In a Pinch: How to Make a Simple Envelope From Scratch

I’ve been relatively crafty since I was a kid. I went through painting phases, beading phases, pottery phases, collaging phases—you name it, if it involved art supplies, I probably tried it. So creating things from scratch was a skill I developed early on and sometimes take for granted today.

My mom recently asked me to send her some photos for a frame she’d bought. I collected a few options and was about to send them off to her when I discovered that I didn’t have a single envelope in the house that was big enough to fit the photos. My instinct was, of course, to just create my own.

There are a couple of obvious benefits to learning how to make your own envelopes: Custom envelopes are just the right size for whatever you’re sending, and you save storage room and some cash by avoiding having to buy a bunch of boxes of randomly sized envelopes.

If you haven’t tried making your own envelope from scratch and wouldn’t even know where to start, not to worry. Just follow these step-by-step directions and you’ll have a fresh envelope that’s ready to send in a matter of minutes.

What You’ll Need
  • Sheet of paper (should be at least twice the size of what you want it to hold)
  • Craft glue (I use Elmer’s)
  • Scissors
Step 1

Lay out a sheet of paper that’s at least twice as tall and at least a couple of inches wider than whatever it is you’re sending. You should be able to fold the paper over the item to completely cover it. This sheet of green paper is standard 8 1/2″ x 11″.

Step 2

Place your object on top of the paper, lining it up so that it’s flush with the bottom edge. Draw a short line a few millimeters above the object. This marks how tall your envelope will be.

Step 3

Lift the bottom of the paper and fold where you placed the mark. The mark is now on the “inside” of the envelope.

Step 4

Place your item on top of the folded section. Make two more marks on either side of your item to determine how wide your envelope will be. (Note: I drew the marks with pen for visibility’s sake, but I recommend using pencil for this step, as these marks will appear on the outside of the envelope.)

Step 5

Unfold the bottom so that the sheet is lying flat. Then fold the sides of the paper in toward the center, along the lines you just marked.

You can double-check that the envelope is going to be large enough at this stage by lining up your item flush with the bottom of the paper. If it fits in that bottom rectangular section, within the two folded edges of the paper and between the bottom raw edge of the paper and the crease you made in Step 3, then you’re all set. If your item doesn’t fit, just shift your folds accordingly until it does. I actually had to do this in this example, so you’ll see a stray crease on the left side in the next photo, which serves as a reminder that everyone makes mistakes and it’s all good.

Step 6

Fold the bottom section up along the crease you made in Step 4. Then fold the top section down. It’s starting to look like an envelope! Now unfold the paper so that it’s laid out like in Step 5. All the creases you’ve made thus far will serve as a guide for trimming everything down to size in the next step.

Step 7
step-7-edit3
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There’s a few ways to do this step, but here’s how I typically do it: Using scissors, cut horizontally along the crease between the bottom and middle sections of the paper (I highlighted the cut lines in a salmon color). Make sure to stop cutting when you get to your main vertical crease on either side. These will be your biggest “flaps.”

In the middle section, you can leave the flaps be, but I like to trim them down just a bit to cut down on the bulkiness of the envelope (the cut lines are indicated with light orange and blue). I left about a centimeter of paper for the flaps.

Then, leave no flaps in the top section. Just cut along the vertical crease (highlighted in light green) until you get to the top of the middle section. There are some shadows in this photo that makes it look like I’ve vertically folded the top section, but I haven’t. I just cut along the main vertical creases I made in Step 5.

Step 8

It’s glue time! Draw a thin line of glue on the inside of the two little flaps of the middle section.

Then, dribble some glue on the outside of the flaps of the bottom section.

Step 9

Press the middle section flaps so that they’re glued down. Then fold the bottom section up and press down so that it looks like this:

Step 10

Snip off any excess paper in the top section. This is the back of your envelope. You can get fancy by cutting it into a triangle shape, but you can also just cut straight across.

Stuff your envelope and tape it closed, then add your recipient’s address, your return address, and enough postage to get the envelope to its destination. You can also refer to USPS’s Postage Price Calculator to determine how many stamps you’ll need to send your custom envelope. When in doubt, I add an extra stamp.

And you’re done!

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