Want to make a pocket letter but aren’t sure how? Learn how to make a basic pocket letter with this easy step-by-step tutorial.
The Basic Pocket Letter Tutorial You Asked For
Since sharing my Make and Trade Happy Mail pocket letter article, many of you have requested a basic step-by-step pocket letter tutorial. I get it — although making a pocket letter isn’t hard, it can be overwhelming at first to figure out. This is especially true if you’re looking at pocket letters on Pinterest as guides, because the ones that show up in searches there are usually pretty fancy.
So today we’re going to start with just the basics. We’ll go through the steps to make a simple pocket letter. As we go, I’ll also share a few helpful design tips. Follow along with me, and you’ll have your first pocket letter made in no time!
A Note About Themes and Choosing Materials
A pocket letter is like a scrapbook page:
- You want it to have a clear theme.
- All of the materials that you use should work well together.
For this reason, when you’re just starting out, I highly recommend choosing a coordinated set of papers and stickers to work with. This way the theme will be clear, and you won’t have to think about choosing colors or anything else that might slow you up during the learning process. If you don’t have a coordinated set like this, take a little time to go through your stash and put together your own coordinated set before you start your pocket letter.
A few other points about materials to keep in mind:
- Double-sided papers are the best for making the base cards, so that there is color on both the front and back of the pocket letter.
- Because you’ll want decorations to show up well on the front of the pocket letter, choose simple patterns for the card fronts.
- Don’t worry too much about which patterns show on the card backs, because they’ll just sit behind the treats you add for your trade partner.
Now let’s get started!
How to Make a Basic Pocket Letter
- An 8.5 x 11-inch plastic trading card protector sheet that has 9 pockets
- Four sheets of double-sided 6 x 6-inch patterned papers
- Stickers that coordinate with your papers
- Paper trimmer
- Tape runner or similar adhesive
- Paper scissors
- OPTIONAL: Corner rounder
Making the Base Cards
1. Align one piece of 6×6-inch paper at the 3-1/2 inch cutting guide on your paper trimmer, and then cut.
This will give you one 6 x 3-1/2-inch piece and one 6 x 2-1/2-inch piece.
2. Lay the 6 x 3-1/2-inch piece on your paper trimmer so that one of the long sides faces you. Then align it at the 2-1/2 inch cutting guide, and cut.
3. Slide the piece that is still on the trimmer to the 2-1/2 inch cutting guide, and then cut again.
4. Retrieve the 6 x 2-1/2-inch piece that you trimmed away in step 1, and lay it on your paper trimmer so that one of the long sides is facing you. Then align it at the 2-1/2 inch cutting guide, and cut.
You should now have three 3-1/2 x 2-1/2 inch cards, along with a couple of scraps that you can use later to decorate with. Set these aside.
5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 above until you have 9 to 12 pocket cards to work with.
TIP: You only need 9 pocket cards, but having a few extra is handy for two reasons. First, it gives you one more pattern to mix in when designing the front of the pocket letter, if you like. Second, it gives you spare cards to work with in case you decide you don’t like a card after you decorate it.
Choose and Prepare a Layout
1. Gather up your base cards, and then lay them out on top of the plastic trading card protector sheet — one card per pocket. Rearrange them until you’re happy with how they’re laid out.
2. If you like, round the corners of each card with a corner rounder. This will give them a softer look.
3. Once you’ve got your cards arranged and punched to your liking, insert them in the pockets of the card protector. This will keep them nice and clean as you plan the rest of your design.
Cut Apart Your Stickers
Cut each of the stickers you plan to use away from the main sheet, leaving them attached to their plastic liners. This will help you be able to move them around on the pocket letter until you’re sure of where you want them. If your stickers are already loose, you can skip this step.
Pre-Arrange Your Stickers
1. Choose the stickers you want to go on each card, and lay them out on top of the card protector.
TIP: Aim for high contrast between the colors of the cards and the stickers you choose for them. This will help the stickers stand out better. For example, an orange sticker won’t show up well against an orange card — try for blue, green, etc. instead.
If you really want to use a sticker on a card where it won’t show up well, stick it to a piece of contrasting paper first, and then trim around it to give it a little bit of a border that will stand out against the card.
2. Now pull back and look at the scene as a whole. What works? What doesn’t work? Rearrange the stickers until you are completely happy with how they look.
TIP: Think about the way you want the viewer’s eyes to move when they look at your pocket letter. In big designs like this, it helps if you give them some hints. Here are some easy ways you can do this:
- If you want them to start on one particular card, use bigger stickers, bolder colors, and/or a more elaborate design on that card.
- Arrange pointy elements (arrow, critter tail, the forked end of a banner, the tail end of a swirl, etc.) so that they point towards the next card you want them to look at.
- If you just want the viewer to take in the ‘feel’ of the pocket letter as a whole, balance the sizes, colors, etc. of your stickers so that each card has similar ‘weight’.
You can see above that I’ve rearranged the stickers, and even some of the cards, so that it’s more clear to the viewer where I want them to look and when.
Apply the Stickers to the Cards
1. Carefully pull the first card out of its pocket, and then apply the stickers to it in the same way you pre-arranged them.
2. When you finish decorating the card, tuck it back into its pocket.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 above for each of the cards.
You Did It!
Congratulations! You made your first pocket letter! Don’t you feel accomplished?
All that’s left to do now is fill the back pockets with a letter and a few treats, and then mail it off to someone who could use some happy mail today. You can find tips about mailing and what kinds of treats to include in my earlier Make and Trade Happy Mail article.
Take It to the Next Level
Now that you understand how the decorative part of a pocket letter is put together, take it to the next level by making another one and changing up a few things:
- Substitute stamped images or die cuts for stickers
- Add a few embellishments, such as stick-on gems, buttons, paper flowers, or charms to the card fronts
- Decorate the binder tab with a strip of Washi tape, some ribbon or lace, or a strip of pattterned paper
Experiment to find out what you like and don’t like, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Every ‘mistake’ you make is really a learning opportunity in disguise. Above all, have fun being creative in a new way!
Curious about the materials that I used today? To make it easier for you to find them, I’ve linked them below. Please note that some sponsored links are included. At no extra cost to you, your purchases through these links help support Paper Craft Romance — thank you!!! For more information about sponsored links, please read my Advertising Disclosure.
Share Your Thoughts
What worked or didn’t work for you in making your first pocket letter? What questions do you have about this tutorial or about pocket letters in general that I can help answer? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!
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