Understanding postal regulations for postcards is of utmost importance. You may design the most beautiful, attention-getting postcard that would drive all of your customers to action, but if it doesn’t meet postal regulations it will never be delivered. Finding out too late in the process, like after you have printed and addressed the cards, could kill an entire project. Some simple planning up front can save you time and money down the road.
There are certain pieces of information that the post office needs to print on a card to ensure its delivery. The three key areas are:
The area where these elements are placed are called clear zones because you cannot place other elements here and expect correct delivery. Luckily, there are several online resources that will help you know exactly what areas are clear zones.
Modern Postcard is an online printer, but also offers templates for many different design applications that have the clear zones marked. On their postcard page they have several different size postcards, all of which they print. You can send postcards in other sizes, but Modern Postcard offers the templates as a resource for people using their services, so they only have templates for the sizes that they print.
This image is a modern postcard template for a standard 4.25 x 6 postcard. The three gray areas are the clear zones. In the upper right corner is the indicia, or postage area. This is where you would place a stamp, or print your organization’s indicia for prepaid postage. No other elements are allowed in this area.
Below that is the mailing address area. This is the only area that the addressee’s information can be placed. The area adjacent has a notice about the post office equipment scanning for an address. If the address is not placed within the specified area it may be returned to you. Equally important is the bottom section of the postcard reserved for the barcode to be imprinted.
Other markings on the document apply to layout areas for Modern Postcard, but are pretty standard and should work for other printers. These include the area for a bleed, the trim line is where the postcard will be cut down to size, and the safe zone is the area in which all of your important content should be placed to ensure it is not compromised. In this example, the layout template is overlaid over an actual postcard to show how these guides are used in layout.
You can see here that the three clear zones have been left empty of content. The text area ends just before the barcode area begins. That content also fits within the green safe zone so that none of the information would be cut off or too close to the edge of the final postcard. This example is pretty text heavy, but you could add any elements to the open areas, like full color images or illustrations.