3 Ways to Make Your Postcards Stand Out

Back in the day (yes, I was a creative back then), prior to cheap 4-Color process printing, you had to find creative, inexpensive ways to get your postcards noticed in the mail. I was the king of using two PMS colors in combination to look as if you had full color, and an expert in paper stocks. Most importantly I learned all I could about printing. Why? Because printing techniques were and are one of the best tools in my creative toolbox.

Embossing is another way to catch your recipients’ fingers and attention. You can use traditional embossing or use letterpress printing, an old-school printing technique that gives a feel similar to that of embossing.

Sample of embossing from Amanda Woodward found on Flickr.
Letterpress printing
Sample of letterpress printing from tasteofinkstudios.com.

Another old-school printing technique to add a fun and playful texture is thermography: raised-letter or raised-image printing. Thermography produces a rubbery texture, so that when printed over your artwork it can be noticeably tactile.

raised letter printing
Thermographic or raised letter printing

3. Shape

Shaped mail is a little trickier but can be very effective. The post office has some specific requirements that you need to be aware of. Best advice: Run any design you think you might pursue by the post office you’ll mail out from. Note that the responses may vary from post office to post office.

You can do simple things that the post office won’t have problems with, like nipping corners. The best use of this I’ve ever seen was a postcard in the shape of the state of Kansas. They just nipped the corner and voila: the state of Kansas.


There are also companies that have gotten specific products approved by the post office. ShipShapes was one of the first to do this. Their designs have gotten intricate over time but they also have some simple shapes you can take advantage of. There’s no way to ignore these pieces in the mail.


Samples of a ShipShape format.
Samples of ShipShape formats.

The Bottom Line

There are many printing techniques that can help you get noticed in the mail. Take the time to learn about printing — I make all my young creatives do so. Printing is not taught in school like it used to be. The Web, email and social media dominate now. But here’s a little secret: Mail will never stop and there are companies that are still making mail successful. How do I know? Direct marketing 101 — whatever works, keep doing. And test, test, test.

Want to learn more about different printing techniques? Here’s a post by Ciara Panacchia on Design Instruct with descriptions and samples of many of the techniques I’ve described. You’ll recognize some of the examples I used here.

Author: Patrick Fultz

Patrick Fultz is the President/CCO of DM Creative Group, a creative marketing firm producing work across all media. He’s an art-side creative, marketing strategist, designer and lover of all things type. His credentials include a degree from Parsons School of Design with 15 years of teaching at his alma mater, over 40 industry creative awards, and he previously served as President of the John Caples International Awards. Always an innovator, Fultz was credited with creating the first 4-color variable data direct mail piece ever produced. He continues to look for innovative ways to tap the powerful synergy of direct mail, the web, digital and social media.

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