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Where do you get "____" supplies A thread to help share info on where artists get supplies the cheapest

#1 User is offline   thatreevesgirl 

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 04:51 PM

This is a thread to help artists find cheap supplies to use in their art/display. Okay, I know that some artists do not like sharing where they get certain supplies (because then they have to worry about copycats, or a flood of competitors). However, I know that there are a lot of supplies that many of us use (like print bags, lamination stuff, button supplies, display stuff) that don't really contribute to competition.

Display: I just got a new display. I really like it, and I've had many artists come by and ask me where I got it. I'm using the 5' x 2' grid walls that are connectable (They use a similar size of these in the art show at ACen, if that gives you an idea). I really liked them. A typical artist will need 2 or 4 and a connector or two. I forgot to take a picture of my display at ACen, but I have a really badpic from set-up at Detour. http://thatreevesgir...ost/20337313708 I like these displays since you can get shelf attachments for the grids. http://www.storesupply.com is where I got them and all of the cool accessories (minus my duct-tape covered shelves that work as shelves and are magnetic which I made myself).

Badges: Watch for clearance sales at Laminationdepot.com It isn't the cheapest for day to day lamination pricing, but their clearance prices are unbeatable and the product is quality. The size I use and like are the 3"x4" hunting badge 10 mil.

What I'm looking for
: Where people buy the cheapest resealable print bags or ones with die-cut handles? I have a place I buy cheap poly-bags from, but I really want my print bags to look more professional (so I want to get the crystal clear high mil count bags with the reseal strip or handles).

Bonus: I'm starting a tumblr that will show how to make things like my awesome magnetic shelves, or how I set up a display, or whatever anyone else wants to know. I have to finish my finals first, and enjoy my birthday, but it is the next thing on my to do list after that. I'll be testing marker paper and doing a lot of other things that I think you guys will find helpful. It will also put my seven years of artist alley experience to good use.

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EDIT: I kind of turned it into more of a reference/art help blog, but you can ALWAYS send me asks with questions about the artist alley. I will be glad to assist you in any way I can.

This post has been edited by thatreevesgirl: 05 March 2014 - 04:59 PM


#2 User is offline   Karmada 

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:24 PM

I very much like this thread! I wanted to add my findings so far:

I too get my display stuff from store supply warehouse! They ship really quickly, it's so nice.

As for my print bags, I get them (and mat backings) from: www.clearbags.com

Hopefully that helps! I'll be curious to see where other people get their things. :)

#3 User is offline   Tokoz 

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 07:42 AM

I can only think of a couple things at the moment, and I don't know how much they apply to anyone else. First is www.dharmatrading.com, which is a fabric arts and painting store where I get my blanks and dyes for silk painting. They ship quickly and have a ton of genuinely useful tutorials on their website to help you use their products. THe other is www.balloonmerchant.com, which is where I go for twisting balloons. Balloon merchant has a lower price-per-bag than most sites and crazy fast shipping, however, it doesn't give as high a discount for large volume orders, so if you're ordering more than about $100 or $150 of balloons, you're probably better off going somewhere like http://www.mbd2.com/online/store/

I feel like I should also plug my local thrift store, the Mission Mart. Thrift stores are great places to pick up sheets and gigantic tablecloths for covering your booth at closing. I found an 8- or 9-foot long fabric tablecloth for something like $1.50. You really can't beat that.

This post has been edited by Tokoz: 11 May 2012 - 07:44 AM


#4 User is offline   JujuFox 

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 06:50 PM

I'm following your tumblr!

I only buy bubble mailers in bulk from Royal Mailers, and everything else I get from people on Etsy. I try to stick with people based in the US for things like jump rings and necklace chains.

For business cards I go with Vista Print. They have discounts all time, so you can grab tons of cards for cheap. Their print quality is so-so, but you're giving them out for free to hundreds of people. I went through 200 cards and ran out on Sunday. Last time I ordered I got 500 cards in glossy with my own image on it for $27!
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#5 User is offline   thatreevesgirl 

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 12:00 AM

JujuFox-I wish I would have wandered the alley more and found your table. You make some really cute stuff. I just overspent my budget in just two rows of artists and had to be done for the weekend. As a one crochet/crafter to another I find your stuff really adorable.

and here's a few links for business cards: http://www.gotprint.com and http://www.uprinting.com is where I use when I'm doing graphic design jobs. gotprint.com has 500 double sided UV coated cards for just $24.64 or $26.74 for 1000, and if you can get 1000 on uprinting.com for just $30 (both of those quotes include shipping to my location, yours might be less or more depending on your distance from where they are located). If you need more than 1000 those site are definitely more economical than vistaprint (and if I recall vistaprint isn't necessarily double sided). I'm just impressed by their products, and I use them for when I do design projects for clients.

