In this digital age, sending mail by regular post sometimes seems to be rather quaint and old-fashioned – a retro relic from the ‘good old days’. Even though times have changed so much, most of us still love to receive letters and postcards in our mail-box – and for many, these evoke memories of affectionate greetings from far-away family members, childhood penfriends, and friends touring exotic places on the other side of the world.
With their glossy images of beauty spots from around the world, I’ve always found postcards to be particularly exciting to receive. However, postcard design is far more diverse than simple holiday snaps, and also encompasses humorous cartoons, vintage fashion, reproductions of famous art and much more.
For creative folk of all ages, making postcards is also fun, affordable and can be done in an unlimited variety of ways. With guidance, it’s something that even very young children can engage in, and is a wonderful educational activity if they’re encouraged to send their creation to a friend or family member afterwards.
Postcards can be made in various ways – some which are more suitable for children than others. Children’s paintings make lovely postcards, but drawings, photos and collages can also be utilised very effectively.
In the following activity, children can use collage and paper-craft techniques to make their own postcards. As with all craft activities, this one is very flexible, and details can be changed, depending on the age of the children you're working with. Many of the bits and pieces that you’ll need are readily available in the home. Feel free to vary my formula in any way – as with all craft work, no two people will ever do the same activity in an identical way.
Time: About two hours, to enable glue to thoroughly dry.
Age: 5-10's, Over 10's
A sheet of cardboard in a dark colour – black is great, but dark green, blue or red can also be very effective, if they match or contrast with the design on the card.
A few A4 sheets of white, pale coloured or metallic coloured paper
Recycled gift wrap or other fancy paper
Craft glue (if you’re planning to stick fabric, plastic or metal pieces to your card)
Gold acrylic paint
Gel pens in gold and other colours
Glitter glue in gold and other colours
Pinking shears or fancy paper scissors
Fancy paper-craft punches
Photos – to add a personal touch
Colourful paints and felt-tipped pens
Adhesive craft gems
Taking a ruler and pencil, measure your basic postcard shape onto the cardboard. I chose to make mine a conventional size – 12cm by 17cm. However, feel free to make yours any size you like. Please keep in mind, though - many larger or unusual shaped cards cost more to send.
Cut your cards out, using the child-friendly paper scissors. Younger children may need some help with this.
Take a sheet of plain paper. This will be the ‘canvas’ on which the postcard’s design will be created. Of course, you can collage directly onto the cardboard, but I often find that a more interesting and textured effect is created by using a few layers of paper or cardboard, one on top of the other. Measure this piece of paper so that it’s slightly smaller than the dark cardboard base. Ours measured around 10cm by 15cm. If you don’t want to use white paper, try some other colour – gold or metallic colours can make a very striking base for a collage. Gold paint can also be used to provide this effect.
Cut out this piece of paper.
Plan the design carefully. My postcard design is a mixed media collage which utilises cut-out shapes from pretty paper, paint, drawings, stickers and glitter glue.
Start cutting out shapes from the recycled gift-wrapping and stick them onto the paper. These can look very effective if they’re superimposed upon each other in layers. Stickers can also be included, to create an extra-fancy effect. If your child is making an abstract design, shapes cut with pinking shears, punches or fancy scissors can provide an interesting effect. Once the basic design is completed, leave the paper to dry.
Turn the decorated paper over and cover the back with glue. This can then be stuck onto the cardboard ‘postcard’. Ensure that a border remains around the design – the contrast in colour and texture looks great! Also, for a tidy appearance, make sure that the corners are glued down firmly. Leave the card to dry.
Once again, take a sheet of white or pale-coloured paper and measure a rectangle, approximately 10cm by 15cm. Use fancy scissors to cute around this shape and glue it onto the other side of the postcard. This is where you’ll write the message and address on your card. Leave this to dry.
Embellish the design on the front of your postcard with drawings, stickers and craft gems. If you have gold acrylic paint, this also looks very effective – especially around the edge of the design. If you’ve used paint, leave your artwork for about half an hour, or until it has completely dried.
If you want to add an extra-fancy border to your card, draw small flowers and swirls using a gold gel pen. Although this step is optional, it’s very easy to do and looks great, as the gold contrasts wonderfully with the dark cardboard.
The final touch is gold or coloured glitter-glue. Since this often takes an hour or two to dry, I usually add this last. Be sure not to over-use it, though – simply use it to add highlights to your design. Once again, leave your postcard until it’s completely dry.
Once the paint and / or glitter glue has totally dried on the front of the card, you can turn it over and give your full attention to the other side. This doesn’t really have to be decorated, but it does look nice if there are a few creative touches on there. First of all we create a distinct area where the address and stamps will go, bordered by some swirly lines.
Then we usually do a decorative edge along the border with gold gel pen, and draw a few simple flowers, hearts and swirls along with a smiley face. Your postcard is now complete, and ready to post anywhere in the world.