…with lots of photos and stories from a young artist-entrepreneur!
I can most easily get out of my head and into the present moment when I am immersing myself in my senses. That’s part of why I started Paris Gray Creative (formerly Gray Sky Shoppe and Paris Gray Yoga). I started watercolor painting again this year in the late spring and early summer and it enlivened my spirit to have it in my life again; I don’t think I have painted since 2013 in community college when I was getting my Associate’s in Art! (Mama’s still got it.)
I followed my strong, random urge to get out a palette of brand-new watercolors I had set aside and bought the previous year at Michaels during a sale. I was having success and such a fun time creating wood & gemstone bracelets for my shop, but since my daughter was about 15 months old, on the move, exploring-grabbing-climbing, and I didn’t have a closed-door office space, it had been (and still is) too hard for me to safely get my beads out at the dining table to restock my sizes! (I have so many beautiful beads awaiting my creation, the future will hold something beautiful.) New brushes and a small pad of watercolor paper also awaited me this spring, so I thought, I’m ready to create some new art (and some that I could leave out at the table!).
How I Created Postcards from My Watercolor Art
I have read a few different articles on it “not being worth it to reprint your watercolors from home because the quality doesn’t do the work justice” and that “scanning doesn’t always pick up the texture and ‘feel’ of the work”. Let me tell you, I have not had this experience!
Scanning my watercolors on this printer has produced nothing but crisp, high-quality reproductions of my art.
1. Invest in a nice printer, one that will last you for years to come.
Aside from the actual painting, I have had the idea to make a postcard box set for a long time. That way I could have scanned reprints of my art and sell it over and over again at a reasonable price. My art is small anyway, so I choose to price it affordably. To cut costs and avoid print-shop fees, I realized I could utilize the other fabulous resources I had already invested in – like the high-quality Epson Workforce WF-4720 I had bought back in early 2020.
At the time, we were living in Denver while my husband was finishing undergrad, I had been selling some clothes on Poshmark as a side hustle, and I had to get myself some cute second-hand Sorel snow boots I had always wanted (and needed! Colorado is cold babe!).
I was selling clothes left and right but I had no printer to print the shipping labels! So sometimes 2-3 times a week I would drive out of my way to the library just to print labels, then drive to USPS to drop them off. It was such an extra errand, and I was working a lot of hours serving.
Then Covid shut everything down in March 2020, and I still needed a place to print labels! (Yes, we all still shopped during the pandemic did-we-not?) So I said f-this, I’m buying a printer already! It was early May, about a week before I opened Gray Sky Shoppe (my original store name on Etsy) to sell my mala beads, and I knew if I sold something I’d have the headache of running around printing labels somewhere. So I ran to Staples (they were open!) and adopted my Epson Workforce WF-4720, and it has given me everything I have ever needed since the beginning. Finally, I could print labels! (Lol.)
Back to watercolor painting this year and creating prints of my watercolors – as a business owner, I love to keep my costs down as much as possible, and while I loved my local print shop in Texas for printing my recipe cards, it was a large upfront investment for a 500-batch print that I felt like #1) ouch, what if these don’t sell? and #2) I could somehow do this cheaper.
I realized that for three years, I have had this printer that has scanned our important documents and printed a million labels, but perhaps I could use it for my shop, even more, to scan my watercolors and print them at home! Let me tell you, my Epson Workforce WF-4720 has been a workhorse ever since I figured out my printing process this year.
2. Set the Scanning Quality on Your Printer
This is an important setting that you must attend to if you want to get a high-quality print of your watercolors. I got this tip from my local print shop at the time, and I don’t know why I didn’t realize it before. I had messaged them about wanting to put together a box set of prints from my watercolors, and already had files scanned ready for them to view (they were charging $25 per scan to create your work into a digital file. Not up my $$$ alley). They wrote back suggesting to be sure that they are scanned with a resolution of “minimum 300 dpi” & “photo quality”.
I went back to my printer, and researched what “dpi” was – “dots per inch” – or, according to Adobe, the number of ink droplets a printer will produce per inch while printing an image. The more dots per inch, the more detail you will see when printed. I found that my printer could print at 200 dpi, 300 dpi, or 600 dpi!
The other point the shop had mentioned was to scan at “image quality”, and there is also a setting on my printer to differentiate the scan from an “text”, “text & image”, or “photo”. I set the scan to “photo”.
I tried re-printing a work at 600 dpi, that I had previously printed from a 200 dpi scan, and the quality set at “image”, and the result was vastly different! Professional even! I recommend experimenting with this if you have or want to invest in a nice photo or black-and-white printer.
3. Select Your Paper
(A Short Dissertation of Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Paper & Printing)
I knew I wanted to make a 5″ x 7″ postcard box set. This would allow the print to be a really nice frameable-size postcard with plenty of space to write on the back. 4″ x 6″ is also a good postcard size, but after hand-drawing my own 4″ x 6″ postcards when I had first opened my shop, I found that there wasn’t much space on the back to write a message. I might still perfect this size someday.
According to USPS, postcard dimensions must be:
- at least 3-1/2″ high x 5 inches long (x 7 millimeters thick)
- no more than 4-1/2″ high x 6 inches long (x 16 millimeters thick)
Aside from this, measuring paper weight is another thing. I had to do a little research but over the years I have obviously observed that postcards need a paper with some heft to them, called “cardstock”. (You can’t slap a postcard stamp on a piece of printer paper, but I’m sure this hasn’t been an issue for you.) This cardstock heft is referred to as GSM or pound (usually abbreviated “#” or “-lb”).
This article on CutCardStock.com and this Cardstock Thickness Guide on PaperWorks.com together explain everything you’d ever want to know about paper weight, but both terms refer to how your cardstock options are classified by weight.
