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How to Design a Business Card

by | Jul 7, 2010 | Articles, Illustrator, Indesign, Photoshop, Quark, Tutorials | 4 comments

A reader adamantly requested that I create this tutorial, so I am going to run through the basics of creating your own business card.

First, you need to gather all of the information that you need for your card. You will need your company logo, your name, your position, phone number, fax number, cell phone number, e-mail, web site address, and a list of your services. Some of these may be interchangeable or you may have some info that you need to add for your business. You can work in RGB mode, but you will need to convert to CMYK at least when you are done, so that you will have a good idea of how it looks when it is printed.

A normal business card is 3.5 inches wide by two inches tall. in printing, if you want a color to bleed to the edge, then you need to create your design with an additional¬† 1/8″ of a margin on all 4 sides. Bleed is when the color of something goes all the way to the edge. If you don’t compensate for this, then instead of color, then you may get white instead. The extra 1/8 of an inch is so that when the business cards are cut, that there is a safe zone so the color will go all the way to the end. Paper shifts slightly inside of the printing press, so every single page of a print run may not be exactly in the same spot. You add the 1/8 of an inch on each side to compensate for this. When using an online printer, this may vary slightly. You would have to check with the printing company that you are going through to set up the proper specifications. Most companies accept .ai files, pdf files, and InDesign or Quark files. Some even (gag) accept Word files.

So for basic purposes, create a box that is 3.5″ x 2″. Then, for the bleed, create a box that is 3.75″ x 2.25″ and make sure that they both have no fill. Center them vertically and horizontally. First, we are going do a basic layout, and then I am going to show you a couple of variations for your card. These are simple and easy for beginners. I am working in Adobe Illustrator, but you can create your design in any of the programs listed above.

Select the background rectangle and go to the gradient panel and choose a linear gradient. it sets it to the default gradient, which is black to white, but you can create your own by double clicking the pointer for each color and changing it in the color panel, or dragging a swatch to each pointer box.

This is a fictional company, but for demonstration purposes, the Company is called T Media. You can create your own logo, or if you have an existing one, you can import it into your document by going to File>Place. Usually, a simple approach is to place the text information on one side, and the logo on the other, or if you have a lot of text, such as an address, you can pay extra to print on both sides, and have the logo by itself on one side, and then all of the text on the other. It is important not to cram too much information onto the card, because you want the viewer to be able to find the needed information without struggling.

To create the text and have it align properly, you can take your text tool and draw a box the size that you need by clicking and dragging the text tool. It will draw a clear box, where you can fill in your information. Make sure to keep the text away from the 3.5″ x 2.25″ perimiter. You may want to give it another 1/8″ of space between the edge and the beginning of your text. If you need help with distance, hit command +R (Ctrl +R on the PC) to bring up your rulers. To go to the next line, hold shift and hit return to go to the next line. Be sure to leave some space in between your information, so that there is a visual break, or disregard if your design calls for something otherwise.

It is important to note that your text needs to stand out, and to have something called hierarchy. Hierarchy is the order in which someone receives information or data. Your company is most important, followed by your name, what you do, and how to reach you. A good practice, and for the examples, I created the name in bold face type, and italicized the position. The name is also larger than everything else. These differences call separate attention to each different piece of information. Then, with a return space between the name/position and the phone/fax and other information, this breaks down and separates the information to make it easy to find. This isn’t a rule that is set in stone. there are many creative things that you can do, but for now we are covering the basics. You can change the text in any way that you wish by clicking and dragging to highlight the text and using the toolbar at the top or the character and paragraph panels. It is good to align the text left or right depending on your design.

It is also important to remember contrast. If you use a dark background, your text needs to be bright enough to easily be read, and stick out from the background. If the background color is light or medium, do not use a mid-range hue, because it won’t stand out and it will be hard to read. if at all possible, try not to convert your text to outlines, because you won’t be able to edit the text later, and you ma have to redo your work. If the printer needs the typeface that you are using, then you can embed that in your files when you collect the files for output.

If you use an image as a background, be sure that it will allow for enough contrast between itself and the text. In illustrator, you can clip the photo inside of a box to see how it looks by hitting command +7 (cntrl +7 on the PC) to clip the image to a shape.

This sounds like a lot, but if you set up your files correctly, then you can avoid some pitfalls of designing your business cards. Remember to l for bleed, and give the text space away from the edge so that it is no in danger of being cut off. You can also pay extra for service from printers to make your cards stand out even more, such as embossing, foil stamping, die cutting, etc. A popular trend now is to round the corners of your card, but like everything else, this costs extra. Obviously there are many more creative ways to create a business card, but I have given you the basics, and now you can take what I have shown you, come up with a concept, and execute it, while being able to print it while having the look that you want.

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