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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Archive for the ‘Business Cards’ Category

Business Card Printing: Design with Printing Limitations in Mind

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

I had mentioned in my last blog posting that I was designing and purchasing the custom printing for three new jobs: a business card, an oversized postcard, and a large format print banner. I’d like to share a few things that have happened along the way because they may help you in your own design and print buying work.

Keep “Live Matter” Art Away from the Trim

I had saved a copy of the business card file in PDF format. This had eliminated all visible InDesign rule lines and grids, making the job look exactly like the final printed business card would look. Sometimes InDesign’s measurement tools and grid lines can make it hard to see the underlying design. Making a PDF will solve this problem while preserving the InDesign measurement notations. You can turn off the measurements in InDesign, but sometimes it’s nice to have both the InDesign file with the measurements and grids and a PDF copy of your file open at the same time.

The Problem

On the back of the business card, I noticed that the small text was close to the trim. I was concerned, so I reduced the leading between paragraphs slightly.

The Lesson

In your own design work, keep all “live matter” text at least 3/8” from the trim. Assume that there will be some variance in the custom printing vendor’s trimming equipment. After all, trimming is a physical process which by its very nature can be imprecise. An error here can make type look uncomfortably close to the edge of your business card.

Be Mindful of Legibility with Light Ink Colors

The Problem

My client’s business card looked huge on my monitor, even though it was only a 2” x 3.5” standard card. Therefore, the type size was misleading as I was designing the job.

The Lesson

In your own work, never rely on the computer monitor for a digital or offset custom printing job. It’s always prudent to print a hard copy of the job. This way you can actually hold in your hand a facsimile of the printed product your client will distribute. Handing out business cards is a physical, or analog, process. Check your card mock up in a physical medium, and make sure all information is readable.

Another Problem

I had set some type on the back of the card: a list of tips provided by my client. (In marketing parlance, this is “content” that will establish my client as a “thought leader.” In reality, it’s helpful information for those receiving the business cards.)

I had made the 11pt. “Quick Tips” headline blue, using the accent color from my client’s logo. I had also made the 9pt. “Bonus Tip” in-line headline blue. They looked great enlarged on the monitor.

I had used a bold sans serif typeface in both cases (less problematic for registering the halftone dots of a 4-color build).

The color composition of the blue type was c77m19y14k0. There were only two predominant colors: cyan and magenta. The yellow would have been light enough to have been invisible had the type been out of register. Mostly it was cyan ink. But at such a small size–9pt. and 11pt.–it would have been a challenge for the commercial printing supplier to hold the color register throughout the press run.

To compound matters, when I reduced the screen image of the business card to its actual size, the blue type was almost unreadable. I realized that black type would be much more legible. So I changed the design, putting readability and printing limitations ahead of my aesthetic “wish list.”

The Lesson

  1. Consider the composition of a color build used for type. Remember that it will be made up of halftone dots. If you’re screening type that’s of a small size, the halftone dots will be larger relative to the size of the type letterforms. Within a small type size, these 4-color dots laid over one another may impede readability. If they’re out of register, they will also look fuzzy. For a color build, try to use only two process colors, unless one is yellow, which is light enough to be forgiving. And expect the printer to not hold perfect color register.
  2. Consider readability. Text printed in a light colored ink is harder to read than text printed in black ink. Since type letterforms are not a solid block of ink, the PMS chip (or 4-color chip) from which you have chosen the color (prior to conversion to 4-color process ink) will look darker than the actual type. After all, the chip is a solid square of ink, and the type is made up of lighter strokes and curves.

Business Card Printing: Avoid Toner Scuffing

Friday, December 14th, 2012

I’m in a bit of a quandry.

I’m have contracted with a commercial printing supplier to print business cards for a brokering client of mine. My client wants 500 business cards on Classic Crest Eggshell cover stock. The plant manager noted that my client’s digital print business cards will not be as abrasion resistant as offset-printed cards. This will be especially true if someone puts a business card in his/her wallet or if the card gets a lot of handling (i.e., abrasion from the natural skin oils on people’s hands). The commercial printing plant manager said the Indigo toners will scratch more easily than offset ink because the toner does not seep into the paper. Instead, it sits up on the paper’s surface.

I let my client know that her options were to print the card digitally, assuming there might be some scuffing with heavy use of the cards, and yet also knowing the digitally-printed job would cost considerably less than an offset-printed job ($77.00 vs. $204.00 for 500 business cards).

Based on the price and the appearance of the digital business card proof on the chosen stock, my client opted for the digital business card printing route. If the HP IndiChrome ink (liquid toners for the HP Indigo) would only scuff under rough treatment (moving against other cards in a wallet or enduring heavy handling), my client could accept that.

A Different View from Another Printer

I mentioned the first printer’s comments to another custom printing vendor who was pricing a different job on another Indigo press. He said that the liquid IndiChrome inks were suspensions of pigment in oil, so the fluid would be absorbed into the paper fibers and give the toner something to hold onto. He thought there should be good rub resistance even on uncoated paper.

My Online Research

Since I was confused by the differing views from the two printers, I did some online research. Here’s what I found. You may find it useful when designing business cards:

  1. Any printed piece not coated with varnish, liquid or film laminate, UV coating, or aqueous coating will have some tendency for the ink to rub off.
  2. Some Indigo operators have had trouble with more offsetting and scuffing on HP Indigo equipment than they had expected; however, there seem to be ways to lessen surface ink abrasion.
  3. Choosing an uncoated press sheet will be more likely to result in abrasion and offsetting of liquid toner onto adjacent sheets.
  4. Coated sheets seem to have fewer problems with rubbing and offsetting.
  5. HP provides a list of certified paper stocks that accept the liquid toner more readily than do other paper stocks.
  6. HP provides a Sapphire coating for paper stocks that can be applied to improve liquid toner adhesion to the paper’s surface.
  7. Some operators have found through experimentation that certain paper stocks that weren’t supposed to work well on the Indigo do in fact work just fine. Other paper stocks do not. In these cases the liquid toner scuffs or won’t adhere to the sheet.
  8. Adjusting the blanket temperature on the HP Indigo can make some otherwise unsuitable paper stocks work just fine (higher temperatures for solid ink coverage; lower temperatures for screens of a particular ink).
  9. Total area coverage (the amount of ink, or in this case toner, on the press sheet) makes a huge difference. According to one printer, total area coverage should not exceed 240 percent (the total aggregate percentage coverage of all screens of all colors). For example, C80 M20 Y40 K20 = 160 percent total. Printing 100 percent coverage of all colors (400 percent) would saturate the press sheet and just make a mess.
  10. Apparently, not using a full 100 percent coverage (but rather a 98 or 99 percent coverage) for solid ink can help avoid scuffing.
  11. When problems persist, take the product offline and add a UV coating or a silk aqueous coating.
  12. Using a gloss or silk coating will minimize scuffing, whereas a matte coating may make scuffs more obvious rather than less obvious.

How You Can Use This Information

The best way to use this information is to share it with your commercial printing supplier. In most cases, he will already know the pitfalls. Ask for a sample of your business card on the paper stock you like. See if it scuffs when you rub the toner. If you’re concerned, ask your printer to add a paper coating offline. Or change the paper stock. Also make sure your printer is using a stock that has been certified by HP. If all else fails, print the job using offset lithography.

Stationery Package Printing: Effective Self-Promotion

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

In the last blog I noted that refrigerator magnets are miniature billboards. I’d say the same thing about business cards. In fact, I feel very strongly that every piece of printed material you produce is an advertisement for your services.

A stationery package is a prime example of such self-promotion. When a client opens a letter you have sent, he or she unconsciously (and perhaps consciously as well) judges the quality of your design work, your professionalism, your attention to detail, even your ability to spot current marketing trends and distill them into your self-promotional print design work.

