Designing a Retro, Summer Postcard Using Photoshop

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Summer is in full swing here at iD Tech Camps, with many of our summer camps for teens and kids already in session. Since the next three months of your freedom will be most likely be filled with some sort of travel, what better way to keep connected to your friends and family by created your own set of postcards? Looks like it’s your lucky day, because in this post, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing.

In this tutorial, we’ll be creating a postcard that will be fully ready to print, either on your home computer or by using an online source (which can be really reasonable and allow your design to look extra professional). This is what your finished project will look similar to:


Looks like it could be used if you were attending one of iD’s Rhode Island summer camps this summer!

The link below this paragraph will include all of the stock files that you’ll need to follow along. If you want, feel free to use your own files and just follow the technique instructions that I’ll give you along the way.

Tutorial Source Files (Approx 6 MB) :


Often times I want to find a professional, reasonable place to print my designs and is a great source for this. We’re actually going to be using their 4x6 postcard template to get started. This template will show you exactly where to place your artwork so that it prints correctly, should you decide to get your postcards professionally printed. If you decide to print at home, this template will allow you to do that as well.

To get to the file go to this this url: postcard template. Then click on the button that says, “Download Start File”, just below the red text that says 4”x6” Postcard.  You’ll want to save this to your computer, since you will be using this file to create your postcard.


When you open up this file, you’re going to see a folder in your layers panel that’s titled “delete these layers”.  On your artboard, you’ll have some additional directions for making sure your artwork stays within the printing boundaries and other printing information.  Keep this folder so you know where your design should go. You can delete it at the very end.


For now, you can hide this folder by clicking on the eye in the layer panel. We’ll need to reference this folder every so often, so you’ll end up hiding and displaying it with this click.



The first design element we’re going to create is the background. While you may not be able to see it in the smaller thumbnail version in the beginning of this post, the background actually has a slight watercolor texture to it that really adds to that retro feel.

To lay a color base for the postcard background, draw a rectangle that covers the entire size of your artboard. Since we’re creating a print design, we’re working in CMYK at 300 dpi (not RGB at 72 dpi, which is for the web). The CMYK color code of this rectangle is: 10, 3, 45, 0.


Now place the watercolor, texture background on top of this. To do this, go up to the top menu bar of Photoshop and click on File>Place.


Navigate to the folder that you downloaded at the beginning of this post that has all of the design elements in it (you’ll need to make sure that you’ve unzipped the zip file or it won’t let you open the folder.) Find the image that’s labeled, grungy_watercolor.jpg and select Place. Resize this image so that it covers up your entire artboard.

Once you’ve resized it, change the Blend Mode to Overlay.


Instead of being bright purple and orange, your background’s colors should now be a lighter blue and yellow.

If you haven’t done so already, create a new group folder and name it, BG Elements. Place the two layers you just created into this folder. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I like to keep an organized layers panel, and folders are a great way to do so.


Next we’re going to add in a subtle white, grunge border. First, let’s create a folder called, White Grunge Border. The next two layers you create will go in here.

Create a new layer called, White Border. Then use the Magic Wand Tool (W) and click anywhere on the artboard. Go up to the top Photoshop menu and select Edit>Stroke.


Change your menu settings to be the following:


This will create a thick white border around your postcard. Now, we want to add just a bit of an uneven grunge border. To do this, we need to use one of the brush sets in that was provided in the beginning of the tutorial. To load a new set of brushes, select your Brush Tool (B) from the Tools Panel.


Then go the Brush Preset Menu just below the top Photoshop Menu. Select the Down Arrow, then select the circle button with the arrow pointing to the right. A new menu will pop up allowing you to select the option that says, “Load Brushes…”.


Navigate to the folder that you downloaded earlier in the tutorial and select asunder20 brushes file and click, Load. When you look at the brushes in your Brush Preset Menu, there should be a whole new set of brushes available to use.


Create a new layer above the White Border Layer and name it Grunge Border. With the color white selected, use these brushes to create a subtle grunge border on the inside of the straight white border we created earlier. Experiment with different types of brushes in the set to create a random border effect.



Now it’s on to the colorful, retro text. The font I used is called, Road Movie and can be found on if you search for it. If you want to use a different font, by all means…go crazy and use whatever your creative mind desires.

To create the overlap look of the title, we’ll need to create each letter as a separate layer. So using your Text Tool (T) (located in the same area where the Paint Brush is located), click on your artboard and type in a letter “G” and make it about 65 pixels large. (Keep in mind that this may vary depending on which font you use.)

