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Designing and Producing Creative Business Cards: Techniques and Details

Plenty of creative business card showcases are available out there. Many of these are beautifully done and well thought out, and they serve as inspiration for those who would like their business card to be more than the standard rectangular piece of paper. Yet little explanation accompanies these examples, and figuring out just how to bring your idea to life can be overwhelming, to say the least. This guide is meant to help you decide which technique is right for you, how to correctly prepare the files and what to look for in a printer.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

General Advice Link

Content Goes First Link

I never tire of repeating this to anyone who will listen. Don’t base your business card design on the fact that your printer has a special limited-time offer on round corners or metallic inks.

Think in terms of what the design will add to your message. Tempted to use rounded corners just because the cool kids are doing it? Maybe your card would stand out more by not using this technique.

Why do you want metallic ink? Do you think your name would really stand out in gold, even though your message is all about technology and recent code developments? You may want to rethink that. Or do you sell hand-crafted jewelry and want a design that reflects your latest silver creation? Then the silver ink might be the perfect solution for you after all.

The back of a business card is often ignored, but it can be a great place for extras that make your card even more memorable. Make it relevant to what you do, and make it useful if you can. You could include tips or a quick how-to guide relevant to your product, offer a free consultation, add a reminder for a date when you will offer discounts, or invite loyal customers to collect a stamp every time they purchase from you. Think of something that would make them want to hang onto your business card and consult it often. If you think the back should be reserved for note-taking, why not mark a few dotted lines, titled “Notes,” rather than leave it blank?

Talk to Your Printer Link

No one knows more about the techniques and materials available—and new ones come out all the time. Generally, printers are more than happy to give you all the industry news and advise you on techniques and materials. (If yours isn’t, you might want to look for a new printer.) If you learn a little about how they operate, they will appreciate it and be even more willing to help.

Size Link

While this article focuses on custom shapes and sizes, keep in mind standard sizes, too. Card holders are made to fit standard size cards, and I have often heard comments like, “If a business card doesn’t fit in my wallet, I don’t care how beautiful it is, it’s going in the trash.”

The standard sizes are 3.5 x 2 inches in the US and Canada, 85 x 55 mm in the European Union and 90 x 55 mm in Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia. Or you could use a standard credit card as a reference, which about 85 x 54 mm or 3.34 x 2.25 inches.

Unless you have some other use for your cards in mind (for example, a bookstore’s card that doubles as a bookmark), you’ll want to stay within those dimensions. Smaller is okay, but anything too big won’t fit in most pockets, so consider going bigger only if you have reason to believe your cards will not be stored in wallets or holders.

Do you have the perfect idea but don’t know what to do with it? Maybe you’ve heard about die-cutting, varnishes, metallic inks, letterpressing and special materials but are unsure what they are exactly or which one is for you? Let’s jump into the different techniques!

Die-Cutting Link

Any card (or any printed material for that matter) that isn’t a standard rectangle or that has holes in it is created by a technique known as die-cutting. A metal template is prepared and is used to cut the paper in the given shape. The easiest way to think about this is to picture a giant hole-puncher, except that the holes are not necessarily round, but rather whatever shape you want them to be.

This means that, in addition to the artwork, you will need to provide the printer with a custom shape to “punch out” your cards.

The result can be as simple a round hole in the center of your card or as complex as a three-dimensional pop-out.

This simple and effective design makes use of the round hole on both sides of the card.

This card takes the shape of the product. Instant recognition!

Preparing the File Link

I’ll use die-cutting as an example, but most of these guidelines apply to the other finishes as well. The main differences are cited in the respective sections below, and I will provide links to help you read about the techniques in more detail. The guidelines below should give you a good starting point.

The best applications to prepare files for any special print finishes are the industry-standard Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Photoshop is not suitable because it does not have the precision necessary for this kind of project.

As with any other print document, set up your file to the printed dimensions (i.e. whatever size you want your card to be, whether rectangular or a non-standard size), at 300 PPI resolution, using CMYK as the color space for all the elements of the artwork.

There seems to be a bit of confusion about DPI, PPI, CMYK and RGB. Preparing a file for printing with either Illustrator or InDesign is actually very simple.

In Illustrator, when creating a new document, click on the “Advanced” options tab (in some versions this is already visible). This brings up the options for both the resolution and color space. Set the resolution to 300 PPI and the color mode to CMYK.

Note that PPI, or pixels per inch, is often confused with DPI, or dots per inch. The latter refers strictly to printer hardware and its capability to reproduce dots on paper. When preparing files for printing, don’t worry too much about the DPI. 300 PPI is the magic number. Remember that and you’ll be golden. If you would like to learn more about DPI and PPI, see the link at the end for an article that explains it in much more depth.