Design Letterhead, Envelopes, and Business Cards Together

Because an identity package is so important to your image, it is wise to design all elements together. There should be an overall cohesiveness to the design. You can accomplish this with consistency of the typefaces you use, the point sizes, spacing, and alignment of the typefaces, and similar treatment of such graphic elements as logos.

Find samples of business cards, letterhead, and envelopes that appeal to you and analyze them to see how the designer approached type size and placement, design grids, balance, and placement of graphic elements. Then design a few samples of your own. Try different typefaces. See how the overall image suggested by your letterhead, business cards, and envelopes changes as you set the text in a serif face (perhaps a more traditional image) and a sans serif face (perhaps a more modern image).

Try different alignments of type (flush left, flush right, centered). Try different colors and color placements. Lay each set of mock-ups on the table in front of you (business cards, letterhead, and envelopes) to make sure they give a unified look, and then make changes as needed. Show your work to colleagues to get their reactions. Strive for more than just a graphically pleasing appearance. Try to capture a reflection of your business: it’s goals, values, and overall tone. A lot of this is very subjective, but I think you’ll know when you’ve hit the right design. It may even help to jot down a few words or sentences describing your business before you work on the actual design of your identity package.

Sometimes it’s even a good idea to put the samples you have designed aside for a day. When you come back to the work, you can approach the design more objectively. Ask yourself what you would think if you received your mocked-up business cards, letterhead, and envelopes from a prospective custom printing vendor. Would you like what you see? Would you want to meet with the commercial printing supplier and perhaps send business his way?

The Paper Is Crucial, Too

Even more subliminal than the effect of the typefaces, point sizes, and logos is the effect of the paper on which you have printed your letterhead, business cards, and envelopes.

In my print brokering business, when I make suggestions to designers regarding their identity packages, I often suggest that they start with Crane, Neenah Classic, and Strathmore papers since these have integrated papers for identity packages. That is, they may offer a coordinated 60# or 70# stock for the letterhead and second sheets (printed, or blank, pages following the first page of a letter). They also may have 80# cover, or perhaps 110# or 130# cover for business cards, and they may have 24# or 28# stock for the envelopes.

There are many other identity paper manufacturers, particularly if you’re looking for a more avant garde look. The best thing you can do is either contact your commercial printing vendor or your paper merchant and ask for a selection of printed and unprinted samples.

When you are deciding which paper to choose, consider the color of the paper (brilliant white or a cream stock, or perhaps something entirely different like a pastel).

Also consider the surface of the paper. Do you want a pattern such as a “linen” or “laid” stock, or do you want a press sheet without a pattern (such as a “wove” sheet)? Think about whether you want a rough paper surface or a smooth paper surface. Review the samples your printer or paper manufacturer provides in different kinds of light (fluorescent, incandescent, and even sunlight). It might actually be good to use your inkjet printer to produce mock-ups of your letterhead, business cards, and envelopes in color right on the sample papers. Your commercial printing vendor or paper merchant can get you extra sheets of any currently available paper stock you see in the paper swatch books.

Again, remember that the identity package is often a client’s first impression of you. If all the component parts present a well-crafted image of who you are and what service or product you can provide, this will work wonders in helping you get your first meeting with a potential client.

Business Stationery Printing and Logo Design: Some Considerations

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

At some point in your career, you may be asked to print business cards or custom envelopes, or you may need to print business stationery. The job may involve designing a logo as well. If so, here are a few key concepts you may want to keep in mind during this process.

The logo will be presented in different sizes.

The logo you design will need to capture a client’s attention immediately and convey something about the business (what your client does, and also the tone or values of the business). On a business card the logo may be very small, but on a sign in front of the business the logo may be very large. Keep in mind that the logo is not just the mark (image, pictogram, etc.), but also the words (name of the company and perhaps the tag line). These must be readable and attractive in both large and small sizes.

Rule of Thumb: Make a mock-up of the logo (image and any related type) at multiple levels of enlargement to ensure that it is readable and conveys the company image in a positive light.

The logo will be presented in different orientations.

The logo you design will appear on a business card, on letterhead, on an envelope, perhaps on a statement of account and an invoice, maybe even on the side of a truck or the side of a building. It will probably even appear on the Internet.

