Tips for Designing Your Own Business Cards

So you’ve decided to design your own business cards. This happens for many reasons - you may be a student wanting to cut costs, you may have an existing design that you can update and get printed without needing a professional designer, or you may be a designer yourself, merely requiring the digital or offset print services that we supply.

If you have your own design then we are more then happy just to help you through the next process of deciding which direction to go with printing your business cards - or letterheads, compliments slips, brochures, envelopes and more, and we can arrange your printing for you. We will take your design file, run it through our pre-press checks, add it to a ganged-print offset run or slip it into the que for smooth digital printing and deliver to you a printed product you can be proud of.

So if you are a budding graphic designer, a computer-savvy business-person or just a somebody doing it themselves in the true kiwi way - here are some tips and advice on designing your own business card including layout design, file setup and print-ready exporting; enjoy.


  • Standard business card size has always been 90 x 55 millimetres. A new size that has become print standard is 86 x 55 millimetres. This new size allows cards to fit better into wallets, so it’s very popular - but either size will do. I should say here that if you have your own printer you would be best to ask them the setup and specifications they require for a print file. Every printer can be a little bit different, and some may charge to change your file to their specs, and charge you without letting you know you could have prevented this fee by changing the file yourself - or asking beforehand, as I recommend. Here I will list the standard requirements that any non-trained designer should be able to do. Nothing fancy, just simple file setup.


  • Before you start getting all creative, set your page up to the right size. Make your page size the size of the business card plus the bleed that is needed around the outside edge of the file. If you want your business card to have a white background, it is still recommended to do this. So for a 90 x 55mm card, make your page size 93 x 58mm. This adds just 1.5 millimeters of bleed onto each edge of the card, but printers need this extra so when they trim they are trimming within the margin of your card design - there is no way they could trim your cards neatly if they had to trim exactly on the edge of your card! You would either loose to much of your design, or you would see white edges where the design finishes - not good either way. If you would like an 86 x 55mm card, make your page size 89 x 58mm


  • Next I would suggest making a box that is the ‘trim size’ of your card - 90 x 55mm or 86 x 55mm, and placing this onto your page in the centre. Then you can see exactly where the edges of your business card will be. If the box will be in the way - use the guides on the page to mark where this size is, then delete the box. The important thing with knowing the trim size of your business card - or any design for print - is that you do not place any text too close to the edge. “Keep all text 3mm in from the trim edge” is a good rule to go by. The same applies for graphics - but in many cases you may want the picture to bleed off the edge of your card, so in that case you would ensure your picture is stretched right to the edge of your page and into that bleed area.


  • After all that you’re ready to go - but the basic principals of setting a page up correctly before you start is a sound one and could save you many, many hassles later on - and even save you money from the print companies who may wish to charge you to fix a file with or without notifying your first.


  • Design, design, design! There are many sources of inspiration online should you wish to go searching, or if you have your own company logo or brand colours or design - use those. Ensure any logos you use are good enough quality for print - files from the net or pictures taken from websites and online will often not be good enough for print - this is because screen resolution (the quality of an image to view online - 72dpi) is so much less than print resolution (min. 300 dpi), that web images for print rarely work. If you’re not sure don’t worry - we check all our files before proceeding to print


  • Once you have a design you’re happy with and have ensured nothing is too close to the edge to be cut-off, then you’re about ready to export the file or save the file for print. Save your current file! I hope it was saved at the beginning but if not - save now!


  • Next step; Convert your fonts. IF, and that’s a big if - the software you’re using has this ability - then select “convert fonts to paths” or it could be “convert fonts to outlines” - which is the same thing. This is usually found in a drop-down menu. Basically this converts all your fonts into graphic ‘bits’ or images. They are no longer fonts, and this means they cannot be edited like fonts anymore so don’t save over your original file!!!! If you wish to save this file, add ‘ctp’ (converted to paths) onto the end of your file name, or simply write ‘paths’ in the file name. We convert our fonts because each computer has different fonts, some the same, sure, but if the printer’s computer doesn’t have a specific fancy font you’ve used, it may by default convert your font to a standard font with none the wiser until you receive your printed business card and realize that’s not what you wanted! Argh! Terribly disappointing so let’s avoid that.

I am aware at this point that some home publishing software may not have this convert fonts option - let your printer know if this is the case. Even better - if you can include a screen capture or print-out of what your file should look like then you will know you’ve done everything you can to get the print design you want and are expecting.

Export or save (depending on your software options) your file as a PDF. This is standard print file type. Try to avoid JPEG or JPG file types - this file type compresses the file, lowering the quality. PDF is best, and this advice is simply from my own 10 years experience in the industry. Open your file to check it - PDF’s open in Adobe Acrobat (a great program to have handy!), and you can check that the file size that exported includes the bleed, as it should have. Your business card file should be 93 x 58mm or 89 x 58mm.

Send the file to us - or to an experienced professional print broker of your choice - and best of luck!

In future blogs I will go into some related topics for designing your own, such as; whether or not to use Pantone Colours, CMYK colours or RGB colours, and explaining Vector and Bitmap file types and Digital vs Offset printing. Meanwhile if you have any questions or things you want me to write about for your information, please feel free to drop us an email.

If this is all a bit much we would love to design something wonderful and creative deas and flood you with our own. Likewise if you need a website or a website update, website hosting, iPhone applications or iPad apps, or any other digital or offset printing, die-cutting, custom printing or marketing products, talk to us we can help. Graphic design is what we do!



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