Handing out business cards is something of a lost practice. Most would rather give out a Twitter handle than take the time to create a truly personal, physical message. That’s why it’s the perfect time to start learning how to design cards of your own. You’ll stand out by displaying your skills.
Step 1: Set Up Your Sides
When creating a business card, keep two basic things in mind: we’re creating both a front and a back, and we’re creating these graphics for print. Print, as opposed to digital graphics, will require a few different parameters in order to get the best possible physical product. Here are the general specifications for a business card in the U.S.
To view the window below, open a new document in Adobe Illustrator and select More Settings in the save prompt.
I’ll briefly go over the different parameters, and why they were picked:
- Number of Artboards | Arrange By Column: The above will create two artboards which you will use for the two sides of your business card. The column arrangement option will place one on top of the other. The Spacing parameter separates the artboards.
- Width | Height | Units | Orientation: Common dimensions of business cards in the U.S. are 3.5″ x 2″. The Orientation option above shows them in landscape, but portrait works just as well.
- Bleed: Bleed areas allow printers to impose graphics or colors on the edge of pages. It is recommended you leave a bleed of an 1/8-inch for business cards. Extend whatever graphic you are using to the edge of the bleed area, otherwise you’ll receive a small, white outline on your card.
- Color Mode | Raster Effects: Two important aspects to remember are: CMYK as the color mode and High (300 ppi) as the raster effect. CMYK should always be used for printing, as opposed to the default RGB color model which works best for displays. Additionally, 300 ppi (pixels per inch) will provide a sharper printed image since it condenses more color information per inch than lower resolutions.
Click Create Document to begin your project.
Step 2: Pick a Theme
You should pick a particular theme for your card before continuing on with the design. Keep in mind: you can emulate a business card style you see online, but it won’t necessarily pertain to your profession.
No matter your artistic ability, it’s typically best to draw a design out before you create a product for professional or commercial use. This way, it’s easier to picture and design your card.
I’m a writer, so I’ll design a basic card for freelance writing. Since I write online content, as opposed to other kinds of work, I’ll attempt to illustrate that fact as well.
Step 3: Design Your Card
Now that I have a theme, I’ll begin designing my front cover. The back cover will be left last.
Pick Your Fonts
First and foremost, pick your fonts. Unless the logo for your business is highly noticeable, most business cards will require some sort of font on the front and back of your card. If you’re not a designer, it can be a hassle to choose the best font. But they can have a great effect.
That said, you can always search around online for lists of the best fonts available online. These lists are typically curated yearly by design blogs and websites.
Create a Front Design
For a basic design, it’s best to stick to basic shapes in order to get a point across. Luckily, it’s very easy to use shapes in Illustrator, even if you don’t lean to the creative side.
Since my card is designed for content writing, I’ll integrate an aspect of the type UI known as the text cursor (the blinking line that appears as you type) on the front of my card. You want the front of your card to urge the viewer to look at the back. I’ll play off that idea, and create a simple introduction as my design. I’ll also add a thin, black rectangle to mimic the text cursor.
You can, of course use some sort of logo or icon as your front design instead. The more time you spend on your design, the better your product will be. Even if your design isn’t impressive visually, as is the case above, ensure that you indicate your profession — or at least get the point across — in some capacity to differentiate it from a generic business card.
Design Back Layout
The back of your card should have your contact information. Choose a clear font so your information is readable. Try to maintain your theme as well. In my case, I’ll add a few interpoints — dots often used in word definitions to separate syllables — to my job title.
As a separator between my name and title, I’ll also add a small line using a sketch-like Illustrator brush. You can also use custom brushes available online as both small details and large designs in your business card.
Here’s what I have so far:
As for the information part, simply place a few lines of text on your graphic. It’s also best to use a few icons to indicate the type of information (phone number, fax number, email, Twitter, and so on). My favorite website for free icons is Flaticon, which curates thousands of small icon image in multiple formats to meet your needs.
Step 4: Saving Your Card
Now that you’ve created your design in Illustrator, you must save it correctly. While most images are saved using image files, it’s best to save your card design as a PDF in order to maintain its print quality.
Head to File, then Save As. In the following window, name your file and click the drop down menu beside Save as type. Save your file as an Adobe PDF.
Finally, click Save. Your design is now ready to send to a business card printing service.
Create a Business Card Mockup
You can also create a simple and easy mockup of your business card in seconds, allowing users to view your business card in a more professional and aesthetically pleasing manner than simply posting the card design online.
It’s remarkably easy to do. First you’ll have to turn your business card graphic into a regular image file to place it within the mockup. To extract the design from Illustrator, head to File, Export, and Export for Screens. In the following window, change the format to SVG, set a save location, and click Export Artboard.
This will export your images as vector files rather than regular image files, which will allow you to scale up your imagewhile keeping the same quality. Next, download one of the many business card mockups available online. I’ll use the simple, real-world mockup image presented above. Once you’ve downloaded the file, unzip it and open the PSD file in Photoshop.
Mockups allow users to replace the previous image with your new one by default. Once it’s open, head to your Layers panel and double-click the thumbnail of your front and back side. A separate Photoshop window will open.
Replace the image present here with the SVG of your business card. Then, press Ctrl + S on your keyboard to save the graphic. Your mockup should automatically update with the new image. Add any additional graphic or brush design you’d like to add here as well so it appears in your mockup. Do the same with the other side.
Presto! You’ve create a professional looking business card and mockup.
From Your PC to Their Pocket
In this day and age, since freelance work is coming more and more prevalent, everyone is their own marketing department. It can seem a little daunting to design, illustrate, and implement methods of advertising all on your own. Not anymore though, since you’ve just learned how to design and showcase a business card from start to finish!
And if you’re looking for an affordable alternative to Adobe Illustrator, there are plenty of options including Affinity Designer: