• How to Protect + Waterproof Envelopes (and Artwork in General)

    If you’ve ever spent more than a few minutes calligraphing the perfect envelope, you’ve probably wondered about how to protect it from culprits like moisture, smudging, and dirt. In this tutorial, I’ll teach you how to use MicroGlaze or a spray fixative to protect and waterproof envelopes and artwork.

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock

    I receive a lot of questions about how to protect/waterproof envelopes (and the calligraphy written on them), so I decided to address that topic in this tutorial. Today, you’ll learn how to use MicroGlaze to protect your envelopes and paper. We’ll also explore whether a spray fixative is a better fit for your project, or if you can go without using any sort of protectant.

    What is MicroGlaze?

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock
    MicroGlaze contains paraffinic oils and waxes that protect your calligraphy/artwork.

    MicroGlaze is a Vaseline-like substance that’s super effective when it comes to protecting envelope calligraphy from moisture, dirt, and smudges. Calligraphers love MicroGlaze because it’s non-toxic, non-acidic, and great at protecting calligraphy. It’s amazing how droplets of water just sit on the surface of (MicroGlaze-treated) envelopes.

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock


    How to Use MicroGlaze: A Video Tutorial

    It’s easiest to show you how to use MicroGlaze in video format, so I filmed a ~3 minute tutorial to show you how to apply it and how water interacts with it. If you prefer to learn with photos and written instructions, simply scroll past the video!

    How to Use Microglaze to Waterproof Envelopes and Paper

    To harness the power of MicroGlaze, use your index finger to dip into the MicroGlaze jar. Get a little bit of MicroGlaze on your finger, as shown in the photo below:

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock

    Next, rub the Microglaze all over the surface of the envelope. The goal is to apply a very thin coating of Microglaze all over the envelope. If you apply too much, the Microglaze will make the paper look shiny. As a side note, make sure your calligraphy is completely dry before you apply the Microglaze — otherwise, your letters will smudge!

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock

    Once you finish applying the Microglaze, you will notice that that paper has taken on a bit of a glossy sheen when viewed from a certain angle. The sheen will lessen significantly as the Microglaze has a chance to dry, but it will never completely go away. That’s something to keep in mind.

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock

    Still, it’s easy to forgive any sheen changes when you realize just how well the Microglaze manages to protect your paper. Check out the water droplets on the Amy Style envelope below. Water is no match for the Microglaze!

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock
    MicroGlaze doesn’t allow any moisture to penetrate the paper’s surface.

    Using a Spray Fixative to Waterproof Envelopes and Paper

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock
    From the condition of the can pictured above, you can see that I’ve had my spray fixative for a long time! I don’t use it a lot.

    If you’re working on a batch of envelopes (like for a wedding or an event), a permanent spray fixative is probably a better fit than MicroGlaze. Spray fixatives allow you to treat several envelopes at once. I use my spray fixative every now and again to protect artwork and calligraphy, but I don’t use it often. To be honest, the warnings on the back scare me a little bit; most fixatives are extremely toxic, and you need to apply them in a well-ventilated area. Still, spray fixatives are effective. I applied fixative to the Kaitlin Style return address below, then I dropped water onto it as an experiment.

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock

    The spray fixative did a good job of protecting the lettering from smudging due to the moisture!

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock

    While spray fixative is a nice choice for protecting lettering, it doesn’t give an envelope the same “water rolls right off” super power that Microglaze does. At that same time, a spray fixative doesn’t compromise the sheen of the envelope — which is nice!

    How to Waterproof Paper | The Postman's Knock

    I should add a disclaimer here that, in some cases, a spray fixative can change the color of envelopes. Before you use a fixative on a lot of envelopes, especially if they are for a special event, you’ll need to test the fixative on one envelope to make sure the fixative is compatible with the paper. Also, spray fixatives have a distinct chemical odor that sticks around for a couple of days.

    Is It Necessary to Waterproof Envelopes and Paper?

    Intricate Teacup Envelope Art for "No More Boring Envelopes"
    It’s a good idea, though not a must, to waterproof intricate mail art like this teacup envelope — particularly if the art features water soluble inks or watercolors.

    I don’t waterproof every envelope that I send out because USPS is generally good about keeping envelopes dry. You’ve got to have the perfect storm for envelopes to get ruined: moisture and smudge-making movement. Still, if you’ve spent a lot of time making envelope art/calligraphy and you want to ensure its safe passage, it’s a good idea to apply MicroGlaze.

    How to Use Coffee to Write Calligraphy
    I wasn’t confident that this envelope — featuring coffee calligraphy — would make it safely to the UK because coffee is very water soluble. I applied MicroGlaze as a precaution, and the envelope reached its destination in mint condition!

    In general, I’d say that you don’t need to worry about your envelopes getting ruined by moisture. If they get soaked enough in transit that the ink on them runs, then you’ve probably got bigger problems, like damaged envelope contents. Try to think of applying MicroGlaze or a fixative as “insurance” for your mail art or envelope calligraphy. Chances are that your envelope will arrive in good condition, but if you don’t mind taking the extra minute to treat them, it’s certainly not a bad idea to do so.

    If you have any questions or input, please don’t hesitate to comment! I hope you learned something from today’s post, and I really appreciate you reading TPK. Have a great weekend!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock

    This article was first posted in August of 2016. It has been updated to include new photos and clearer information.