Tokoz-I was just looking for some cheap tablecloths for that purpose. Mission Mart sounds like an awesome store to have nearby. I should check and see if any of my local thift/dollar stores have cheap tablecloths since I'm not in IL.

Karmada-I had found clearbags.com, and they looked pretty decently priced. I was going to go with them, but I wasn't sure if they were the best for cheapest/cheap-and-good-service place on the net. I'm glad that you rec them, I'll probably put in an order for the summer soon if someone else doesn't link a cheaper site.

#6 User is offline   frzndaqiri 

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 08:34 AM

Moo cards are fantastic - I do vistaprint for the cheapie handouts but Moo has a great feel and thickness. One of the awesome things is you can have as many designs as cards - 50 cards 50 different designs. A fantastic way to show off your work. The mini cards I've seen doubled as item tags - punch a hole and hang jewelry right from it. They are on the pricy side - but if you're using it for the stuff that pays back it's worth the investment.

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#7 User is offline   RogueCreations 

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 08:38 AM

I wish I had more to contribute to this thread than I do. I don't have tons of fancy display myself. I have black, wire cubes and I just went to JoAnn Fabrics for my table cloth and some other fabric to help things stand out. I'm a fan of wrapping cardboard boxes in fabric to use as display stands. I usually use the boxes that I packed my merchandise in to help save space. I got a banner this year from Vista Print which was pretty nice and made my table look a little more professional. I usually print all of my business cards myself at home on 110 lb. cardstock and then cut them out with a paper cutter. I can't make them glossy without extra effort, so I usually don't. But I like it because I can do whatever I want with them and they're less expensive just because I don't have to get them shipped!

This has been a super helpful thread for me because I've been wanting to look into other ways to pretty up my table. *super thumbs up*

#8 User is offline   frzndaqiri 

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 08:59 AM

Slightly off topic

A fun idea - do a google image search for "artist alley table". Gives you lots of examples of how folks set up their tables.

Another tip: Take a photo of your table!!! It's great to remind you how you set it up, let you see what your customers see, and hopefully inspire you to improve. I love that I have a pic of my (awful!) first table. It is amazing to see what I've got now (that I'm STILL perfecting fyi) in comparison.
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#9 User is offline   The Chainmail Guy 

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:48 PM

A bit hard for me to contribute unless you're also a mailler, and pretty much everyone knows that supplier (theringlord.com). I ordered my business cards from overnightprints.com, got 500 for about $10, and they're really good quality. The cards themselves almost feel like plastic, and they offer double sided printing for no extra charge. Next time I order, I'm going to put QR codes on the back for my deviantart and G+ page.

#10 User is offline   The Fujoshi 

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 06:16 PM

If you're looking for general art supplies, such as sharpies and markers, try Blick when they have sales or Walmart. Blick usually have 10-50% off sales if you are a member and Walmart is walmart.

Poster boards try mailing supply offices and other places.
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#11 User is offline   Ekqo 

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Posted 10 August 2012 - 08:59 AM

Anyone know where I can get 70-100pg art books (of the fan art variety) printed, and does anyone know how many I should get printed? xD;;
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#12 User is offline   ShadowYin-Yang 

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 05:29 AM

Do you guys where to get your design onto a small pouch bag? I'm sure I'm not the only one's that seen them around. They can fit a 3ds (or any hand-held). Oh, they look like this. But I've seen other people have them too and not just TasyPeach.

Also, would you figure people set a difference between keychains and phone charms, material-wise? I see so various keychain materials, but I'd say keychains are almost always heavier than phone charm due to material but in terms of use I don't see much of a difference. But that's just me I suppose. I'm looking for keychain manufacturers too but I'm not sure what sorts of things con attenders would get.
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#13 User is offline   LonOtter 

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 11:32 AM

Gridwall
If you're local-ish, Specialty Store Services in DesPlaines has reasonable prices on gridwall (and lots of other supplies), a showroom if you want to see things in person, and you can pick up your order and save on shipping. They do prefer that you call in your order ahead of time so the warehouse people can pull your items, but I did add onto an order once I got to the showroom, and didn't have to wait too long.