InDesign documents are automatically created at 300 PPI. The only thing to make sure of is that the elements you insert in the document (such as photographs) are also at 300 PPI and use CMYK. Check this by selecting your image and bringing up the info window (hit F8).

For example, the image below uses the RGB color space; it should be changed to CMYK:


Even though you can use RGB images, it doesn’t mean you should. Yes, both InDesign and Illustrator are perfectly capable of converting the output to CMYK when you export a file as PDF, but if you ever have to submit your source files to someone or use the images for something else, this extra step could save you hassles.

And please-double check the resolution. Print out the card to check for pixelation. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but so many people forget to check the printed result. What you see on the screen is not what you will see in print.

Another thing to check is your black text and line art, if you are converting any of them from RGB. They should be 100% K in CMYK color mode to avoid a muddy effect and color halos.

When your artwork is ready, create a new layer above the artwork. Call the layer something like “dieline.” You could be even more specific and name it “Dieline – DO NOT PRINT,” which would be especially helpful if you are not able to speak with the printer before submitting the file (say, if you are using a Web order form or your client is the point person for the printer.)

Now, create the guidelines for how your card should be cut. Make sure your outline for the die-cut uses a custom spot color, not CMYK; this allows the printer to extract the die-cut template when printing separations. To create a custom color, click on the little arrow in the swatches palette, and click to make a new swatch. In the dialog box that appears, choose any color that will stand out in your artwork, and then select “Spot color” from the drop-down menu next to “Color type.” The color can be anything you want. 100% magenta is quite popular because it usually stands out, but saving it as a spot color is important.


Also, remember to set the stroke (if it’s a custom crop shape) and/or fill (if you are cutting out holes) to “Overprint” to avoid knocking out the art below. You can bring up the options for Overprinting in InDesign by going to Window → Attributes, or in Illustrator by pressing F11 to bring up the “Attributes” window.


Let’s say your logo is a cloud, and you want the card to be cut in a cloud shape (not a very creative example but easy to explain). Your file in Illustrator would look something like this:


And your finished card would look like this:


If you wanted to cut out the cloud shape, it would look like this:


And the finished card would look like this:


Notice how the logo has moved from the artwork layer to the dieline layer and is now also filled with the custom spot color.

Make sure your artwork has enough bleed (i.e. it extends well past the edge of the document if the shape is regular or past the die-cut guidelines if custom). Usually 0.125 inch, or about 3 mm, is enough, but I tend to add more to be safe. Both InDesign and Illustrator allow you to add bleed in the “Document setup” options.

I won’t go into too much detail here, because bleed is a rather complex subject that deserves its own guide. For those of you interested in learning more, a couple of links are at the end of this article that explain it more thoroughly.

On the same note, do not put any important elements (such as logo or text) too close to the edge. Leave a buffer margin (again, about 0.125 inch or 3 mm) around the dieline or document, to avoid the risk of something getting cropped.

Usually, either a native file (AI, INDD, EPS) or high-resolution PDF is acceptable as the final file for printing. (Always check with the printer before preparing the final file.) If you prepare a PDF, make sure your custom fifth color is kept as a spot color and is not converted to CMYK. You can check it in the “Ink Manager” window (Export as PDF → Output → Ink Manager):


You can double-check that it appears in the Ink Manager list in the PDF itself (Acrobat Pro) by clicking Advanced → Print Production → Ink Manager:


Printing It Link

Most big print shops have die-cutting equipment. Check first if you are printing locally. The best way to make sure everything goes according to plan is to ask questions, explain your requirements and look over the proofs in person. Small printers outsource die-cut jobs. If you want more control, look for one that does it in-house.

If you are unable to print locally (for example, because your client is remote), you have two options. One is to find a printer local to your client. Usually, the client will already have one lined up, but I strongly recommend you get in touch with that printer yourself, rather than just pass the files to the client and let them handle it. Ask questions, send over mock-ups, get a proof sent back to you—do what you can to make certain that the job prints the way it should.

Alternatively, you could find an online print shop that offers die-cutting. Again, get in touch with them personally, rather than just submit the file via an online form, and make sure all your questions and concerns are addressed.

Printer Checklist Link

Need help choosing a print shop and communicating with it? Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Before you do anything else, get their phone number or email address and get in touch. Tell them about your project, and ask about technical specifications and any other questions you may have. (This is a good time to request a cost estimate as well.) If you have more than one candidate, rinse and repeat.
  • Ask to see samples of similar pieces they have printed. Examine them. This could lead to more questions—or inspiration to make your project even better.
  • The main criteria I use in choosing a printer is how responsive and knowledgeable they are. You want someone who will actually check your file and contact you if there are any problems or questions; because no matter how great a printing deal you find, if your file has an error, that’s money thrown down the drain.
  • To save some money, you can often do this by asking the printer for advice. Would making the file layout slightly smaller allow them to fit more cards on one sheet? Could you adjust the shape so that there is less wasted paper? How about using fewer colors? Your printer should know the options; just ask!
  • In my experience, PDF is one of the safest options for prepress. Native Illustrator files work well too, but be sure to check which versions of Illustrator your printer accepts. Always check which versions of any Adobe software your printer uses if submitting native files.
  • Ask the printer if they have .joboptions files. These files can be imported into Adobe applications and will give you presets for exporting to PDF or EPS. This is the easiest way to make sure that your final files are exactly the way your printer needs them. If they don’t have these files, both InDesign and Illustrator have presets for saving in PDF. Just make the necessary adjustments; for example, you will have to add the bleed to these presets manually (see the links at the end for step-by-step instructions).
  • If you are not able to speak with the printer, add an email message or a file with instructions. Don’t forget to include your contact information so that they can call or email you if they have any questions!

You’ve probably noticed that most of these tips emphasize the importance of communicating with your printer. I cannot stress this enough: every project is different, and communication is the key to getting the best result possible.

How Much Will It Cost? Link

While pricing depends on many factors, there is usually a set-up fee when using a die-cut or other special finishing technique. (Remember the giant hole-puncher mentioned above? They need to make one of those, just for you.)

The fee will be the same whether you print 50 or 500,000 cards, so printing larger quantities is much more cost-effective.

This may not be the case with certain popular formats (for example, rounded-corners business cards) because the printer would reuse the same template for multiple jobs, hence the special offers.

Special Finishes Link

I’ve devoted a big portion of this article to die-cutting because the file preparation and printing process described here is similar to many other techniques. But let’s look at some of them.

Spot UV Coating Link

This special finish is achieved by applying a clear varnish to an area of the card defined by you. The effect is a slightly raised design element, with a glossy, matte or satin finish. The example below shows a glossy finish:

File preparation is done the same way as for die-cutting, but instead of specifying a stroke, you specify a shape or area to apply the varnish to. This is still done by filling it with a spot color and, in this case, setting the fill to overprint.

Letterpressing Link

Letterpressing is done by inking a raised surface and then pressing it into the paper, giving the design both color and depth. This technique is suitable for vector images and text, using solid Pantone inks. An article linked to at the end of this article provides more technical detail. Here is an example of a business card done with this technique:


Embossing Link

Similar to die-cutting, a die is used to press the paper up, creating a three-dimensional raised effect.

Foil stamping Link

With this technique, a layer of thin foil is applied to an area of the card you specify.

File Preparation for Special Finishes Link

File preparation for all of these effects is similar to that of die-cutting: you have to define the area to be coated, embossed or whatever the effect is. But you might need to submit two files: one with the artwork, and another with the area to apply the effect to.

Make absolutely certain these two files line up perfectly. The easiest way to do this is to use a file with separate layers: one or more for the artwork, and another for the special finish guidelines (as described for the die-cutting file preparation above). Then, simply save them as separate files by first hiding one layer and then the other.

When using photos for a special finish, create a clipping path in Photoshop before placing the photo in Illustrator or InDesign. Then you can use this same clipping path as the mask for your effect either by choosing to export the clipping paths to Illustrator or by right-clicking (PC) or Control-clicking (Mac) on the clipping path in InDesign and converting it to frame. (You might want to check the options first if it isn’t showing by going to Object → Clipping Paths → Options.)

For example, you can use different masks with this image:


This mask will apply the effect to the entire photo:


While this one will apply it only to the foremost apple:


Special Inks Link

Additional inks can be used to make your card stand out even more. Metallic, pearlized and fluorescent inks can produce interesting effects. (To better preserve metallic inks, consider putting a varnish on top.) The even more common Pantone colors give a different and more solid effect than their process equivalents because they are opaque.

This one is simple: just find a custom color you like by looking at the Pantone swatches, and add it to your document. Prepare your artwork as you normally would, but make absolutely certain that your output does not convert to CMYK if you are preparing a PDF (as described above).

Note: the easiest way to prepare photos with a special ink is to convert your image in Photoshop first to grayscale and then to duotone. Choose your ink(s) from the Pantone library, and tweak your settings as necessary. (Working with color channels is a complex way to get more control over the result, but I don’t recommend this to Photoshop beginners, and Photoshop experts probably already know how to do this.)


Duplexing and Triplexing Link

This technique is about using two or more sheets of paper glued together. The effect achieved is commonly referred to as edge-painting or edge-tipping, because a different-colored sheet of paper that is inserted between the two main ones produces colored edges “inside” the card (triplexing), as seen here:


Using only two sheets (duplexing) gives a two-color edge—one on the front and one on the back:


It adds a touch of elegance and makes your card thicker than the standard stock. Combining this technique with die-cutting—budget permitting—gives an even more interesting result.

Scented Inks Link

You won’t find many examples of this technique on the Internet because it doesn’t exactly translate as a photo. Still, it is an interesting way to make your business card jump out.

Available scents range from chocolate to mildew24. If that is not enough (and money is no object), you can create a custom scent for an extra fee.

Special Material Link

This is a vast subject because the options are countless. We will only touch on this topic. To see and feel the different kinds of material available, visit your printer!

Paper and Cardboard Link

There are so many varieties that I wonder why most people still use the same white or off-white cardboard stock for their business cards. From soft-as-cloth finishes to cold-pressed textured paper, there are enough options for everyone’s needs. The options are rather hard to describe; I recommend you make a trip to the printer (and give yourself an hour or so to ponder the choices)

File preparation is no different; except with colored paper stock, keep in mind that the colors will not display the same way in your software. To simulate the effect, use a layer of a similar color below the artwork, and set the artwork layer to multiply; or to about 70% opacity with darker color stocks.

Plastic Link

Transparent, frosted, stretchy—there are plenty of options for a plastic stock.


Plastic is usually printed with a different process, such as screen printing. Check with your printer to see what colors you can use. Special printing processes usually require that you use Pantone inks. Remember to account for any special effects, such as transparency and stretch. Giving general advice on this one is hard, because each material has its own requirements.

Metal Link

If your service or product is related to a metal, you might want to consider using metal as a material. You could simulate a credit card or computer. Keep the design minimal for a more striking effect.



Again, check with the printer before preparing your artwork to find out what process they use to print on metal and which colors you can safely use.

Other Material Link

Other options are wood, plexiglass, cloth. You could combine these and use a special finish as well. Hopefully this article has given you some ideas, and you will know how to start researching: by speaking with your printer.

Customizing by Hand Link

Sometimes, printing a highly customized card is simply not worth it, especially if you need only a small quantity. Does that mean you should dismiss your creative idea and stick with a standard solution? Not necessarily.

All you need is some imagination and a lot of patience. An appetite for crafts or having crafty friends or relatives can be a big plus, too.

You could print a standard card as the base of your idea and then customize smaller quantities by hand. I recommend doing this with fewer than 500 cards, or you will be overwhelmed. If you have crafty friends or relatives who are willing to help, you could tackle more.

Again, keep it relevant to the content. For example, colorful hand-stitching to underline a key phrase or “stitching” your design would be fun for a textile or fashion business:


Gluing on an element would work for crafts stores. Or you could glue a piece of fabric or something else that characterizes your service:


Incorporating something relevant to what you sell is a great idea, and there are plenty of ways to do this. Here is an excellent example:


A paper clip would work for a business supply store or even a business consultant, while a dried or plastic flower would work for a flower or gift shopt. Just about any kind of business can find something relevant to add on.

You could even invite the recipient to customize the card themselves; for example, by including cut and fold lines that transform your card into a unique shape. Simple examples are a paper doll for a children’s store or origami for a stationery store. Just make sure it’s relevant and fun, otherwise your recipients are unlikely to go through the trouble of cutting out and folding the card.

Hopefully this article offers enough information and inspiration for you to make business cards that are as creative as your imagination allows, and on any budget.

Want To Know More? Link

Here are a few articles that go into more detail on some of the topics covered:


Footnotes Link

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In addition to Italian, Russian and Dutch, Lisa speaks fluent Advertising and Design, and is happy to translate any concepts and terms into plain English. Lisa is on a mission to reduce the amount of ordinary, mediocre communication and marketing materials. And -- why not? -- to make the world a happier place. One beautiful communication piece at a time. Lisa has 10+ years of design and advertising experience, both in Europe and the US. In her free time, she rescues puppies, grows her own tomatoes, dances, and hangs out on Twitter.

  1. 1

    Some cool ideas for the designing of Business Cards. Really interesting and helpful.

  2. 2

    Great article – I’m in the process of designing some business cards for a company and this article came out at exactly the right time.

  3. 3

    I LIKE!! :-)

  4. 4

    Brilliant article!

    I have read a few business card design realted articles in the past, but htis is by far the most in depth – and more importantly – most appreciated!

    Many thanks for taking the time to write and share it!


    • 5

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 8, 2010 12:09 pm

      Thank you Chris! I have also read quite a few of them, and I always wanted more detail, which is how the idea for this article came about. I’m glad you liked it.

      • 6

        Fantastic post, if It was a book with similar content I would be delighted to by it, please think about it or if you already did let us know.



  5. 7

    Great article! Thank you for that!

    It would have been great if you added some common price ranges for each material and printing method.

    But once again: Amazing post – thanks for sharing it!

    • 8

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 8, 2010 12:18 pm

      I thought of doing that, but the ranges were very wide and depended on many factors (and locations, and currency), so that would have been rather overwhelming. But maybe an article focusing on one technique and the price ranges in the future… we’ll see. Thanks for the idea!

  6. 9

    I think you should perhaps also mention Quark Xpress as an industry standard DTP app. Although no longer as popular as inDesign it is still highly capable if not a bit pricey and has similar features as inDesign particularly where hi res output for print is required.

    • 10

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 8, 2010 12:59 pm

      Antony, you’re absolutely right! I forgot all about the existence of Quark Xpress after I learned InDesign a few years ago — but yes, it still stays one of the industry standards.

    • 11

      Jesse McFarlane

      September 12, 2010 7:44 am

      I work as a hybrid prepress technician and graphic designer at my day job (large format, I’ve worked offset in the past), and we see a Quark file maybe a couple times a year. It’s almost completely dead except in the newspaper industry or a few small agencies who have primaries that haven’t changed. Very rare now. From what I understand most GD programs at Universities aren’t even buying licenses or teaching it anymore.

  7. 12

    Great post and really creative cards. But paper business cards is something that you print on a leaves of dead trees is not cool :)

    The best way is to create a Virtual Business Card where you can put all your contacts, links to social networks etc. One of best Virtual Biz Cards services are Qubrit ( and Plaxo (

    • 13

      leaves of trees? Paper and cardboard are not manufactured from leaves. There is nothing wrong with printed messages in real life. That is where money circulates and where you must be part of. Friendships american style on the social media have no value and will hardly ever produce anything with which you can justify your time or pay the rent of even the smallest of things.

    • 14

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 8, 2010 1:02 pm

      Roman, I’m sure one day we will all only use virtual business cards. For the moment though, the printed ones are still in pretty high demand.

  8. 15

    Very good article and guide … thanks for sharing!

  9. 16

    Wonderful! Thank you!

  10. 17

    Awesome article. Thanks!

  11. 18

    Great article! A sugestion: techniques and details about gradient printing.

    Thanks, greetings from Brazil!

  12. 19

    Matthew Wehrly

    September 8, 2010 7:23 am

    Great article, thanks for the tips…One thing that I would love to see in this post is a list of potential printers. In all of the creative business card posts on the web, I have never seen one that lists printers that provide some of the services outlined. Thanks!

    • 20

      Same problem in London. Sometimes they do not even know what I am asking for… :(

    • 21

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 8, 2010 1:07 pm

      Matthew, do you mean online printers only? It’d be a bit exclusive to the local printers in an article like this one. However, I think it’s a good idea for a separate article. Though I am not sure that would be in line with Smashing Magazine’s policies, as it might look like advertising.

      • 22

        Matthew Wehrly

        October 6, 2010 7:45 pm

        Hi Lisa,
        Sorry for the late response (didn’t subscribe to the comments). Would it be possible to shoot an email with some links or a general starting spot?
        hello [@] Thanks again!

  13. 23

    Best business card article that I ever read on the internet. I have been looking for that. I am looking for books about printing but they do not show how to prepare the files for different type of printing… Well done.
    My problem is London is to find a creative printer…

    One question: How do I prepare the file when I want to combine techniques, for example: I want my business card to have a die-cut and letterpress effect … What changes I need to do?

    Thanks a lot.

  14. 24

    Awesome, awesome post. Thank you. I wish this’d have been written back when I was in the print world.

  15. 25

    I agree with Nuno… get a good mix of print design i.e. graphic design, in this blog. I love web design but, graphic design is it’s elderly, more wise father.

  16. 26

    Dude, no way man now THAT is just too cool!

  17. 27

    Well written and interesting article. Never knew it was that much to think about when creating business cards. The part describing die cutting was really good – I will defensively put some holes in my next batch of business cards ;)


  18. 28

    Any recommendations on a printer?

    • 29

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 8, 2010 1:15 pm

      A printer where? Online? And more importantly, for what kind of a project?

      • 30

        An online printer to be specific. One that can do plastic printing. I got some nice samples from Plastek, but I’m curious if there’s anything better out there. Also, are VistaPrint any good?

  19. 31

    Lisa Valuyskaya

    September 8, 2010 1:00 pm

    Yep, they have wonderful examples of various techniques!

  20. 32

    Lisa Valuyskaya

    September 8, 2010 1:14 pm

    Thanks Nuno!
    As for letterpress and die-cut, you should be ok with a separate layer for a die-cut — as explained; and all of your artwork to be letterpressed on another one — but make sure you’re using spot colors for that as well. Check with your printer what you can use for letterpress; Pantone inks probably. If you’re not sure which printer you’re using, you can just use Pantone and change them later if necessary. But definitely look for a printer and ask them questions. Wish I could help you finding one in London!
    Hope this helps.

  21. 33

    Lisa Valuyskaya

    September 8, 2010 1:18 pm

    I’d like to thank you everyone for the great comments and compliments! I’ll try to answer any questions that come up. Keep them coming!

  22. 34

    We just started offering frosted plastic cards on and they sell 5x better than any other card we’ve ever offered previously. Go figure. I admit to being a bit surprised by this. The lesson? People want UNIQUE offerings.

    • 35

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 9, 2010 1:09 am

      Kelly, that’s true in my experience also. Very often, clients won’t ask about the unique offerings because they don’t even know those exist, or how they would apply to their situation. But when you show them an example, and they see that it is doable, they get really excited about the possibilities.

  23. 36

    Kathryn Merlihan

    September 8, 2010 2:31 pm

    Thanks for the creative ideas!

  24. 37

    Lisa this is a excellent article! I own a printing company in Dallas, Tx and you just summed up years worth of tips and knowledge in one article. By all means consult your printer early on in the process to save money and time.

    A couple of notes that I thought also might help. On the die line for die cutting, I did not see any mention of talking about the thickness of stroke for your die line. Try and not do a thick line on your die line. I would do a .25 point. Some customers will do a thick line and the cutting rule is fairly thin so if you have real tight register a steel rule die made from a thick line can distort the final piece a little. The .25 point insures you get what you wanted hopefully. Also on the foil stamping your picture was of a flat foil stamp but the readers might be interested in knowing the you can do a combo stamp where you do foil stamp and embossing at the same time. This is just a matter of a combo stamp die being made instead of flat. I have no idea how many hours you spent on this article but if people follow many of your tips they should not have many problems with their printers.

    • 38

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 9, 2010 1:15 am

      Thank you Buzz! I hope I can help to bring designers and printers closer together and reduce the number of misunderstandings (very common, from what I hear from my printers).

      And your additional info is excellent. I wish I could have included even more detail, but your guess at the many hours spent is correct, and it was getting rather overwhelming. If nothing else, I hope more people ask you and other helpful printers like you for advice before sending over their files.

  25. 39

    Preston Grubbs

    September 8, 2010 3:19 pm

    Great article!

    One thing I noticed though, is the “duplexing and triplexing” paragraphs are a bit misguided. The photos you show are of ‘edge painted’ business cards. Yes, the cards might have been duplexed or triplexed, but they are white sheets so the different colors wouldn’t show on the side. The terms “edge painting” or “edge tipping” refer to actually painting the edges of the paper after cutting/trimming to final specs.

    • 40

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 9, 2010 1:21 am

      Preston, thanks for your comment. You’re right in that colored edges also done by painting — in the examples shown though, those are duplexed cards made with actual colored paper stock, not white sheets. (you can click through to the explanation; they’re from
      I see how that can be confusing though, and I admit that this is the one technique I don’t have much direct experience with. How would you have explained it better?

  26. 41

    Patrick Offczorz

    September 8, 2010 3:52 pm

    Thanks for this post. Really nice Roundup. Respect!

  27. 42

    Good article. I think it’s very important to find a good printer (local) from personal experience and one that you can build up a trustworthy relationship with. Not the easiest thing to do but having used the same printer (in the past) for several years we were able to get great service and really competitive prices too.

    Having said that I have yet to use any online printing services and I am sure that will happen sooner than later.

    Once again a very good insightful article.

    • 43

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 9, 2010 1:31 am

      Prez, I agree – a good relationship with a printer you can trust is priceless. I have a favorite who isn’t even very local (3 hours away), but they’re is so up-to-date on everything, and really passionate about the work, and have a showroom of all these techniques that just take your breath away..! Needless to say, I go there for all the important/complex projects.

      However, I have also used some online printers, and all went well with those too. I tend to contact a few, and then narrow down the list based on their response — those that don’t answer my most important questions are usually avoided.

      Thanks for your comment and compliment!

  28. 44

    One of the more interesting and informative articles I have read on SM for sometime. Really answered some of the “how do they do that” type questions… Thanks for the post and keep up the great article writing Lisa.

    Cheers, Sahus

    • 45

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 9, 2010 1:33 am

      Thank you so much Sahus!
      I’m working on my next one(s). Topic suggestions are always, always appreciated!

  29. 46

    Great article !! Bring more about printing on T-shirt

  30. 47

    Hey there. Thanks for putting this information together. It will be useful for a lot of people. Although, I think I should help clarify the difference between duplexing and edge painting.

    Duplexing, sometimes referred to as laminating, is often used to create a custom thickness or two have different colors for the front and back sometimes in substitution for color floods. In letterpress printing duplexing is sometimes done after printing each side individually to prevent or minimize the amount of show-through on the adjacent side.

    Triplexing, or sheet layering, is in fact used to create colors within the edge. This could be done with three sheets or many thinner sheets and many different colors.

    Edge painting, though, is exactly that. Painting the edges a certain color. Similar to effects of edge gilding but done with paint, not foil. The two example images display edge painting and not any type of triplexing it sheey layering. I can get you images of these differences tomorrow if you’d like.


    • 48

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 9, 2010 2:47 am

      Thank you so much for clarifying Chris! As mentioned in one of the previous comments, this is the one technique that I don’t have direct experience with and was a bit mislead by the simplified description given to me by someone. Wish I had your help a bit earlier!
      Love the examples on your site! Wish you were a bit closer so I could stop by.

      • 49

        You’re welcome. I hope it’s understandable. I typed it up from my phone last night, and it appears I made a couple of typos. :)

        Shoot me an email if you want some photos to show the different techniques.

        • 50

          Lisa Valuyskaya

          September 11, 2010 5:44 am

          Hi Chris,
          Don’t worry about the typos, in context they are perfectly understandable. :)
          Thanks for the offer, I’ll send you an e-mail.

    • 51

      Jesse McFarlane

      September 12, 2010 7:54 am

      Many papermills also create a line of duplex laminated stock for just this purpose, avoids paying a printer to do a custom job. There’s at least one mill here in the midwest that produces DTC stock standard but I’m not sure what the smashing policy is on listing particular vendors.

  31. 52

    Awsome, i was a freehand lover, now im starting to love illustrator,… i know i know, living in the past lol. greetings you all! AGAIN AWSOME POST! THANK YOU!

    • 53

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 9, 2010 1:38 am

      Thanks Jooleo! I actually went through a time of living in the future – working in a Freehand/Quark-lovers environment and being the only one who preferred InDesign/Illustrator. (needless to say, I had to use Freehand/Quark for most projects.) Sometimes you just have to adapt. Have fun with Illustrator!

  32. 54

    this is great! thanks for the insights! :)

  33. 55

    Fantastic article, not just another dumb round-up/list of business cards that have likely been mostly featured some place else. This really takes me back to my print days.

    • 56

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 9, 2010 1:40 am

      Thank you! The round-up you describe is exactly what I was trying to avoid, so that is the best compliment you could give me. :)

  34. 57

    Great article. Not only about business card production but also about print production for designers who is fresh to print.

    2 thumbs up! Thank SM.

  35. 58

    Good article. for business card production and about print production for designers. thanks a lot.

  36. 59

    Awesome post! I redesigned my business card recently. Can I get some feedback please? Images are here:

  37. 60

    This is definitely one of the finest piece of article on business card design and production. It depicts what we tend to overlook when we plan to design our own business card. Lisa, thank you for your invaluable information. I look forward to read more of your articles.


  38. 62

    Great Writeup and incredibly good inspiration!
    Only the parts concerning embossing and colored edges contain some serious misunderstandings. I’m here to help. Drop me a line and we’ll get it right…

  39. 63

    Well compiled post. Shows the author is well experienced in this field. Keep up.

  40. 64

    Really excellent article! What are your thoughts about including QR codes?

    • 65

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 9, 2010 2:02 am

      I have only recently learned about the QR codes. You see, I am based in Rome, Italy, and in some things we are a bit behind the times. I have yet to see a business card with a QR code in use here. (not counting industry events) I do think it’s a great idea, and Italy will probably catch up pretty soon. And at that point, I will have enough experience with it to confidently write about it.

      Thanks for the compliment!

  41. 66

    Just what i needed! Thnx!

  42. 67

    Matthew Frederick

    September 9, 2010 4:23 am

    Kudos on a great article.

    One cost-saving option for cards with only small-ish round holes is to have the printer drill the hole(s) rather than die-cut them. The Optimum Fotography card at the beginning of the article is a perfect example of where this can be used. You’re limited to specific diameters, but the setup cost is almost nil, especially compared to die cutting.

    Note too that many printers have corner-rounders, a special punch for rounding any corner. Using a corner rounder will again save you the large die setup fee, and the difference is substantial.

  43. 68

    Thanks for this great article!

  44. 69

    Wow! Just a fantastic post… very comprehensive!

  45. 70

    What a fun article :) thank you!

  46. 71

    Alexander Stanuga

    September 9, 2010 2:29 pm

    Great article, some useful tips here, came through at a time when I’m re-considering my own promotional work. Awesome

  47. 72

    Great article Lisa!

    As I’ve just redone my business card I’ve been looking at all the amazing examples from around the web, but for me the most difficult to find were printers with a streamline process on their website.

    I ended up using a printer that I’ve used since 2004, but they still have the same ol’ services. I also just tried and my first batch should be arriving in the next 2 days or so.

    So just a question, and perhaps a request for a follow-up article…

    Could you please do a review of some great printers around? It would be greatly appreciated!

    Kind Regards,
    Rheinard Korf

    • 73

      Lisa Valuyskaya

      September 11, 2010 5:49 am

      Thanks Rheinard, for the compliment, and for the suggestion!
      I know that it can be difficult to choose an online printer (in fact, I end up using local ones most of the time). I’ll check with the editor to see if a printer review post is a feasible article idea, as it seems there have been quite a few requests.
      Of course, to do a good job, I’d have to print some test runs. It may take a while… but I will see what I can do.
      Thanks again!

  48. 74

    Innovative designs….. thanks for updating me.

  49. 75

    Hi Lisa

    gr8 article i must say…loads n loads of useful information :) always wanted to know about the die-cutting business card designs :) a BIG THANKYOU!!!!!



  50. 76

    I am a designer and it helps lots to design visiting card of clients.


  51. 77

    Fantastic examples! *Thumbs up* to my collegues who designed those cards. :-)

  52. 78

    I was enjoying the article but soon realized that I could not see any of the images on my iPhone 4. Does anyone have any ideas why this might be. I am on a wifi network.


  53. 79

    This article has given me plenty of ideas, thank you :-)

  54. 80

    Great article!

    One of my most recent projects was for a national golf company where I designed a standard sized card which incorporated an embossed personalised golf divot tool – to allow for brand awareness even when the card maybe discarded. Even though the budget was quite low, a good bit of time spent sourcing the right printers and bulk order of the tools meant it came in on the line.

    Some great options shown above and I’d have to say that my most favorite card is the triplexed, simple yet beautiful.

  55. 81

    This is a great article! Very on the spot coming from printers like us.
    If you ever need standard templates – feel free to download them from our website –

    Shameless plug:
    We can produce all types of printed material: die-cut, foil stamped, custom folding, rounded corners, matte or glossy, spot gloss, all on super thick 16 pt stock. Visit

  56. 82

    This has been one of the best articles I read at this website. Thanks much, Lisa!

  57. 83

    Some wonderfully detailed cards there, excellent design. The Real Estate Consultant is lovely clean but the stitched card looks amazing!

  58. 84

    Adam Fuller Design

    September 15, 2010 2:42 am

    Love the article. Love the examples even more. Thanks.

  59. 85

    Nice article. An excellent addition would be a price comparison. Or costs to expect (in numbers ;-))

  60. 86

    I really appreciate the comprehensive information and detailed considerations you’ve put forward. Thanks so much!

  61. 87

    Brilliant article, so informative and helpful. Thank you so much, Lisa!

  62. 88

    Mark Petherbridge

    October 7, 2010 4:53 am

    Again another good post, yeh im just going through your site :)

    what do you think of my new business card designs: //

    The white on the logo is going to be Spot Uv, which is a pretty cool effect.

  63. 89

    Adrian Morales

    November 21, 2010 4:49 am

    Excellent topic. Thanks for the tips. Really useful!

  64. 90

    Just … Lisvicious! You made my day! Thank you!

  65. 91

    Yes, they have wonderful examples of various techniques!
    But I think that a business card is an important marketing tool, so we can have a goal if we consider all details. And the material is another thing very very important.
    With different material we can create unique business cards, and a different and impressive image of us of our business!

  66. 92

    Great effort.. Good. Keep going.


  67. 93

    Excellent! Thanks so much for sharing!

  68. 94

    Great article, some useful tips here, came through at a time when I’m re-considering my own promotional work. Awesome


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