Designing and Setting Up a Basic Business Card For Printing

You no longer have to rely on designers to create a print-ready business card design. In fact, with all the templates and special tools available online, almost anyone with basic computer skills can create and layout their own print-ready business card.

This tutorial will not only teach you how to setup a design, but also add the right document elements that will be easily compatible for amateur or professional full scale business card printing. So read carefully and learn.

1.     Now, the very first task is of course creating the new document properly. While there are standard dimensions recommended for business cards, it is usually better for you to check with your target printer if they have specific dimensions that are preferred. Keep in mind that besides the standard dimensions, you will also want to add bleed spaces so that your designs are indeed “print ready”. For a typical business card document setup with bleeds, here are the values that you can start with:

  1. Width: 94mm (88mm+3mm+3mm)
  2. Height: 61mm (55mm+3mm+3mm)
  3. Resolution: 300ppi
  4. Color Mode: CMYK

2.     To make our business card layout “print ready” you have to setup your guidelines correctly so that you do not make the mistake of putting important design elements in the way of cutting. To do thing bring up the rulers by pressing CTRL+R. Render guidelines by clickdragging your mouse from the vertical or horizontal rulers into the canvass. Measure a 3mm gap from the edge of your document to the bleed guidelines. Then, measure another 3mm from the bleed guidelines to act as your margin.

3.     Next is the background. Now the background can be many things depending on the kind of business card design that you want. In this example, we are going to create a more creative type layout that requires a texture image. So we copy-paste in the image of a paper texture that we will want to use for our design. We are going for a little old world type effect here.

4.     Our image texture does look a bit dark. So this step is optional. Do this if your image texture looks a bit too dark for your planned design. Just go to Image -> Adjustments -> Brightness/Contrast. We boosted the brightness value to 50 to make for a lighter, brighter texture. Adjust the value of course as you see fit.

5.     Next, we will reduce the intensity of the color of our texture. To do this, we go to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation. We reduce the saturation value to -30 and increase the lightness by 20. Once done, save your document as your initial business card template.

6.     The next stage is creating an art brush. To do this, we will hop to Adobe Illustrator for a bit.  Create a generic document (the settings do not matter too much) in Illustrator. Now, first set the color to a theme color and then use the rectangle tool to create a 10px by 10px square.

7.     Afterward, copy-paste the original square we just made and change its color to another lighter (or darker) theme color. Place the duplicate below the original square. Repeat this process 3-5 times depending on how many colors you want your art brush to have. Here we are using 5 colors for the art brush.

8.     Now select all the rectangles we just created (drag-select). Then go to the brushes panel and click on the icon for “New Brush”. Once the window opens, select “New Art Brush” and press OK.

9.     The Art Brush window should now open. Make sure that you set the direction of the brush to “Stroke from left to right”. You should see this setting as the right arrow under the direction options. Of course, You can name your art brush something distinct if you like. Once you are done, press OK.

10.  Now, use the rounded rectangle tool to create a nice and large rectangle with rounded corners. Click once on our newly created art brush and you will see it render as a stroke in our rounded rectangle shape. If you see some color inside, just change the fill color to “none”.

11.  Now, copy-paste this shape to our Adobe Photoshop Layout. Use the shortcut keys CTRL+C and CTRL+V to do this. You will probably be asked how you want to insert in the Illustrator shape. Choose to paste it as “pixels”.

12.  Good, now we just reposition the shape appropriately for our design. Then, we change its blend mode to “Multiply” to make it look like it was printed on our background texture.

13.  We just duplicate our shape to create another instance of it on the top left side of our design. Just be creative with your positioning. Take note that you can also resize this shape by pressing CTRL+T and then click-dragging the anchor boxes.

14.  Great! Now to grunge up our stripes a little, we will be using some spray paint brush textures. You can get a couple of free ones from this generous site here: (http://hellostreetlight.blogspot.com/2012/04/free-brush-set-18.html).  Once you have those installed, create a layer mask in one of the stripe layers by clicking on the “Add Layer Mask” button in the layers panel.

15.  Once the layer mask is active, activate the brush tool and of course select the splatter or grunge brush that you just installed. Change your brush color to black and then just use the splatter brush over the stripe. This will erase parts of the stripe in the pattern of the brush. The great thing about this is that you can just remove the layer mask if ever you make a mistake. Just experiment with this to make the stripes look a bit more “aged” and integrated to our design. Of course, do not forget to do the same to the other stripe.

16.  That should finish the basic design. Now we will add our text. Using a font style of your choosing, use the text tool to add the name for our business card of course. Make sure that you use a theme font color as well. The text should be INSIDE our margin lines so as not to make it look to far over the edge of the business card.

17.  Duplicate the text layer you just made by pressing CTRL+J whilst the text is selected. Afterwards, select the bottom original and right click on it. Select “rasterize type” in the context menu options. Afterwards, use the magic wand tool to select the inner parts of the text characters like you see in the picture. Fill those areas with the same text color.

18.  Next, change the blend mode of the bottom text layer to “Color Burn” and change its opacity to 75%.

19.  Then, select the top text layer. Change its blend mode to multiply and reduce its opacity to 45%.

20. Then, just type in the rest of the business card details as needed. Keep the same text color if you like. Maintain the blend mode as well to Multiply for the other text.  You might want to have an 80-90% opacity to make them more distinct as they are smaller.

21. Great! Once done, this finishes the FRONT part of our business card. Save this appropriately with the front tag in the filename. Now we are not done as we are going to create the back part, but the front should look like the picture below. Keep in mind that we have bleeds on the sides for cutting. We just removed the guidelines now for a clear view of the design.

22. Good, now remember that we already saved the FRONT part design in the previous step. Now, we save our document again as the BACK part of the design. Just go to File -> Save As… and then just save the document again as a new file name. With this done, delete the text layers that we created for the front.

23. Now, our objective is to flip our stripes. You should take note that at this point, our stripe layers actually extend beyond the viewing area of the document as we pasted this from Illustrator from a whole rounded rectangle shape. So simply flipping it is not enough. To make it so that it will be a mirror image of the front design, you will first one to merge all the layers as one to be easily manipulated. So CTRL select both stripe layers and the background and right click on them. Select the option “merge layers”.

24. Next, press CTRL+A to select the whole canvass or art board area of the design and then press CTRL+C and CTRL+V to copy and paste that visible canvass area. This now is a layer with your stripes but no extensions on the sides. Press CTRL+T to start transforming our background and right click on that transform box. Choose “Flip Horizontal”. This not only makes your back part different, but also it helps integrate with our FRONT design as the stripes will continue seamlessly through the back with this mirror effect.

25. Then, once the background is flipped, you can now type in the back part of the text, much like the style we used for the front. Take note that if you are adding in logo shapes, it is recommended that you change their blend mode to multiply and reduce their opacity to around 60-80%.

26. Great! That should finish our business card design! With the guidelines setup and the main layout and text already set, this design is ready for business card printing. All you need to do is save it in a file format that your printer needs.

Author Bio:

Kate Manhaven is currently working as a graphic artist in one of the leading online providers of offset printing and mailing services, PrintPlace.com. She is adept in designing print ready business cards, poster designs, and creative postcard art works using Photoshop and Illustrator. She also loves to write graphic design tutorials during her free time.

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