Print Tips
Make Your Own Amazing Business Cards: The Ultimate Guide
  by:  |  Jun 25, 2019

I have felt it myself.

The thrill.

And the shame.

A proud moment in my writing career.

And an introduction followed immediately by disclaimers.

A business card.
It’s a simple concept, really, but the quality, style, design, content, and so much more …every little thing makes such an impact on that little piece of cardstock; on the impression it makes on both the giver and receiver.

When you make your own business cards, you want to make them right. Before you hit “print” or “order” consider the impact of every decision from the contact information included, to the paper they are printed on.

Skip to the Business Card Design Guide

The Importance of Business Cards in Networking

Whenever I mention I work for a printing company, it is inevitable that a conversation around business cards is going to break out.

Sometimes good, when someone describes their cards with excitement…

“They are about half the size of regular cards, on a thick glossy stock. They seem to help me stand out. Folks get really excited when I give them one.” – Erika Heald, Marketing Consultant

“Yes! They’re simple and colorful with nice texture and weight.” – Carmen Hill, Content Strategist

…and sometimes bad, when I hear tales of business card woe, as someone recalls a bad experience from the past.

“I have had cards I was embarrassed to hand out. I didn’t have a professional design them (used Vistaprint) and the paper was just OK.” – Michelle Garrett, PR consultant

“I have had cards I was embarrassed to hand out. I didn't have a professional design them (used Vistaprint) and the paper was just OK.” says @PRisUs Click To Tweet

“I’ve had cheaply printed business cards on flimsy paper that I wasn’t excited about handing out.” – Heald

It is interesting to see all the confidence (or lack thereof), something unspoken until the point I mention my industry.

When you are confident enough to hand out your card with pride, you are more likely to hand it out. It makes perfect sense. You will then hand out more. You will make more connections, find more leads, close more sales.

At a conference recently, in one such conversation that evolved based on the company I work for, Jon Burkhart, keynote speaker and author, showed me his unique cards (rounded corners, painted edge, photo of himself presenting on the back) and said, “you must do everything you can to make sure that you’re memorable in the moment.”
He sure did.

“You must do everything you can to make sure that you’re memorable in the moment.” says @jonburkhart Click To Tweet

Start With a Plan – Plan Your Content

To determine what information you should include on your business card, first, start like you would any piece of quality content. OK, if you aren’t a writer, let me back up.

Design for your audience.

Whether writing an email, a Facebook ad, a blog post, or, in this case, a business card, you should start by thinking about two things: your goal and target audience.

Goal: What do you want to accomplish with your card?

Do you want someone to call you to book an appointment? Are you hoping to increase your Twitter followers? Is your goal to acquire 5 new customers for your company’s new service?

Target Audience: Who is the ideal person you want to connect with?

What would be the most convenient way for them to connect with you? Where are you actually reachable? If you screen all your desk phone calls, don’t even include it on your card. Use your cell or email address.

How do you want to be contacted?

There are a lot of articles out there about what you should and shouldn’t include on your business card. There is also a lot of variety in opinions depending on who you ask, because it all depends.

Should you include a photo? What about social media?
We polled our Facebook fans to find out where they stood.

74% said you should include social media on your business card. That means ¾ of people handing out their business cards expect their second interaction (first being the business card exchange) with a new connection to be virtual.

Business Card Social Media Poll

“I think it should include email, phone, social media perhaps. Logo. A physical mailing address isn’t absolutely necessary any longer, IMO,” Garrett said.

“A physical mailing address isn't absolutely necessary any longer, IMO,” says @PRisUs Click To Tweet

“Photos can be nice, because it helps people remember who you are. I had cards that had my profile photo on one side and contact info on the other. People liked them!” says Hill.

“Photos can be nice, because it helps people remember who you are,” says @carmenhill Click To Tweet

“I always include my website and a Twitter handle but would never have my photo on them. Not sure why, but that just isn’t my style,” Heald replied.

Once you have your goal, your target audience, and your own needs defined, you will be able to create the content for your card.

Therefore, this will be very different for every person. The information you will include on your card should be right for you.

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You Might Also Like: Do Business Cards Work in the Digital Age?

Hint: The answer is “yes” but you’ll want to see the proof.

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Extras: Make Your Business Cards a Valuable Resource

Besides having the right contact info, you want your connections to find your card valuable. Be sure to avoid some common pitfalls of creating a business card.

Some realtors and insurance agents include a calendar on the back of their cards to ensure the potential home buyer keeps the card around for a year (or 50 years in the case of this Twitter user).

Standard Business Card Size

The standard, and most popular size for printed business cards is 3.5” x 2”. These cards are 3.5” long and 2” wide.

They fit easily in wallets, business card holders, and pockets. They fit in. They fall in line.

Standard Business Card Size

Learn more about this and other standard business card sizes.

Design Guide – How to Design a Business Card (6 Steps)

1) Keep it simple.

Any (good) business card design guide will tell you this. You have a tiny space to work with: only 3.5” x 2” if you use a standard card. So the KISS rule comes into play here. I’ll let you fill in the last “s” with the word of your choice, but the sentiment is the same.

Don’t try to do too much in the small space you have. This goes for copy and design. Make sure it is legible. It should be easy to take in with a glance.

2) 1 or 2 sided? Or more?

You can double your amount of space by using both sides of the card.

Quadruple it by printing a folded business card. If you can’t fit the information you determined you need based on your audience and goals above, and you simply can’t cut anything else, you have the option to expand.

