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Basics for the Newbie: Creating a Customized Letterhead for Your Art Business

by Carolyn Henderson on 5/22/2012 7:17:14 AM

This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews and her  freelance writing appears in regional newspapers, online magazines, and her humor blog, Middle-Aged Plague.


I’m an e-mail person: it’s quick, fast, instantaneous, easy and free. What’s not to like?


Sometimes, however, e-mail won’t suffice, and you find yourself having to write a real letter, on paper, that you send through the mail with a stamp. With a few taps of the keyboard, five minutes concentration, and some decent paper, you can create a customized letterhead for your art business that looks like something you order, and pay for, one ream at a time.


You don’t though – purchase 500 pre-made sheets all at once. When you create your own letterhead on your computer you’re free to change fonts, size, contact information, even color – but you look like a “real” business with “real” stationery, which is good, because that’s what you are.


This is what our letterhead looks like  (1)– I use it on all correspondence, Steve’s résumé, bios and artist statements, presentation sheets – basically any written communication that generates from our business. If you’re remotely familiar with your word processing program (and you haven’t done this yet), then you’ll wonder what’s taken you so long. If you’re not so adept with your word processing program, then this is a great way to practice.


First, your name, or that of your business. I like to put it on the left in a large, bold, generally sans serif font, this latter term basically meaning that the type is smooth without any extra squiggies, loops, or short, decorative lines at the start or finish at the stroke of the letters. Arial, Eras, and Franklin Gothic are examples of sans serif fonts – check them out by looking in the toolbar at the top of your word processing program; in Microsoft Word, there is a dropdown menu on the Home page that lists the font and its size.


You can also use a serifed font (think Times New Roman, Garamond, or Georgia), or something handwritten looking or scriptlike, or funky, or old fashioned – just make sure it’s readable and try to not get overly adorably cute. The purpose of a letterhead is to put, in one easy to locate and read spot, all of the salient information about you so that you can be easily contacted. I incorporate website, e-mail, phone number, and physical address.


To get the line between the name at the top and the information below, you can either hit the shift and underline keys simultaneously, or better yet, go to Insert or its equivalent in the bar at the top of your software program (I use Microsoft Word 2007 on one computer and 2010 on another), click Shapes, and choose Lines. You’ll get the equivalent of a large plus sign that you left click on and drag to the right until it’s long enough.


That’s it. Save the document, and every time you want to write something using your letterhead, call up a previous document in which you used it and copy and paste the letterhead into your new, yet unnamed file.


Now: paper.


While you can use the basic $5 a ream all purpose stuff that’s always on sale for $2 as long as you send in your receipt and assorted documentation (I just pay the $5), for a little more you can pick up something of increased quality – linen, or parchment, or granite – in pale peach or blinding white or stately ivory; when I ran a résumé business I had more women gravitate toward subdued pink. Think classy, and that’ll take care of any temptation you have about lime green.


The paper may or may not have a watermark – generally a sign of higher quality – which you can find by holding up a single sheet to the light and looking for it, usually the paper manufacturer’s name. If there is a watermark, take the extra ten seconds to find it and ensure that, when your document prints, the watermark isn’t upside down or reversed. I know – it’s highly unlikely that your recipient will do this, but it’s a small, intimate detail of accuracy that people like me actually care about.


Next week: little extras you can add to your letterhead – logos, signatures, and images of your paintings.


(1) Your editor removed the address and phone number line to protect their privacy.

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Backstory: About Clint. Email EditorTwitter. Republish. ]

Related Posts:

Basics for the Newbie What Kind of Records Do I Need to Keep? The Monthly Expense Account

Basics for the Newbie: Do I Need a Business License?

Basics for the Newbie: The Master Inventory List

Basics for the Newbie: The E-Mail Signature Line

Basics for the Newbie: The Inventory Record

Basics for the Newbie The Yearly Overview of Your Expenses

Topics: advice for artists | Art Business | art marketing | Carolyn Henderson | creativity | exposure tips | FineArtViews | inspiration | sell art 

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Sandy Askey-Adams
Dear Carolyn:

Newbie or not...This is a great article that is very helpful. Thank you.

Thank you for all your informative articles.

Best to you,

Poppy Balser
Carolyn, thank you for this tip. I made up a letterhead page a few months ago and am finding it very useful. (it was your post on the "delivery sheet" that you print for when you deliver or ship art, another very helpful tip, that spurred me to make my letterhead. I inserted onto it the same image as on my business cards, (an image of my art)

I enjoy your tips shared here and your blog, too!


