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Essentials for Designing a Print Ready Business Card

Posted in Articles, Tutorials on November 15th, 2015 | No Comments

Print ready business card

Business cards are common printed project, fairly simple to design. In this post I am going through the process of designing a business card and point out some of the important things to consider when designing for the print. Bleed, Color Mode and Resolution are some of the essentials to take care of, so that your artwork doesn’t get rejected by the printer. Hopefully this guide will cover up all the steps of the print process to make your print projects go smoothly. But before you start make sure you receive specific artwork instruction from the printer you are going to use. Every printing company has their own preferences. So, the settings I am using in this tutorial might not match up exactly what your printer wants.

Print ready business card

We are going to use mixed of Illustrator and Photoshop to use the most of these application’s strength.

Size, Bleed and Color Mode

Print ready business card

Create a new document in Illustrator and enter the dimensions of the business card in the Artboard size settings. Common size of the business card is 88 mm wide and 55 mm high. For US find the measurement in Inches.

Print ready business card

The printer I have used in past require 3 mm of bleed so enter 3 mm in bleed setting. Bleed is best for some padding around the edges of the design which is cutoff during the printing process. It insures that it will handle with tiny sledges of the white paper along the edge of your print if the machine is not lined up exactly.

Print ready business card

We are designing for the print so select the CMYK color mode. Most of the business card is double sided so increase the Number of Artboards to 2.

Print ready business card

Here white area of the Artboard is the finished business card size. Also known as the trim size. The red outline indicates the bleed area, in which any background area needs to extend to.

Safe Zone

Print ready business card

It’s also wise to highlight the safe zone within your document. This not only make sure all your important elements like name or logo aren’t too close to trim area that risks being chopped off, it also helps bounce your design, applying some margin around the edge. The size of the safe zone is entirely up to you but 5 to 10 mm shifts your elements inward enough to look neat. You can highlight this area by using guides or draw a rectangle then right click and select Make Guides.

Building a Business Card

Print ready business card

You can now begin building your business card design by bringing a logo. Scale its size and align it with the safe zone guides. Populate it with all other necessary information.

Font Size

Print ready business card

Well in print design for the text, 6 pt is usually lowest point you’ll want to go with. Business card however contains the small type but be careful if you are using elegant font with high contrast in which fine lines will become impossible to print out. In case of Black Text the rule is way different. You can find detail instruction about using Black Color in Print Design in my next article. But the font I am using in this design is chilled and pretty robust which can handle even 6 pt in the regular way.

Paper Texture and White Color

Print ready business card

One thing you should keep in mind when designing for print is that, the paper stock forms a large part of the final design which you don’t get to see in the screen. In my design I have enclosed all the elements in white background which is extended up to bleed area. There is no white ink in printing unless it’s a super specialist print. Giving something a white filling means you are allowing your software to translate the other elements being knocked out to allow the paper show through. An area of flat color might look boring on a screen but when it is printed you can see the texture of the paper with the matt or glossy finish.

Photoshop in Action for Print

On the other side of my business card I am using a Photo to cover entire background. So here Photoshop comes in a play.

Print ready business card

We need to recreate a business card document in PSD format. So create a new document and change the dimension into mm. Photoshop doesn’t have a separate bleed settings so we need to calculate the total dimension. 88 mm plus 3 mm on each side equals 94 mm for width likewise 55 mm plus 3 mm on each side equals to 61 mm for height. All print document need to be 300 dpi so change the resolution to 300 pixels per inch and set the color mode to CMYK.

Print ready business card

Paste the photo you want to use as a background and resize it if necessary. Save it in the hard drive.

Print ready business card

Now back to the Illustrator. Go to File > Place and locate the background PSD file and place it.

Print ready business card

I want to put logo and tagline on this side of the card. So paste the logo graphic and type out the text with the relevant font. You can add logo and tagline in Photoshop as well but usually it is advised to type text in Illustrator because it is made in crisp vectors rather than those fuzzy pixels.

Preparing to Export in Print Ready file

Print ready business card

Before exporting the final print file it is wise to outline the fonts by pressing Cmd or Ctrl + A to select all then Cmd or Ctrl + Shift + O to create outlines. This illuminates any chances of your font for not being picked up when it’s opened on the printer’s computer and resulting into something boring.

Print ready business card

You can also Embed the linked image to avoid any error in the image.

Exporting to PDF for Final Print Ready File

Print ready business card

Print ready business card

Go to File > Save as and select PDF. You can adjust the settings as shown above which I am following unless your printer specifically asks for something others which depends up on your printer’s aspiration. This file now contains both business card sides in print ready document.

Quick Check

Print ready business card

You can give a file quick check by opening it in the Adobe Acrobat. Look for the Output Preview Tool. Check if there is any presence of Spot Color or any White Color Overprint. Check the various plates to see how the design over printed using four process color.

If you are new to print design this post might have bombarded with lots of information. If you did find this post useful, help to spread the words is really appreciated. If you want to stick around for more, then you can hit the subscribe button. Thank you very much.

Written by Ashok Shrestha
Ashok Shrestha is an up and coming graphic designer for both print and web. He is knowledgeable in Adobe C.S. 3/ C.S. 4, Joomla and Wordpress. He likes to experiment with various techniques in both print and web.

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