How to Make Mail Art

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Mail art is art on postcards or envelopes that you can send through the postal service. It's fun to think of your art traveling great distances and bringing smiles to faces in other places. Imagine how loved you would feel to find a homemade postcard in your mailbox. You can get as creative as you'd like with mail art, but you need to make sure you follow a few simple rules so the post office doesn't send it right back to you.

How to Make Art Postcards

  • Cut a piece of poster board or tag board to United States Post Office specifications. The minimum allowable postcard size is 3.5 by 5 icnes. The maximum allowable postcard size is 4.25 by 6 icnes. Your postcard can be between these sizes, but not larger or smaller. Also, if you use a rigid material that will not bend when being inserted into a post office box, you will have to pay a 17-cent postage surcharge. Pay attention to the thickness of your material as well. The minimum thickness is 0.007 inches and the maximum is 0.25 inches.

  • Once you have your card cut and sized, designate one side to be the front and one side to be the back. Your art will go on the front, and your message, mailing address and stamp will go on the back. If you want to follow the traditional format for the back of the postcard, draw a vertical line down the cente. Your message will go on the left side of the line, and the mailing address and stamp will go on the right side.

  • Turn your card over to the art side and consider your blank slate. Why are you sending this postcard? Is it for someone's birthday? Do you want to show somewhere you've traveled? Do you just want to say hi? Think about how you want to decorate your postcard.

  • Consider your materials. You could simply draw a picture with a pen, or you could use any number of other art materials. You can make a collage with photographs, newspaper, magazine images or pictures printed from the Internet. You could use watercolors or other paints. Colored pencils or markers also work well, but stay away from anything that will smear in the mail, such as oil pastels or chalk.

  • Put the correct postage on your artsy postcard and drop it in the mail.

How to Make Art Envelopes

  • Find an envelope you'd like to use for your art. This envelope can be any size or shape, as long as you put the correct postage on it and the United States Postal Service says it's OK. For a regular 0.42-cent stamp, your envelope cannot exceed 6.125 by 11.5 inches and cannot be smaller than 3.5 by 5 inches. Also, it needs to be thicker than 0.007 inches and thinner than 0.25 inches.

  • Designate spots on your envelope for the stamps, the mailing address and the return address. Remember that you can incorporate these practical aspects of your letter into your art. In fact, it's easiest to put the addresses and stamps on before you begin your artwork so they look like part of the overall design.

  • Use design materials that will be durable enough to withstand the journey through the mail. If you're going to use markers, look for markers that will not smear if they encounter a bit of rain. If you glue items onto the envelope, use heavy-duty glue and make sure the edges of the glued items are secure and won't get caught in the mail-sorting system at the post office.

  • Use your imagination. Words, pictures, images and metaphors are all at your disposal. You can even cut into the envelope to reveal a bit of the treasure inside (you see this all the time with address peepholes in your bills, so you might as well turn the idea into something beautiful).

  • When your envelope is done, make sure that the address is readily identifiable. If it's not, make a box around it so your masterpiece can make it to its lucky recipient.

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