- Pound refers to cardstock as measured in pounds per 1,000 sheets of paper, ranging from 65 lbs (thinnest) to 110 lbs (thickest).
- GSM stands for “grams per square meter” and describes the weight of the actual cardstock sheet itself.
110 lb Cardstock
I have always bought this 110 lb kraft brown cardstock and this 110 lb white cardstock from Michaels to keep on hand because I love to create my own thank-you notes for my Etsy shop. It’s the thickest cardstock you can buy, and it feels very high-quality.
I tried 80 lb cardstock and it feels too flimsy to withstand the handling that mail goes through. It would probably just end up shredded, bent, or crumpled, like the junk mail that we all get in the mailbox with local ads on it.
4. Set the Print Settings on Your Printer
My printer is awesome because if I pull out and reinsert the paper tray, it prompts me on the touchscreen to adjust the paper size and paper type to print appropriately:
To print my postcards, I select 5″ x 7″ and “Premium Matte” for the 110 lb cardstock. It is usually set on 8-1/2″ x 11″ (Letter Size) and “Plain Paper”, but the paper tray has so many adjustments that I can select any standard paper printing size and paper quality. I have even printed on “glossy” 80 lb cardstock when I was making notecards and envelopes of my watercolors too.
5. Set the Print Settings on Your Computer
Set the Paper Size
This refers to the size of the paper that is inserted in the printer. Here, I can choose the paper size to be 5″ x 7″ or 5″ x 7″ Borderless. I chose the first option because the border complements my painting
Set the Paper Scale
This paper scale setting changes depending on how I crop each image after scanning it. This original “Purple Hills” watercolor scan is very vertically long and is not a 5″ x 7″ ratio, so if I press “Print Entire Image” there will be lots of extra white space on left and right. I select “Fill Entire Paper” to get a nicely zoomed and appropriately cropped image.
6. Do a Test Print
I will stop saying my printer is awesome, but not yet. When I was first experimenting, I cut out a 5″ x 7″ piece of the 110-lb white cardstock I had on hand, affirmed the paper size and guidelines on the touchscreen, and aligned the paper in the paper tray. Then I printed a black line drawing card I had scanned & cropped on my USB thumb drive.
It was a great result! The paper ran through smoothly, and I got a nice black-and-white card like the ones in the photo above on my Instagram @parisgraycreative.
Try it with color next and start printing!
My Postcard Home-Printing Process, Simplified
- Paint a watercolor. Invest in a nice printer, like my Epson Workforce WF-4720 or similar.
- Set the scanning quality on your printer.
- Select your resolution: minimum 300 dpi, or 600 dpi for the highest quality.
- Select your scan quality: “Photo” (or “Image”, etc.)
- Scan your watercolor onto a USB thumb drive.
- Crop it to your liking. A 5″ x 7″ final print does not need to be cropped to 5″ x 7″ ratio digitally. Read on.
- Select your paper. Insert the correct paper size into the paper tray. Insert USB into the computer.
- Like I said, I always print these postcards on a 5″ x 7″ piece of 110 lb white cardstock from Michaels.
- Select your file to print. Set the print settings on your printer.
- Select the paper size you’ve just inserted: 5″ x 7″
- Select your paper quality: “Premium Matte” (or similar for 110 lb cardstock)
- Set the print settings on my computer (see image below)
- Paper Size – refers to the size of the paper that is inserted in the printer. Here, I can choose the paper size to be 5″ x 7″ or 5″ x 7″ Borderless. I chose the first option because the border complements my painting.
- Scale – This print setting changes depending on how I crop each image after scanning it. This original work is very vertically long and is not a 5″ x 7″ ratio, so if I press “Print Entire Image” there will be lots of extra white space on left and right. I select “Fill Entire Paper” to get a nicely zoomed and appropriately cropped image.
- Press print. Hope for the best!
Other Postcard Design Steps & Materials
- Design your postcard back.
- Set up a custom brand-name stamp like mine (“Paris Gray Creative”) or hand-draw your logo. I designed my stamp on Vistaprint.
- Draw or download a standard postcard-back template. I free-hand drew mine for added uniqueness. Use the same scanning, cropping, and printing process outlined above.
2. For precise paper cutting and edge-trimming, I use this Fiskars SureCut Card-Making Paper Trimmer from Michaels. I’ve had it for years, and it’s a low-investment option ($21.99) for cutting small cards like 5″ x 7″ postcards. It requires “I-style” blades (there are different “letter” blades for different cutters. I just buy replacement blades every few months depending on how dull the blade becomes over time.
3. Like my rounded-edge postcards? Invest in a Crop-A-Dile Corner Chomper! This one is pricey at $27.99 but I took the plunge (Michael’s always has sales!) and it has already been worthwhile to set me apart from the other postcard creators out there. I love the aesthethic.
7. Select Your Style of Packaging
Here’s what I went with:
I love this site for all things packaging!
Everything is wholesale prices. If you’re planning on making this a full-blown business and you already have sales incoming left and right, you can get larger and larger quantities on the cheap. They have millions of sizes, I just went with a nice 5″ x 7″ box.
Don’t forget this step! If you’re going to sell your postcard box set on Etsy like I do, you need some professional, affordable packaging so you don’t end up stuffing it into an old Amazon sleeve (something I actually have done many times, as an advocate for reduce-reuse-recycle).
This mailer, paired with the postcard box, is perfectly sturdy and a well-protected shipping solution to start selling your postcards.
Leave a comment below if this has been helpful or if you have questions. I can really only speak to my process for my entrepreneurial postcard business and creativity, but I’d be interested to hear any thoughts about your process!
Happy painting, friends!
Never stop creating.