps alike!
Mimic what you see on the post-it in the space above your little template. The template will guide you by letting you know how long your calligraphy should be!
Move your template down a little bit, and use the guidelines you drew to calligraph the second address line.
Remove the post-it, and you’re done! No erasing required.
I like using the post-it method because it helps with length and it creates a little guideline so you can make sure your calligraphy isn’t climbing up too far (or down too far)! I find that it works best with Kaitlin Style calligraphy, but I have also used this technique with tiny Amy letters and had good results. In case you’re wondering, the ink is Dr. Ph. Martin’s Iridescent in Crystal Mint. While the color looks nice in the photos, it is much more impressive in person!
Even though I’m all about writing return addresses on carefully crafted mail art, if I am addressing several envelopes at a time (e.g. for an event), I’m not too keen on writing a return address umpteenth times. If you feel the same way, there are some shortcuts you can take!
1. Use an Address Embosser
Having a custom embosser created is easy; first, you’ll order the embosser on Amazon. Second, send a note to the seller detailing which font you wish your letters/numbers to be written in, provide the exact wording you want on the embosser, and ask to see a proof before production. If you want to take your embosser design to the next level and you are familiar with using Adobe Illustrator, you can submit your own PDF file to any of the sellers on Amazon. I have successfully designed embossers utilizing calligraphy and even simple illustration! As long as you keep in mind what the impression will look like, make the file the same size as the embosser plate (1″x2″ rectangle, 1-5/8″ round), and ensure the file is a vector file, you are good to go!
2. Order Stickers
If you have an understanding of Photoshop or a comparable program, you can design your own return address sticker! I get all my stickers printed off at Zazzle.com; you simply upload a .jpg file, choose how many you want, and they’re at your door within a few days. That said, I completely understand not being comfortable using a design program, and if that’s the case, you might consider ordering pre-made stickers. Either way, stickers are an efficient and visually compelling way to make your return address accessible to both your recipient and the post office.
3. Order a Return Address Stamp
The photo above is of a stamped RSVP envelope, but of course you can order smaller stamps and use them to put your return address on outer envelopes. To design a stamp, all you need to do is produce a black and white .jpg file that has the same dimensions as the stamp you want to order. Then, go to a site like rubberstamps.net, select your stamp, and upload the file! You can use any computer font to make your stamp. If you’re wondering how to make a calligraphed stamp, that’s something I am planning on including in an upcoming video course over how to digitize calligraphy. 🙂
I hope that this blog post has inspired you to add some fun personality to your return addresses! Snail mail is especially important around this time of year as holiday cards and seasons greetings are being exchanged, so I thought this blog post might be helpful! Thank you for reading, and we’ll meet again on Friday evening/Saturday morning with a blog post announcing the release of the Kaitlin Style Calligraphy Video Course. 🙂