Marian Fortunati
Thanks, Carolyn, as always for the great suggestions and reminders to all of us.

Although I do use letterhead, I enjoyed seeing the one you created and will use some of the suggestions to make mine, more "mine".

I always look forward to reading your posts! I hope I never stop learning just a few new things every single day!!!

jack white
This is such an important topic. Having a professional looking letterhead is vital to giving the impression of success.

We found some wonderful paper with a silver line along one edge. We purchased several boxes, because we thought they would not continue to sell the line. We were right. A year later it was gone.

Since Mikki has such a great signature logo we insert that at the top, then the address stuff in a Batang a serf text.

We still have a few boxes of the paper and envelops. I think there is 50 sheets per box.

You come up with so many useful things.


Carolyn Henderson
Sandy: Thank you. I like to pass on the various things we learn, and I'm always relieved when the response is NOT, "This is so inanely obvious that you must be the only person on the planet not to know it!"

Poppy: Doesn't it feel good to use that letterhead? The first time I created one and used it, I thought, "Wow. We look like a real business."

Marian: I am fully confident that you will continue to embrace life with joy and excitement, learning something new every day. Your energy and joie de vivre is an inspiration to the people around you.

Jack: the silver line along the edge sounds luscious and classy. I'm glad that you bought a whole bunch -- how many times do we kick ourselves because we didn't when we could, and now it's too late?

Donald Fox
This is a very educational post that with your permission I'd like to use in my writing classes as a real-life example of what one business does. Students always respond well to real examples. Thanks.

Carolyn Henderson
Donald: You may use it with my blessings and gratitude. There's no substitute for real life.

Tom Weinkle
Carolyn, You are so industrious! Do you think Steve will loan you out for special projects?

One idea that we use: Once you settle on your stationery design, you can consider saving the art as a pdf or png file and then paste it in the header area so it will always remain in exactly the same position. Some people like to save that as a template (in MS WORD) to call up later. You can also create a second sheet version smaller or edited down that can be useful if you write multi-page documents. Even though it appears greyed out on screen, it will print or email fine.


Thanks so much for this Iam not a newbie but I had never thought of making my own stationary. I have a large box that I had printed a few year ago and every now and then would like something that goes more with the portfolio I am sending out.

A big thanks

Great article Carolyn and I'm SO glad that you mentioned the 'overly adorably cute' fonts. They never give a professional impression at all. In my previous design job I've had so many arguments with clients about that. I know that people are entitled to have their own opinions about their own stationery but when you have to talk an attorney OUT of using Comic Sans, then it's time to pack in the corporate life and get back to the art world!

Carolyn Henderson
Tom: Great ideas -- especially that template part. And yes, I'm more than willing to be loaned out on special projects -- you just have to get me there, feed me, and make sure there's a cat somewhere that I can connect with.

Delilah: Prices for printers and ink have come down so significantly in the last few years, that people don't realize how much they can do. Of course, if you want 500 copies of something, it's probably best to look into getting it commercially printed, but by the time the average person uses up 500 sheets, a lot of things -- like addresses or phones -- have changed.

Jackie: that's quite an image about the lawyer and Comic Sans. Must be casual Friday every day in that office!

Carolyn, one day I shall write a book called "What Do Your Favourite Fonts Say About You" :)

jo allebach
As everyone had said. This is a fabulous idea. I am glad being professional and "real" is attainable doing yout own letterhead printing. I do my own cards and can change the paintings as the need arises.

John Schaeffer
I took 35 years off from my art to work in the corporate world, and I can tell you that perception is more important that price. When I came back I took work to a couple of galleries and had my work shown right away, but I was not comfortable with my pricing. After being back for a year, I have begun to test the waters, and have found that my work sells better at a much higher price point. One of my galleries is a bit reluctant for me to raise my prices, and the other welcomed it and said she thought I was too low in the first place. I now price by the time it takes to paint. I believe that basically if you do not value your time, why should you expect anyone else to value your time.

Latoya Smith
Over the years I've received a lot of stationery that were printed with less than expected quality. Last year my company in Palm City FL, printed some stationery with PCA Delta and they were great. I've been printing with them ever since. If you need stationery printed go to I strongly recommend them.

Customized designs helps in the promotion and designing as per the industry requirements.


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