If you're in the south suburbs, check if you can do pickup from Firefly Store Solutions' Alsip warehouse (used to be called Robert H. Ham). IIRC their prices are sometimes better than Specialty Store Services.

I got some of the connectors with my first batch of gridwall, but discovered that cable ties work fine. I did get a basic cable tie gun, which tightens and trims them off with a few squeezes, from ULine. IIRC you can also do pickup from the ULine warehouse in Waukegan.

#14 User is offline   Sapphy 

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 03:51 PM

View PostShadowYin-Yang, on 30 January 2014 - 05:29 AM, said:

Also, would you figure people set a difference between keychains and phone charms, material-wise? I see so various keychain materials, but I'd say keychains are almost always heavier than phone charm due to material but in terms of use I don't see much of a difference. But that's just me I suppose. I'm looking for keychain manufacturers too but I'm not sure what sorts of things con attenders would get.


I think phone charms just tend to be smaller. I got my charms two years ago from Printsess, they're local to Chicago and do a really great job! They're also very, very durable. I've had one of mine on my keychain since around March 2012 and it's still as great as ever.

I know a few people make their charms from plastic shrinky-dinks but I have noticed those tend to be a lot more brittle.
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#15 User is offline   JujuFox 

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 05:48 PM

View PostSapphy, on 31 January 2014 - 03:51 PM, said:

I think phone charms just tend to be smaller. I got my charms two years ago from Printsess, they're local to Chicago and do a really great job! They're also very, very durable. I've had one of mine on my keychain since around March 2012 and it's still as great as ever.

I know a few people make their charms from plastic shrinky-dinks but I have noticed those tend to be a lot more brittle.


Printsess closed up about a year ago, but their parent company Hey Chickadee is still running. I guess they didn't want to do the custom printing side of their business anymore. Now I use a place in the UK, but there is also a company in Texas that prints charms. Other than those two I don't know off the top of my head of any other places that do charms.
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#16 User is offline   ShadowYin-Yang 

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Posted 03 February 2014 - 04:27 PM

View PostSapphy, on 31 January 2014 - 03:51 PM, said:

I think phone charms just tend to be smaller. I got my charms two years ago from Printsess, they're local to Chicago and do a really great job! They're also very, very durable. I've had one of mine on my keychain since around March 2012 and it's still as great as ever.

I know a few people make their charms from plastic shrinky-dinks but I have noticed those tend to be a lot more brittle.


I guess that's true. The size(and weight) is an obvious contrast between the two I somehow didn't take into consideration.
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#17 User is offline   Sapphy 

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 09:41 AM

View PostJujuFox, on 31 January 2014 - 05:48 PM, said:

Printsess closed up about a year ago, but their parent company Hey Chickadee is still running. I guess they didn't want to do the custom printing side of their business anymore. Now I use a place in the UK, but there is also a company in Texas that prints charms. Other than those two I don't know off the top of my head of any other places that do charms.


Oh no, that's so sad! I had a wonderful experience with them and love my charms to death. Although looking at reviews, it looks like a lot of people did actually have issues with Printsess' customer service.

I know the UK place is ZapCreatives, but what's the company in Texas?
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#18 User is offline   thatreevesgirl 

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 02:43 AM

http://www.inkitlabs.com/ is the Texas acrylic charm site. I have heard good things about them, but haven't used them myself.

I also want to add a link to a doujinshi/comic/print on demand site I like: http://www.superiorpod.com/ I only ordered three copies of a book I made for a class, but if I get a doujin/comic done for the con I'll probably print through them because I was impressed with the quality and the prices. I haven't been able to find anyone that can do really small quantities for as cheap as they do. I'm sure there are companies that can beat them on large print orders, but if you only need 10-20 copies of something I'd go with them.

#19 User is offline   Fantasia 

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 11:57 AM

thank you for this thread! I would like to sell my art at cons somewhere in the future, and this thread will give me a lot of great tips~
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#20 User is offline   thatreevesgirl 

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 04:52 PM

Other things that were inquired about in the thread that didn't get answered while I was away...

Where to get 3ds sized bags printed. The cheapest answer (if you know how to sew and can assemble them yourself) is www.spoonflower.com and you just print the fabric you make. For the 3DS/pencil bags the best fabric choice is the silky faille. The silky faille is a polyester fabric, so the colors are more vibrant and it resists fading when washing better than some of spoonflowers other fabrics.

