Design a Vintage-Inspired Postcard in Photoshop

Jenny B Kowalski
Published in
5 min readSep 12, 2018
Inspiration: Postcards from the Digital Public Library of America: Greenville, Indianapolis, and Utah

Ever want to make a design like those great vintage travel postcards? Ever feel confused by clipping masks or adjustment layers in Photoshop? This tutorial should help. We’ll be making a design inspired by old-fashioned “Greetings from…” postcards. For this tutorial, you will need a computer and an Adobe Creative Cloud license. This tutorial assumes a very basic understanding of Photoshop, the kind you would get from Adobe’s free Photoshop Get Started course.

The image we’ll be creating in Photoshop (see the bottom of this article for the full finished image)
  1. Start by gathering images from a specific place you have visited (or wish you visited). These could be images you took yourself or images from a site like or With images, try to only use images with a Creative Commons License that gives you permission to remix them. Download images you want to use and organize them in a folder on your computer.
  2. Log in to Search for Nimbus Sans Cond L Black and Voltage Bold and sync both to your computer. You’ll need to be logged into Creative Cloud on your computer for synced fonts to appear as an option within Photoshop.
  3. Create a new photoshop document that is 7" wide by 5" tall and 300 pixels/inch.
  4. Type the name of the place using Nimbus Sans Cond L Black in all capital letters. Try to keep the name short. You may need to abbreviate it.
  5. Adjust the font size until the name fills the canvas. We’ll be putting images inside the letters, so we want the letters to be as large as possible.
  6. Now that you know the correct font size, rewrite the word one letter at a time so that each letter is on its own type layer. For instance, the word “NORWAY” becomes six different type layers “N” “O” “R” “W” “A” “Y”. To accomplish this, you can create a new text box and type “N”. Then you can copy and paste that layer or use option-click and drag on “N” to make a copy. You can edit the copied layer to say “O” and repeat for the rest of your word.
  7. Make sure all of your letter layers are aligned and spaced properly. You can use your original word type layer as a reference. Once you get the letter layers working, hide (click on the eyeball) or delete (drag to the trashcan) the text layer with the full word such as “NORWAY” so that you only see the text layers for the individual letters such as “N” “O” “R” “W” “A” “Y”.
  8. Put all of these text layers in a group and call the group “name”.
  9. Click on the “fx” button to add layer styles to the “name” group. Add a solid stroke and a drop shadow. My recommended settings for the Stroke are Size: 10px, Position: Outside, Blend Mode: Normal, Opacity: 100%. My recommended settings for the Drop Shadow are Blend Mode: Normal, Opacity: 100%, Angle: 125, Distance: 35px, Spread: 100%, Size: 7px, Noise: 0. In my example, I used red for both, but you can use whatever color makes sense for your image!
Recommended stroke settings and drop shadow settings for the “name” group
  1. Select an image to act as the background of the postcard. Put this layer below the “name” group.
  2. Above the “name” group, add a rectangle that is 7" wide and 5" tall with no fill and a white stroke of 40px. This will act as the border to the postcard.
  3. Add new images as clipping masks to each individual letter, so there is a different image in each letter. If you want to put an image inside the letter “N”, bring an image into your file. Put that image as a layer just above the letter “N”. With the image layer selected, type Ctrl-Alt-G (PC)/Cmd-Option-G (Mac) or go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask. Now you should only see the image within the letter “N”. Repeat for all letters.
  4. Adjust the size and placement of the images that you have clipped onto the letters. You can do that by selecting the image and typing Ctrl-T (PC)/Cmd-T(Mac) or go to Edit > Free transform.
  5. Add an adjustment layer such as Hue/Saturation to the name to increase readability. I like to use Hue/Saturation and check the box for colorize so that the name is all the same color. Experiment with several different options until you find one you like.
  6. Add a different adjustment layer to the background image to make the name stand out a bit more. In this example, I used a gradient fill with a blend mode like multiply and a low opacity.
  7. Create a new type layer with “greetings from…” in Voltage Bold. This should be above the name, but with a smaller font size. Add a type layer with a tagline about the destination below the name, such as “home of the fjords”. Make sure both new text layers are legible. In this example, I made them white so they can be read on the darker background. You may need to add a stroke or drop shadow to these layers if your background image is complex.
  8. Select the “name” and the “greetings” and “tagline” text layers. Using Ctrl-T (PC)/Cmd-T(Mac) or Edit > Free transform, move your mouse to an outside corner until you see a curved arrow that allows you to rotate the layers.
  9. Continue to experiment with color, adjustment layers, and placement of the images within the letters until you are satisfied.
The finished example image, all photos used in this image are from

Thanks for reading, and let me know how it went! I’d love to see finished projects!



Jenny B Kowalski

Graphic & Interactive Designer, Assistant Professor of Instruction at Tyler School of Art and Architecture