Postcard Substrates–What to Use?

As part of the Summer Mail Art Swap, I’ll be posting ideas, links, and tutorials, hopefully every Monday. This week, let’s talk about the postcard substrate–in other words, what you’ll be creating your original postcard art on.

possible postcard substrates at amyhoodarts.com

You can buy blank postcards, of course, such as the watercolor postcards pictured above, but you don’t have to. This is just a pad of 4″x6″ sheets of watercolor paper. It’s far cheaper to cut watercolor paper down to size yourself.

The yellow pad is Bristol board. I’ll admit, this is one of my favorite surfaces for collage and postcards. It cost about $6 for 20 sheets, each of which can produce 4 postcards. (It was $10, but I had a 40% off coupon at my local art store.)

However, you don’t need to buy a thing. Save your cardboard boxes from the recycling bin–they make great surfaces for postcards! The blank inside is perfect for writing on. You can paint or collage right onto the side with the image, or you can cover it with gesso first to start with a blank white surface. If you want to do that, here’s how.

First, I cut off the side, top, and bottom flaps so I have two even rectangles. Then I lightly sanded it with fine sandpaper. This roughs up the surface so the gesso goes on better.

prepping a cereal box for gesso at amyhoodarts.com

Then apply a layer of gesso, which you can find in art stores or big-box craft stores in the art supply aisle. I’m not using a fancy brush; I got this one at the hardware store for probably a dollar.

painting gesso on cereal box at amyhoodarts.com

Once it was dry, I decided I wanted a second coat, so I lightly sanded again and painted on another coat of gesso. All done–ready to be worked on!

gessoed cereal box at amyhoodarts.com

You can cut them to size first and work on them small, or collage and paint first and then cut them down, as I demonstrate here.

Karen has a helpful post with 10 “cheap or free” items you can use for postcard substrates, too.