Rule of Thumb: Consider how you will treat the logo in multiple orientations (flush left, flush right, centered–at the left top corner of an envelope vs. on a sheet of ). To be safe, create mock ups reflecting all potential uses of the logo and tagline (in different orientations). It will benefit the overall brand and look of the business if all elements of the corporate identity package reflect a coherent “whole,” and the best way to make this happen is to design them as a unified campaign.

The logo may not always appear in the colors you chose for the design.

Let’s say you want to fax a copy of the business invoice to a client. If you fax a document with a red and blue logo (for instance) at the top of the page, the client will receive the logo in black and white. Does a black and white version of the logo you designed still look acceptable?

Rule of Thumb: Design the logo and type treatment (tagline, etc.) in whatever colors you choose, but also see how they look in black and white. The same goes for use on the Internet. Not all web browsers or computer monitors render colors the same. Also, there are some colors that look better than others on the Web. So check your logo on several computers in several browsers to make sure.

Logo design comes up in many venues. Perhaps your client needs you to find a business card printing service, or a vendor for business envelope printing or even business stationery printing. Particularly if you are charged with either designing the logo yourself or hiring a designer and coordinating the design, the more uses you can take into account for the logo and words that accompany it, the better able you will be to provide a unified “look” for the entire corporate identity package.

“Runnability” on a Digital Press: The Need to Mix the Right Technology with the Right Paper

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

When selecting brochure printing services (brochure printing), a digital on demand book printing vendor (digital on demand book printing), or a supplier for business stationery printing and envelopes (business stationery printing and envelope printing), consider the best mix of digital technology, paper, and toner for optimal “runnability.”

“Runnability” is a printing term referring to the ability of a press sheet to move easily through press and post-press operations, yielding a satisfactory product with a minimum of stress and strain. Although it refelcts the printer’s perspective of not wanting to fight with a particular paper stock, it affects you as well: in terms of price and results.

To most offset printers, adequate runnability usually is determined by the manufacturing of the paper (its consistency of formation), the conditioning of the paper before use (proper temperature and humidity to prevent curling and avoid multiple-sheet feeding), its preparation before use (trimming squarely to size with no frayed edges that might deposit paper lint into the process), ink formulation (to allow for quick ink drying), and tolerance for post-press operations (ease of folding and such).

With the advent of digital printing, however, marrying the right digital process to the right ink (or toner) and paper takes on a new dimension. Here are a few situations that illustrate problems with runnability on a digital press:

  • You have chosen a soft and textured uncoated sheet for an invitation. Your guest list is short; you only need three hundred copies, but they will all go to Fortune 500 company CEO’s, so they need to be of optimal quality. You want to run the job on an Indigo digital press because of the superior product it will produce, but the paper you have chosen is too soft to feed properly through the press. In addition, the surface is too rough to accept a uniform lay-down of toner.
  • The same situation occurs with your own HP LaserJet office printer. You have chosen a thicker than usual paper stock to give the perception of seriousness and quality. But the paper jams repeatedly in your laser printer.
  • Or you have preprinted your letterhead with thermographic printing of your logo and type (powder added to offset ink and then fused to the ink with heat and pressure to create raised type). When you feed this paper through your laser printer, the heat and pressure of the equipment cause the thermographic print to melt, streak, and lay down track marks on the letterhead.
  • Perhaps you have designed a book for digital printing. Your design incorporates heavy solids with bleeds. Your particular printer only has a lower-end digital press, and the heat, extra toner coverage, and roller pressure combine to melt the digital ink and fuse the sheets of paper together. Your printer only gets one usable sheet for every ten he prints.

All of these nightmare situations have something in common: runnability problems. That is, an incompatibility between the intended product use and/or goals of the designer, the paper, the ink or toner, the printing process, and the equipment. The result? Trouble in press and post-press operations.

Talk with your color brochure printer, your custom book printer, business card printing service, or other vendor early to determine the best mix of paper, ink, toner, and digital printing processes.

