Envelope art is beautiful and unique, and it requires a fair amount of time to make. If you’re on social media, it’s only natural that you would want to show off your gorgeous work upon completing a piece! The only problem? Posting a photo of your mail art means exposing your recipients’ address for all to see. In today’s blog post, we’ll talk about when it’s necessary to censor addresses, and how you can use artistic photos to maintain privacy!
Know When to Censor
My social media censoring philosophy for envelope art is as follows: I always censor envelopes that are destined for individuals. If my envelope is going to a company, then I don’t bother. For example, if you follow TPK on Facebook or Instagram, then you’ll notice that I often post photos of “rent check envelopes” destined for our landlord. I do not censor the address because it is a business address that is easily available online. Also, the envelope is destined for a business rather than an individual, which makes me more comfortable with displaying an unaltered address.
You may wonder: why censor envelope addresses in the first place? With enough hunting online, after all, you can find nearly anyone’s address. There could be a lot of correct answers to the question of why it’s necessary to obscure an address, but for me, it mainly boils down to respect. The address I am posting belongs to an individual, after all, and is not mine to share. If I post my own address online, that’s one thing, but I think someone else’s personal address should always be kept private. (For the record, though, I generally use Photoshop to alter my return address. The photo below, believe it or not, has been edited with Photoshop and does not show the correct address!)
Three Ways to Censor an Address Using Artistic Photos
There are three methods I use to obscure addresses; they are ordered here from simplest to most complicated:
1. Put an Object Over Part of the Address
Small, flat objects work well to obscure recipient addresses. You can work with the themes of envelopes to make for an organic-looking photo; for example, in the picture below, I echoed the botanical theme of the card/envelope pair and used leaves to hide both the return and send-to address.
Conversely, you can use your writing instrument to maintain privacy. In the photo below, the pen serves two functions: first, it covers the address. Second, it gives a visual explanation for what was used to create the Kaitlin Style calligraphy featured on the envelope.
Feel free to get creative when choosing objects to cover up your address with! As long as the object or objects don’t visually “take away” too much from the envelope, they’ll work perfectly. Oftentimes, you’ll be surprised at how much your objects can add to the photo! For example, the circular pan of Finetec paint on this rose-laden Janet Style envelope adds a little burst of concentrated color and contrasts well with the square shape of the envelope:
2. Take a Photo from the Side
Oftentimes, envelope art has artistic elements that render the recipient’s address secondary! You can use a creative side angle that facilitates cropping addresses out of the photo, as shown in the handmade envelope below.
For the ultimate privacy powerhouse photo, you can lay an object over the address, then take a photo from the side. The full focus of the photo below is on the Harry Potter lego illustration, not only because of the angle, but also because of the crow quill pen covering the address.
In addition to being effective at hiding addresses, side view photos are tasteful and serene. The Janet Style photo below has a certain grace to it, partially due to the angle and partially due to the necklace obscuring the address. Side photos paired with objects can be very elegant!
You may notice that a few of the photos above have a central focus, then the edges are blurred. That’s actually a result of the camera lens that I use (a Nikon 40 mm fixed zoom), and that blur can prove even more helpful in ensuring an address is not easily read!
3. Use Photoshop’s Clone Stamp Tool
If you have taken the Digitizing Artwork and Calligraphy eCourse, then you’re familiar with Photoshop’s Clone Stamp Tool. The Clone Stamp Tool is a handy little tool that allows you to “clone” one area of a photo onto another area. For example, take a look at the unmodified Amy Style photo below, which features an imaginary address:
Amazingly, you can use Photoshop to change a lot of things about the address to completely alter it. Can you spot all the modifications in the following photo? There are four, and I’ll tell you what they are here in a second!
Here are the changes:
- “Wagoner” has been changed to “Wagonet”
- The “5” in the second address line has been replaced with a “3”.
- “Blossom” has been changed to “Blorado”
- “411” in the third address line has been changed to “414”.
Using Photoshop is a fantastic option if you don’t want to put an object over your envelope address. It’s especially easy if you have a Sans Serif address like the one below; you can just use the Lasso Tool to draw around a letter, then use the copy and paste commands to duplicate the letter and place it wherever you want to! The Clone Stamp Tool can be used to “erase” any letters or numbers that you don’t want to show up.
If all the Photoshop talk above sounds like gibberish to you and you’d like to learn how to use the Clone Stamp Tool, you can refer to the first video of Lesson 3 in the Digitizing Artwork and Calligraphy eCourse. As far as the Lasso Tool goes, it is first introduced in Lesson 2 of the course and is also reviewed/used extensively in Lesson 5. While the course doesn’t show you specifically how to censor envelope addresses, you’ll be able to use the knowledge you gain in the course to do so!
Final Thoughts on Censoring Envelope Addresses
While it is important to maintain individuals’ privacy, there are some entities you can create envelope art for and take a photo of the finished project without censoring. For example, you can send mail art to Kathy or Donovan of The Letter Writers Alliance! (Of course, if you get a pen pal through the Alliance, their address should be kept private … but yeah, you know that.) You can also write to any of the More Love Letters recipients, and there’s no need to censor the addresses as they are readily available online (and it doesn’t hurt to spread the word about MLL). Finally, envelope art contests (such as the Graceful Envelope) abound, and you don’t need to censor when you post photos of entries!
If you’re torn on whether to censor an address or let it be, I would always err on the side of caution and censor it. The last thing you want is an upset friend/family member/acquaintance! That said, there are a lot of variables at play: if, for example, you have a private Instagram account and that’s the only place you are posting the envelope art photo, then there’s less of a need to be cautious.
Censoring addresses is a topic that I don’t think I’ve touched on before here on the TPK blog, yet I think about it at least a few times a month as I take and share artistic photos of envelopes online. If you have any questions or input about censoring, please feel free to share in the comments! Thanks so much for reading TPK, and have a great weekend. 🙂