Is Your DIY Envelope Mailable? Here are the USPS Guidelines for Handmade Envelopes

Handmade Stationery

I’m fairly sure that I have made every mistake that it’s possible to make while trying to mail my handmade envelopes through the US postal system.

I’ve been upcharged for mailing a square envelope.

I’ve been upcharged for mailing an envelope with the address written in portrait rather than landscape format.

I’ve been upcharged for making my envelope out of super stiff upcycled cardboard.

I’ve been upcharged for putting handmade pinbacks or other fun treats in my envelopes so that they’re uneven.

You CAN mail handmade envelopes through the US postal system without paying extra, and you CAN even be a “little” creative with them! Here are the USPS’s current regulations for envelopes, and ways that you can work with them while still sending handmade.

Allowed Shapes and Sizes for Envelopes

As long as you play by the USPS’s rules for the size, shape, and weight of your letter, you can have a little bit of fun with your envelopes.

Allowed Colors and Embellishments for Envelopes

It’s SO tempting to craft a stand-out envelope in an unusual pattern or color. But the USPS is as picky about what your envelope looks like as it is about what size and shape it is.

Let’s talk addresses.Β  You can be a little fun and creative with how you address envelopes, as long as you keep the address legible and formatted in the standard way.

  • Use at least 10-point font, whether you’re typing or handwriting your address. 10-point font is very small–smaller than the font of most novels!–so this one shouldn’t be hard to do.
  • Left-justify the address. No centering or cute spacing allowed!
  • Don’t write the address at a slant or on a curve. The USPS charges extra money for an envelope with a portrait rather than landscape format. Other than that, they don’t want you to mess with the address alignment AT ALL.
  • The best ink choice is black, although the USPS does allow for most ink choices that contrast well with your (light) envelope color. The USPS specifically forbids white writing on a black envelope.
  • Don’t write anything, whether it’s a cute message or a scrap of poetry, below the zip code.
  • Addressing an envelope with a fictitious name or title is technically illegal. I don’t know why the post office would have a problem with me addressing a birthday card to my niece as “The Queen Wizard of Dinosaurs and Dump Trucks,” but it’s literally written into their mailing standards, sooo…

My personal rule of thumb these days is that the more I love my letter and want it to reach its destination, the more standard I make the envelope. If you’re just playing around with some fun, low-stakes pieces, feel free to experiment with your most creative choices. If you really want your piece to arrive safely and on time, however, make you DIY envelopes just a *little* bit creative.

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