There are plenty of mail art tutorials here on the TPK blog. As much as I love a highly-embellished envelope, though, it can be refreshing to go back to basics! Today, we’re going to discuss how to make a single elegant calligraphy envelope. It’s my hope that this tutorial will help you to make tasteful envelopes for all occasions! Here’s how you do it:
1. Find High-Quality Envelopes
The perfect envelope calligraphy starts with the perfect envelope! It’s of utmost importance that you purchase (or make) envelopes that are constructed out of heavy, high-quality paper. Right now, my three favorite places to buy envelopes are Two Hands Paperie (local to Boulder), Cards & Pockets, and Indian Cotton Paper Co.
2. Make Calligraphy Envelope Guidelines
First, print out the Perfect Calligraphy Envelope Generator, which you can find for free by clicking here. Then, line up the bottom of your envelope with the top of the bottom set of guidelines.
Use a ruler and the guideline generator to draw horizontal pencil guidelines across the envelope. Draw as many sets of guidelines as you have address lines! (In my case, that’s four: the recipient’s name, street address 1, street address 2, and city/country.)
Once you finish drawing horizontal guidelines, make “X”s between each set of trios.
Now, use your ruler to draw a vertical line in the center of the envelope.
Finish up by drawing slant lines. To do that, position your envelope so you can see slant lines peeking out under the top and bottom of the envelope. Then, line up your ruler with the lines and draw them on the envelope.
3. Draft One Line of the Recipient’s Address
Today, we’re going to use a centering technique that’s usually quite accurate and saves some time! First, type out your recipient’s address in whatever word processing program you prefer. Then, center the text. If you’d like to print out the address, you can — but it’s not necessary!
Take a look at your address, and whatever the longest line is, write it on the envelope in pencil. Your pencil draft should reflect whichever calligraphy style you plan to use with your dip pen and ink! (I’m using Janet Style calligraphy.) Once you’ve written the address line, measure it. In this case, the pencil calligraphy is 4-3/4″ long.
Now, take the pencil calligraphy measurement and divide it by two. Use those two numbers to make vertical centering guidelines on either side of the long guideline in the middle. For example, my 4-3/4″ measurement divides to 2-3/8″. As a result, I need to draw small vertical guidelines 2-3/8″ on either side of the middle guideline.
Once you’ve made the small vertical guidelines, partially erase the pencil draft of your calligraphy. This step is optional, but it will help prevent confusion as you write calligraphy with a dip pen!
4. Write Dip Pen Calligraphy
Start at the left vertical guideline, and write out that longest address line in calligraphy.
Ideally, your calligraphy will end at or very close to the right vertical guideline.
Now, take another look at your recipient’s electronically centered address. Chose the address line above or below the longest address line, and “eyeball” the spatial relationship between your next address guideline and the one you just wrote. Use that spatial relationship to draw two more vertical pencil guidelines.
Write the next address guideline between the two vertical guidelines that you just drew.
It’s always best to be generous with your guidelines. I try to space my vertical pencil guidelines a tiny bit wider than the electronic version of the address suggests! That usually works out, but if it doesn’t, then you can always elongate some strokes to reach the right guideline.
Reference the electronic version of the recipient’s address to make vertical guidelines for your remaining address lines. For this envelope, I tackled the third address guideline next, then I finished up with the last address guideline. The order you go in will vary based on which address line you started with!
5. Erase + Stamp
Once your ink has dried, use a quality eraser to get rid of pencil guidelines. I like Staedtler Mars plastic erasers.
Then, depending on your desired effect, you can either add a single stamp or make a stamp collage. I opted for a single stamp here to subtly complement the calligraphy and the beautiful paper!
Notes About Making the Perfect Calligraphy Envelope
First of all, it’s important to remember that any calligraphy style will look great as long as it’s centered. I used Janet Style calligraphy for this envelope, but the 55 degree slant lines will work for many styles. If you opt to use a calligraphy style like the Amy, which doesn’t have a slant, just skip drawing slant lines!
Second, this tutorial was created with the assumption that you’re only making one envelope. If you are addressing several envelopes using the same calligraphy style, I highly recommend making a spacing cheat sheet! You can learn about spacing cheat sheets in the Marvelous Mail eBook. A light box is also a great tool if you plan to calligraph envelopes in bulk.
Finally, it’s important to remember that handwritten calligraphy is perfectly imperfect. Very few of the envelopes that you create will be perfectly centered, and a letter or two may not be faultlessly formed. That’s great! After all, if you wanted a flawless envelope, you’d electrically print directly on your envelopes. This removes the personal, artistic factor from the envelopes — which is why so many brides and grooms opt for handwritten envelope calligraphy!
I hope that this tutorial helps you to create the (beautifully not so) perfect calligraphy envelope. Remember, you can find the envelope guideline generator here. I encourage you to print it out and use it over and over again!
Thanks very much for reading, and enjoy the rest of your week!