Change your letter “G” CMYK color code to be: 50, 100, 0, 0. This will give is a deep, fushia/purplish hue. Then change the Blend Mode to Darken.


Copy the “G” text layer you just created by hitting Ctrl + J. Using the Move Tool (V), move this copy to the right and change the letter to be an “R”. Keep the Blend Mode at Darken, but change the CMYK color code to be: 100, 0 , 0 , 0. Then adjust the placement of your letter “R” so that it’s overlapping the letter “G” just a bit.


Continue to do this until you’ve spelled out the word, “Greetings” using the CMYK color codes below.


Now let’s add in the very subtle white drop shadow to the title text. An easy way to do this is to create a folder and name it, Title. Then put all of your letter layers into that folder. With the entire Title Folder selected drag it to the Create New Folder icon in your Layers Panel. This will create a copy of your Title Folder.


Right click on the copy of your folder and select, “Merge Group”.  Now double click on the layer and change the Color Overlay to be white.


Now move your white Title Layer to be below your original Title Folder and place it so that it’s slightly to the above and to the right of the original text. Set the Opacity to be 80%.

Lastly, angle the entire title text and white drop shadow and place it towards the top left corner of your postcard.



In the tutorial files zip folder that you downloaded, place the paper.psd graphic on your postcard artboard. Place it below your “Greetings” text and to the right a bit. Then use a script font and add in the word “from” in the top left corner of the paper graphic. Change the color of the font to be the orange that you used in the “Greetings” text. If you want to use the same font I used, you can go to and search for “Honey Script”.

If you want, you can fill in the paper area with the place you’re going, but I thought it might be fun to keep it blank so that you can print out a bunch of copies and write in with permanent marker the place where you’re at when you decide to write to someone. Or you can always write your name in there too. It’s completely up to you.


We’re almost done with our graphics for the postcard! The next thing you need to do is open up the file called, “lighthouse.jpg” from the tutorial files folder that you downloaded. Once you have it open, duplicate the locked Background Layer by selecting it and clicking Ctrl + J, then delete the locked Background Layer so that you only have your copy in your layers panel.

Next go up to the top, main Photoshop menu and select Image>Adjustments >Levels. Bump up the contrast of image by moving the middle slider to the right a bit.


Now to up the Image>Adjustments>Threshold. Move the slide so that your Threshold Level is at about 141.


Now take the Magic Wand Tool (W) from the Tools Panel and select any area of the image that is white. Since we want to select everything that’s white, after you do this, go up to the top, main Photoshop Menu and go to Select>Similar.


This should select all of the areas in your image that are colored white. Now hit delete so all of the white disappears.

Now to change the color of the black areas, double-click on the layer so that the Layer Style Menu pops up. Select Color Overlay and make the color to be the CMYK color code: 100, 50,30,010.


Make sure that both your postcard file and the lighthouse image are open on your Photoshop screen. Then in the Layers Panel (not the artboard), click and hold on the lighthouse layer that you just created. Now, drag it over to the postcard file artboard (not the layers panel) that you were working on earlier. This layer should appear on your artboard now.

It’s probably too big for your artboard, so hit, Ctrl + T to transform the size. Resize the image so that fits your artboard.


Also, you’ll want to make sure that this layer is below all of your layers except the BG Elements Folder you created earlier. This way you won’t be covering anything up that you want to be seen on your postcard. Here’s how I’ve organized and named my all of my layers to I can easily move groups and know what I’m clickin on.



For the back of the postcard, I’ve included a Photoshop file in the downloadable folder that includes a postcard back. You can use this file if you want, or create your own.

If you’re looking to print your postcards, you can easily print them on your home printer, two to a sheet. Or you can go to OvernightPrints or UPrinting and upload your design files and they can print out as many as 25 or more. It’s reasonable and makes your postcard look like one that you would buy in a souvenir shop.  (Keep in mind iD is in no way affiliated with any printing companies. These are just some that I’ve used in the past.)

That’s it. You’ve now created a retro-looking postcard design for all your travels this summer. Now that you know how to add these elements into your design, you can modify your postcard to include a different image that conveys where you’ll be in the coming months. For example, let’s say you went to a summer camp in Colorado, instead of a lighthouse image you could include an image of the Rocky Mountains.

Here’s hoping you have a safe, happy and FUN summer. And remember…don’t forget to write!  

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