Postcard Design Guidelines

Written by louise balle
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The idea of creating and using postcards was conceived by Dr. Emanuel Herrmann in 1869. The first card went into circulation in 1870. Since then, the postcard has been used by countless advertisers and individuals as an inexpensive and effective way to communicate a message to a recipient through the mail. Travellers use postcards to send back to loved ones when on a trip, while advertisers use these handy little cards as a cheap, simple way of letting potential customers know about products and services offered.

Size

When creating your postcard, you first have to know postal guidelines for the size of your postcard. The post office requires that your postcard be between 5 and 6 inches long and 3.5 to 4.25 inches high if you want to mail it at the postcard rate. If your card is larger than that size, you could be charged full postage rather than the postcard rate.

Create a Front and Back File

A standard postcard has a matt front for text and a glossy, attractive back, which is usually a nice-looking photo. Create two separate files in your design program labelled "front" and "back." Draw a line down the middle of your "front" file so that you can have a guide to work with (the line can be deleted later).

First, decide if you want the postcard to "bleed." A bleed means that you want the image to run all the way to the edge of the postcard---no white edges. To do this, add 0.125 to each side of both documents (front and back). That extra 1/8 inch will be snipped off by whoever you choose to print the cards. So, for example, if you chose a card sized at 6 inches by 4.25 inches, you would create a file that is 6.25 inches by 4.5 inches to allow for that 1/8 inch "bleed" around the sides. Remember that anything in that 1/8 inch area will be cut off. Pick a photo to use for your colourful back and insert it into your "back" file. (See "Resources" for a site that lists a wide selection of inexpensive, royalty-free photos).

Then work on your "front" file. Lay out your front in two halves---the left half will be for your message and the other half will be for your address and postage information.

Address

Place a small, grey outline of a box on the lower part of the right side of the postcard but not at the bottom. This is where your address labels will be placed. Size the small box at about 1.5 by 2.5 inches (adjust the size to fit your postcard). This does not have to be perfect, it is just a guideline.

Postage

Place a small, square outline in the top right corner of the right half of the postcard. This is where you will place your stamp after the postcard is generated. The small box can be about 0.75 by 0.5 inches, which is roughly the size of an actual stamp. You can omit this box outline if you plan to have postage printed directly onto each postcard using an automated machine.

Message Area

You have much more flexibility when it comes to the message area, which is on the left-hand side of the postcard. You can either leave the area completely blank, or type in a standard message within this space. You can also just type in "Greetings" at the top and "From" at the bottom, then fill in your message by hand once the postcards are printed.

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