Letterpress: A Tactile Alternative to Offset Printing for Business Envelope and Stationery Printing

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

The next time you’re looking for a business envelope printing company, or a vendor that can custom print business stationery, consider letterpress as an alternative to traditional offset printing.

Letterpress is not as commonplace these days as offset printing, digital printing, or large-format inkjet work. But it reflects the very quality that makes a printed piece more evocative than an Internet advertising campaign or even an interactive periodical. It is tactile. You want to pick it up and touch it.

Unlike offset printing, which relies on the incompatibility of ink and water to transfer a printed image from a flat plate to a press blanket and then to a printing sheet, letterpress is a “strike-on” process. That is, a raised, inked press plate strikes the paper and leaves a printed image. (This is actually the same kind of press used for diecutting work.)

Letterpress is superior for text and illustration. For instance, an invitation, card, or tag printed on a thick, textured stock, with lots of peaks and valleys in the paper, can be a very effective medium for promoting the opening of a new building. Imagine text on the top of the invitation and then the event date and place information, all superimposed over a line drawing of the building in another color. A classic, sophisticated graphic approach.

The card can be as thick as one of the old “coasters” used for drinks. When you close your eyes and run your finger over the surface of the printed card, you can feel all the indented lines of the building illustration, and the indentations of the type. The printing plate actually digs into the surface of the paper and crushes it. The result is reminiscent of “hot metal type” on a hand-operated printing press.

If you choose letterpress for your next invitation, card, or clothing tag, consider the following:

  • Very few printers do this kind of work. Ask around. A paper merchant might be a good person to approach for a referral.
  • A full-bleed solid color would be more appropriate for offset printing than for letterpress. To achieve a consistent flat layer of ink, the press would need to hit the paper very hard. It would crush the stock, and you would lose the contrast between the textured paper and the recessed type.
  • Letterpresses print flat colors, not tints. So if you produce the art file for an invitation in InDesign using dark green type and a screen of the same color for a light green background element, this file could not be printed on a letterpress. You would need to design your art file using one color for the dark green and then a separate, lighter green for the background.
  • This process can be more expensive than offset printing.

Letterhead stationery printing and card printing (whether business cards, invitations, or even clothing tags) via letterpress can provide a unique, more classic look than offset printing.

All You Need to Know About Printed Business Cards

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

One of the most powerful advertising and marketing media, Business Cards are indispensable for every businessmen or a company official. Business card printing services are popular because of business cards’ high utility and low cost. Business cards play a crucial role in marketing your business and making its presence felt amongst a wide audience.

Benefits of Business Cards Printing

The printing of business cards is highly useful because of the several benefits offered by them, such as:

  • Business cards are not very expensive and can even be printed in small numbers. An ideal option for small businesses to create awareness and market their products and services, business cards are cost effective as well.
  • Business cards can include a lot of information despite their small size. In addition to your contact information you can include some advertising material, or even offer a deal or a coupon or special schemes to your prospective and existing customers. However, one should be careful about not overcrowding the printed business card with irrelevant information.
  • They are highly useful because of their small size. Customers or associates find it easy to keep and track them when required. They can even be kept in one’s purse or special card holders that can easily fit into a pocket.
  • Business cards have a long life and can stay on forever unless the information mentioned on it changes.
  • They act as a symbol of your company and continue to remind the holder about you and your business.
  • They can be printed in color or black & white, depending on your preference
  • Business cards are also easy to design

Needless to say, business cards continue to play a crucial role in every business even today.

Business Cards Printing Services: Prerequisites

The quality and type of printing are very important to ensure that your business card not only catches the attention of the viewer but also manages to sustain their interest for a long time. Thus, printed business cards specialty items that should ensure that

  • The right information is provided in the right format
  • Information provided is not too much
  • Information is clearly legible and understandable
  • Printing is clear
  • The paper and ink used are of good quality
  • The business card is of standard size
  • It makes use of the right graphics and logos that are readable

Ensure that your printed business cards convey the right message while being attractive enough to hold people’s attention.


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