• How to Choose the Best Envelopes for Calligraphy

    Today, you’ll learn about how to find the best envelopes for calligraphy. Whether you’re calligraphing for an event or sending some snail mail “just because”, this article will help you to make more informed buying decisions!

    Before we get started, I have a quick announcement. Tonight, the cost of TPK’s modern calligraphy starter kit will increase from $88 to $95. For more information, see Monday’s newsletter. Thank you!

    The price increase will take place tonight (Wednesday, December 6th) at around 9:00 PM MST.

    "How to Choose the Best Calligraphy Envelopes" written in sepia pointed pen calligraphy on a beige-colored envelope with a postage stamp collage

    There are two kinds of envelopes in this world: envelopes that lend themselves beautifully to calligraphy, and envelopes that don’t. Naturally, if you’re learning how to use the pointed pen and you want to use your skills for snail mail, you’ll want to make sure you have a few envelopes for calligraphy. The question, then, is how do you know whether an envelope won’t sabotage your calligraphy creation efforts? Today, we’ll talk about how to pick a good envelope every time.

    Properties of Great Envelopes for Calligraphy

    How to Choose the Best Calligraphy Envelopes | The Postman's Knock

    The first thing you’ll want to look at when purchasing envelopes for calligraphy is the weight. As a general rule, the thicker/heavier the envelope, the less likely your calligraphy ink will bleed when you create calligraphy on it. The adjectives that I’m using (“thick, heavy”) are subjective, so let me explain it this way: your envelope shouldn’t feel like it’s made out of everyday printer paper. When you flex it, there should be a little bit of resistance; it won’t feel flimsy.

    Intricate Teacup Envelope Art for "No More Boring Envelopes"
    In general, envelopes that are appropriate for calligraphy also do well with watercolor. I made this teacup envelope art on a white envelope from Cards and Pockets (more on them later!).

    If you’re buying online, it can be difficult to ascertain whether an envelope is high-quality or not. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to find out the weight* of the paper used to make the envelope. Some sites — like envelopes.com — share the envelope paper weight. Other sites play it coy with this information, and in that case, it’s a good idea to shoot them an email asking what poundage the paper is. Sturdy envelopes will be 70-80 lbs.

    *You can learn more about paper weight in the A Guide to the Best Papers for Calligraphy and Art article.

    Two Hours, Four Fancy Envelopes
    You can take a closer look at the designs and calligraphy on these envelopes here.

    Ultimately, it boils down to this: test, test, test! You should always try writing calligraphy on an envelope before you purchase multiples of that envelope. If the merchant you are purchasing from offers samples of their envelopes, take advantage of that! If not, buy a very small amount, and try writing on them. You can never know for certain whether an envelope is going to interact well with your ink or not until you try writing on it.

    Choosing Dark-Colored Calligraphy Envelopes

    Flourished Swan Envelope
    This envelope design (created using Schin Loong’s tutorial) stands out because of its navy background and white ink.

    Believe it or not, you’ve got quite a bit of leeway as far as dark-colored envelopes are concerned regarding envelope weight and quality. Here’s why: if you’re using a dark envelope, you have to use a light-colored opaque ink. In order to be opaque, the ink will need to be considerably viscous, and inks with a high degree of viscosity don’t tend to bleed. They’re just too thick and paint-like to spread out quickly and get lapped up by paper fibers.

    How to Use Gouache to Write Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    This lacy envelope was created using gouache. (For instructions over how to draw the lace, see this tutorial.)

    You can write on just about any dark-colored envelope with the following opaque inks:

    Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleed Proof White helps you to achieve opaque lettering on dark papers!

    The point I want to make in this section is this: you can use any dark calligraphy envelope that you want as long as you are using a viscous, opaque ink. Regardless of paper weight, you probably won’t run into ink bleed issues.

    Dealing with Difficult Envelopes

    Seven New Calligraphy Tips to Make Life Easier | The Postman's Knock
    If your envelope calligraphy looks like this, don’t fret: there’s hope for a fix.

    There may be situations that require you to use envelopes that aren’t well-suited to the calligraphy ink you want to use. When those situations arise, you have a few options, which you can read about it in the Help, My Calligraphy Ink is Bleeding! article.

    Help, My Calligraphy Ink is Bleeding!: 5 Ways to Fix This Common Issue | The Postman's Knock
    Read this article to find five solutions to solve your feathering ink problem. (One of my go-to fixes? Mix gum arabic into your ink.)

    As always, the best cure is prevention: using a high-quality envelope will head off any problems you might have. However, sometimes you don’t have control over the envelope you need to use. In that case, you can fiddle with your calligraphy ink (or switch it out).

    Calligraphy Envelopes Brand Recommendations

    How to Choose the Best Calligraphy Envelopes | The Postman's Knock

    Here’s the thing: there are a lot of companies out there selling envelopes that are perfect for calligraphy. Just because those merchants don’t show up on my (very short) list doesn’t mean they don’t have awesome stuff! But, here’s what I like:

    • Cards and Pockets (affiliate link) – C&P is my go-to for everyday envelopes in any shape or color.
    • Paper Source – Paper Source has a similar selection to that of Cards and Pockets. They boast lots of envelopes in a variety of shapes/colors.
    • Indian Cotton Paper Co. – This is the best place to buy envelopes if you want toothy, textured, and heavy paper that exudes luxury.
    • Crane & Co. – I think of these classy envelopes as the “little black dress” of envelopes for calligraphy.
    • Envelopes.com – Has a lot of fun envelopes, including clear plastic envelopes (which I’ve used for tactile mail art like the piece shown below).
    Clear Envelope
    This envelope art was created using a leaf sketch on watercolor paper, Sans Serif lettering, wrapping paper, and twine. I tucked everything into a clear plastic envelope, then put postage on it. (I’m happy to report that it was successfully delivered.)

    Note that I go over the companies above in more detail in the Where to Buy Envelopes for Calligraphy article.

      I’d like to reiterate that there are many fantastic places to purchase envelopes for calligraphy, and I’ve listed a very limited number of merchants in this article. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find your favorites! Remember, too, that you can always make your own envelope for occasions when you want your stationery to look extra unique.

      Jubilant Watercolor Lemons Mail Art Tutorial
      This “Jubilant Lemons” mail art was created on heavyweight paper from a vintage book. You’d be hard-pressed to find a commercial envelope that has the warmth and character of this one!

      Thanks so much for rading, and happy holidays!


      Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock