How to Design a Professional Business Card Layout for Presentation to a Print Shop for Reproduction

Basic Design Layout

Many, Many people now design & make their own Graphics at home, unfortunately because of improper training the end results can be very amateurish. This factoid will teach you how to get professional results & how to avoid the most common mistakes made by home designers & publishers.You can apply these techniques to almost anything you want designed & published to promote your Business, the process & methods are the same whether you are designing a Business Card, Brochure, Sign or Invoice. As an added feature I will show you how to prepare the file for presentation to your Commercial Printer for volume production from a Commercial Printing Press or Colour Photocopier.

Step 1 - Deciding what information & elements to add to your document.

You would be surprised how often customers had brought in home made graphics to my shop for printing proudly exclaiming they had "Done it themselves" only to realize they had left off the phone number, address or some other critical information. So first step make a list of elements or use mine at the end of this factoid.

Step 2 - Make a Template. A Template will keep your designs, measurements, elements consistent & are a great time saver for future jobs. The standard for a North American Business Card is 2" H x 3 1/2" W although European & Japanese standards are different & use metric measures which are close. To make a Template draw a rectangle with your Graphics program to these measurements. This will be the outer dimensions of your finished Business Card. (You can use this same method whether you are making a Letterhead, Brochure, Flyer, Invoice etc.of different sizes) Next draw another rectangle 3/16" (4mm) smaller all around & place it centred inside the first rectangle. (1-5/8" H x 2-7/8" W) This will be the outer most limits of your Graphics & Text placement & gives your Printer room for trimming your cards accurately. I'll explain about Bleeds & Reverses later.  

Step 3 - Placement of your information & Graphic Elements. Decide what is the most important element to be placed on your Stationery. Your Name, Phone Number, Company Name, Logo etc. This item should receive prominence & be the largest & boldest element in your design, then other less important items should be sized accordingly. Remember to keep your other Stationery items in mind so you can keep your design consistent. As a rule of thumb your layout should be balanced as follows: 1/3 Graphics, 1/3 Text & 1/3 White (Negative) space. Too frequently people try to put their entire product line or 20 years of personal accomplishments on their Business Cards & this either comes across as clutter or  Boorish. Your Business Card is an invitation to do Business with you & should reflect that sentiment only.

Step 4 - Choosing Colours - As a cost saving & simplifying guide I am only going to explain about Printers Standard Ink Colours. There are 2 basic Standards that most Print Shops rely on for their ink Colours. (Again European & Japanese have their own systems.) These are called The Pantone Matching System & Standard Pantone Colours. This is easily compared to going to a Paint Shop & choosing either a Mixed Colour of Paint or an off the shelf colour. To save yourself some money always choose the Print Shops Standard Ink Colours as combined together you can come up with just about any colour combination you will ever need. Most shops have the following ink colours as standard. Warm Red, Reflex Blue, Process Blue, Ivy Mint (Green), Med. Brown, Yellow & of course Black. When specifying Ink Colours in your Graphics Program it is important NOT to use the RGB colour models as they don't convert well to Print Output. Choosing one or more of your standard colours means you will save money each & every time you order printing as your Printer is able to combine your order with others requiring the same ink colour.

Choosing Paper Stock - This is best done in person at your Print Shop as there are numerous colours & textures available. As a guide your best colour reproduction & clearest legibility comes across on coated or semi gloss paper stock. Unfortunately these are usually only available in white or cream. For a nice tactile feel to your Business Cards choose a paper stock that has a textured finish. A most common & popular choice is Linen finish & a very wide choice of paper colours are available. Most Print Shops can help with your choices.

Printing or Copying? - For small quantities or to test your design out you can order by means of colour photocopiers. The downside to copiers is still the Toner on Paper effect in which the image sits on top of the paper & eventually will crack & flake off. For longer runs or when your design is perfected always go the Print Shop (Printing Ink) route. Invariably you get a nicer finish to your Business Cards, the colour is permanent & won't flake off or have that Glossy Toner look about it.

What about Typefaces? - A lot of the time your choice of typefaces is down to personal preference. There are a couple of good rules to follow though. Typefaces that have serifs (Little Hands & Feet) should be used for Paragraph text as they help guide the eyes across the text lines instead of dropping down to the lines below. (Are you paying attention Factoidz?) Sans Serif Typefaces (Without Hands & Feet) are used primarily as Display Type for Bold Headlines to get attention. As these are not usually used for Pararagh Text the Serifs are not required. Decorative Fonts that have special Graphic Elements built into them should be used sparingly to avoid visually confusing your audience. Usually these fonts are used in an Upper & Lower Case combination only.The use of all Caps can make your wording very difficult to comprehend. Try it yourself by setting some text in OLD ENGLISH or BALLOON in ALL CAPS & then in Upper & Lower Case.

Keeping Your Printer Happy - You'll want a problem free purchase & believe me your printer wants that too. 95 out of 100 orders that comes through your printers door are on a RUSH Basis so do yourself & your Printer a favour & plan ahead, follow these steps & your printing orders should be problem free.

Steps to placing an order - Gather all your information & fill out your check list. If you are not doing your own Graphic Layout Order it NOW! Check your proof copy for errors. Really check it! Don't just assume that it looks fine. Is your Postal Code (Zip Code) correct? Are any numbers transposed? Is your address correct? Is your name spelled correctly? Etc. Order Corrections & changes. Proof read again. Get Printing Quotes. Order your Printing & select Paper Stock & Ink Colours.

Publishing your Printing File - Once you are ready to proceed to your actual Printing Order you will need to supply your Printer or Copy Shop with a Computer File. Most Graphic programs will allow you to Save or Export your file as a PDF Format. (Portable Document File) however there are a few steps required in order for your file to be read by your Copy or Print Shop. First you will need to convert all images in your page to 'Curves' or 'Outlines.' This eliminates Typefont conflicts between computers & formats (PC - Macs) Next open your file in Adobe Acrobat (The program for reading PDF files) & print yourself a copy of your creation. This should be supplied to your Print or Copy Shop along with your computer PDF file so they can check the accuracy of what you have supplied. You should also Date, Name & provide your contact information in case the Print Shop needs to get hold of you in a hurry. There is nothing worse then having a job on the Press ready to print when a question comes up about your job & not being able to contact the customer.

Information Check List: Company Name, Company Logo, Address, Phone Number, Fax. Number, 1-800 Number, Cell Number, Pager Number, Email Address, Website Address, Yellow Pages reference, Business hours/days, Location Map, Pick Up/Delivery, Warranty Info, Brand Names, Product Logos, Photo, Credit Card & Debit Cards, B.B.B. Logo, Chamber of Commerce logo, Answering Service, In Business since?

More information: find the top logo design services reviewed.

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