One of the top questions I receive from TPK readers is where to buy envelopes for calligraphy. Unfortunately, you can’t just pick up your dip pen and write on just any envelope. It’s important to pick an envelope with a nice paper weight, smooth surface, and low absorbency. Here are my top five resource picks for calligraphy-friendly envelopes:
1. Cards and Pockets
Cards and Pockets carries a vast array of envelope shapes, sizes, and colors. Every envelope I’ve ever purchased from them has a pleasing heft to it, and I’ve never had trouble with ink bleeding! C&P is definitely my go-to for any occasion envelopes.
My only complaint about Cards and Pockets is their color selection can be overwhelming. There are so many different colors to pick from that sometimes I have trouble choosing! That said, I’m always pleased with what I receive from them.
2. Indian Cotton Paper Co.
Indian Cotton Paper Co. is my go-to when I want to make a calligraphed envelope that exudes luxury. All Indian Cotton Paper Co. envelopes are made from heavyweight handmade paper with a fabulous texture! Unlike other handmade papers I’ve tried, my nib doesn’t catch a whole lot on this paper. That’s probably because the fibers are tightly woven.
There are a couple of drawbacks to using these envelopes. First, any handmade paper is more difficult to write on than commercial paper because it’s not as smooth. While this handmade paper is smoother than most, it will require some concentration to write on. Second, due to the nature of their manufacturing, Indian Cotton Paper Co. envelopes aren’t perfect. The top right corner might be a couple of millimeters higher than the top left corner, for example. That’s not a problem for me; it just adds to the overall artisanal feel.
3. Crane & Co.
Crane & Co. offers the “little black dress” of envelopes for calligraphy. Their envelopes are made exclusively with cotton fibers recovered from clothing manufacturing and the fibers left after ginning cotton seeds. All that cotton means that Crane & Co. envelopes have a unique, deluxe feel that’s perfect when you want something understated and elegant.
Disadvantages to Crane & Co. envelopes include the lack of a selection. They appear to only come in white or ecru. Their somewhat fibrous texture can also make them a little difficult to write on at times, but not ridiculously so.
4. Paper Source
Paper Source and Cards and Pockets seem pretty similar to me — it’s just that Paper Source is a bigger company. Like Cards and Pockets, you can find a variety of envelope sizes and colors there.
My only word of caution for purchasing from Paper Source is some envelopes do cause ink to bleed a bit. You won’t have a problem if you’re writing on a dark-colored envelope with opaque ink, but light-colored envelopes can be more of a gamble. If this happens to you, just add a bit of gum arabic to your ink, per this article.
I’m including envelopes.com on this list because I like their clear envelopes! As for the rest of their stock, there are some fabulous envelopes for calligraphy on envelopes.com, and then there are envelopes that aren’t so great for calligraphy. I’d probably just order from Cards and Pockets so you don’t have to sort through the overwhelmingly large and varied envelopes.com selection.
As I mentioned, the disadvantage of envelopes.com is they carry all sorts of envelopes. I get the impression that they’re a little less “gourmet” than Cards and Pockets or Paper Source. After all, you can find cheap, flimsy envelopes there; or you can find heavy, high-quality envelopes there. If you’re ordering paper (versus clear) envelopes, try to keep an eye on the poundage; usually, the higher, the better.
Where Not to Buy Envelopes for Calligraphy
Honestly, you can make just about any envelope work for calligraphy somehow. If ink is bleeding, you can add gum arabic to it or just opt to use gouache or white ink. Even if your ink looks okay, though, flimsy envelopes cheapen the feel of calligraphy.
Here are a few places I would not purchase envelopes from:
Big box art stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s – These stores tend to stock envelopes that feel like they’re made out of thin printer paper.
The grocery store/pharmacy – Commercial greeting cards almost always come with envelopes. In order to maximize profit, those envelopes are flimsy.
If you don’t want to splurge on luxe envelopes, experiment with making your own! If you use gouache or white ink, you can write on just about any paper, like the grocery bag shown below.
I hope that this blog post helps you next time you need to replenish your supply of envelopes for calligraphy! If you have any questions or suggestions for additional envelope sources, please let me know in the comments. Thanks very much for reading!