Updated: Nov 5, 2020
If you want to address your recipient using calligraphy, you need to find the right envelopes that are suitable for the task! This post is here to help.
Let’s talk about paper weight. The weight of the paper is crucial. This will determine whether or not your ink will bleed, feather, or stay nice and neat on the paper. The majority of the time, when you go to buy envelopes, finding the weight of the paper will be difficult. You should use a text weight of about 70lb-80lb for envelopes. I have had success writing calligraphy with envelopes from LCIPaper.com, PaperSource.com, Minted.com, PaperAndMore.com, and Envelopes.com. Try a variety and see what works for you. Order samples! This will help you pick the right color for your project, too. I always prefer solid matte paper. Envelopes that are considered “luxe,” metallic, or have texture will require special treatment to the paper and/or the inks in order for the ink to properly adhere to the paper. Don't be afraid of them, but do be prepared to spend extra time on these special envelopes!
Pro Tip 1: Wash your hands thoroughly and dry them completely before touching your new envelopes! The natural oils in your hands will ruin an envelope, making your calligraphy ink feather and ruin your day. Also, don’t apply lotion to your hands or arms before writing calligraphy on any medium. It’s an invisible day-ruiner, and you should just trust me on this one. Another thing to keep in mind: you don’t want to accidentally touch your face. The oils in your skin will transfer to your hands and get on your envelopes. Be very careful. Some calligraphers even wear arm gloves to prevent their oils from ruining the paper.
The "test" example on the left is on clean paper with clean hands. The "oops!" on the right was written after applying hand lotion. Simply touching the paper will contaminate the surface area.
Having said that, if you’re shopping for single envelopes at your local art store, also be mindful that someone had to touch them, and they didn’t have the foresight to know you were coming in to buy them for calligraphy purposes! That means you’re taking a risk. Always buy an extra 20% beyond your needs. This is also an industry standard for professional calligraphers. I have purchased ‘damaged’ envelopes from art stores in the past, and it’s completely disappointing.
Pro Tip 2: If you buy greeting cards from any grocery store, ditch the store-bought envelopes. They are flimsy and cheap (unless you’re buying a high-quality card from Papyrus for example; they do not disappoint!). If you want to upcycle the crappy ones, you can always get out a different tool such as a gel pen and do faux calligraphy on them as well.
Envelope flaps deserve attention, too! I’m a big fan of using calligraphy on envelopes that have a euro flap, which is really beautiful for a formal affair. This large, deep “V” flap goes into a point down the back. The square flap is nice and modern, too, and works great for thank-you cards or anything casual/informal. If you’re interested in using a wax seal on your envelopes, choose the euro flap! The wax seal functions as a nice exclamation point on the euro flap. If you go with a square flap, you can get creative on the back with some washi tape.
This is a great example of a Euro Flap envelope completed with a champagne wax seal.
This is a great example of a Square Flap envelope with some beautiful washi tape.
Envelope liners! I never send a card without an envelope liner anymore. You can purchase pre-lined envelopes (my favorites are from LCIPaper.com) or you can purchase the liners separately and add them yourself. For large affairs I always recommend ordering envelopes and liners together from your favorite stationer.
You can also make envelope liners, too! It's a lovely touch to calligraph something on the liner, paint, or customize your liner to fit your theme. The best paper for this task is a nice weighted wrapping paper (solid, matte) to handle the artwork. You can get really creative with other sources for the liners, too. I've used wrapping paper, menus, sheet music, and I've even used the Trader Joe's Flyers for Thanksgiving cards. The options are endless.
I handmade this envelope liner from high-quality wrapping paper.
If you’re interested in making your own envelopes and liners, then you can get an envelope punch board. I got mine at Michael’s on a whim, and I love it. The only key to making great envelopes and liners is finding high-quality paper with the right weight.
For further help, here is a list of links to help you understand paper weight:
There you have it! I hope you can benefit from these tips to help your envelope calligraphy! Please share your thoughts and your trials and tribulations below! I would love to hear from you! Share your work on Instagram with the hashtag: #envelopelove