If you cannot sew and just want to have your design put on a bag, the best resource I've found is artscow [link]. I really like their bags and they hold up well. I got one from my friend over at Sorbet Jungle and it has lasted me forever (and I am really rough on my things). The downside is that artscow is expensive. Just wait until you get the right coupon/sale before ordering (usually one that has free shipping plus your item discounted).

Spoonflower and Artscow are also where most people order their body pillows from. Just a note, artscow body pillows are made out of the same slick polyester fabric as their bags. It holds up amazingly well, but some people prefer a cotton pillowcase. That, and they are more expensive (but once again, spoonflower is just a fabric printer, so you will have to sew them yourself).

Spoonflower is previewing a new ultra cotton (I can't find the link that allows you to sign up for the beta to choose this at the moment), but it is supposed to be a better quality print on the cottons. [link] is a side by side comparison of a polyester fabric print vs. the current cotton. However, I've seen body pillows made out of the spoonflower fabric in person and it looks really nice, it just isn't quite as bright as those polyester fabrics. That is just how polyester vs. cotton is though, and it is the same way with dyes, etc.

Are there any other questions I can help with? I seriously feel like I own a stupid art/craft store (seriously, you should see my office and storage space), and have a lot of resources to share. Don't be afraid to ask.

#21 User is offline   a. opallene 

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 09:07 PM

Hey, so I'm an Artists' Alley newbie this year. This is a great thread! I was wondering about pin-backed buttons - Does anyone know where I can get the best rate on an order of several different designs? (Say, 9 or 10.) I've been shopping around and I've found it less convenient than I anticipated to throw that many different design templates into a single order.

Also, I'd like to print postcards, and I'm trying to find a service that will print them like "real" postcards - You know, with the address lines and stamp outline on the back. A vintage-y look would be a bonus, but is not necessary.

Thanks in advance! :)

#22 User is offline   ShadowYin-Yang 

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 04:52 AM

View Postthatreevesgirl, on 05 March 2014 - 04:52 PM, said:

Other things that were inquired about in the thread that didn't get answered while I was away...

Where to get 3ds sized bags printed. The cheapest answer (if you know how to sew and can assemble them yourself) is www.spoonflower.com and you just print the fabric you make. For the 3DS/pencil bags the best fabric choice is the silky faille. The silky faille is a polyester fabric, so the colors are more vibrant and it resists fading when washing better than some of spoonflowers other fabrics.

If you cannot sew and just want to have your design put on a bag, the best resource I've found is artscow [link]. I really like their bags and they hold up well. I got one from my friend over at Sorbet Jungle and it has lasted me forever (and I am really rough on my things). The downside is that artscow is expensive. Just wait until you get the right coupon/sale before ordering (usually one that has free shipping plus your item discounted).

Spoonflower and Artscow are also where most people order their body pillows from. Just a note, artscow body pillows are made out of the same slick polyester fabric as their bags. It holds up amazingly well, but some people prefer a cotton pillowcase. That, and they are more expensive (but once again, spoonflower is just a fabric printer, so you will have to sew them yourself).

Spoonflower is previewing a new ultra cotton (I can't find the link that allows you to sign up for the beta to choose this at the moment), but it is supposed to be a better quality print on the cottons. [link] is a side by side comparison of a polyester fabric print vs. the current cotton. However, I've seen body pillows made out of the spoonflower fabric in person and it looks really nice, it just isn't quite as bright as those polyester fabrics. That is just how polyester vs. cotton is though, and it is the same way with dyes, etc.

Are there any other questions I can help with? I seriously feel like I own a stupid art/craft store (seriously, you should see my office and storage space), and have a lot of resources to share. Don't be afraid to ask.


You. Thank you! I didn't think something as simple as 'bags' can be so hard to find. I had no idea they made body pillows too o.o
Thanks so much again!

If you, or anyone else, don't mind...my only question at the moment is if you guys know what the cheapest thing to manufacture is. I'm in the process of creating things, obviously, and I discovered how frickin expensive it is to print 2 colors. So I'm looking at other product options @_@
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#23 User is offline   thatreevesgirl 

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 10:53 AM

View PostShadowYin-Yang, on 19 March 2014 - 04:52 AM, said:

You. Thank you! I didn't think something as simple as 'bags' can be so hard to find. I had no idea they made body pillows too o.o
Thanks so much again!

If you, or anyone else, don't mind...my only question at the moment is if you guys know what the cheapest thing to manufacture is. I'm in the process of creating things, obviously, and I discovered how frickin expensive it is to print 2 colors. So I'm looking at other product options @_@


It really depends.

If you are talking about profit margin, I'd say that prints are the easiest way to go, they have the highest profit margin. But it really depends if the prints you produce are popular enough to sell (a lot of artists go home with a lot of prints they thought were going to sell in the alley, but didn't). Also, I'd like to note that interest in prints are beginning to decline. I've been around long enough to see two other print cycles (meaning prints become popular, and then become unpopular), and I am seeing the signs that prints are heading into a decline again. For some artists prints will always sell, because they are incredible artists, but I think that artists who aren't "top-tier" artists will find prints harder to move in upcoming months.

It also depends on whether you have the equipment to produce certain merchandise. Badges have always been one of my cheapest things to produce, but that is because I have a great laminator and bought badge sleeves when they were $3.00 for a box of 500 and I bought enough for free shipping. Buttons are very cheap if you have a button maker. Stickers aren't bad if you have the ability to make them. Honestly, it is just a feel for knowing what is going to be the right product at the right time. (I've also accumulated so much crap for making things for artist alleys, I'm not sure it is worth it.) However, it is very important to remember...

No matter how cheap something is to produce, it isn't cheap if it doesn't sell.

That is my main advice to you. So, instead, find something you enjoy making. Make it the very best it can possibly be. I can make cheap hats. I can make cheap bags. I can make cheap badges. The trick is to always have the best quality item you can possibly make, and then you will (mostly likely) find respect and people who are willing to buy your product. It is never about finding the cheapest item. I understand budget constraints. I really do. That is why you have to sometimes earn money to make money. You have to spend a lot of money on an artist alley before you start to make money.

I really believe success is about producing a product with love and pride. Customers in the artist alley can tell when you've put your heart and soul into what you've made. (Oh geez, this is so cheesy, but I believe this stuff). Part of being successful in the artist alley is luck, a bigger part of it is being a good business person, and an even bigger part is being an artist who treats customers and other artists with respect.

And here is a really important tip: If everyone else is making a product, it is a fad that is about to be over. Start fads, don't join them. But this requires taking chances, and sometimes your product will not take off and fail. But sometimes you get to be at the start of a fad that every one else follows. Just don't get complacent (I'm speaking from experience here). Being successful in the artist alley requires you to be a constantly changing, innovative business person, and that isn't the life for everyone (nor is it compatible with every personality type, it requires a certain kind of person, or that you hire a certain kind of table helper/friend to assist you).

My best advice for anyone who is new, or doesn't know a lot of about merchandising, is to find a friend in the alley who does. Someone who is willing to help you learn and develop your products. We do exist. There are many of us that are willing to take other artists under our wing (I've done it before several times and I'm very proud of the artists I can point at and can say I helped over the years). One-on-one advice from a veteran who is willing to take an honest look at your art and crafts is more valuable than a quick "this is the cheapest item you can make" advice by far. You can PM me if you like. I'm always willing to help.

View Posta. opallene, on 18 March 2014 - 09:07 PM, said:

Hey, so I'm an Artists' Alley newbie this year. This is a great thread! I was wondering about pin-backed buttons - Does anyone know where I can get the best rate on an order of several different designs? (Say, 9 or 10.) I've been shopping around and I've found it less convenient than I anticipated to throw that many different design templates into a single order.

Also, I'd like to print postcards, and I'm trying to find a service that will print them like "real" postcards - You know, with the address lines and stamp outline on the back. A vintage-y look would be a bonus, but is not necessary.

Thanks in advance! :)/>/>/>/>/>/>


For postcards that look like postcards. You just get double sided postcards (the back side that has the address line and whatnot can be b/w). You have to design the back side yourself, or you can pay a designer to do it for you, but my advice is to just design it yourself. I promise that it is a really, really easy process and you can look up the specifications for postcards at usps.com or just google it. If you do it any other way you will pay out the nose for those postcards.

p.s. I just googled "postcard template" and "standard postcard back" and got a lot of results. I'm sure you can find one of those that you can use. :D/>/>

This post has been edited by thatreevesgirl: 28 March 2014 - 07:57 AM


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