If you had to guess, what do think is the biggest barrier that consumers face when getting their business cards printed? One might imagine that picking the specs or budget might be the most difficult, but that is not usually the case. The hardest thing is usually coming up with the design and formatting it correctly. Its not as simple as just walking into a print shop and saying “can you print some business cards for me?”. Furthermore, the design needs to be formatted correctly. A powerpoint slide isn’t sufficient for printing. Every piece of printing equipment requires a print ready design before anything can be printed. There are a few main things that make a business card design print ready, and we will over them in this post.
First off, trim marks are a must, especially when dealing with “bleeds”. In the print industry a bleed is simply a color that meets the edge of the paper. These trim marks indicate the business card dimensions, so we know where to cut them out from the larger sheet that they are printed on. Without trim marks, it will be difficult for us to align the business cards properly. Most graphics software programs offer features that will add the trim marks for you.
Secondly, the file would need to be saved in vector format. Vector is a term that describes scalability of graphic objects. When zoom in on something that is formatted in vector, it does not become pixellated. A quick search on the internet will show exactly how to do this. Normally it will mean making sure the file is formatted using a graphics software that allows for vector graphics. Some examples would include Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, or even Microsoft Publisher. Another quick note on this: If images are present in a design, they should be formatted at a minimum resolution of 300dpi. Ideally 600dpi would be better if possible, but definitely no less than 300dpi.
The next important factor is color formatting. An important rule to keep in mind is that digital printers typically do not print in Pantone color. There are some very rare exceptions, but it is extremely unlikely that a digital printer will print in Pantone color. Most commonly digital printers print using CMYK color. The drawback of CMYK color is its lack of color control and consistency. That is worth a whole different blog post, but suffice it to say that if you have a colorful design and you only want a small quantity of business cards, you probably will want to format your design in CMYK. Offset presses can do both Pantone and CMYK, however they are typically only used for larger quantities. So, the takeaway here is that you should be aware of the color formatting on your design and why it was formatted that way.
Just like any printer, we always take time to explain these things to people when they visit our business card store in NYC. But I thought I should blog about this because formatting is such an important thing, and our customer seem to get tripped up on this one quite often.