Postcard Layout: A Guide to Postcard Formatting

Postcards are a fun way to explore your artistic potential, sell your art, or make your art part of your travel experience. Whether you're a photographer, a graphic artist, or even a casual sketch artist, you can turn your original work into beautiful postcards to print and sell, craft for your brand, or send personally to people you love.

So you have your card-stock paper and a printer ready for the task, but how do you actually format a postcard that the post office will send? That's exactly what we're here to outline for you today. Let's talk postcards:

The two-sided design

The unique thing about postcard design is that you will be printing both sides. Have a two-sided printer or be prepared to flip and re-print your card on the other side. You may also want graphic art software like CorelDRAW that will help you design a two-sided document that postcard printers can understand.

The art side

The art side is where your beautiful original, found, or purchased art will go. We'll talk about layout tips to make sure your image looks great as a card and really pops from the print when you're done.

The address side

The address side is what the post office cares about. We'll talk about how to lay-out the necessary elements and leave room for a personal message.

Postcard art-side layout

The artistic side should be configured to look great at postcard size, pop from the printed page, and reduce damage around the edges of the card image.

Original art or available pieces

Start with an original art piece. You can absolutely use one of your own original pieces, or an original piece that was gifted to you by a friend or bought from the artist. You can even scan a painting or drawing done on a physical medium, touch it up in your art editor, and turn it into a beautiful post card design. If you're just experimenting, try a creative commons drawing to get started.

Focal point and image clarity

Look for images that have a strong focal point, that draw the eye with color and detail. Because postcards are on the small-side for wall art, images with less visual clutter look best.

Respect your borders

Many postcards let their image run off the edge of the card. Decide whether you like this effect or want to create a border. It's easy to add a frame to your image in a visual editor. This will protect your postcard image from foxing if the sides of the card are scuffed or damaged.

Postcard address-side formatting

The address-side of your postcard is what needs to be carefully formatted. Some elements are necessary while others are simply tradition expected by postcard users around the world.

Left-half: message section

The entire left half of the address-side should be reserved for a personal message from the sender to the recipient. Some postcards put a poem here, like greeting cards, to provide words for more tacit postcard senders.

Right half: postal section

The postal section contains the area for stamps and the address, along with any other details the post office may require. For your layout, just worry about the top right corner and center-right for the required post office design elements.

Top right corner: marked for stamps

Leave a space in the top right corner for stamps. You can mark it with scalloped squares or a single wide rectangle in the shape of stamps to show senders where to put their stamps. If the postcard is post-paid, stamp that information in the stamp area.

Center-right: blank address lines

Place three to five horizontal lines in the center-right space of the postcard layout. This will be where the sending address and the name of the recipient. If you are pre-printing addresses, this is where you print the sending address. Give your sender plenty of space, most people do not have tiny handwriting and need a little room to write an address.

Bottom bar: details on the artwork

Finally, the lower bar of a postcard layout often includes a few details about the artwork on the other side. Give the name of the artist (maybe you!), the subject, and any location it's associated with. In the lower area on the left-hand side, it's not uncommon to see a small story or blurb about the artwork or location depicted.


Ready to make your first postcard or batch of postcards? Whether you're printing to sell, to market, or to send personal messages, these design tips will ensure your postcards send successfully through the mail and provide a beautiful experience for the recipient.

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