Houseware Crafts, Tutorials

Vintage Postage Tray Tutorial

When I come across a good, affordable tray I always pick it up.  They are a great canvas for my graphic obsession and pretty easy to make.  I created a bunch for the recent Unique LA and they were a hit.and I thought I’d share how I made my Vintage Postage tray that I made using images from the invaluable Graphic’s Fairy.

I say they are “easy to make” and it’s true – however it does take a few days as they require a lot of drying time between steps.


  • Tray (was that too obvious?)
  • TSP (Tri Sodium Phosphate)
  • Sandpaper
  • Spray Primer, Paint and Sealer
  • Wood filler or spackle
  • Painters Tape
  • Graphics Fairy images!
  • Envirotex
  • Foam Brush
  • Plastic mixing cup (not pictured)
  • Mod Podge (not pictured – I use the matte finish)
  • Toothpick (too small to be pictured)
  • Wooden Coffee Stirrer (not pictured – used the last one in my coffee without thinking…sorry)

I gave the tray a light sanding and cleaned it with some TSP.  A  quick coat of primer ensures good, even paint coverage.  (The primer will also reveal any spots that need a little touch up with spackle or wood filler.  If you do have some spots just fill and sand and then do some spot priming to even everything out.)

NOTE:  You don’t need to prime or paint the actual bottom the tray where your images will be.

I wanted a stripe on the tray so I painted the sides of the tray the color of the stripe.

After that paint dried VERY THOROUGHLY I used painters tape to tape off the stripe (I measured but I’ve eye-balled it too and been OK)

and then top coated the whole thing with a couple of coats of Heirloom White.After 20 minutes or so I carefully removed the tape and gave the whole thing a coat of satin sealer

Now it was time for the best part – the graphics!

As I mentioned the majority of my images come from the oh-so-generous Graphics Fairy.  She has, literally, thousands to choose from and you can create your own “theme” so easily.  Or if you’re not into that sort of thing a commercially produced paper will work too (in the picture of my Unique LA trays up top the Paris tray is actually a commercial paper).

I design my collage on the computer and then print it out.  I use Photoshop now but I used to do these in MS Word so that’s a very doable option.

I save each image as a JPEG and then start playing around until I’m satisfied with the design.This particular tray is larger than the largest size paper I can print so I broke the design down into print-size chunksI printed out several “chunks” and then some individual pieces that would fill in the gaps.

I then layed (laid? Lay?) them in the tray for a dry fit.

Then I removed each piece, marking on the tray, if possible, where it went.   I also stacked them in reverse order – the bottom-most pieces were on the top of my pile – so I could remember what order to lay/lie them down (OK, I’m just giving up on proper English) in.

I then got busy with the Mod Podge.

Since I was working in layers I Mod Podged just the area I wanted to stick down and then layed/laid/lay that image on the tray.  Then I moved onto the next section and did the same until I had covered the entire tray.After giving it a few hours to dry I top-coated the whole thing with a layer of Mod Podge.  This step is very important.  The Envirotex will discolor any paper it comes in contact with so the sealing layer of Mod Podge needs to be thorough – go into all the corners and along all the edges.  It doesn’t need to be a super-thick layer but it does need to cover thoroughly.

After that I set it aside to dry overnight – I wanted it to be thoroughly cured.  The next morning I mixed and poured the Envirotex.

Envirotex is a great product and the only time I’ve had any trouble with it was when I didn’t follow the directions to the letter.

There are no pictures of me pouring the Envirotex as I’m not that coordinated.

However, here are my Envirotex tips.

  1. Follow the mixing directions.  Measure carefully, mix thoroughly.
  2. Humidity and heat do play a factor.  Warm up the fluids, if necessary, as directed.
  3.  I use a wooden coffee stirrer to spread out the Envirotex and gently nudge it into corners and such.
  4. I always have a toothpick handy to pop any stubborn bubbles or to fish out little bits of “stuff” that always manage to fall into the mix (or bugs…stupid bugs that manage THAT VERY MOMENT to decide to commit suicide by tray…stupid bugs….)
  5. Give it plenty of time to dry in a dust free(ish – lets be honest, outside a lab there is no such thing as “dust free”) environment.

Once it dried thoroughly I was ready to go.

If you have any questions or if something seems unclear please don’t hesitate to ask or point it out.  I realize I said it was “easy” and then provided a loooong tutorial but I assure you that once you do it you’ll realize just how straightforward it is.

Some other, random thoughts.

  1.  I have a laser printer and I’ve found that, during the Mod Podging stage, if I dip the images in water for just a few seconds it allows them to lay down more quickly and more smoothly.  I almost never have bubbling issues.  However, this won’t work with ink-jet printers as the ink will run.  Also, if you’re using a commercial paper test a little section first to make sure it will hold up.
  2. Make sure there are no gaps in your tray (like at the corners).  The Envirotex is a liquid and it will find any decent sized crack and pour out if given the chance and it’s a huge mess….trust me…I learned the hard way.
  3. Mod Podge drying time is also affected by humidity – make sure to check that your final seal coat has dried before you pour the Envirotex

Hope that was informative.


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12 thoughts on “Vintage Postage Tray Tutorial”

  1. David, this is so cool!
    Thanks for sharing. I love how you “broke the design down into print-size chunks,” duh???
    Why didn’t I think of that?
    I bought some Envirotex and can’t wait to use it for the right “ART” project!
    I love your blog!

    1. Hi Julie,

      It’s about a 1/4 inch thick which is what the manufacturer recommends I think. I do try to do a couple of trays at once when I can as it’s just more efficient. However, you can’t do too many as you have to get everything done (spreading it evenly, eliminating bubbles etc) before it dries.

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