Bonus: This gives you a unique shape and thickness to your card, so you will stick out of a stack.

3) Keep your brand identity.

What is iconic about your branding? What do customers think about when they picture your brand?

Your need to simplify what can fit in the small space, may also mean the need to cut part of your usual branding. When determining what needs to stay, keep these questions in mind.

If the color of your branding is important, you can keep a consistent color scheme without adding additional elements to the crowded space.

Do you have multiple versions of your logo? If not, this may be a good time to create one. A simplified or smaller version is useful, not just for business cards, but for social media as well.

Any graphics used should fit this as well. And your typography should follow your design style guide, matching your website and other marketing appropriately.

Whatever you choose, stay true to your brand identity. Make sure that the final card is immediately recognizable as your company or brand.

 

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You Might Also Like: Can You Guess These Famous Celebrity Business Cards? [Quiz]

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4) Keep your brand voice.

In keeping with your brand identity, the text you use and style of typography also say a lot. As I said, it shouldn’t literally say a lot, but it will figuratively speak volumes about your brand and service.

Is the tone of your brand straight-laced and professional? Then every word on your card should be too.

Do you have a creative brand? Express your creativity in your copy with something like “how to find me” text above your contact info, and a fun title (although I’d advise against using “guru” since this once-hot term has been on every what-not-to-do marketing list these days).

5) Understand your printing options.

You can find detailed explanations of popular paper stocks and finishes too.

Paper stocks:

Cardstock is the most common business card material.

It is durable and thicker than paper but thinner than cardboard. The larger the stock number, the thicker the stock.

Business card choices often range from 12 pt. (thin) to 17 pt. cardstock, but can be as thick as 32 pt. (double that of a standard card and found on styles like painted edge business cards).

Coatings:

Gloss: a smooth sheen
Matte: a non-reflective elegant look
High-gloss UV: a mirror-like shine
Are you a photographer? Featuring the high quality of your photos is extremely important, even on a small business card you hand a potential client. Showcase one of your best photos on one side of your card, then choose High Gloss UV coating to really make it shine (literally – this is a high shine).

Colors:

Full color is typically the way to go, to make a splash, but if you choose to go with black and white, you should design it in a way that plays off this design choice. Make a statement with the black and white contrast.

Sizes & shapes:

You can customize your card all you want. Don’t feel obligated to a standard 3.5” x 2” rectangular card.

If you want to go unique with your overall card style, try one of these shapes:
Circle
Square
Slim
Custom die-cut (create a new shape customized to your business!)

Die-Cut Business Cards

 

Want to see and feel the paper stocks and finishes for yourself?
Request a free sample kit.

6) Designing with professional experience.

Should you hire a professional designer with business card experience?

This is a choice you will have to make yourself, depending on your design experience. Even if you have design experience in other mediums though, print, and particularly business cards, are a project with unique challenges.

Beyond the Basics: How to Get Creative or Simply Add a Premium Touch

After you have a basic design, take it one step further. Past the information you include and utilizing the best there is in paper, design, and finish, you can really make your business card the one that leaves an immediate impression with premium touches.

Again, think back to when we talked about your target audience and your goal for your card. What do you want to really stand out on your card? Then make it so.

These are a few unique options you can easily add to yours, to create cards with a premium, custom feel.

Raised Spot UV

This is a combination of 3 premium options in one. Broken down, this means that this coating includes:
UV: a high-shine finish, almost mirror-like coating
Spot UV: the coating is placed only in select areas, creating a contrasting appearance between coated and non-coated areas
Raised: an embossing effect is used on all areas with this coating

Raised Spot UV Business Card

Metallic

A shiny coating with a hint of sparkle is added to the areas of your design that you want to highlight.

Metallic Business Cards

Plastic

These cards are made of an entirely different material. They are equivalent to a 20 pt. (thick) cardstock, slightly thinner than a standard credit card, but stronger, and available in white, frosted, and clear plastics.

Plastic Business Cards

Layout Templates: Do You Really Need Them?

Even as someone with design experience, it is important to use layout templates for your artwork. These guides give you the precise dimensions to ensure your cards print correctly.

Professional business cards are printed first and then cut.

This method eliminates the dreaded (but common) uneven white edge around the outside of cards printed on home printers and amateur machines.
Proper Business Card Bleed

In order to achieve this perfect, to-the-edge look, your artwork must extend past the trim line, giving plenty of space for cutting, and making you look like the expert you are.

Download a layout template to print your business cards now.

Get Them Professionally Printed vs Print Your Own Business Cards

You knew this was coming, right?

I know you want to make your own business cards, but when it comes to actually printing them, I suggest leaving it to the professionals. As good as home printers and paper from your nearby office store may seem, it just isn’t going to give the professional impression you want.

Recalls Hill, “My very first business cards, which I printed at home myself, were pretty lame!”

The paper is not as sturdy and the ink can sometimes smear. Plus you’ll have those tiny dots on the edges of your cards where you tore them apart.

Find an online printing service with high-quality stocks and finishes, and reasonable prices. You will know it was worth it when you hand out your first card. You’ll see in your new connection’s eyes the impression you gave, and you’ll feel confident with every card.

The thrill.

The smile.

A proud moment in your career.

A new connection impressed with every card.

 

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Find and print the perfect business cards for you and your company.
Shop Custom Business Cards

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Writer. Marketer. Enjoying writing about printing and marketing. Other things to talk to me about at a cocktail party include travel, dance, and food. Find me on Twitter @writtenbyemilie